Hand-painted animation Bombay Rose

New Shows + Movies by Women — December 4, 2020

“New Shows + Movies by Women” took the November break off, which means we’ll be covering the last two weeks. They were both very full for new work. Let’s briefly tackle the closure of Quibi and two short films on HBO first.

Quibi Closes Shop: Streaming experiment Quibi has officially concluded. Its shut down date was December 1. A few lesser known series debuting toward the end of the streaming service’s run never came out, so it’s difficult to say what exactly Quibi will do with their material. Will it be sold to other streaming services, packaged out, or does it revert to partner studios? It may be some of column A, some of column B.

Quibi did a number of things differently from other subscription services, including how rights to shows were handled, so their closure may look different from other services. If you were a fan of a show or movie there, chances are decent it will pop up somewhere else eventually. It’s hard to say how soon, or how widely its former shows will be strewn across the streaming landscape.

HBO short films: A few new shorts are premiering on HBO Max. I’m finding it’s a pretty good service for short films, both in narrative and documentary form.

First is writer-director Jacqueline Pepall’s “De Blanco la Patuda” (“White is for Virgins”), in which a woman’s disagreement with her mother over her own wedding dress brings out a deeper divide.

Second is writer-director Patricia Vidal Delgado’s “La leyenda negra”, following an undocumented teenager trying to remain in the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Saved by the Bell (Peacock)
showrunner Tracey Wigfield

The “Saved by the Bell” continuation is a surprisingly good series that in many ways acts as a takedown of the original. It picks apart performative allyship by coding the most absurd pranks and schemes of the original as a privilege the wealthy, white students of Bayside continue to enjoy. Meanwhile, the new students from a shuttered low-income school are constantly under suspicion, even when they behave themselves.

That it simultaneously manages to be one of the best comedies of the year is impressive. The show walks a very fine line successfully, with stellar writing, inclusive casting, and some breakout comedy performances, and I reviewed it earlier this week.

“Saved by the Bell” is showrun by Tracey Wigfield, a writer, producer, and actress on “30 Rock”, “The Mindy Project”, and “Great News”.

You can watch the new “Saved by the Bell” with a Peacock subscription. Many cable, satellite, and streaming services already include NBC’s streaming platform, so you may already have it.

Selena: The Series (Netflix)
mostly directed by women

Selena Quintanilla was a superstar who took Tejano music mainstream in the early 90s. She was murdered at 23 by the founder of her fan club, a former friend. “Selena: The Series” depicts her life, and it looks like the first season will tell her story up until her rise to stardom.

A full list of directors isn’t yet available, but the showrunners are on record that the majority of directors are women. There’s also been a focus on hiring Latinas in the writing room. We do know that Hiromi Kamata directs the premiere and finale of the first season. The Japanese-Mexican director has helmed a few Mexican series.

You can watch “Selena: The Series” with a Netflix subscription.

Black Narcissus (Hulu)
directed by Charlotte Bruus Christensen

This is a new adaptation of Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel, previously realized in a 1947 film. A group of nuns attempt to run a convent in the Himalayas. The altitude, weather, and culture clashes all contribute to wearing them down. This also marks one of the final appearances by Diana Rigg before she passed.

All three episodes are written by Amanda Coe and directed by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. This is Christensen’s first major project as director, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen her work as a cinematographer. She was director of photography on “A Quiet Place”, “Molly’s Game”, “Fences”, “Far from the Madding Crowd”, and “The Hunt”, just to name a few.

Coe is an experienced episodic writer, having worked on “Shameless” and “Room at the Top”.

You can watch “Black Narcissus” with a Hulu subscription.

Bhaag Beanie Bhaag (Netflix)
directed by Debbie Rao

An aspiring stand-up comic pursues her dream job despite the disapproval of her parents. Reviews from India have been pretty favorable.

Beware some user brigading on review sites. There’s early upset that the show shares broad similarities to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. Apparently only one woman in the entire world has a story to tell about double-standards in the stand-up comedy industry, and having a second woman tell one that takes place 60 years later from the complete other side of the world is too frequent. I’m not sure what the logic is – that women could only possibly face bigotry in the stand-up industry once every 70 years globally? Point is: review brigading would be silly if it wasn’t so damaging, and if you’re interested in this, do what you like, watch it, and be careful about how much credence you lend user reviews on places like IMDB and Metacritic.

“Bhaag Beanie Bhaag” is directed by Debbie Rao. She’s directed on a few Indian series, including the very well received “Better Life Foundation”, “Pushpavalli”, and India’s version of “The Office”.

“Bhaag Beanie Bhaag” is written by Nisha Kalra and Devashree Shivadekar.

You can watch “Bhaag Beanie Bhaag” with a Netflix subscription.

NEW MOVIES

Bombay Rose (Netflix)
directed by Gitanjali Rao

A deaf, orphan boy loses his job. A group of workers whisper about unionizing. An English teacher sets the table for her late husband every night. A Muslim man falls for a Hindu woman, each struggling to make ends meet. A single rose connects a city full of characters in a hand-painted animation that took 60 artists a year-and-a-half to make.

The absolutely awe-inspiring feat was helmed by writer, director, and editor Gitanjali Rao. This is her first feature animation, but her previous shorts “Printed Rainbow” and “TrueLoveStory” have earned praise and awards at Cannes and other festivals. “Bombay Rose” is getting a significant amount of early Oscar buzz.

You can watch “Bombay Rose” with a Netflix subscription.

Happiest Season (Hulu)
directed by Clea DuVall

A woman invites her girlfriend home for Christmas, but she hasn’t yet come out to her family. The pair have to pretend they’re straight and not on the verge of marrying. It may look and sound like a perfunctory holiday movie, but I’ve heard wonderful things about the film from friends and critics I trust.

It helps that the cast for this is stupendous. Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis lead, with Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber (the parents), Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Dan Levy, Ana Gasteyer, the list goes on and on. It’s a dream comedic cast.

Writer-director Clea DuVall had a surge of projects as an actress in the late 90s and early 2000s, including cult fave “The Faculty”. She’s since starred in “Carnivale”, “Heroes”, “American Horror Story”, and “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

“Happiest Season” is just her second feature as a director after 2016’s “The Intervention”. She’s been able to get absurdly talented ensemble casts in both.

You can watch “Happiest Season” with a Hulu subscription.

Wander (VOD)
directed by April Mullen

A private investigator is hired to research a suspicious death in a small town. He becomes convinced the case relates to his own daughter’s death and that he’s just at the tip of a larger conspiracy. The film is based in part on the theft of indigenous land and disappearance of Indigenous, Black, and people of color.

The cast includes Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham, Raymond Cruz, and Branden Fehr.

Director April Mullen is an Anishinaabe Algonquin director who’s helmed episodes of “Killjoys”, “Wynonna Earp”, and “Legends of Tomorrow”.

You can rent “Wander” on Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, or RedBox.

Black Beauty (Disney+)
directed by Ashley Avis

I’m a sucker for “Black Beauty” re-tellings, even if the plot diverges as much as this appears to. The original novel was hugely influential in ending certain practices of animal cruelty, including the abolition of the checkrein, which damaged horses’ necks. It was also a significantly anti-capitalist book that argued in favor of workers’ rights.

This adaptation displaces the story onto a horse rescue ranch in modern times. Look around the comments (always a mistake) and you’ll see a lot of people upset, but the truth is that animal cruelty has changed over the years and that includes the mistreatment of horses and other working animals. There’s every reason to update that animal welfare message to fit today’s problems instead of those of the 1870s. Hopefully, this one does that.

Ashley Avis has written and directed on a range of projects, from the environmental thriller “Deserted” to romantic comedy “The Trouble with Mistletoe”.

You can watch “Black Beauty” with a Disney+ subscription.

She Dies Tomorrow (Hulu)
directed by Amy Seimetz

Amy is certain she’s going to die tomorrow. She tells a friend, who tells her friends, and the idea spreads like a contagion. Increasingly, everyone becomes sure they’re going to die tomorrow.

Writer-director Amy Seimetz is one of the most uniquely experienced people to direct such a unique horror film. Her surreal, retro-hauntology style has served her well writing and directing “Sun Don’t Shine” and directing on “Atlanta”. She also co-created and directed on “The Girlfriend Experience”. She’s played leading roles in “Upstream Color”, “Possession”, “The Killing”, and played Becky Ives on “Stranger Things”.

You can watch “She Dies Tomorrow” with a Hulu subscription (the page doesn’t appear to be up just yet), or see where to rent it via streaming right here.

Christmas on the Square (Netflix)
directed by Debbie Allen

“A Christmas Carol” where Christine Baranski plays Scrooge? I’m sold. And where Dolly Parton plays the angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life”? What!? That doesn’t even – but yes, two tickets please. And legendary choreographer Debbie Allen directs? All the tickets! But it might be a bit camp? Here’s my routing number.

Is it theater, drama, musical, stage show? Who cares? It’s a family Christmas wotsit from some of the most talented women in their industries.

Dolly Parton has been in the news recently for being revealed as a producer of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, for paying women producers out of her own pocket when they weren’t paid an equal amount to their male counterparts, and for helping to fund the development of a COVID vaccine.

This isn’t exactly anything new. She also established the Imagination Library, which provides free books to children worldwide. She set up the kind of monthly stimulus Mitch McConnell and the Senate can’t even manage for a national pandemic after people in Tennessee lost their homes to wildfires in 2016. The list goes on. I’m loath to believe in heroes as anything more than a storytelling construct, but consistently good people? They’re real.

Director Debbie Allen might be best known for her role as Dr. Catherine Fox in “Grey’s Anatomy”, but what you might not know is she’s directed 26 of the show’s episodes. She was also a prolific director on “Fame”, “All of Us”, “Everybody Hates Chris”. She directed more than half of the episodes of “A Different World”, and multiple episodes on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, “Scandal”, “Family Ties”, “That’s So Raven”. She’s choreographed extensively for TV, including multiple Academy Awards dance numbers. She’s one of the most influential directors in television history, though she’s rarely mentioned in that conversation.

You can watch “Christmas on the Square” with a Netflix subscription.

Rust Creek (Netflix)
directed by Jen McGowan

A woman is kidnapped in rural Kentucky. What follows is a harrowing chase through the elements, and an alliance with a man she can’t trust.

Director Jen McGowan has helmed episodes of the new “Twilight Zone” and “Purge” series. This is her second feature.

You can watch “Rust Creek” with a Netflix subscription, or see where to rent it via streaming right here.

Disco (VOD)
directed by Jorunn Myklebust Syversen

A Norwegian dancer has a professional setback. She’s the stepdaughter of an evangelical pastor, so she looks for answers in religion. Becoming convinced she’s getting punished for her lifestyle, she attaches herself to a radical conservative sect.

This is the second feature from writer-director Jorunn Myklebust Syversen.

See where to rent “Disco” via streaming right here.

Finding Agnes (Netflix)
directed by Marla Ancheta

“Finding Agnes” follows a man who’s mother left him as a child 25 years ago. She’s living in Morocco, with an adopted daughter. She asks him to visit after their long estrangement, so she can explain her actions and reconnect with him.

This is the first film from director Marla Ancheta. Netflix has recently done well in licensing and even premiering Filipino films for its platform.

You can watch “Finding Agnes” with a Netflix subscription.

Godmothered (Disney+)
directed by Sharon Maguire

In an age when fairy godmothers are no longer needed, an idealistic young fairy godmother sets out to help one little girl. It’s just that by the time she gets there, the little girl is all grown up and doesn’t need her help.

Director Sharon Maguire is best known for helming “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Bridget Jones’s Baby”.

You can watch “Godmothered” with a Disney+ subscription.

Fierce (Netflix)
directed by Anna Wieczur-Bluszcz

Auditions are taking place for a “Voice” style reality show competition in Poland. One girl chides a judge who’s rude to her mother. It makes for good TV, and she’s pushed through to the next stage of the competition. There’s more to it, though – the show’s judge is also the father who abandoned her family.

Anna Wieczur-Bluszcz directs in Polish TV and film.

You can watch “Fierce” on Netflix with a subscription.

I Hate New Year’s (VOD)
directed by Christin Baker

A rising star is overdue for her new album, but she’s experiencing writer’s block. She goes home to Nashville with her best friend and seeks out an old flame for closure.

Christin Baker has directed on a range of series and movies. She’s the founder of Tello Films, the production company behind “I Hate New Year’s”. Tello creates content that centers on LGBTQ experiences, with a particular focus on lesbian stories and characters.

You can rent “I Hate New Year’s” on Amazon or Google Play.

Getting to Know You (VOD)
directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin

A drunken ex stalks a man to the hotel he’s staying at. He asks a stranger to pretend to be his wife so that she’ll go away. The two strangers start to fall for each other, but his ex and her husband keep getting in the way.

Joan Carr-Wiggin has written and directed a number of romantic comedies, but rarely about teens or young adults. Instead, she tends to focus on middle-aged and older performers examining if they’re happy in their present situation.

See where to rent “Getting to Know You” right here.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

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