There are a lot of high-quality shows and movies this week, so I don’t want to preamble too long. First, I do want to highlight a few films that won’t get main entries. This is because they got full theatrical runs before coronavirus took hold. They’ve also been rentable for a few months now, but they’re still worth highlighting when they arrive on subscription streaming services.
One more quick note: to make the feature more manageable, documentaries will now get their own separate article. I’ve partitioned documentaries off on some weeks where there a lot of other entries, but that’s too unpredictable for readers. The plan is to do a separate New Documentaries by Women feature monthly as well as New Shows + Movies by Women weekly. I’ll see how that timing works.
On to why you’re here:
The Wilds (Amazon)
showrunner Amy B. Harris
mostly directed by women
A plane crash leaves a group of girls stranded on an island. The thing is, it didn’t happen by accident. They have to survive and figure out who brought them there.
This is one of Amazon’s first forays into a straight-up YA drama, so they brought on board showrunner Amy B. Harris. She’s produced on “Gossip Girl” and “Wicked City”.
Women direct six of the 10 episodes. Susanna Fogel wrote and directed something I’ve argued is a modern comedy classic in “The Spy Who Dumped Me”.
Haifaa al-Mansour was the first woman in Saudi Arabia to direct a feature-length film in “Wadjda”. She’s since directed three films, including “Mary Shelley”.
If you watched music videos in the 90s, chances are you’ve seen Alison Maclean’s work in Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”. She’s also directed on “The L Word” and “The Tudors”.
The other three women directors are Cherie Nowlan, Tara Nicole Weyr, and Sydney Freeland.
You can watch “The Wilds” on Amazon with a subscription.
A Suitable Boy (Acorn)
directed by Mira Nair
The stories of four Indian families intertwine during the tumultuous 1950s. The series is based on the famously long novel of the same name by Vikram Seth.
Five of the six episodes are directed by Mira Nair. She’s arguably the most famous director from India, with her “Salaam Bombay!” receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film. Her “Mississippi Masala”, “Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love”, “The Namesake”, and “Monsoon Wedding” have all received a great deal of praise.
Acorn TV is a lesser known streaming service that tends to focus on British TV productions and co-productions (“A Suitable Boy” is a BBC release). The first two episodes of “A Suitable Boy” are available now, with a new one premiering every Monday.
You can watch “A Suitable Boy” on Acorn TV with a subscription.
Onyx Equinox (Crunchyroll)
showrunner Sofia Alexander
Strife between the gods results in Tezcatlipoca deciding to kill off humanity. Quetzalcoatl intends to save them. He makes a bet that he can get the most unremarkable human to become a champion who closes the gates to the underworld.
The anime series is distinctly Mesoamerican, thanks to creator Sofia Alexander. I’m there for the cute axolotl sidekick; just be aware the series is supposed to be fairly gory. The anime streaming service Crunchyroll began producing original series to debut this year. This was actually the first approved, though a few others have debuted before it.
This is also one I missed a few weeks back. Crunchyroll is the main competitor to anime streaming service Funimation, or at least it was until a deal to sell it to Funimation (through various parent corporations that are essentially Sony) earlier this week. The sale is pending, and decisions on whether the two will combine or remain separate services have yet to be announced.
You can watch “Onyx Equinox” on Crunchyroll, either free with ads or with a subscription.
The Trial of Christine Keeler (HBO)
showrunner Amanda Coe
directed by Andrea Harkin, Leanne Welham
Christine Keeler was a showgirl in the 1960s. She had affairs with both a Soviet naval attache and the British Secretary of State for War. The Profumo affair was a real political scandal of the time, and one that involved a manipulative show trial that targeted those without power rather than the men who had lied and violated their governmental responsibilities.
Amanda Coe created and wrote the series, and for all intents and purposes acts as showrunner (this style of UK TV doesn’t always utilize that title). She’s a writer who often focuses on themes of class and how public figures differ between their public presentation and private life.
Director Andrea Harkin helms four of the six episodes, and is an up-and-coming director in British TV. Director Leanne Welham helms the other two. She’s directed on HBO’s “His Dark Materials”.
You can watch “The Trial of Christine Keeler” on HBO Max with a subscription.
Adult Material (HBO)
directed by Dawn Shadforth
“Adult Material” follows a woman who’s worked in the adult industry for years. She speaks out to defend a new actress in the industry who’s been mistreated, but faces a defamation lawsuit as a result.
The four episode British series is directed by Dawn Shadforth, a prolific music video director responsible for Florence + The Machine’s videos for “Drumming Song” and “Shake it Out”, as well as Garbage’s “Special” and Selena Gomez’s “The Heart Wants What it Wants”. She’s also directed on series “Trust” and “His Dark Materials”.
You can watch “Adult Material” on HBO Max with a subscription.
Mr. Jones (Hulu)
directed by Agnieszka Holland
(disclosure: screenwriter Andrea Chalupa is a friend)
“Mr. Jones” is a biographical film that follows Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. He began to reveal the Holodomor in the 1930s, wherein the Soviet Union starved Ukraine by seizing its food and wealth for itself. Entire harvests were stolen away, leaving ethnic Ukrainians to starve.
Estimates of the true cost in human life vary anywhere from 3.3 to 12 million people killed. The U.N. has estimated it between 7 and 10 million. Either range puts it on a scale approaching that of the Holocaust under Nazi Germany. Somehow, debate remains as to whether this was a genocide, though I don’t know what else you call the forcible starvation of an entire people.
The Soviet Union would respond to the mass loss of life by encouraging Soviet peasants to take over the farms and land of starved Ukrainians. That contributes directly to the Ukraine-Russia situation today, where Russia has annexed Ukrainian land such as Crimea and established a military presence in eastern Ukraine – the areas with a higher portion of Russian populations.
Director Agnieszka Holland is one of the most legendary filmmakers working today. Her “Angry Harvest” (for West Germany) and “In Darkness” (for Poland) were both nominated for Academy Awards as Best Foreign Language Film, and she was nominated for another in 1992 for her adapted screenplay to “Europa Europa”.
My generation (Millennials) are likely most familiar with her 1993 adaptation of “The Secret Garden”. She’s also directed on series like “The Wire”, “The Killing”, “Treme”, and “House of Cards”. She’s one of the best filmmakers that most U.S. moviegoers have never heard of. That should change, and a film about the importance of a free press in the face of authoritarianism is a good way to make that change.
“Mr. Jones” was originally scheduled for an April release, but with coronavirus taking hold, it settled for VOD rental before distributors had really figured out that mix. I shared it back then in June, but this is the first time it’s on a subscription streaming service.
That said, you can stream it freely on Kanopy with a public library card or a university login. Props to whoever made that decision, rare for such a new film. It’s important to note that while Kanopy is free for the user, it’s not free for libraries and universities. This makes it a mixed blessing, but the point is that it’s free for a viewer and becomes more cost-effective for public institutions if people actually use it.
I’m Your Woman (Amazon)
directed by Julia Hart
It’s the 1970s. Jean’s husband is a professional thief. One night, she gets a knock on the door. Something’s gone wrong, her husband’s partners and the police will be looking for her, and she needs to go on the run with her baby.
The big draw here is that “I’m Your Woman” looks like an old-fashioned star vehicle for Rachel Brosnahan (Midge Maisel in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), in a throwback to 70s era caper/on-the-run films.
Writer-director Julia Hart also filled both roles for the overlooked “Fast Color”.
You can watch “I’m Your Woman” on Amazon with a subscription.
Farewell Amor (VOD)
directed by Ekwa Msangi
A man from Angola has been separated from his family for 17 years. He can finally bring his wife and daughter to the U.S. They share a one bedroom apartment, but haven’t been together for nearly two decades. There’s a wide disconnect between them now. They begin to connect again through a shared love of dance, but it may not be enough to help them through.
This is the first feature from writer-director Ekwa Msangi. She’s previously helmed South African series “The Agency”.
See where you can rent “Farewell Amor” via streaming right here.
Funny Boy (Netflix)
directed by Deepa Mehta
A Tamil boy in Sri Lanka faces his own homosexuality just before the breakout of the Sri Lankan Civil War. It’s based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Shyam Selvadurai.
The movie has faced some backlash – it represents Tamil people, but with very few Tamil actors cast. Director Deepa Mehta has said many were initially cast but left the production because they were opposed to and fearful of being involved in a film about a gay main character. The treatment of Tamil culture, language, and accent have all been criticized as inauthentic.
Deepa Mehta is an Indo-Canadian director known for her Elements trilogy, and films like “Anatomy of Violence” and Salman Rushdie collaboration “Midnight’s Children”.
You can watch “Funny Boy” on Netflix with a subscription.
The Planters (VOD)
directed by Alexandra Kotcheff, Hannah Leder
A telemarketer has a side business of burying kitsch treasure for enthusiastic seekers. She takes in a homeless woman with multiple personalities and has trouble befriending them all. When her treasure seekers stop leaving payments, they set out to figure out why. This looks like it could be great, though given the premise, I can’t be sure whether it handles mental health issues well or not.
This is the first feature from either Alexandra Kotcheff or Hannah Leder.
See where to watch “The Planters” via streaming right here.
Valley Girl (Epix, Hulu, Amazon)
directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Musicals can be a good way to escape the quarantine doldrums. This is a musical remake of a 1983 movie that wasn’t a musical – that’s a remake formula I can get behind. The plot of the original is that a ‘cool girl’ from ‘the Valley’ falls for a hot ‘Hollywood punk’ who’s not. Her friends disapprove of him because he’s ‘grody’. I’m lifting these words from the synopsis. Wait, it gets better. The grody hunk was played by Nicolas Cage.
The original is regarded as a bit of a classic, and it was directed by Martha Coolidge, one of the few women directors of the 80s who found a way into the mainstream with films like “Real Genius”.
Remake director Rachel Lee Goldenberg has a strong resume herself, with directing credits on everything from “The Mindy Project” to “Angie Tribeca” and “Looking for Alaska”.
The film was available for rental in May, but this is the first time it’s reached a subscription streaming service.
The Bay of Silence (Starz)
directed by Paula van der Oest
Police suspect Will’s son was murdered. As he seeks out the truth, he discovers his wife Rosalind is connected to a past unsolved disappearance. Has she abducted their child, and is her father trying to fix things or simply protect her?
Director Paula van der Oest is a Dutch filmmaker. She saw her 2001 film “Zus & Zo” nominated at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film.
You can watch “The Bay of Silence” on Starz with a subscription, or see where to rent it via streaming.
The Stand In (VOD)
directed by Jamie Babbit
An actress who’s growing dissatisfied with her career trades places with her identical stand-in. Both are played by Drew Barrymore.
Director Jamie Babbit has helmed episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, “Russian Doll”, and “Silicon Valley”, among dozens of other high-profile comedy series.
See where to rent “The Stand In” via streaming right here.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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