I’ll be blunt – this is the thinnest week for new shows and movies by women that I’ve covered. Both shows look good, but I think it’s the first week in about a year of doing this when I couldn’t dig up any new films. I go through more than 20 sources and look up any title from 2019 forward that’s newly available. This is about the swiftest it’s gone. It’s disappointing that there are still weeks like this; there are no such empty weeks for new content by men.
Since it’s a thin week, I’ll mention some of what I’ve really enjoyed from the past year. I just reviewed “Nomadland”, written and directed by Chloe Zhao. I was moved by its deliberate, understanding portrayal of a post-modern nomad. It’s available on Hulu.
With awards-season getting under way, it’s a superb time to start catching up on last year’s movies directed by women. I still hold Kitty Green’s “The Assistant” as the best American film in the past decade. It’s about an administrative assistant who learns over the course of a day that her boss is extorting actresses for sex. It’s out on Hulu, Kanopy, Hoopla, as well as for rent.
“Lingua Franca” joins it among last year’s best films. Isabel Sandoval wrote, directed, and starred in the film about an undocumented woman from the Philippines. A flourishing relationship is threatened both by her undocumented status and the fact that she’s trans, and it’s one of the most quietly overwhelming pieces of art I’ve seen for showing that acceptance of one marginalization doesn’t mean someone won’t use another against you. It’s available on Netflix.
I feel pretty set with “The Assistant” and “Lingua Franca” as my pick for the two best films of 2020.
Also check out Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, about a painter in the 1700s who falls for a woman who’s about to get married. I say it every time I mention her, but Sciamma has a strong argument as the best director working right now. It’s out on Hulu and for rent.
Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is about a pair of girls who have to go to New York City to get access to abortion options. It’s out on HBO Max and for rent.
Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey” is a subversive satire of double-standards and how women are portrayed in film. The action-comedy follows Batman villain Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as she gets involved in the search for a stolen diamond and meta-narrates her way through all the double-crosses. It’s available on HBO Max.
Annie Silverstein’s “Bull” is a beautiful film about an aging rodeo protection athlete who takes a young girl under his wing as a bullrider. It’s out on Hulu, Kanopy, Hoopla, and for rent.
Autumn de Wilde’s “Emma” is one of the best designed films you’ll see. Her take on the Jane Austen regency romance treats art and costume design as a sort of winking narrator that lays bare everyone’s intentions if you’re paying close enough attention. It’s also the last film I saw in theaters, in the before-time. Sigh. It’s out on HBO Max.
Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher” is a stunning German film about a girl who is so disruptive she’s spent every foster and group home option available to her. It’s an extraordinarily empathetic film for people who our society isn’t well built to empathize with. Helena Zengel got a Golden Globe nomination for her work in “News of the World”, but it’s this film that I think offers one of the best performances by a child in film history. It’s out on Netflix.
Julia Hart’s “I’m Your Woman” is a deeply atmospheric 70s-styled on-the-run thriller. Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) tries to stay one step ahead of a mob war while protecting her baby. Hart excels at directing tension.
There are many great performances by women, in films directed by women, that are also worth checking out from 2020. I’ve already mentioned Sandoval in “Lingua Franca”, Zengel in “System Crasher”, Robbie in “Birds of Prey”, and Brosnahan in “I’m Your Woman”.
To them I’d add Alfre Woodard as a prison warden in “Clemency”, Magaly Solier as a migrant worker in “Lina from Lima”, Zoey Deutch as a ruthless con woman in “Buffaloed”, and Tripti Dimri in an Anthony Hopkins-esque performance in Indian horror drama “Bulbbul”.
That just scratches the surface. I don’t get to watch everything I’ve featured in this series, so take a look at entries from weeks past. See what jumps out at you as intriguing.
Let’s get to this week’s new series. As I said, there are no new entries for narrative films by women this week.
directed by Kim Hui-won
A Korean-Italian mafia consigliere decides to take a trip back to Korea. When he comes across a similar organization there, he decides to take them on to protect those he cares about.
This is the third series Kim Hui-won has directed, including “The Crowned Clown” and “Crash Landing on You”. Directors are essentially the showrunners in most South Korean series, as is the case here.
You can watch “Vincenzo” on Netflix with a subscription. As with many of their Korean series, new episodes will debut weekly.
Ginny & Georgia (Netflix)
showrunner Sarah Lampert
mostly directed by women
This show’s receiving some invited comparisons to “Gilmore Girls”, as it sees a mother and daughter move to a small town in New England from the South. With a criminal history and a more modern coming-of-age mystery, the similarities may end there.
Sarah Lampert is creator, showrunner, and one of the show’s writers. This appears to be her first time in those roles.
Eight of the 10 episodes are directed by women. This includes two apiece by Anya Adams, Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, Renuka Jeyapalan, and Aleysa Young.
You can watch “Ginny & Georgia” on Netflix with a subscription.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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