Last week featured two new series and no movies. This week, it’s seven new films and no series. That’s a weird back and forth. Part of me wonders if we’re getting to a point in the pandemic slowdown in production where streaming services can’t saturate every week. The other part of me recognizes that as I go through titles every week, that doesn’t seem to be a major problem for titles overall.
The truth is, projects by women still make up only a small portion of the number of overall shows and movies. A momentary shift that would be imperceptible in a larger sample size – such as the number of movies men get to platforms – suddenly becomes noteworthy in a smaller sample size.
If I was doing this series for new shows and movies made by men, there wouldn’t be a single week that even approached fewer than 40 titles. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it on a weekly basis. Centering it around women filmmakers means that I’m relieved there are seven films after a week with zero.
It’s a strange signifier of just how much the goalposts are moved. I realize saying that is pretty privileged. Women see that every day, in every aspect of their lives. I see it when I’m putting focus into, well, actually seeing it – and even then I’m just observing, I’m not experiencing it. If I feel deflated at that realization, I have no comprehension of what it must feel like to live it every day.
I’ve worked in politics, as a journalist, as a critic – you can see double-standards for miles in what those jobs cover, and in the industries doing the coverage. Yet even covering it, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt betrayed by the feeling of relief like I was when there were seven films this week after zero the last – as if that was some sort of victory instead of staring down an ongoing disaster. I guess it’s rare to step outside a moment of damaging normalization and realize how you’re trained to feel relieved about it.
If men had only 7 films come out in a week, it would be an unprecedented drop. Women have seven films coming out this week, and it’s a relief that it’s that many. That feeling of relief is such a lie. What that says about how inured men are – what we’re normalized to treat as equal when it’s only just a fraction of the space…. That normalization and rationalization can often convince us fixing it all is simple steps, and even then the fight is over just being able to do those. We barely understand that that fight is just a first layer, that it’s not a fix, that it’s just holding down the symptoms enough to start getting at the root causes.
So much of what men debate over in allying is just forcing harmful normalizations to fall back from Plan A to Plan B – so much of what we fight over accepting isn’t even a fix, it’s just levels of survival patriarchy is prepared to accept. I realize none of this is news to women, but I know some men read this, too. So many of the frameworks we work with on this fight come pre-negotiated for our comfort. So many of the new norms that we’d feel successful about are only the barest half-measures. We often frame this work as feeling good about what we do, rather than as recognizing a change has been accomplished and secured. Our best allyship is often what we’re trained to feel is a noteworthy accomplishment, a success we’ve taken as far as we can, a plateau of allyship rather than a first step on which other steps now have to be built.
directed by Amy Poehler
A girl comes across her mother’s records of high school protest. In the face of the boys’ annual rankings of who’s “most bangable” and her school’s double-standards and plausible deniability, she’s inspired to follow suit by publishing a feminist magazine. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.
One thing I’ll note is the proven comedic pairing of Alycia Pascual-Pena and Josie Totah in supporting roles. The two were superb as leads in the genuinely surprising “Saved by the Bell” continuation last year.
Director Amy Poehler is co-creator of “Russian Doll” and “Upright Citizens Brigade”. She also starred in “Saturday Night Live”. Most famously, she was the star of, as well as writing and directing on, “Parks and Rec”. She also directed 2019 comedy “Wine Country”.
You can watch “Moxie” on Netflix with a subscription.
The World to Come (VOD)
directed by Mona Fastvold
Two neighboring families run struggling farmsteads. Things are rough – it’s the 1800s and the living is difficult. To stave off isolation, the two wives keep each other company. As they do, they gradually fall in love.
Director Mona Fastvold is primarily known as a Norwegian writer and actress. This is her second film as a director.
Note that this does feature Casey Affleck, who also produced on the film. He has been sued twice for repeated sexual harassment and disparagement. (I’m not able to track the major names and their histories on all projects, but when an obvious one comes up like this, I will try to mention it. )
See where to rent “The World to Come”.
directed by Natasha Kermani
May is a self-help author who finds herself being stalked. A man comes to kill her every night, no matter how many times she kills him. People around her recognize it, understand what’s happening, and treat it as completely normal.
Natasha Kermani has directed the surreal “Imitation Girl” before this. “Lucky” is written by Brea Grant (who also stars). Grant recently directed horror comedy “12 Hour Shift”.
You can watch “Lucky” on Shudder with a subscription.
directed by Jessica Swale
Gemma Arterton’s made a name for herself in a few franchises, but it’s always been the under-the-radar work where she’s shown an incredibly complex range. “Summerland” tackles the story of a novelist during World War 2. She unexpectedly has to take in an evacuee from London. His father’s at war, and London became untenable for children during the London Blitz bombing campaign. Many rural families were asked to take children in and care for them during this time. Arterton’s Alice hides the secret that she couldn’t be with her great romance – another woman.
This is writer-director Jessica Swale’s feature debut.
The Broken Hearts Gallery (Starz)
directed by Natalie Krinsky
Dealing with a recent break-up, Lucy starts a gallery. Anyone can leave a memento of a past relationship there, creating an ever-changing landscape of closure.
This is the first film directed by Natalie Krinsky. She also wrote the film, and she’s worked as both writer and story editor for “Gossip Girl” in the past.
You can watch “The Broken Hearts Gallery” on Starz with a subscription.
Sophie Jones (VOD)
directed by Jessie Barr
Sophie is in high school and struggling with depression and aimlessness after her mother’s death.
“Sophie Jones” is directed by Jessie Barr, not to be confused with her co-writer Jessica Barr (a cousin). Both are coming at the project from personal experience, as both lost their mothers to cancer when they were just 16. This is the first feature for either one. Both have worked as actresses before this.
CW: pregnancy loss, image of a dead animal
directed by Miranda Nation
Claire is coping with the loss of her baby when she begins to suspect her husband’s having an affair. She becomes close to the newly pregnant woman, even as her reality starts to unravel.
This is the first feature film from writer-director Miranda Nation.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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