Tag Archives: Agnieszka Holland

New Shows + Movies by Women — December 11, 2020

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.

“The Photograph” is a romance movie by Stella Meghie that surprised at the box office early this year. It’s now available on HBO Max.

“The Turning” is a horror film by famed music video director Floria Sigismondi. It’s now available on Showtime.

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:

NEW SERIES

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.

NEW MOVIES

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.

You can also now watch “Mr. Jones” on Hulu with a subscription, or see where to rent it via streaming.

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.

You can watch “Valley Girl” on Epix, Hulu, or Amazon with a subscription, or see where to rent it via streaming.

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.

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.

New Movies + Shows by Women — June 19, 2020

There’s so much this week that I’m going to split out documentaries and feature them on Monday. Before we get into it, I also want to mention “Scare Package” on Shudder. It’s a horror comedy anthology movie with segments directed by Emily Hagins and co-directed by Hillary Andujar.

On to the reason you’re here:

Love, Victor (Hulu series)
co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger

When I was growing up, the only Latinx role model I had in a coming-of-age series was Mario Lopez in “Saved by the Bell”. As A.C. Slater, he was second fiddle to Zack Morris, a character who read as white (though he was played by an actor who’s a quarter Indonesian). Slater would either give in to Zack’s plots, or would lose out in competition with him. In other words, the only Latinx role model I had on TV essentially played the Daffy Duck to Zack Morris’s Bugs Bunny – always a step behind, not as cool, only successful when his more privileged friend allowed him to be. It was good to have the representation, but there was a lot lacking in the way it was conveyed.

There’s so much more now than there once was – “One Day at a Time”, “Ugly Betty”, “Jane the Virgin”, “East Los High”, just to name a few. And now there’s “Love, Victor”. It takes place in the same world as the movie “Love, Simon”. Where that film poses a (relatively) smooth version of coming out, “Love, Victor” throws more obstacles in the path of its protagonist. Victor is in a new city, figuring out his sexual orientation while at the same time wondering how to discuss it with his family.

There’s something of a split in attitudes toward LGBTQ people between older and younger generations of Latinxs in the United States. There’s more acceptance in younger generations, and it’s much more of a norm. Older generations often have difficulty in large part because of how ingrained Catholicism is in Latin-American cultures.

Another factor is that immigrant communities try to assimilate to U.S. norms in order to fit in and decrease bigotry aimed at themselves. One of the easiest ways to assimilate into U.S. culture is to adopt the bigotries U.S. culture aims at other marginalized groups. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature of U.S. culture that keeps marginalized groups tearing each other down in an attempt to keep themselves safe. Younger generations have the benefit of more modern norms, and clearer eyes on how systemic this is. Obviously, this can create a lot of clashes between older and younger generations, especially when it turns out one of their kids is also part of another group their own generation has been taught to marginalize.

Elizabeth Berger is showrunning with Isaac Aptaker. The pair are coming off a run as showrunners of “This is Us”, so they know how to put together a ranging, multi-generational story with a large cast.

You can watch “Love, Victor” with a Hulu subscription.

Miss Juneteenth (digital rental)
directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples

“Miss Juneteenth” is a pageant that offers a chance at a full scholarship to college. A former winner is determined to get her daughter to win it, and sees it as an opportunity to provide a better life than she’s had.

I want to highlight the lead here. Nicole Beharie is a superb actress, probably best known for dragging “Sleepy Hollow” along for its first three seasons as Fox dreadfully mismanaged and obsessively re-cast an initial success into complete non-function. Few actors could have anchored that mess through so much as well as she did.

This is the first feature by writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples. She’s written episodes on Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” and has a few shorts to her name, but otherwise she’s a new voice.

You can rent “Miss Juneteenth” for $7 on Amazon, Fandango, iTunes, Redbox, or Vudu.

Mr. Jones (digital rental)
directed by Agnieszka Holland

“Mr. Jones” is a biographical film that follows Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. He’s the journalist who 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. 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 the starved. 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”, “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.

Disclosure: Writer Andrea Chalupa is a friend. This is her first feature.

You can currently buy “Mr. Jones” for $13 on Amazon or Redbox, or $15 on Fandango, with rental becoming available on July 3.

Babyteeth (digital rental)
directed by Shannon Murphy

“Babyteeth” is an Australian film about a chronically ill teenager who befriends a drug dealer. Her family has to make adjustments in confronting and tolerating aspects of the friendship.

Director Shannon Murphy has helmed episodes for multiple series, including “Rake” and “Killing Eve”. “Babyteeth” is based on a screenplay by Rita Kalnejais, adapted from her own stage play. The film serves as the feature debut for both.

You can rent “Babyteeth” for $7 from Google Play or Microsoft.

The Short History of the Long Road (digital rental)
directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy

A young woman whose father raises her in a nomadic lifestyle has to fend for herself. She’s only ever known driving through the U.S. in an RV and doing odd jobs. She has to decide what it is she wants for herself. Lead Sabrina Carpenter has gotten a good amount of praise for this role.

Director Ani Simon-Kennedy is a fairly new voice. Her only previous feature is an Icelandic film called “Days of Gray”.

You can rent “The Short History of the Long Road” for $4 from Google Play or Vudu, $5 from Amazon, iTunes, or Microsoft, or $6 from DirectTV or Optimum. (And bravo to the film’s website for actually having a centralized resource to find this.)

Buffaloed (Hulu)
directed by Tanya Wexler

Ah, debt collectors. As Millennials go through the second or third (depending on age) major recession of our thus far still pretty damn brief adulthoods, the debt collection industry has boomed. Speaking of, Boomers had mob movies and family comedies, though come to think of it, both were actually about the value of tight-knit family units. Millennials have movies about the people our generation speaks to most outside of our own families – debt collectors and scammers!

Enter “Buffaloed”, where Peg Dahl just wants to escape Buffalo and will try to pull off any scam or con to do it. She ends up becoming successful as a debt collector and tries to start her own business in contention with the city’s more established debt collector.

Director Tanya Wexler has been pretty quiet since 2011’s “Hysteria”, a period romance about the invention of the vibrator. “Buffaloed” is her first feature since, though she has another (“Jolt”) due out soon.

You can watch “Buffaloed” with a Hulu subscription. You can also rent it for $4 from Google Play or Vudu or $5 from Fandango, iTunes, or Microsoft,

Vampire Dad (digital rental)
directed by Frankie Ingrassia

Look, I’m not going to lie. This had me at the title. “Vampire Dad” is a spoof on 1960s counter-culture films where the central issue at hand – brace yourself – is that a wholesome dad also turns out to be a vampire. You see, he’s a psychologist, and creatures of the night needed someone who could help them with therapy.

I’ve been watching a lot of “What We Do in the Shadows”, so this all seems pretty natural.

Director Frankie Ingrassia might be more recognizable as an actress on shows like “Goliath”. “Vampire Dad” is her feature directorial debut.

You can rent “Vampire Dad” for $4 from Google Play, $5 from iTunes, or $6 from Amazon.

Feel the Beat (Netflix)
directed by Elissa Down

“Mighty Ducks” but with dance sounds better than most other similarly inspired films. As a fan of even (especially) the cheesiest entries in the “Step Up” franchise, I’m for it.

Elissa Down is an Australian filmmaker who’s carving a career in young adult films.

You can watch “Feel the Beat” with a Netflix subscription.

The Dustwalker (Hulu)
directed by Sandra Sciberras

Speaking of Australia, “The Dustwalker” crosses alien invasion with fast zombie movies. I’ve read about Australia, so I almost put this in the documentary section for Monday, but nope – it’s fiction.

Writer-director Sandra Sciberras has directed on a range of films, and more often works as a producer.

You can watch “The Dustwalker” with a Hulu subscription, or rent it for $4 from Google Play or Vudu, or $5 from Amazon, Fandango, iTunes, or Microsoft.

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.