Tag Archives: anime

The Films the Oscars Forgot, Part 2

My top five films overlooked by the Oscars have some commonalities. Four are by women. Four are by directors who wrote or co-wrote the screenplay. Four are international productions. Four squarely have feminist themes running through them, though not in the ways we’d expect. All five deal with trauma survivors in remarkably different ways – a war orphan and found family, migrants confronting domestic abuse, a woman being stalked as her support system evaporates, the survivor of a school shooting, a musician rejected by her own family for being a daughter instead of a son.

Once again, this features only films that received no Oscar nomination whatsoever. Each of these films is remarkable and will stay with me. Each is one I’ll revisit again:

The Girl from the Other Side: Siuil, a Run

directed by Kubo Yutaro
written by Maiya Satomi, Nagabe

A perfect fairy tale, dark and caring with no easy answers. A little girl named Shiva is alone in the forest, orphaned by war. Creatures that can curse you with a touch lurk here. One such beast discovers Shiva, but being kinder than the others he decides to care for her.

He can’t remember his life, his name, his family, or anything but the loneliness of his curse. Scared she will fall to the same fate, he is determined to return Shiva to humans. Neither his own kind nor the humans make this easy.

The film is short at an hour and 10 minutes, and you can tell it’s on a budget. That hardly matters when the shot choice is this good, the visuals this unique, and its use of light and shadow can make a single moment blossom with emotional implication.

“The Girl from the Other Side” is gorgeous in aesthetic and spellbinding in its storytelling. Watching it reminds me of the feeling I got when I watched “The Last Unicorn” for the first time as a kid. I felt a genuine threat of not knowing what was going to happen, and a sense of things I couldn’t put words to back then, but I might now: Some stories can make you feel as if you absorb fragments of the stillness and grace its characters possess in the midst of chaos. I can only describe that feeling as a fusion of heartbreak and reassurance. A good fairy tale can balance us on the precipice between the two, and “The Girl from the Other Side” is a perfect balance.

You can watch it on Crunchyroll. It came out as a film, but in the U.S., it’s divided into three episodes – probably because our viewers are more likely to watch when it’s presented that way.

Nudo Mixteco

written/directed by Angeles Cruz

Sometimes late at night, after watching a good movie, I come across a still moment and I just feel kindness. As in: the storyteller understood these people that the whole world passes by. She was kind to them when you or I might not even notice the opportunity to be kind. She saw them and said, “You exist, I see you,” and Angeles Cruz is a strong enough artist to help the rest of us notice.

“Nudo Mixteco” is composed of three loosely connected vignettes. Each centers on a migrant worker coming home to their town in Oaxaca. The events in one story don’t trigger those in another, as we often see in American ensemble stories. Instead, their connection as parts of the story develop our better understanding of a community and its generational history. This is common in Latin American literature. The stories are related not because they shape each other, but because they shape and reshape how we perceive each.

Much of what’s tackled in the film are realizations of women’s sexuality and their agency within a Mixtec town. The implications of so many small moments in the film don’t dawn on us until later – not because of a plot development, but because we understand a character and what they’ve been through better. As we understand the lives they left and have returned to, our ability to infer what those moments mean grows: what a man glancing at a woman tells us about his fidelity away, what a woman’s nausea tells us about her own history.

“Nudo Mixteco” sees real people more clearly than perhaps any other film this year, but they don’t give awards for that.


directed by Chloe Okuno
written by Zack Ford, Chloe Okuno

“Watcher” got lost in the shuffle because it came out within weeks of Netflix’s aggressively mediocre “The Watcher”. The film “Watcher” is a masterpiece of slow burn horror. It builds around how women’s real concerns for their safety are brushed under the rug and dismissed as hysteria.

Julia moves with her husband to Bucharest, Romania. Alone in their new apartment, she spies a man watching out his window. Is he watching her? The city? Is he the same as the one she thinks is following her? Is she building paranoia from feeling stressed and alienated, or is her husband alienating her as a response to her legitimate fear?

Maika Monroe stars, meaning the “It Follows” actress has now led two of the most important horror films of her generation. She is superb and adds real heft to a role that’s historically been played far more breathy and helpless.

The premise may reflect “Rear Window”, but the film itself mirrors some of the best giallo horror of the 70s, such as “Deep Red” and “Don’t Look Now”. For all its style, “Watcher” feels grounded and consequential. The horror isn’t unstoppable, but neither is Julia skilled or brave. They’re both limited like most of us are, so much of the horror is played out in who believes Julia. The more she reaches out for her support system and authorities that are supposed to help, the more they shirk responsibility. The foundation upon which “Watcher” is built is a very real world horror that women have to survive.

This makes “Watcher” feel much more terrifying as it edges closer and closer to bursting into the type of horror movie we recognize. Aiding this is one of the most effective soundscapes of the year, a use of subtle white noise and room tone that finds its way under your skin and becomes deeply unsettling. “Watcher” is the tensest film of the year. It inverts much of what we expect horror to be in a way that makes a hell of a point and escalates what we’re familiar with to a level of sheer terror. And it has the best closing shot of the year.

The Fallout

written/directed by Megan Park

I want to call “The Fallout” timely, but since the cycle of school shootings at its heart is endless in the U.S., I’m not sure there’s a moment when it wouldn’t be. I’ve rarely seen a film tackle a traumatic topic better. It does so from the eyes of Vada, who doesn’t have it in her to turn her experience of survival into a fight for justice or change. It’s all she can do to get back to any kind of normal. She processes her experiences through the filter of teenage hormones and a mix of building and burning bridges.

At its heart is Jenna Ortega’s performance as Vada. Ortega’s getting recognition for “Wednesday” and “Scream”, as she should. With five films and a series, playing wildly different roles in each, she was the performer of the year in a way no one’s been in ages. Her role in “The Fallout” is one of the best and most realistic performances of coping with trauma that’s ever been put to screen, down to the way post-traumatic tremors just become a chronic norm of her existence.

There’s a scene where she lies to her therapist in order to convince herself she’s fine, and it’s revealingly desperate yet guarded. She embodies both reaching out for help and slapping away any hand that’s offered because she needs to regain control of her surroundings, and you can’t regain control when the person helping you is driving. She needs the help, but she also needs to recapture expressing her agency strongly enough to reject it. Ortega’s is such a psychologically complex realization of someone stuck in the push-and-pull between these contrary needs, and she acts them as if clinging on to survival. Her not being nominated is the most glaring oversight of the Oscars, but “The Fallout” is in the class of film that the Oscars routinely ignore.

Maddie Ziegler, who you may know from her youth as a dancer on TV and in Sia music videos, also surprises with what should’ve been recognized as a superb supporting performance.

The filmmaking retains an indie ethos that feels rarer in recent years, one that’s been supplanted by a “studio indie” vibe over the last decade-plus. Writer-director Megan Park’s intact sense of experimentation and confrontation is key to telling stories about young adults because it goes outside a formula to portray contentious and lost characters. So much of YA work has figured out how to convey themes from the inside of the system out, and that’s important, but we still need movies like “The Fallout” that tackle their stories and perspectives from the outside-in.

“The Fallout” brilliantly portrays the often incomplete stages of coping with trauma, while reflecting a broader trauma our children endure today in the name of money the gun lobby dumps into politics.


directed by Anvita Dutt
written by Muhammad Asif Ali, Anvita Dutt

Gothic horror doesn’t hide its monsters from you, it tells you how they came to be. There’s no twist that you can’t already identify yourself. Instead, gothic horror tells us how its monsters costume themselves in human forms, a humanity they only recognize as those who named them monsters in the first place. Musicals don’t allow characters to hide from each other long. They betray their characters’ forms and bring to the fore their hidden agendas.

This is the unexpected axis upon which Anvita Dutt’s gothic horror musical “Qala” turns. Qala is the inheritor to her late father’s musical legacy, but much to her mother’s humiliation, she’s not a boy. One form of abuse turns into another when her mother discovers a musically talented orphan boy she can adopt and use to replace Qala. Suddenly Qala is disposable, to be married off and forgotten. How does she get from there to become a celebrated film singer?

Even if the music is compartmentalized within performances, those performances always betray what’s really going on. Why do that when its gothic horror explicitly tells us? Because its monster isn’t hiding from us, it’s hiding from herself.

With “Bulbbul” and now “Qala”, Dutt and lead actress Triptii Dimri have created two very different feminist gothic horrors, each asking us to understand the necessity and tragedy of its “monsters”. Dimri’s monster in “Bulbbul” was righteous and right. Her monster in “Qala” is much more complicated. She reflects and repeats abuses because this is how she’s been taught the world works. Her actions are the result of learning at her mother’s feet how disposable she is. Her survival is a mix of emulating her mother’s actions, even when a pale imitation of her mother’s cruelty meets with her mother’s rejection and disapproval.

The monster here is less Qala and more the cycle in which she’s trapped. “Qala” isn’t about a big realization you couldn’t have guessed much earlier. Gothic horror doesn’t hide its monsters from you. Musicals don’t allow their characters to hide. They tell you how a monster comes to be. In illustrating the cycle of abusing and rejecting daughters, it reflects a horrific monster that much of the world maintains and practices. This is how Dutt makes gothic horror that’s both classic and evolved. The monster in “Qala” is only hiding in the forms we taught her, costumed in the humanity that surrounds her. What’s horrific and monstrous about her is a reflection of what surrounds her.

“Qala” is a technical marvel, with astounding cinematography, set design, and costuming. Dutt has arguably become our most important horror director working today. I’ve compared Dimri to Anthony Hopkins before, in her ability to glance across the camera and let you know, “Watch this, watch what I can do” before a character bites. That ability to loose sheer will onto the screen lets her turn a film on a dime, from one where everyone’s acting for the audience into one where everyone’s acting for her character, where we as audience turn from viewer to enabler. It is awesome and frightening, and Dutt and Dimri might be the best director-actor pairing going today.

Honorable Mentions/Films I Missed

There are so many honorable mentions. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s “Do Revenge” is a remarkable teen comedy and satire about performative allyship that boasts a sharp screenplay reminiscent of “Clueless” if it were out for blood.

Ti West’s duology of horror movies “X” and “Pearl” both star Mia Goth and take us through unexpected relationships between different eras of cinema and the adult film industry.

Jordan Peele is ever-reliable and “Nope” continues his string of exceptional horror movies. It says something when someone’s worst reviews are for a film still considered borderline-great.

There are still other films I haven’t seen yet: journalism drama “She Said”, the Lithuanian sci-fi “Vesper”, Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future”.

No list like this is ever going to be complete, and that goes to my point in what the Oscars miss. They dismiss many films, particularly indie and international films that don’t fit their eligibility requirements and especially films made by women because they don’t match the mentality of nominating the same, old perspectives over and over again.

The Oscars got their top choice right this year, but that’s not a reliable habit on their part, and they’re not getting the nominations as a whole right when just four of the last 65 Best Director nominees are woman, when just one of 10 Best Picture nominees was directed by a woman, when just two of 18 people nominated in the Best Screenplay categories were women, when only three women have ever been nominated for Best Cinematography, when only 20% of Best Editing nominees are women.

If you think Hollywood lacks originality, the answer is there: seek out the perspectives that are original because they’ve rarely been featured before, because they bring new perspectives than the ones that we’ve platformed and awarded. Those films are being made and ultimately, what the Oscars missed is a framework to highlight this other work that is out there, that is creative, that is original, that gives you access to 100% of the talent making films instead of just 50%. Why would any of us trap ourselves into having so little, enjoying so little, when there’s so much more filmmaking and filmmaking that’s so much more expansive. What the Oscars miss is just a useful lens for what we miss. There is so much more out there to see.

Read Part 1, which features five more films the Oscars forgot.

Subscribe to my Patreon! It helps with the time and resources to write more articles like this.

To Persist in Cataclysm — “Trigun Stampede”

The first scene of “Trigun Stampede” captivates – a seed ship full of colonists collapses in flame around a desert planet, taking out its support vessels on the way. We fast-forward many years. Settlers are scattered. The resources that survived are meager. Towns subsist on broken-down equipment.

The gunslinger Vash the Stampede has a bounty on his head, wanted for destroying the energy plants that allow humans to eke out their survival. Two reporters stumble across him, the biggest story they could possibly imagine. Yet Vash isn’t the terror described in the stories. He’s a skilled gunman, but also a pacifist. He runs from a fight. He helps the local towns. He tries to save the villains and show them a better way – often succeeding. So why does destruction follow him?

Ambitious rookie reporter Meryl Stryfe and grizzled veteran journalist Roberto de Niro join up with Vash in order to uncover the trut…wait, Roberto de Niro? Well, “Trigun Stampede” is based on a 90s manga, and re-adapts a 90s anime, and the 90s really were a wacky ti– oh, he was invented exclusively for this new adaptation? You know what, it gave me pause for half a second before I saw the guy in action, and then I thought, yep he’s a Roberto de Niro if I’ve ever seen one.

We jump straight into the action. Just look at this trailer:

The animation is beautiful. The first thing I thought of as I watched “Trigun Stampede” was how much it reminds me of Don Bluth’s expressive, energetic, character-driven animation style. Bluth was the director of “The Secret of NIMH”, “An American Tail”, and “Anastasia”, just to name a few.

The in media res storytelling style jumps us into the action in early episodes, and its episodic but linear traveling nature (combined with a larger arc) in later ones recalls popular Watanabe Shinichiro series like “Cowboy Bebop” or “Samurai Champloo”.

“Trigun Stampede” is made by one of the most interesting animation studios on the planet, Studio Orange in Tokyo, Japan. They’re renowned for trailblazing on CG anime that’s full of heart, but this isn’t the most important thing to know about them. What you should know is that they do not world-build so that you and I can see their worlds. They world-build so that the characters can exist in them. We’re only shown the corners the characters encounter each episode. Studio Orange guards the truths of their worlds from their viewers, so that what we’re left with is different characters’ interpretations, memories, myths, and even lies. They’ll show you what’s pertinent to that moment.

This is almost a cardinal sin when it comes to sci-fi worldbuilding as we know it. After the first scene, there’s very little of the grandeur of sci-fi we’re used to. There’s silliness, terror, heartbreak, each as the characters witness the larger world crash into these corners and leave them wiped clean.

As with Studio Orange’s earlier “Land of the Lustrous” and “Beastars”, this means the early episodes are difficult to get into. I wrote in my “Land of the Lustrous” review:

“I was ready to turn ‘Land of the Lustrous’ off after two episodes. I wasn’t sure whether I’d keep watching. This is because I misinterpreted what it is. ‘Land of the Lustrous’ fosters this misinterpretation so that it can turn it upside down inside you.”

You could say the very same thing for “Trigun Stampede”. That’s because “Land of the Lustrous”, a series about sentient mineral-people being hunted and harvested by Buddhist cosmic horrors, ended up shattering me. It left me in heartbroken awe and became my favorite anime series.

That’s why I waited until “Trigun Stampede” had several episodes out. I had a review of this written after two episodes, and it was much less favorable. I held it because I suspected whatever I thought it was, it would change. Whatever corner of its world it showed me, I would understand and remember it so differently later.

The first two episodes of “Trigun Stampede” are filled with charming characters and clever action, but as you watch them, it’s easy to wonder if the show will be capable of offering anything else. They pack too many villains in, the pace is off, and it’s hard to pin down exactly what kind of genre you’re expected to watch from one minute to the next. Then the third episode breaks it all and lays out the true stakes. It’s here I’m reminded how well Studio Orange can tell stories in a specific kind of dissonant space: between the abject terror of victims, the debilitating awe of bystanders, and the banal and casual deliberateness of those who inflict that terror.

Studio Orange series can feel erratic at first because they sacrifice the world-building of omniscience that Western sci-fi often leans on – explanations, histories, foreshadowing – in order to establish longer-term character development. It can feel awkward to miss those details and be thrust into chaos, but it pays off when you see certain elements for the first time alongside the characters, trying to make sense of the senseless at the same speed they do.

This trade-off means it can be very hard to get invested in the world at first, and early stories feel weak and badly paced. The pay-off is that we can identify with the characters readily, we truly feel the strangeness and desolation of this world, and a strong emotional tone emerges. This last is Studio Orange’s toybox, and even when plots are familiar or recognizable, their strength as storytellers can still pierce straight through you at a moment’s notice.

Western sci-fi habitually world-builds like it’s trying to close a sale. Not all of it, of course, but especially in series and film, it wants you to buy the world straight in, and then it keeps building value to stack confirmations that you’re going to keep it. It’s a cynical description, but it’s also an effective blueprint for getting everyone on the same page quickly so that the storyteller can extend into multiple subgenres and create extremely solid foundations for engaging social sci-fi.

Japanese sci-fi has always had a streak of placing you closer to the characters, and allowing its sci-fi elements to enter only as they’re encountered, and then often foregoing a deep explanation until much later. After all, if it’s an everyday thing that everyone knows about, why would they stop and explain it to each other? And if it’s a world-ending horror, why would they stop running or fighting long enough to explain what they can’t? It’s not difficult to look at the history of the last 80 years and understand why this difference exists, or why it became crucial to process in Japanese storytelling.

This reveals the heart of “Trigun Stampede”. Yes, we’re on a journey, but among Vash, Meryl, Roberto, and others, we learn how each cope and hold onto their values in the face of cataclysm, how each finds their own way to persist and endure. Their adventures mean encountering those who had to give up those values at some point, or those who were never given the choice to embrace them. It’s a story of choosing to fight an impending and unknowable terror by knowing yourself, and thereby ensuring there’s at least one factor that you can truly bring to bear with determination.

“Trigun Stampede” always impresses in its animation, design and aesthetic, and characterizations. The storytelling is still gelling, and I continue to have issues with its pacing, but there are story moments every episode that make me appreciate that I’m watching it. The sci-fi environments are phenomenal, but what Studio Orange always delivers is a human understanding of its characters.

Does “Trigun Stampede” hold its own with “Land of the Lustrous” or “Beastars”? I’m not sure yet. Is it worth watching? Yes. There’s a sheer artistic will in all of Studio Orange’s work that captures the most foundational element of storytelling – our need to know what happens next. Their talent in guarding their worlds from us makes us want to see them all the more. The connection to these characters makes us eager to see this alongside them. It makes us listen when characters tell us their stories and beliefs. Somehow, despite mashing together a variety of elements we’ve seen before, the best argument for “Trigun Stampede” is the same one for anything by Studio Orange: because you won’t see anything like it anywhere else.

You can watch “Trigun Stampede” on Hulu or Crunchyroll.

Subscribe to my Patreon! It helps with the time and resources to write more articles like this.

New Shows + Movies by Women — Jan. 20, 2023

The beginning of the year continues to be a drip-feed as studios and awards ceremonies focus disproportionately on men. This doesn’t mean there aren’t great films by women to find. One of my top contenders for film of the year last year and still holding my place for best performance (Jenna Ortega) was Megan Park’s “The Fallout”, and it arrived on January 27.

Take a chance on something that looks interesting to you, even if you haven’t heard of it. Especially if you haven’t heard of it. Part of the point of this weekly feature is to platform the series and films that don’t receive the same marketing budgets and windows as work by men. Every year, the best work I’ve seen on film tends to be the movies that barely get any launch.

Park’s school shooting PTSD story “The Fallout”, Anvitaa Dutt’s musical gothic horror “Qala”, and Chloe Okuno’s inverted giallo “Watcher” from 2022.

Rebecca Hall’s drama and dreamscape of privilege “Passing”, Claudia Llosa’s magical realist “Fever Dream”, and Julia Ducournau’s body horror “Titane” in 2021.

Kitty Green’s disturbing tale of normalization “The Assistant”, Isabel Sandoval’s lamentation of love and false allyship “Lingua Franca”, and Julia Hart’s crime thriller “I’m Your Woman” in 2020.

None of these saw the platforming they deserved, nor recognition from mainstream U.S. awards ceremonies. Celine Sciamma, Kelly Reichardt, Shatara Michelle Ford, Eliza Hittman, Naomi Kawase, the list of women directors constantly overlooked and rarely supported as they should be goes on.

One thing this feature has made clear to me is that prior to 2020, more than 90% of the films I watched in any given year were made by men. Now a slight majority of what I watch is made by women. And I’m watching newer ideas, fresher concepts, plots and characterizations that aren’t played out. Most filmgoers, no matter how educated, worldly, or forward-thinking we may imagine ourselves, gravitate toward what we’re familiarized to through media and marketing – even when it comes to the most experimental and ‘artsy’ work out there. If what we’re familiarized with and spend almost all our time with is made by only half the population, it will start to feel narrow and repetitive because it is.

Scale that out to include the other half of the population, and suddenly stories are less repeated, the range of perspectives aren’t so narrow because…well, you’ve just expanded them.

There are legitimate and correct arguments for fairness, equality, and access, but even a selfish argument as filmgoers – even just that one argument for what we choose to see…why would we ever limit ourselves to watching what only half of filmmakers create?

The only problem is that seeing the other half requires doing the work of familiarizing ourselves with what they’ve created. That’s work we’re used to media and marketing doing for us. Do that work, though, start seeking the perspectives you haven’t thought to prioritize in the past, and it’s suddenly very easy to recognize that this overly repetitive and self-limiting industry is a burgeoning art form full of possibility once again.

This week, we’ve got new series from France and Japan, and new movies from the U.K. and the U.S.


Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre (Netflix)
directed by Tagashira Shinobu

Junji Ito is a manga author whose blend of Kafka-esque concepts and cosmic horror imagery has helped his ideas go viral. Now, he gets an anthology anime series.

Director Tagashira Shinobu has long run character design for series ranging from “Hunter x Hunter” to “Batman: Gotham Knight”.

You can watch “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” on Netflix. All 12 episodes are out immediately.

Women at War (Netflix)
showrunner Cecile Lorne

As the First World War breaks out and men are called to the front, four French women see their lives intersect. A prostitute, the sudden head of a factory, a Mother Superior, and a nurse all face the war in their own way as they draw toward a common goal.

This is the third French series on which Cecile Lorne has written.

You can watch “Women at War” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out.

MIU404 (Netflix)
showrunner Nogi Akiko

Ayano Go in Japanese mystery series MIU404.

In this Japanese mystery series, a distrustful detective played by Ayano Go is paired with an inexperienced partner. Their unit works to solve cases quickly, before they get turned over to specialized departments.

Showrunner Nogi Akiko also wrote “The Voice of Sin” and “Unnatural”.

Despite seeing shows like this take off, Netflix still regularly forgets to post embeddable trailers for them. You can watch “MIU404” (and its trailer) on Netflix. All 11 episodes are out now.


Ali & Ava (Showtime)
directed by Clio Barnard

Ali and Ava have a whirlwind romance over the course of a month, while each navigating the lingering wreckage of their prior relationships.

Writer-director Clio Barnard has been nominated for three BAFTAs, including British Film of the Year for “Ali & Ava”.

You can watch “Ali & Ava” on Showtime.

Actual People (MUBI)
directed by Kit Zauhar

As her final week of college comes to a close, Riley tries to get the attention of her crush. She has to confront anxiety about racism she’s faced along the way, and what future is out there for recent college grads.

Kit Zauhar writes, directs, and stars. “Actual People” is her first feature.

You can watch “Actual People” on MUBI.

Sorry About the Demon (Shudder)
directed by Emily Hagins

Nursing a broken heart, Will moves into his new place hoping for a fresh start. As often happens in horror-comedies, it turns out to be haunted. If that weren’t bad enough, now he’s got to save his ex from being possessed.

Writer-director Emily Hagins has directed a number of horror anthology segments and low-budget movies.

You can watch “Sorry About the Demon” on Shudder.

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

Subscribe to my Patreon!

New Shows + Movies by Women — Jan. 13, 2023

These January weeks can be a bit slow on certain kinds of new material. Most of what’s being held to this time of year are awards contenders looking to build momentum. Since studios overwhelmingly push films made by men and award shows favor highlighting films made by men, that means most of what’s being held to this time of year are films made by men.

That doesn’t speak to the quality of films made by women or men; it speaks to the bias that shapes who gets award marketing campaigns. It sucks, and it influences audiences to overlook many of the best films of the year simply because women made them.

It’s 2023 and we see occasional nominations for women, but realistically this hasn’t changed much. The Golden Globes happened this week and while there’s much to celebrate in certain categories, all 10 nominations in its two Best Picture categories were films directed by men. All five Best Director nominations were men.

This isn’t because women aren’t making good films, or because an entire gender had some kind of make-believe off-year. It’s because awards shows simply don’t pay much attention to women. Yes, sometimes a particular film or filmmaker breaks through, but it’s still a rarity despite women making many of our best films. And since award shows are essentially large advertising events in and of themselves, that means the films they advertise to onlookers are almost entirely made by men.

The films that studios give awards marketing campaigns are overwhelmingly made by men. The films selected to be viewed by these voting bodies are overwhelmingly made by men. The films nominated and thus advertised to audiences through awards shows are overwhelmingly made by men. They are not true representations of the best films made every year. Awards shows can’t figure out why they’re losing audience year after year when they’re an antiquated, tunnel-vision idea of what film can be. They fail to communicate the true breadth of modern filmmaking or the people who tell our stories.


Mayfair Witches (AMC+)
showrunner Esta Spalding

Based on the Anne Rice novel trilogy “Lives of the Mayfair Witches”, Alexandra Daddario stars as a neurosurgeon who discovers she’s the heir to powerful witches. The catch is that her family is haunted by a devilish spirit.

Showrunner Esta Spalding wrote and produced on “The Bridge”, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida”, and “Masters of Sex”.

You can watch “Mayfair Witches” on AMC+. One episode is out now. New episodes arrive every Sunday.

The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten (Crunchyroll)
directed by Wang Lihua

Based on a light novel series, Amane and Mahiru are students at the same school who have never spoken. He lives alone and she’s a popular girl, but when he helps her one day, she offers to return the favor – breaking up his solitary lifestyle in a way that brings the two closer together.

You can watch “The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten” on Crunchyroll. One episode is out now. New episodes arrive every Saturday.


The Drop (Hulu)
directed by Sarah Adina Smith

Friends have arrived at a wedding, only for one of them to promptly drop a baby they’re asked to hold. What follows is a comedic exploration of conflicting marriage and child rearing ideals.

Sarah Adina Smith directs. She’s helmed episodes of “Legion”, “Hanna”, and “Looking for Alaska”.

You can watch “The Drop” on Hulu.

Noise (Netflix)
directed by Natalia Beristain

(No translated trailer is available, but Netflix has English options.)

A mother keeps up the search for her daughter, who’s been missing for two years. She meets other women whose daughters have gone missing and gets involved in the movement to change the government’s attitude toward the missing.

The Mexican film is directed and co-written by Natalia Beristain. She started out as a production manager and script supervisor before shifting into casting. She saw a Best Screenplay nomination at Mexico’s Ariel Awards for “She Doesn’t Want to Sleep Alone” in 2012, and a Best Director nomination for “The Eternal Feminine”.

You can watch “Noise” on Netflix.

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

Subscribe to my Patreon!

The Most Joyous Series of the Year — “Spy x Family”

“Spy x Family” is one of the reasons I’m looking back at 2022 this way instead of just pushing a top 10 list. I’m not sure that I’d put the hit anime on a top 10 list. For all its unbridled enthusiasm and sense of joy, it has some pacing and focus issues and one or two subplots fall flat for me. Yet I’m going to remember it way better than anything I’d stick at #6 or #7 for the year. It’s going to mean more to me going forward than most things on a top 10 list would. So what’s the point of that list? We don’t watch series so we can organize lists. We watch series for how they bring out the human parts of ourselves that we don’t always get to feel in other moments of our days.

“Spy x Family” appears to land as the most popular anime of 2022 by far, and for good reason. In a land that’s based on the Cold War between West and East Germany, the spy Twilight is assigned to befriend a high-ranking government official who plans to restart an active war. The best way to do this is through the official’s son, who attends a prestigious private academy. Under the cover of Loid Forger, Twilight will have to adopt a child, find a fake wife, get his new child enrolled at the academy, and ensure that she performs well enough to join the social club of upper echelon students.

Things go off the rails pretty quickly. The child he adopts is Anya, who hides that she’s a telepath discarded from a state experiment. She’s not the age Loid needs to enroll her, and she’s not the academic standout that would get her in, but she can read his mind and fake exactly what he’s looking for.

Anya tells no one she’s a telepath – she’s scared she’ll be hunted and rejected. She does use her powers to help connect Loid with a potential new mom – a woman named Yor who’s an elite assassin. Yor’s fearful she’ll be investigated for the unofficial crime of not being married. Loid needs someone to play a wife. Yor needs someone to play a boyfriend. Anya takes care of the rest.

The pair agree to play out a fake marriage. Loid is unaware that Yor is an assassin, Yor is unaware that Loid is a spy, they’re both unaware that Anya is a telepath, and Anya knows everything about them to the detriment of anything academic. And that’s all way before they get the dog who can see the future.

What follows would usually be a comedy of strangeness, of hiding truths and miscommunicating with each other. Instead, it’s something rarer – a comedy of normality. Yor’s strength and martial prowess come off as normal to Loid because those are the kind of people he’s always been surrounded by. When they put on a massive role-playing game for Anya and a drunk Yor plays a witch who fights Loid, he doesn’t wonder why she’s a better fighter than the most legendary spy in the world. He wonders about the role-playing, “Why is she using physical attacks when she’s a witch?”

Raising her younger brother without parents, Yor imagines she has no clue how to parent despite being immensely caring, attentive, and fiercely protective. She’s never had anyone to affirm that she’s doing things right, and even if he can be slow on the uptake, this is what Loid can ultimately give her.

Anya has meant nothing to anyone, and has never had the opportunity to make anyone proud, but here has a chance to participate in an operation that can save the world – even if she misinterprets what’s going on half the time. What’s strange to the world around them is the greatest amount of normal and comfort any of the three has ever experienced.

We get to see spy missions, some with Anya and some without. These are routinely good and often ridiculous – finding microfilm swallowed by a penguin, winning a brutal underground tennis tournament. One of my favorite moments in the series is a brief vignette, only minutes long, where Loid meets with his handler, petals falling from a nearby flower. Loid quietly recognizes that his handler has overlooked a fine detail in her disguise, and when she asks him about the mission, he brags about Anya like any parent would – a gorgeous moment of two spies losing their edge for different reasons.

Anya is the series’ motivator, though. She’s a below-average student, but when her parents try to help her, she can only read their thoughts about spying and assassination. She’s not a savant or phenom, but a kid who knows she’s saddled with the fate of the world, something she understands by reading Loid’s mind, but can’t share with anyone lest she reveal her secret.

What connects about her is that her parents do everything they can to shield her from their burdens, but because of who Anya is they never have any chance of doing so. All they can do is support her through them. In between dodgeball tournaments, craft fairs, and dog adoptions, there’s something about this that speaks to our modern moment. Anya’s played as the cutest thing on television, as a character who exudes ‘must be protected at all costs’, but her attempts to befriend a politician’s son and help Loid succeed in his mission are nearly all remarkable misfires because kids aren’t tactical. They’re unpredictable, pushing boundaries, fearing the lack of them, and just getting a sense of how the world works. In its own way, amid dozens of unrealistic events and satires, “Spy x Family” gives us one of the most accurate depictions of how a kid acts.

Anya stands up for others and what she witnesses as the truth, but she’s also a huge troll who’s naturally curious and likes seeing what she can get away with. She tests out empathy and ego, lying and self-sacrifice. She’s a kid who barely knows anything, except the reality that the future of the world hinges on her accomplishing a mission way beyond her capabilities. Even if it’s desperate, doing something is better than not taking any action.

That’s why “Spy x Family” is a joy. It has a couple subplots that I’m not big on, such as Yor’s brother who works for the secret police and harbors an obsession for his sister, or Loid’s protege who wants to take Yor’s place. The series is a remarkable, quick-witted comedy, sure, but it’s also one where Loid repeats his mantra of creating “a world where children won’t have to cry anymore”, something Anya believes in and takes to heart because she’s never known a world like that before.

We root for Anya partly because she’s an innocent kid with a streak of gremlin, but mainly because this is her chance to live a life where she has hope and is protected. The fate of the world is abstract and hard to grapple with. The fate of one kid is something we can feel in our bones and fight for. We need to see this family work, and as it messily comes closer together, it’s a joy to have it reaffirmed for us that yes, this is a family that cares for each other more and more by the day.

“Spy x Family” is a cleverly over-the-top spy anime, a savvy comedy, a solid actioner, a beautiful story about adoptive family, but what works best about it is that it’s a story of a child finally having the opportunity to be happy and loved.

And its theme songs are absolute bops.

You can watch “Spy x Family” on Hulu or Crunchyroll.

Subscribe to my Patreon! It helps with the time and resources to write more articles like this.

New Shows + Movies by Women — Jan. 6, 2023

And we’re back. This feature always gets a brief holiday break so I can prep year-end work. We start 2023 with the 137th entry in “New Shows + Movies by Women”. For the time being, it’s still going to focus on what’s accessible from home. I want so badly for theatergoing to be normal again, but hospitals and the health care workers we once cheered for are still overburdened with cyclical COVID spikes, many chronically ill and disabled people who are more susceptible to COVID still can’t leave home safely, and I don’t want to participate in normalizing case numbers that we recognized as unacceptable not so long ago.

I’m not judging anyone if they do decide to go to the theater right now. For instance, it might be a lesser risk to myself and others where I live, although they are recommending masking again even here. Yet I have family living in states which pretend COVID doesn’t exist and so are rife with it, where the simple act of going to school carries great health risks. I’m not a public health specialist and can’t break down to readers in different states and countries where it’s safer to go to the theater on a weekly basis, so my coverage at least for a bit longer is going to stick to what you can watch from home. Thanks for understanding that, and I hope it’s fun and useful for folks either way.

This week features new series from Brazil, Japan, and the U.S., and new films from Colombia and the U.S.


Will Trent (ABC, Hulu)
co-showrunner Liz Heldens

A special agent who grew up in the foster care system solves mysteries and tries to take care of those left behind by the system.

Liz Heldens showruns with Dan Thomsen. She’s produced on “The Dropout” and “The Passage”.

You can watch “Will Trent” on Hulu, or weekly on ABC. The first episode is out, with a new one arriving every Tuesday.

Lady Voyeur (Netflix)
showrunner Marcela Citterio

In this Brazilian series, a woman named Miranda uses her hacking skills to sate her voyeurism. This gets her embroiled in a mystery that involves her dream man.

Marcela Citterio has mostly written Brazilian shows, but might be most familiar to American audiences for penning the short story on which Nickelodeon series “I Am Frankie” was based.

You can watch “Lady Voyeur” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are out.

Technoroid Overmind (Crunchyroll)
directed by Im Ga-Hee

(No English trailer for this one, but Crunchyroll has options.)

Humans live in a tower after the world’s been submerged underwater. Here, androids compete to entertain both human and android counterparts.

Im Ga-Hee’s done episode direction on series like “Sonny Boy” (one of my top series of 2021) and “Tiger & Bunny 2”.

You can watch “Technoroid Overmind” on Crunchyroll. The premiere is available and a new episode arrives every Wednesday.


The Kings of the World (Netflix)
directed by Laura Mora

In this Colombian film, five young men undertake a risky journey to recover a piece of land that was once stolen from one of their grandmothers.

Laura Mora has worked in the industry for 20 years, and her 2017 film “Killing Jesus” won Best Film, Director, and Screenplay at Premios Macondo, the Colombian Academy Awards. Mora started out in the industry as a caterer before working several years as a script supervisor and continuity director, as well as a field coordinator for Anthony Bourdain’s Colombia episodes of “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”.

You can watch “The Kings of the World” on Netflix.

Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul (Amazon)
directed by Adamma Ebo

The wife of a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor tries to rebuild their congregation after a scandal. Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown, and Nicole Beharie star.

Writer-director Adamma Ebo has previously directed on “Atlanta”. She started out as a script supervisor.

You can watch “Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul” on Amazon.

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

Subscribe to my Patreon!

The Saddest Series of the Year — “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners”

Studio Trigger’s anime is based on the video game “Cyberpunk 2077”, which was adapted from Mike Pondsmith’s genre-defining tabletop role-playing game. With that many layers of adaptation, it’s a deep surprise how resonant the show is. The cybernetic dystopia of Night City is overrun with both corporate and street-level crime. After disaffected student David tries to do things the right way and loses the few anchors he has in life, he turns to the mercenary life known as edgerunning.

Despite his youth, can David fit in with an experienced, successful crew? In a world where replacing pieces of yourself with hardware blurs the lines of reality, and David wants to run away from his reality, can he keep his sanity? Can he achieve any of the dreams others have for him? Can he protect the people around him?

That’s all pretty familiar territory, but “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is one of the most damning visions of terminal capitalism I’ve seen. The natural comparison might be the classic “Ghost in the Shell” and its series continuation “Stand Alone Complex”, but “Edgerunners” lands much more closely to a different classic. In 1988, “Akira” warned us of and argued for the rejection of what’s come to be known as disaster capitalist futurism.

Like “Akira”, “Edgerunners” captures traumatic repetition on both the personal and cultural scale. As Thomas Lamarre once wrote of “Akira”, it houses two types of mimetic repetition of trauma. In its constitutive mode, “Akira” translates the future of a Japan still coping with nuclear destruction. How does it develop economically and industrially? How does it change national identity? In its generative mode, how is this taken advantage of in an information society where populist political power is built on disaster capital?

Lamarre argued that “Akira” sees how the constitutive passes into the generative, or how repeating of a trauma during the development to cope with it creates the circumstances for that trauma to be taken advantage of, and creates a situation where the traumatized seeks to enact that trauma on others. In other words, if you live in a mentality of that trauma’s repetition, then survival is to be on the other side of it when it happens again.

“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” poses a world shattered by the poisoning of the well, by a collapse of the world’s previous mode of information sharing – our modern internet. It envisions that poisoning as a condition that prompted mass violence, civil war, world war, and cultural immolation. Corporation-states survive because their territory is notional, intangible, a maintenance of perceived value. Territory can’t be bombed when it’s a data set, and you can’t run out of people in a world where people are the most fungible asset that exists.

David’s tale is that of a boy chasing trauma and repeating it ad nauseam because he thinks that’s the way through it. This reflects the story of its world – that of a society chasing trauma and repeating it ad nauseam because it thinks that’s the way through it. When shock doctrine is the rule of the world, survival is to be on the other side of it when it happens again.

Needless to say, the results aren’t happy. That’s not a spoiler. Whatever the saddest things you can think about this story are, you probably aren’t prepared. Neither are the story evolutions in “Edgerunners” cheap – they’re sudden, unsentimental, harsh, and they go unmourned. They are heavy in their lack of meaning, in their lack of consequence, in how the world travels on because you can’t run out of people in a world where people are the most fungible asset.

Genre and fan social media was overrun with viewers asking for help from each other in coping with how depressed the series made them, so when I say “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is sad, I mean it spills over with grief. The show is a beautiful, repulsive howl, the voice of a world in disintegration envisioning a futurism of living in shock doctrine, to the point where everyone’s gaze has been turned to normalize that shock. We’re even introduced to David as he experiences a braindance – the sensory recordings of someone who dies violently – a snuff film that might seem like a sci-fi creation if there weren’t also image boards in our world dedicated to gore and people dying.

“Edgerunners” balances the 80s futurism of macro cybernetics – an aesthetic that feels less realistic in today’s digital world – as a metaphor for transforming our humanity into notional currency so we can trade it away for the newest, most powerful and influential technological elements to get ahead. Take Rebecca, who’s had her body replaced piece by piece to look like a child again – a clear advantage in drawing out and distracting men in a corporate world.

Like, I said, it’s repulsive. That doesn’t mean what it depicts isn’t true. “Edgerunners” can often feel like the nausea that comes on after getting punched in the gut. There’s devastation here, and a sense of profound desperation and loss I’ve rarely seen a show capture. It belongs among the best sci-fi series made, animation or otherwise.

“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” may not be what our future ends up looking like, but it captures a horror of roads the world may travel down, of the populism, fascism, disaster futurism, and terminal capitalism that have already taken shape. It’s a masterful metaphor for how much of ourselves we trade to survive, that where once we sacrificed for the next generation’s dreams, now we sacrifice for the next generation’s sacrifice.

You can watch “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” on Netflix.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — October 28, 2022

Sometimes a new show or movie can be hard to locate. Let me explain: every once in a while, there’s something listed but that doesn’t come available when it should. This usually has to do with international releases – HBO Max is particularly terrible listing the right dates for the right countries. I constantly see their Spanish-language series listed for release in the U.S. on one date, but then land on another, unlisted date. If I were to tell you to go see a series that isn’t there yet, that’s not very useful to you.

This has only gotten worse with Warner Bros. Discovery’s acquisition of HBO. Many international series have been pulled early. HBO Max used to be one of the best places to find European series. With a focus on originals, this included less-frequently platformed work by women. After the acquisition, Warner Bros. Discovery culled HBO’s European content. This included not only stopping original productions east of France, but removing content from Central, Eastern European, and Nordic countries that was already bought and paid for.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the movie “Batgirl” being denied any release. That was so the entire production can be used as a tax write-off. Incomplete shows might also be used this way, but these finished shows aren’t succumbing to the same situation – this has more to do with Warner Bros. Discovery not wanting to pay residuals. Some of this content may end up getting licensed out to other streamers, but much of it will simply disappear and not be seen again. That’s a tragedy for the artists involved, especially since it covers so much work by women in Europe.

New series by women come from India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., with new films by women arriving from Belgium, Nunavut, South Korea, and the U.S.


Hush Hush (Amazon)
showrunner Tanuja Chandra

(Turn Closed Captioning on for subtitles.) This horror series from India follows five women, four of whom are trying to cover up a crime in their apartment block.

Tanuja Chandra has been directing films since the 90s. This is her first series.

You can watch “Hush Hush” on Amazon. All 7 episodes are out.

From Scratch (Netflix)
showrunner Attica Locke
directed by Nzingha Stewart, Dennie Gordon

Zoe Saldana stars as Amy, who falls in love with a Sicilian man while studying in Italy. The story tracks their relationship through the years across countries.

Attica Locke showruns the series based off Tembi Locke’s memoir. Attica also wrote and produced on “Empire” and “Little Fires Everywhere”. Joining from the latter to direct 5 episodes is Nzingha Stewart, who’s also directed on “Maid” and “Scandal”. “Madam Secretary” director Dennie Gordon also directs 3 episodes.

You can watch “From Scratch” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out now.

The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself (Netflix)
half-directed by women

The son of an infamous witch finds himself trapped between two warring clans. All fear him because of his father’s history of violence, even as his father’s clan tries to kill him.

Debs Paterson and Rachna Suri direct two episodes apiece.

You can watch “The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out.

Arknights: Prelude to Dawn (Crunchyroll)
directed by Watanabe Yuki

Based on a tower defense puzzle game, “Arknights: Prelude to Dawn” follows a doctor’s team that’s racing to find a cure in a world beset by plague, disasters, and fascist governments. You can tell it’s not a documentary because some characters are part-animal.

Director Watanabe Yuki previously helmed episodes of “Warlords of Sigrdrifa” and “Visual Prison”.

You can watch “Arknights: Prelude to Dawn” on Crunchyroll. The series will be simulcast as episodes premiere in Japan every Friday.

Modern Love Tokyo (Amazon)
showrunner Hirayanagi Atsuko
mostly directed by women

(No English subtitles available on this one.) This Japanese adaptation of “Modern Love” is an anthology series. Each episode focuses on different characters and depicts a different form of expressing love.

Hirayanagi Atsuko showruns, as well as writing and directing two episodes. Ogigami Naoko and Yamada Naoko each direct another.

You can watch “Modern Love Tokyo” on Amazon. There are 7 episodes, all available immediately.

May I Help You (Amazon)
directed by Shim So Yeon

(No English subtitles available on this one.) Funeral director Baek Dong Ju can speak to the dead, who ask her to grant their last wishes. If she doesn’t, her bad luck accumulates. Kim Jib Sa runs odd errands for his uncle, but after a boycott is looking for new work. He might be able to help the funeral director with her odd requests.

Director Shim So Yeon has helmed a number of Korean series, including “Here’s My Plan”.

You can watch “May I Help You” on Amazon.

If Only (Netflix)
showrunner Ece Yorenc

(No embedded trailer available.)

Dissatisfied 30 year-old Emma is sent back in time 10 years after a lunar eclipse.

The Spanish series is helmed by Turkish director Ece Yorenc, who’s alternated between Turkish and Spanish series the last several years.

You can watch “If Only” on Netflix.


Earwig (MUBI)
directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic

A 50 year-old caretaker must care for a 10 year-old girl, whose dentures are made of ice and must be changed around the clock.

The English-language, Belgian film is helmed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who also co-wrote the screenplay. She previously directed and co-wrote “Evolution”.

You can watch “Earwig” on MUBI.

CW: Following entry includes dating violence

Run Sweetheart Run (Amazon)
directed by Shana Feste

After her blind date turns violent, Cherie is trapped in the city at night. Doing everything she can to get home alive, she discovers she’s not the first woman to be hunted by this man.

Director and co-writer Shana Feste also helmed “Endless Love”.

You can watch “Run Sweetheart Run” on Amazon.

Slash/Back (VOD)
directed by Nyla Innuksuk

Maika and her friends use improvised weapons and their extensive horror movie knowledge to fight back against an alien invasion in their Arctic town. Most of the cast is Inuit or First Nations.

Nyla Innuksuk directs and co-writes the Nunavut film. She’s also helped create VR experiences for Tanya Tagaq and A Tribe Called Red.

See where you can rent “Slash/Back”.

20th Century Girl (Netflix)
directed by Bang Woo-ri

A teen in 1999 South Korea does a favor for her best friend – befriending her crush. Introduce his best friend and various complications ensue before the promise of a new century.

This is the first film from writer-director Bang Woo-ri.

You can watch “20th Century Girl” on Netflix.

Torn Hearts (Amazon)
directed by Brea Grant

This Blumhouse horror stars Katey Sagal as a country music legend who hosts a young country music duo seeking out her advice. When they discover she may have murdered her singing partner, their stay turns into terror at their idol’s hands.

Brea Grant directs from a screenplay by Rachel Koller Croft. Grant might be best known for recurring roles on “Dexter” and “Heroes”, and her shift into directing includes Angela Bettis horror-comedy “12 Hour Shift”.

You can watch “Torn Hearts” on Amazon.

The African Desperate (MUBI)
directed by Martine Syms

Palace is an MFA grad whose last 24 hours in art school become stranger and stranger.

This is the first feature for director and co-writer Martine Syms.

You can watch “The African Desperate” on MUBI.

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

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

New Shows + Movies by Women — October 7, 2022

Every once in a while, I choose not to include a film here. I’m cautious about this because as much work as I may have done, I don’t believe anyone really gets rid of every scintilla of ingrained bias. What we’re raised with, we see in the culture that shapes us, and what we continue to see every day combine as powerful forces that mean we never completely solve our potential biases. There’s a reason we divide between explicit and implicit bias. Implicit bias arises in us in ways we might not be able to recognize. If I include every new series and film I can find that’s showrun or directed by women, then bias is minimized at least in the step of selection itself. If I begin to remove certain listings according to my judgment, I introduce the potential for bias.

That’s why I try to include everything. When Ellen Rapoport’s “Minx” came out earlier this year, I still included it despite her previous film “Desperados” being incredibly racist toward Mexicans. I didn’t feel good about that, especially being of Mexican descent. I noted this concern and talked about why I had it, but I still included the series and told people where they could find it. Rapoport’s previous project had been dehumanizing – a dehumanization that I know from experience as a Latino can carry real risk to our safety.

The only things I haven’t included – and this really only comes up once every few months – are films that are blatantly propaganda or blatantly, intentionally, unquestionably harmful. I always try to err on the side of including a film. If this feature is supposed to be informational, I can always include a project and talk about why it’s problematic.

The film I’ve had that conversation about this week is Lena Dunham’s “Catherine Called Birdy”. Based on the novel by Karen Cushman, I struggle with Dunham’s repeated and unapologetic acts of racism, as well as her attempted cover-up of statutory rape by one of the writers on her series “Girls”.

Dunham has been consistently racist in posts and public statements she’s made, in limiting opportunities to whom she’s employed in the writers’ room and in front of the camera, and in her defenses of both actions. She met the statutory rape allegation against one of the writers on “Girls” by declaring the survivor, Aurora Perrineau, was lying. Dunham insisted she had insider information about the incident, but after the media storm passed, she admitted she had none. That Perrineau is Black also calls into question Dunham’s past, repeated dehumanization of Black people. Dunham’s response was already heinous enough before raising this question, but would she have defended the writer if he’d been Black and the survivor had been white?

Certainly, women who are successful are torn down relentlessly. That should give Dunham some benefit of the doubt, but that only goes so far. It doesn’t excuse Dunham’s own actions. It doesn’t serve as carte blanche for her to tear down people of color relentlessly. It doesn’t excuse her tearing down Perrineau. Do I list Dunham’s work? There’s a point where that decision doesn’t center around my potential bias, but rather on whether I should platform someone else’s expressed, evidenced bias.

I suppose the difference is this: I bring up Rapoport because she wrote a horribly racist screenplay, and that furthers views that cause harm. In my knowledge of her work, it does seem isolated to that project. That’s not an excuse, but lack of a pattern allows me to think there’s hope someone who does that may have made a terrible mistake. Maybe she can correct it in the future, or maybe I’m just an idiot who likes to think that’s a possibility. Either way, I feel comfortable giving her the benefit of the doubt and including her next project so long as I raise and talk about my concerns regarding her past work.

Dunham has doubled down on direct harm, not just dehumanizing people of color, but on limiting their opportunities under her employ as well. She’s made countless racist statements. Combined with unsupported accusations she made to delegitimize a statutory rape survivor, the lines she’s crossed are far too many.

There’s a reason author Zinzi Clemmons quit Dunham’s weekly newsletter and wrote, “It’s time for women of color – black women in particular – to divest from Lena Dunham”. Certainly, if it’s time for women of color to do so, then it’s time for men of color to ally with that decision. I would hope that women of color are entrusted to lead enough that white people would ally with this choice as well. With Dunham, there’s an evidenced pattern of behavior, and – perhaps more damning – an evidenced refusal to attempt accountability, change, or treating either as having worth.

Am I still highlighting Dunham’s new film by making my introduction about her? If your takeaway is that you can’t wait to watch her work, then nothing I say is going to make a difference in that. Is it possible I end up reviewing something she’s in later? Sure, but it’s very unlikely to be something she writes or directs. I’ve written in the past that these choices are difficult when movies themselves are created by so many people. Do you refuse to watch “X-Men” because director Bryan Singer was a statutory rapist or do you watch it because Patrick Stewart is a domestic violence survivor and activist, and Ian McKellen was one of the only out gay actors in the 90s to overcome hiring resistance? I don’t know what the right answer to that is, and if you watch a Dunham film because one of the actors is meaningful to you, I’m not going to think you’re a terrible person. I do think when we make these decisions one way or the other, it’s important to talk about them and treat them realistically.

Am I censoring Dunham? If that’s how we’re treating the word ‘censorship’, then to platform her is to censor people of color. In that choice, she’s one person, they’re many. Just as important, she’s the instigator of that censorship, they’re the people surviving it. Not a tough choice.

Too often, people find themselves defending a Depp because we had his posters on our walls growing up, a Gilliam because his reruns from half a century ago make us laugh, or even a Polanski because he suffered trauma and wins Oscars. It’s reasonable to still find meaning in some of their work, sure, but we need to learn to separate that from icon worship. Most people know what it’s like to have some harmful moron we hang onto and defend too long. We identify with people we don’t know, and as we learn more about them, we don’t want to lose that identification. Sometimes it’s easier to defend them than defend ourselves from them.

It’s hard to be complete about this. It’s impossible to learn everything about everybody in isolation, let alone as patterns. We share something or platform someone without realizing it’s a bad idea until it’s too late. Yet sometimes the pattern is obvious, and you know what – that’s still only half of it. For me, this is really just as important, because I do believe people can learn and change: the refusal to change that pattern is also obvious. When someone’s pattern of harm and the refusal to do the work to change it are both that obvious, the refusal to platform that person becomes obvious, too.

What I’m going to do today is decide that I won’t share work that Dunham writes or directs. She’s not the first I’ve made that decision for. When the Soska sisters decided to ally themselves with and spout propaganda for white supremacists, I decided not to platform their work. Each of these situations is different, and it takes a lot for me to make that decision. I hope you understand why I am, and why it’s important to talk about.

New series this week come from Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. New movies come from the Philippines and the U.S.


Glitch (Netflix)
directed by Roh Deok

A woman hired through nepotism loses her boyfriend amid mysterious flashing lights one night. An unsuccessful livestreamer obsessed with mysteries and the UFO community may have insight. The pair team up to find out the truth. “Vincenzo” lead Jeon Yeo Been joins K-Pop-star-turned-actress Nana (of such groups as Orange Caramel and Dazzling Red).

Roh Deok has directed breakup film “Very Ordinary Couple” and journalism thriller “The Exclusive: Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”.

You can watch “Glitch” on Netflix.

CW: grooming

A Friend of the Family (Peacock)
mostly directed by women

A family friend kidnaps their daughter several times over the course of years. It’s based on the real story of Jan Broberg Felt being kidnapped twice by her neighbor in the 1970s.

Rachel Goldberg and Eliza Hittman direct two episodes apiece, with Lauren Wolkstein directing another. Goldberg’s directed on “The Sinner” and “American Gods”. Hittman is the director of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”. Wolkstein directed on “Queen Sugar”.

You can watch “A Friend of the Family” on Peacock. The first four episodes premiered this week, with another episode arriving every Thursday for a total of 9.

Raven of the Inner Palace (Crunchyroll)
directed by Miyawaki Chizuru

A consort with mystical powers consults spirits in order to solve a web of assassinations, murders, and other mysteries inside the palace of a Chinese kingdom. The anime is based on the light novel series.

Director Miyawaki Chizuru was one of the two major directors of the “Gintama” series of shows and movies for years. She started off doing key animation work in the last 90s on shows like “Hunter x Hunter” and “Generator Gawl”.

You can watch “Raven of the Inner Palace” on Crunchyroll. New episodes arrive Sundays.

Fire Country (CBS)
showrunner Tia Napolitano

A convicted man joins a firefighting program that may shorten his prison sentence. He works alongside inmates and professional fire fighters alike to combat wildfires.

Showrunner Tia Napolitano also wrote and produced on “Scandal” and “Cruel Summer”.

You can watch “Fire Country” on CBS. New episodes air on Friday.

Family Law (The CW)
showrunner Susin Nielsen

Jewel Staite plays Abigail, a lawyer who loses her job due to alcoholism. Unable to get hired anywhere else, her only refuge is the law firm of her father, played by Victor Garber. He has two other children who work there as lawyers – whom she doesn’t know.

Showrunner Susin Nielsen is a longtime writer and producer of Canadian television. Her career started as an art department assistant on the original “Degrassi High” before she shifted into the writers room.

You can watch “Family Law” on the CW. New episodes arrive every Sunday.


Deadstream (Shudder)
co-directed by Vanessa Winter

A disgraced livestreamer needs a big stunt for his comeback: one night streaming from a haunted house. This one’s real, and a vengeful spirit looks to take him offline permanently.

Vanessa Winter writes and directs with Joseph Winter. The pair also directed a segment on this year’s “V/H/S/99”.

You can watch “Deadstream” on Shudder.

Doll House (Netflix)
directed by Marla Ancheta

This film from the Philippines finds a man hiding his identity in order to take care of the daughter he left behind years ago.

Marla Ancheta also directed “Ikaw” and “Finding Agnes”.

You can watch “Doll House” on Netflix.

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

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

New Shows + Movies by Women — September 30, 2022

When I can find the information, I always try to say something about how a filmmaker started. Sometimes, they just appear on IMDB, MyDramaList, or other resources without much information about prior work. Perhaps a number of short films are listed, in which case they probably went the festival route and worked their way up raising finances for a longer film.

Other routes include starting as an actress before shifting over to directing, or starting in a writers room, which provides a well-used but no less difficult path into production, series creation, and showrunning.

These aren’t the only routes, however. Last week, I highlighted “Lou” director Anna Foerster, who started as a visual effects specialist in films like “Independence Day”, and worked as a second unit director and aerial director of photography. This led into series directing and, eventually, film directing.

I’ve written about my favorite cinematographer, Natasha Braier, before. Starting out as an assistant cameraperson and working as a cinematographer on short films eventually led to feature film cinematography and her first directing gig – helming an episode on “American Gigolo”. I’m excited to see if she continues exploring directing.

Anne Fletcher is the director of this week’s “Hocus Pocus 2”. She got her start as a dancer and choreographer. She served as the animation reference in “Casper”, the 90s equivalent of a motion capture actor. Then she danced in films ranging from “Tank Girl” to “Boogie Nights” and “Titanic”, moving into assistant choreography with “Boogie Nights” and lead choreographer on “Bring It On”. You’ve almost certainly seen her work – choreography on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”, “Step Up”, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, Academy Award ceremonies – and eventually directing on films like “27 Dresses” and “Hot Pursuit”. We’ve probably seen her work in front of or behind the camera a dozen or more times, but hers isn’t a name we know.

Knowing these routes that people take is important, though. As hard as it is to get to the point of showrunning or directing, it’s even more difficult for women to break through a system that’s built to resist their promotion. We could each name dozens of men who direct, and probably even recount to each other the paths they’ve taken, their humble rags-to-riches personal stories. What do we know about women who direct? What about the two most successful films by women in theaters right now? Can most of us name the director of “The Woman King” offhand? Do we know anything about Gina Prince-Bythewood’s story? What do we know about Olivia Wilde’s work on “Don’t Worry Darling”? All that’s in the news about the film is who she slept with and who might be upset about it.

Men get mythologies and cults of worship. We can trace and analyze how every film they ever glanced at sideways may have influenced their vision. Women get obscurity or publicly shamed. Their vision is treated as spontaneously generated, sparked once as an exception to the rule that there’s nothing to see here, as if whatever we might mistake for vision is a chance occurrence evolved from nothing. We treat men in filmmaking as working and earning their place, worth studying, and women as having tripped and fallen into a position it’s assumed they haven’t earned and can’t repeat, so why bother learning how they got there? We need to bother learning, and this goes for men especially. Know someone’s story. When you watch a film by a woman, learn how they got there and what influenced and shaped their vision the same way we would for almost any man. As viewers, as creators, as critics, there’s so much to learn and appreciate that we’re trained to overlook. What does that do to our visions? How much does that limit what we can draw from? The only way to cure that is to seek it out.

This week, new series by women come from Germany, Japan, and the U.S., and new movies by women come from Australia and the U.S.


The Empress (Netflix)
showrunner Katharina Eyssen
co-directed by Katrin Gebbe

This German historical drama recounts the love affair between Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary and Elisabeth von Wittelsbach, the Bavarian princess and sister of the woman Franz must marry.

Showrunner Katharina Eyssen came over to directing from acting. Katrin Gebbe directs with Florian Cossen. Gebbe has directed tense German films like “Pelican Blood” and “Nothing Bad Can Happen”.

You can watch “The Empress” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are out now.

Reasonable Doubt (Hulu)
showrunner Raamla Mohamed

Jax is a defense attorney in Los Angeles who goes up against a justice system she perceives as broken and biased. Emayatzy Corinealdi and Michael Ealy star.

Showrunner Raamla Mohamed has written and produced on “Scandal” and “Little Fires Everywhere”.

You can watch “Reasonable Doubt” on Hulu.

I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss (Crunchyroll)
directed by Habara Kumiko

A chronically ill girl finds herself taking on the role of the villainess in one of her favorite games. Knowing how the game ends, she does everything she can to succeed as the villainess and undermine the game’s ending.

Habara Kumiko previously directed “I’m Standing on a Million Lives”.

You can watch “I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss” on Crunchyroll. The premiere is out now, with a new episode arriving every Saturday morning.


Alice (Starz)
directed by Krystin Ver Linden

Keke Palmer plays Alice, who escapes from the plantation where she’s been enslaved to discovery a shockingly different reality outside of it. Common and Jonny Lee Miller co-star.

This is the first film from writer-director Krystin Ver Linden.

You can watch “Alice” on Starz, or see where to rent it.

Hocus Pocus 2 (Disney+)
directed by Anne Fletcher

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy reprise their roles as three witches brought to life from the past. As in the 1993 original, they wreak havoc on the modern day Salem.

Director Anne Fletcher has helmed episodes of “This is Us” and “Love, Victor”. She got her start in the industry as a dancer and choreographer.

You can watch “Hocus Pocus 2” on Disney+.

Sissy (Shudder)
co-directed by Hannah Barlow

A decade removed from their best friendship as teenagers, Cecilia and Emma bump into each other. Emma invites Cecilia on her bachelorette weekend, but past wrongs left simmering lead to horror shenanigans.

Hannah Barlow directs the Australian horror with Kane Senes, as well as taking on the role of Emma.

You can watch “Sissy” on Shudder.

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

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