Tag Archives: anime

New Shows + Movies by Women — April 15, 2022

I want to take this week’s intro to talk about the range of new abortion restrictions that are sweeping state to state. As the news focuses on a hundred other things, please don’t lose sight of new abortion restrictions that just passed this week in Florida and Kentucky (this last overriding the governor’s veto). Kentucky’s is in effect, while Florida’s and an earlier ban passed in Arizona both take effect in July. Oklahoma and West Virginia have each passed a ban through one house of their legislature. Idaho’s is signed into law but is temporarily blocked by courts.

Texas-style bans have been introduced in state legislatures in 13 states. Trigger bans that would take effect upon Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court have been passed in 12 states and introduced in six others.

Partial bans on abortion pills already exist in Indiana and Texas. New bans on medication abortions have been introduced in eight other states.

In some good news, Maryland overrode a governor’s veto to legislatively protect the right to abortion this week. Many states are in the process of doing so, and some are taking the next step of enshrining the right to abortion within their state constitutions. Some are also considering sanctuary bills that would make it easier for women to travel to their state in order to access an abortion.

Some states have competing bills, with bans and protections both introduced. Washington Post has a useful rundown of the different types of bills being considered, and what stage each is at. Many women are already familiar with this fight. Men read this article, too. I urge other men to join with and support this fight for women’s rights. Our voices don’t need to lead here, but they should encourage other men to support women’s rights, and we should be making those calls to our state legislators and governors that encourage them to protect women’s right to choose.

Most politicians are still men who hire other men, which means these offices habitually dismiss the voices of women. They need to hear men supporting women’s rights and also telling these offices that we expect them to listen to women’s voices and not just ours. If allied men don’t figure women’s rights are worth actively supporting, then assume that allied men with responsibility and positions of power also figure that. They don’t change that attitude unless we do. We need to shoulder more of the work in support of this fight.

Let’s talk about new series by women this week. There are no new films.

NEW SERIES

Roar (Apple TV+)
showrunners Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch
directed by women

The creators of “GLOW” adapt Cecelia Ahern’s collection of short stories in a dark comedy anthology about women’s often overlooked experiences.

Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Alison Brie, and Betty Gilpin all feature at some point in the anthology.

Liz Flahive has written and produced on “Homeland”. Carly Mensch has written and produced on “Weeds” and “Orange is the New Black”. The pair both worked on “Nurse Jackie” and “GLOW”. Halley Feiffer, Janine Nabers, and Vera Santamaria join them as directors on “Roar.”

You can watch “Roar” on Apple TV+. All eight episodes are available immediately.

Swimming with Sharks (Roku)
showrunner Kathleen Robertson

Kiernan Shipka and Diane Kruger star as an assistant and her abusive boss at a Hollywood studio. Shipka’s Lou quickly learns how to outwit the manipulations of her workplace.

Kathleen Robertson starred in “The Expanse”. This is her first time writing and second time producing on a series.

You can watch “Swimming with Sharks” on Roku. All episodes are available immediately.

CW: sexual assault

Anatomy of a Scandal (Netflix)
showrunner Melissa James Gibson
directed by S.J. Clarkson

A sexual assault scandal erupts around a British politician and his wife starts to question all of the stories he’s told her. Sienna Miller stars.

Showrunner Melissa James Gibson wrote on “The Americans” and wrote and produced on the U.S. “House of Cards”. Director S.J. Clarkson has helmed episodes of “Jessica Jones” and “Dexter”.

You can watch “Anatomy of a Scandal” on Netflix. All six episodes are available immediately.

CW: image of man on fire

Verdict (Amazon)
showrunner Paula Knudsen
directed by Anahi Berneri, Marina Meliande

This Uruguayan show involves the investigation of a terrible crime that goes viral on social media. (There’s currently no English trailer, but the series is subtitled.)

Showrunner Paula Knudsen has written on the Brazilian and U.S. versions of “Julie and the Phantoms”. Directors Anahi Berneri and Marina Meliande have each made several South American films.

You can watch “Verdict” on Amazon Prime. All six episodes are available immediately.

Aoashi (Crunchyroll)
directed by Satou Akira

In this anime, Aoi Ashito ruins his chances of being recruited by a quality high school soccer club when he creates on on-field incident. He does catch the eye of one recruiter, though.

This is Satou Akira’s second series as director.

You can watch “Aoashi” on Crunchyroll. New episodes arrive Saturdays.

Hard Cell (Netflix)
showrunner Catherine Tate

Catherine Tate writes, directs, and stars in multiple roles in this British mockumentary that follows inmates and staff at a women’s prison.

Catherine Tate is generally regarded as the best of the “Doctor Who” companions since its reboot. She also starred in “The Catherine Tate Show” and in later seasons of the American version of “The Office”.

You can watch “Hard Cell” 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 — April 8, 2022

April means the spring anime season is upon us, so get ready for idols, isekai, and mecha. The anime industry drops nearly every premiere within a two-week span toward the start of each season. That means they get much more grouped up than Western shows. This week, there are three new anime series by women, a new K-drama, and new films from Norway and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Heroines Run the Show (Crunchyroll)
directed by Noriko Hashimoto

Hiyori Suzumi moves to Tokyo to train as a track athlete. The job she gets stuck with is managing a male idol group. It’s difficult for her to balance school, track, work, and free time, especially when the pair she’s managing is in her class.

This is the first series Noriko Hashimoto is directing.

You can watch “Heroines Run the Show” on Crunchyroll. The first episode is available now and new episodes arrive Thursdays.

The Greatest Demon Lord is Reborn as a Typical Nobody (Crunchyroll)
directed by Minato Mirai

Varvatos has grown to become too powerful a sorcerer. The only option left is to travel into the future and become an average kid…who boasts tremendous powers.

Minato Mirai has directed extensively in the “Fate/Stay” universe and helmed last year’s “The Dungeon of Black Company”.

You can watch “The Greatest Demon Lord is Reborn as a Typical Nobody” on Crunchyroll. The premiere is available now and new episodes arrive on Wednesdays.

Tiger & Bunny 2 (Netflix)
directed by Kase Mitsuko

Netflix resurrects a classic anime series where superhumans are sponsored and climb annual rankings for their heroics. Veteran heroes Kotetsu and Barnaby may struggle to stay in the game after all these years.

I normally focus on series premieres and not second seasons, especially because anime universes can grow enough offshoots to make the MCU multiverse look tame, but given that there’ve been no new entries since 2011, this is a bit of a unique case.

Director Kase Mitsuko also helmed “Ristorante Paradiso” and “Saikano”. Her career stretches back to mecha series in the 70s and 80s.

You can watch “Tiger & Bunny 2” on Netflix. The series should be able to stand on its own, but Netflix does have the first season from 2011 if you want to start there. All 13 episodes are available immediately.

Green Mothers Club (Netflix)
directed by Ra Ha Na

In this Korean series, five mothers meet through their children’s school. Despite their different outlooks and experiences, they learn to support each other in ways they can’t find elsewhere.

Ra Ha Na directs. She’s also directed “Tinted with You”.

You can watch “Green Mothers Club” on Netflix. The premiere is available now and new episodes arrive every Wednesday for a total of 16.

NEW MOVIES

Freeland (MUBI)
co-directed by Kate McLean

An elderly, off-the-grid pot farmer sees her business dwindle when cannabis is made legal. She considers what to do next as she harvests her final crop.

Kate McLean writes and directs with Mario Furloni. McLean has primarily worked in documentary films up till now.

You can watch “Freeland” on MUBI, or see where to rent it.

Life After You (VOD)
directed by Sarah T. Schwab

After the death of their 19 year-old son from an overdose laced with fentanyl, a family struggles with who is responsible.

This is the first feature film from director and co-writer Sarah T. Schwab.

See where to rent “Life After You”.

Battle: Freestyle (Netflix)
directed by Ingvild Soderlind

Amalie is torn between love, an absent mother, and going with her dance team to the global finals in France. The Norwegian film is based on the novel by Maja Lunde.

This is the second feature film from director Ingvild Soderlind.

You can watch “Battle: Freestyle” 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 — March 11, 2022

There’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive right in this week. New series come from France, Japan, Romania, the U.K., and the U.S., while new movies come from the Czech Republic, Poland, and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Shining Vale (Starz)
co-showrunner Sharon Horgan

Courteney Cox and Greg Kinnear star in a fantasy comedy about a family that moves into an old home known for its horrible past. Things get stranger and stranger, but the only one who seems to notice is Cox’s Pat, who suspects she might be possessed.

Sharon Horgan created and showruns “Shining Vale” with Jeff Astrof. An Irish actress and writer who became involved in BBC productions, she produced, wrote, and starred in “Catastrophe” and “Pulling”.

You can watch “Shining Vale” on Starz. The first two episodes are out now, with new ones dropping every Sunday.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (Apple TV)
half-directed by women

Samuel L. Jackson plays an elderly man with dementia. He has one last chance to remember his past and investigate the death of his nephew. The series is based on the novel by Walter Mosley.

Hanelle M. Culpepper (“Star Trek: Picard”, “Gotham”) directs 2 episodes, and Debbie Allen (“Everybody Hates Chris”, “Scandal”) directs one.

You can watch “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” on Apple TV. The first episode is available now, and new episodes arrive on Fridays.

The Thing About Pam (NBC)
showrunner Jenny Klein

Renee Zellweger stars as Pam Hupp in a comedy adaptation of a recent murder. Hupp was initially successful in framing someone else for the crime. Judy Greer and Josh Duhamel co-star.

Showrunner Jenny Klein has written on “Supernatural” and produced on “The Witcher” and “Cloak & Dagger”.

You can watch “The Thing About Pam” on NBC or Hulu. The premiere is available now, with new episodes on Tuesdays.

Ruxx (HBO Max)
showrunner Vera Ion
mostly directed by Iulia Rugina

Can’t find a translated trailer for this Romanian romantic dramedy. It follows Ruxx, who’s navigating political work, family, and romantic life, as well as the toxicity and misogyny that enters into each.

Showrunner and writer Vera Ion is a Romanian playwright. Iulia Rugina directs six of the eight episodes, and she’s already seen two feature films and two short films nominated in the Gopos Awards, Romania’s equivalent to our Oscars.

You can watch “Ruxx” on HBO Max. Three episodes are available now, with a new one dropping every Tuesday.

The Chelsea Detective (Acorn TV)
half-directed by Darcia Martin

Two detectives investigate the elite of London’s Chelsea neighborhood in a new four-episode series. As is the case with many British mysteries, each episode lasts around an hour-and-a-half.

Darcia Martin directs two episodes. She’s directed on “Shakespeare & Hathaway” and “Father Brown”.

You can watch “The Chelsea Detective” on Acorn TV. The first mystery is available, with a new one debuting every Monday.

Weekend Family (Disney+)
half-directed by Sophie Reine

Emmanuelle is an academic who falls for a man with three children. Each has a different mother who’s very involved in their lives, and the entire family gets together every weekend. Emmanuelle learns how to navigate the situation over the course of eight episodes. This is Disney+’s first original series in French.

Sophie Reine shares directing duties with Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval, at four episodes apiece. Reine is a prolific editor of French film. She edited “The Connection” and won a Cesar award (France’s Oscar equivalent) for her editing on “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”. She was also nominated for Best First Film for her “Cigarettes et chocolat chaud”.

Disclosure: I know Emmanuelle’s voice-over artist on the English dub, Jessie Hendricks.

You can watch “Weekend Family” on Disney+. All 10 episodes are available immediately.

Kotaro Lives Alone (Netflix)
directed by Makino Tomoe

In this anime, a manga artist who’s become unpopular finds himself caring for a 5 year-old child who lives alone.

Makino Tomoe directed her first series last year with “Woodpecker Detective’s Office”. She’s worked her way through key animation, storyboard, and episode direction jobs on various anime.

You can watch “Kotaro Lives Alone” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are available now.

NEW MOVIES

Turning Red (Disney+)
directed by Domee Shi

In Pixar’s latest film, Mei Lee is a 13 year-old girl who’s struggling through adolescence. Making things more complicated is the fact that whenever she gets excited, she turns into a giant red panda. Aside from Rosalie Chiang as Mei Lee, the voice cast also includes Sandra Oh, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, and James Hong.

Director and co-writer Domee Shi won an Oscar for Best Animated Short with “Bao”. She’s also been a storyboard artist on “Inside Out”, “Incredibles 2”, and “Toy Story 4”.

You can watch “Turning Red” on Disney+.

Mainstream (Showtime)
directed by Gia Coppola

Andrew Garfield stars as a major social media influencer who builds his brand off impostor syndrome. Those around him participate in an organized, insincere chaos, less and less sure if they’re the parts they play or the people lost in them.

Director and co-writer Gia Coppola is the niece of Sofia Coppola and granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola. This is her second feature after 2013’s “Palo Alto”. She’s also directed music videos for Carly Rae Jepsen and Blood Orange.

You can watch “Mainstream” on Showtime, or see where to rent it.

India Sweets and Spices (Hulu)
directed by Geeta Malik

Alia returns from college during the summer, only to find her parents’ past secrets are disrupting the family she thought she knew.

This is the second feature from writer-director Geeta Malik after the well-regarded “Troublemaker”. She started out in the industry as a grip and assistant camera, in between making short films.

You can watch “India Sweets and Spices” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

Even Mice Belong in Heaven (Tubi)
co-directed by Denisa Grimmova

In this Czech stop-motion animated film, a mouse and fox meet in animal heaven. They become friends, only to be reborn into opposite roles.

Denisa Grimmova directs with Jan Bubenicek. This is her first feature film.

You can watch “Even Mice Belong in Heaven” on Tubi, or see where to rent it.

Autumn Girl (Netflix)
showrunner Katarzyna Klimkiewicz

This Polish drama follows Kalina Jedrusik. The singer and actress came to symbolize women’s sexual freedom and independence in the 1960s.

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz directs and co-writes the series. She won a European Film Award for her short “Hanoi-Warszawa” in 2009.

You can watch “Autumn Girl” on Netflix.

Mark, Mary & Some Other People (Hulu)
directed by Hannah Marks

Newlyweds give non-monogamy a try in order to stabilize their relationship.

Writer-director Hannah Marks is better known as an actress in “Necessary Roughness” and “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”. However, she’s also written “Banana Split”, and wrote and directed “After Everything”.

This was previously featured, but you can now watch “Mark, Mary & Some Other People” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

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 — February 11, 2022

There’s a lot to get to this week. With 14 titles, most streaming services see something new, but it’s an especially good week if you have Netflix or Shudder. Just from what I’ve observed writing this feature for the past two years, Netflix regularly has a big influx of projects by women. I don’t know that they have a higher rate than others. Since Netflix has a much larger output compared to other streaming services, it could just be a matter of volume. Either way, there are weeks like this where a huge number of titles by women appear on the platform.

As for Shudder, it’s picking up a lot of horror films that came out on rental last year, but that haven’t found a subscription service until now. These can be international, like Argentina’s “Rock, Paper and Scissors”, or a low-budget indie like “I Blame Society”. Shudder can be pretty good at grabbing these horror gems by women that other services overlook.

Of course, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s also a number of romantic comedies out there. It’s a genre I do miss and they look surprisingly good. Expect to see some promising ones coming out this and next week.

New shows and films by women this week come from Argentina, Iran, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Inventing Anna (Netflix)
showrunner Shonda Rhimes

Julia Garner stars as Anna, a con artist who uses Instagram to convince New York high society that she’s a German heiress…before stealing their money. The series is based on a real-life case where Anna Sorokin defrauded banks, hotels, and the wealthy throughout the 2010s. If you don’t know Garner, she’s absolutely an actress to keep your attention on.

Shonda Rhimes created and showruns “Inventing Anna”. Rhimes has produced on “Bridgerton”, “Scandal”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, and “Grey’s Anatomy”.

You can watch “Inventing Anna” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are immediately available.

Sister Boniface Mysteries (Britbox)
showrunner Jude Tindall

A Catholic nun spends her free time solving mysteries.

Showrunner and writer Jude Tindall also created and wrote for “Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators”, and wrote on the show where the character of Sister Boniface first appeared, “Father Brown”.

You can watch “Sister Boniface Mysteries” on Britbox. New episodes arrive every Tuesday.

NEW MOVIES

Ballad of a White Cow (MUBI)
co-directed by Maryam Moghadam

Maryam Moghadam writes, directs, and stars as Mina in this Iranian film. Mina discovers her husband was innocent of the crime for which he was executed. She attempts to fight the very system that denies her even the most basic agency as a woman.

Maryam Moghadam directs with Behtash Sanaeeha. As an actress, she’s appeared in a number of Iranian films. This is her third film as a writer, and second as director.

You can watch “Ballad of a White Cow” on MUBI.

The Sky is Everywhere (Apple TV)
directed by Josephine Decker

Based on the novel by Jandy Nelson, a shy musician tries to keep growing up in the wake of her older sister’s death.

Josephine Decker directs, and she’s kind of a big deal. She helmed “Shirley” starring Elisabeth Moss, and “Madeline’s Madeline”. She has a tendency to get weird, meta, and experimental.

You can watch “The Sky is Everywhere” on Apple TV.

Anne+ (Netflix)
directed by Valerie Bisscheroux

In this Dutch film, a graduate navigates her love life in the LGBTQ+ scene of Amsterdam, while trying to get her writing career off the ground.

The film is based on director and co-writer Valerie Bisscheroux’s series “Anne Plus”.

You can watch “Anne+” on Netflix.

I Blame Society (multiple services, VOD)
directed by Gillian Wallace Horvat

Gillian is a good filmmaker, but she just can’t seem to break through. Then it comes to her: the skills to be a good director are very similar to the skills needed to commit the perfect murder.

Writer-director Gillian Wallace Horvat is a prolific producer and director of video documentary shorts. Put another way, she directs those documentary featurettes that end up as extra features on new releases and remasters. Some are historical, some are analytical, some confront problematic elements in classic films.

It’s a unique skillset and she has about 50 of these to her credit in just the last five years, along with occasional award-winning shorts.

You can watch “I Blame Society” on Hoopla, Kanopy, Shudder, Tubi, or see where to rent it.

Child of Kamiari Month (Netflix)
directed by Shirai Takana

A girl named Kanna is a descendant of the gods. It’s her family’s duty to collect offerings from around Japan and deliver them to the gods. When her mother passes away, Kanna takes the responsibility on in the hope the gods can reunite them.

Shirai Takana started out doing in-between animation on movies a decade ago, worked her way through key animation jobs, and assistant directed 2020’s visually stunning “Children of the Sea”. This is her first film as director.

You can watch “Child of Kamiari Month” on Netflix.

Marry Me (Peacock)
directed by Kat Coiro

Jennifer Lopez stars as singer Kat Valdez, who’s about to marry her longtime partner Bastian in front of a global audience. She learns seconds beforehand that he’s been unfaithful. Totally reasonably she marries a stranger in the crowd, a man named Charlie who just so happens to be played by Owen Wilson.

Based on the graphic novel, Kat Coiro directs. She’s been a director on “Dead to Me”, “The Mick”, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. She’s also directing the upcoming MCU “She-Hulk” series.

You can watch “Marry Me” on Peacock.

Love and Leashes (Netflix)
directed by Park Hyeon-jin

A woman stumbles on her co-worker’s secret, and the two develop a romantic bond over BDSM. The Korean romantic comedy is based on a webtoon.

Writer-director Park Hyeon-jin has previously directed “I Am Your Bleating Phone” and “Like for Likes”.

You can watch “Love and Leashes” on Netflix.

Rock, Paper and Scissors (Shudder, VOD)
co-directed by Macarena Garcia Lenzi

In this Argentinean horror film, two siblings resent their half-sister when she seeks her part of their father’s inheritance. They don’t want to sell the house they’ve inherited, so they decide to hold her captive, playing a series of escalating games.

Macarena Garcia Lenzi directs with Martin Blousson. It’s the first narrative feature for either.

You can watch “Rock, Paper and Scissors” on Shudder, or see where to rent it.

Alone with You (VOD)
co-directed by Emily Bennett

A woman eagerly anticipates her girlfriend’s homecoming. As she prepares, their apartment begins to take on hallucinatory qualities, hinting at a truth she’s tried not to recognize.

Emily Bennett co-writes, directs with Justin Brooks, and stars. This is her first feature film as director.

See where to rent “Alone with You”.

Homestay (Amazon)
directed by Seta Natsuki

In this Japanese film, a high school student passes away and a soul takes up residence in their body. That soul has 100 days to figure out the truth behind that student’s death. I believe this is a remake of a Thai film, but based on a novel by Japanese writer Eto Mori. Can’t find a subtitled or dubbed trailer for the Japanese version, but English subtitles will be available on Amazon.

Seta Natsuki has directed on several Japanese films and the series “The Curry Songs”.

You can watch “Homestay” on Amazon.

The Kindness of Strangers (Netflix)
directed by Lone Scherfig

Clara and her two sons escape from her abusive husband. In a tough New York City winter, their survival is reliant on rare, intertwining acts of kindness. Zoe Kazan stars as Clara.

Writer-director Lone Scherfig has directed a number of films in Denmark, the U.K., and the U.S. This includes the Oscar-nominated “An Education”, as well as “Italian for Beginners” and “Their Finest”.

You can watch “The Kindness of Strangers” on Netflix.

Tall Girl 2 (Netflix)
directed by Emily Ting

A tall girl has gained popularity at school, and as the lead in the school play has to navigate social issues she hadn’t before. This is the sequel to “Tall Girl”.

Emily Ting directs. This is her third film.

You can watch “Tall Girl 2” 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 — February 4, 2022

There are some genuinely heavy hitters this week – I expect to be talking about Megan Park’s “The Fallout” as one of the best films of 2022. Malgorzata Szumowska may be Poland’s most important filmmaker right now, and “Never Gonna Snow Again” looks like a biting satire. Hong Kong director Heiward Mak is a crucial up-and-coming voice.

There are also filmmakers like Mohawk director Tracey Deer and Kosovan director Norika Sefa each making their debuts.

Let’s start with series first:

NEW SERIES

Pam & Tommy (Hulu)
mostly directed by women

Lily James (Disney’s most recent “Cinderella”) and Sebastian Stan (the MCU’s Winter Soldier) star as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. The series recounts their relationship from its start (they married 96 hours after meeting), and the impact of their infamous 1995 sex tape. Taylor Schilling, Nick Offerman, and Seth Rogen co-star.

The series is showrun by Robert Siegel, and “I, Tonya” director Craig Gillespie helms the first three episodes. After that, those last five episodes are directed by three different women. “In a World…” director (and actress/voice actress) Lake Bell directs two. “Sons of Anarchy” and “American Horror Story” director Gwyneth Horder-Payton directs another two. “A Teacher” showrunner Hannah Fidell directs one.

You can watch “Pam & Tommy” on Hulu. The first three episodes are already available, with a new one premiering every Wednesday for a total of eight.

New Gold Mountain (Sundance Now)
directed by Corrie Chen

It’s 1857, during the Australian gold rush. Tensions between Chinese and European miners come to a head when a European woman in Chinese clothing is found murdered. Yoson An plays a character loosely based on Fook Shing, the historical Chinese detective who policed the gold fields during this era.

Director Corrie Chen has directed on several Australian series.

You can watch “New Gold Mountain” on Sundance Now. All four episodes should be available immediately.

Salaryman’s Club (Crunchyroll)
directed by Aimi Yamauchi

Also known as “Ryman’s Club”, this anime follows a group of businessmen who meet up to play badminton.

Director Aimi Yamauchi has worked as an episode director and storyboard artist on “Tokyo Revengers” and “Mugen no Juunin: Immortal”.

You can watch “Salaryman’s Club” on Crunchyroll. New episodes arrive on Saturdays.

NEW MOVIES

The Fallout (HBO Max)
directed by Megan Park

I can’t think about “The Fallout” without feeling emotionally overwhelmed. It’s a brilliant film, a very early contender for best film of 2022, and it’s the best I’ve seen for engaging the issue of school shootings. My review goes into detail without spoilers.

Jenna Ortega delivers one of the most natural performances I can remember as Vada, a student who survives a gun massacre at her high school. “The Fallout” tracks her trauma in an experiential way as she desperately tries to find some place in her life where she can feel in control again.

It’s a shattering depiction of what we’ve now put three generations in a row through for no reason. It’s a very tough watch, but it’s also so human and empathetic that I’d watch it again in a heartbeat.

I missed this one in last week’s rundown. I obviously highly recommend it.

This is the first feature from writer-director Megan Park, perhaps best known for her role as Grace on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”.

You can watch “The Fallout” on HBO Max.

Never Gonna Snow Again (MUBI)
co-directed by Malgorzata Szumowska

Zhenia is a Russian immigrant in Poland. He works as a massage therapist…until his wealthy clients begin looking to him as a guru.

This was Poland’s submission as Best International Feature for the Oscars last year. Co-writer and co-director Malgorzata Szumowska directs with her oft-cinematographer Michal Englert. Szumowska gives her films an exacting sense of purpose. I found her “The Other Lamb” to be disturbingly precise in the ways it overwhelms. She’s a commanding director everyone should watch at least once.

You can watch “Never Gonna Snow Again” on MUBI.

Beans (Hulu)
directed by Tracey Deer

“Beans” focuses on the 78-day standoff that took place between the Mohawk and Canadian government in 1990. The Kanesatake band of Mohawk had a land claim rejected on a legal technicality in 1986. In 1989, the town’s golf club decided to expand into this claim. The town did not consult the Mohawk about this.

This was just the latest in whittling down Mohawk land from an original treaty agreeing to 165 square kilometers. By 1956, just six square kilometers of this remained. (Before this, the Mohawk had first been forced to leave their land in the Hudson Valley.)

“Beans” tells the story of the Oka crisis standoff through the eyes of a young Mohawk girl. If you watch “Reservation Dogs”, it co-stars Paulina Alexis and D’Pharaoh Woon-a-Tai, two of that show’s leads.

This is Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer’s first narrative feature. She’s previously written and directed several documentaries, and wrote and produced on the series “Mohawk Girls” and “Anne with an E”.

“Beans” was previously available for rental, but this is the first time it’s come to a subscription service.

You can watch “Beans” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

Fagara (OVID TV)
directed by Heiward Mak

After her father’s death, a woman discovers two previously unknown sisters. In debt and struggling to keep the family’s restaurant alive, she reaches out and begins to forge relationships with them.

Heiward Mak has written, directed, and often edited several independent Hong Kong films.

You can watch “Fagara” on OVID TV, a service that specializes in international and independent cinema.

Looking for Venera (MUBI)
directed by Norika Sefa

In this Kosovan film, Venera is a teen aching to get away from home. She shares a small house with three generations of her family, and never has any privacy.

This is the first feature from writer-director Norika Sefa.

You can watch “Looking for Venera” on MUBI.

Stop and Go (Hulu)
co-directed by Mallory Everton

Two sisters set out on a road trip to rescue their grandmother from a nursing home where COVID has broken out.

Mallory Everton directs with Stephen Meek. This is her first feature.

“Stop and Go” was previously available for rental, but this is the first time it’s come to a subscription service.

You can watch “Stop and Go” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

Book of Love (Amazon)
directed by Analeine Cal y Mayor

Two writers find themselves drawn to each other after they’re thrown together on a Mexican book tour: the original author and the translator who drastically rewrote his novel. Veronica Echegui and Sam Claflin star.

This is the third film from director and co-writer Analeine Cal y Mayor.

You can watch it on Amazon Prime.

The Translator (VOD)
co-directed by Rana Kazkaz

In 2011, a Syrian exile lives in Australia. When he learns his brother has been taken by the Assad regime, he travels back to Syria in an attempt to free him.

Rana Kazkaz directs with Anas Khalaf. This is her first feature film.

See where to rent “The Translator”.

What Breaks the Ice (Showtime)
directed by Rebecca Eskreis

Two girls form a friendship in 1998, as their vision of their place in the world is impacted by the country’s obsession with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. When they’re invited to a rave, things go wrong and they have to defend themselves. Will the culture they live in ever believe their side of the story?

This is the first feature from writer-director Rebecca Eskreis. She got her start in production design.

You can watch “What Breaks the Ice” on Showtime, or rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube.

Honey Girls (Netflix)
directed by Trey Fanjoy

Ashanti stars as Fancy G, a pop star hosting a contest to find the next big solo artist. Three contestants realize working together to form their own band helps all of them, instead of just one of them.

Trey Fanjoy is a prolific music video director, most notably for Taylor Swift. She directed “Teardrops on My Guitar”, “Our Song”, “Picture to Burn”, and “White Horse”, among others. She’s also helmed numerous music videos for Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, and Keith Urban. This is her first feature film.

You can watch “Honey Girls” 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 — January 21, 2022

We’ve got another week with a lot of entries. Most of the series come from the U.S., but most of the films are international. It makes for a week with many different options. Entries come from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Georgia, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and the U.S.

We’re still in the mid-season premiere period when many new series follow the one-episode-a-week format. These things are seasonal, so as we get into February, expect to see that dwindle and more of the all-episodes-at-once format become more common again.

Since there’s a lot, let’s get right into it:

NEW SERIES

Somebody Somewhere (HBO Max)
co-showrunner Hannah Bos

Sam feels like an outsider in rural Kansas. As she deals with the loss of her sister, she’s able to start identifying where her real community lies.

The show is developed by and stars comedian Bridget Everett. Hannah Bos showruns with Paul Thureen. Bos has written on “Mozart in the Jungle”, “High Maintenance”, and “Strangers”.

You can watch “Somebody Somewhere” on HBO Max. New episodes arrive on Sundays.

Single Drunk Female (Freeform, Hulu)
showrunner Simone Finch

Samantha has a breakdown in public and moves back in with her mother to avoid jail time. She struggles with remaining sober and getting through rehab.

Showrunner Simone Finch worked as a showrunner’s assistant on “Madam Secretary”, and the “Roseanne” reboot, and as a writer on “The Conners”.

You can watch “Single Drunk Female” on Freeform or Hulu. New episodes drop on Thursdays.

How I Met Your Father (Hulu)
co-showrun by Elizabeth Berger

“How I Met Your Father” is a standalone sequel to the 2000s hit “How I Met Your Mother”. Hillary Duff stars as Sophie, a photographer trying and failing to find her soulmate. Kim Cattrall takes up the role as the older version of Sophie, who’s telling this story to her son.

Elizabeth Berger showruns with Isaac Aptaker. The pair also showrun Hulu’s “Love, Victor”, a similar standalone sequel that started off charming enough, but was probably the most improved show of 2021 with its second season.

Pamela Fryman returns to direct the first two episodes. She directed 196 of 208 “How I Met Your Mother” episodes, though I’m unsure if she directs more than the two-part pilot here.

You can watch “How I Met Your Father” on Hulu. New episodes premiere Tuesdays.

Summer Heat (Netflix)
by various

“Summer Heat” follows the young workers at a resort as they build and wreck and rebuild relationships over a summer.

It’s hard to pin down who exactly’s running the Brazilian series, but the head writers are Andrea Simao and Andrea Midori, while the series is directed equally by Caroline Fioratti and Isabel Valiante.

You can watch “Summer Heat” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are available at once.

Tales of Luminaria: The Fateful Crossroad
directed by Katou Midori, Katou Shiori

This anime tells the story of young soldiers in an ongoing fantasy war. While this is part of a franchise, the “Tales of” series is much like “Final Fantasy”. Entries such as this take place in a new world with new characters that are all separate from the rest of the franchise.

Both Katou Midori and Katou Shiori worked on “Bungo and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement”, but this is the first time either is directing.

You can watch “Tales of Luminaria: The Fateful Crossroad” on Crunchyroll or Funimation. New episodes arrive Thursdays.

NEW MOVIES

Stop-Zemlia (VOD)
directed by Kateryna Gornostai

This Ukrainian film follows a girl who’s trying to make sense of growing up as she hangs out with classmates. The experimental drama employs a documentary style.

Writer-director Kateryna Gornostai started out as a journalist and documentary filmmaker. This is her first narrative feature.

See where to rent “Stop-Zemlia”.

Amandla (Netflix)
directed by Nerina De Jager

This South African thriller follows two brothers who work on different sides of the law. One’s a thief who’s trying to leave the profession, the other a cop trying to figure out what he’s doing.

This is the first film from writer-director Nerina De Jager.

You can watch “Amandla” on Netflix.

Donkeyhead (Netflix)
directed by Agam Darshi

Mona doesn’t have much success to speak of, but at least she was the one responsible enough to stay behind and take care of her father. When he has a stroke, her three successful siblings sweep in to assume control of the one thing she was doing well.

As well as starring in the lead role, Agam Darshi writes and directs. This is her first feature film in those roles. She’s had a number of acting roles on shows like “Sanctuary” and “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”.

You can watch “Donkeyhead” on Netflix.

Definition Please (Netflix)
directed by Sujata Day

Sujata Day writes, directs, and stars in a film about a former Spelling Bee champion who attempts to reconcile with her estranged brother. He’s returned home to help care for their mother, and she’s considering leaving to take the kind of dream job that was once expected of her.

You may recognize Sujata Day as a supporting actress from series like “Insecure” or “The Guild”. This is her first time writing or directing.

You can watch “Definition Please” on Netflix.

A Shot Through the Wall (VOD)
directed by Aimee Long

A Chinese-American police officer shoots a Black man. The shooting was accidental, and his victim was innocent. He tries to identify what the right choices are in the media frenzy that follows.

I do not know how well or responsibly this engages the very real targeting and systemic murder of Black people by police departments in this country.

This is the first feature film from writer-director Aimee Long.

See where to rent “A Shot Through the Wall”.

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (MUBI)
directed by Ana Katz

Sebastian shifts from job to job and love to love, even as the absurd world around him verges on apocalypse.

Director and co-writer Ana Katz has helmed a number of South American films, and has three Argentinean Academy Award nominations for her screenwriting.

You can watch “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” on MUBI.

Comets (MUBI)
directed by Tamar Shavgulidze

Irina returns to her small town for the first time in three decades. Here, she copes with the past and deals with her separation from a woman named Nana.

The Georgian film is directed by Tamar Shavgulidze. It appears to be her first film.

You can watch “Comets” on MUBI.

My Father’s Violin (Netflix)
directed by Andac Haznedaroglu

In this Turkish film, a girl is orphaned and taken in by her uncle. He’s arrogant and they don’t get along, but they bond over a shared love of music.

Director Andac Haznedaroglu has helmed a number of Turkish films and series, including “The Guest Aleppo to Istanbul” and “Have You Ever Seen Fireflies?”

You can watch “My Father’s Violin” 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 — January 14, 2022

There’s a lot new in streaming this week, including an MCU film, a First Nations film, a stop-motion mind-trip, and the bulk of the winter season’s new anime. You’ll also start to find some awards contenders arriving on streaming platforms, such as “Bergman Island” coming to Hulu (in the mix for screenplay and acting nominations). The larger awards contenders won’t come out until later in the year, and in some cases won’t be realistically available until right before or after the Oscars. Films that people can’t realistically see until February or March 2022 being the best film of 2021 is…another conversation.

I do want to talk about that influx of anime: why does it tend to happen in such sudden bursts? Anime tends to drop seasonally, with most premieres grouped into brief two-week windows about once every three months. This means quick bursts of premieres before another few months of relative silence. I try to feature animation from all countries, but no other country has the scale of saturation in the U.S. that Japan manages. Obviously, other English-speaking countries like the U.K. and Canada do well. As for others, France is an extremely consistent animation powerhouse, and we do see tons more work from South Korea and India than we imagine, since a lot of “U.S. productions” are mostly animated there. Yet in terms of original content, streaming platforms tend to only pick up a few things from Poland, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, India, South Korea, Russia, China, and other countries that do have significant animation industries.

Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and the like don’t put the investment into bringing that animation over that they do into anime – and that’s even before getting to dedicated anime platforms like Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Hidive that bring the bulk of new titles over and maintain interest and infrastructure. Even before this, Japan’s investment into anime is staggering. Despite being the 11th most populous country, it regularly produces the most animated films and the second-most animated series (after the U.S.) in the world. And again, a lot of what counts as “U.S. productions” are animated in other countries, but I can probably only keep you through so many tangents.

Let’s get to it:

NEW SERIES

The House (Netflix)
multiple directors

“The House” is a stop-motion, gothic anthology series about characters in three different eras who each become tied to a house. Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Goth, Matthew Goode, and Miranda Richardson lend their voices.

Emma De Swaef directs an episode with Marc James Roels, and then Paloma Baeza and Niki Lindroth von Bahr each direct one.

You can watch “The House” on Netflix.

Naomi (The CW)
showrunner Jill Blankenship

Based on the DC comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker, and illustrated by Jamal Campbell, “Naomi” follows a fan of the real Superman who investigates a supernatural event and begins to realize her own powers.

The series is produced by Ava DuVernay, and Jill Blankenship is showrunner. Blankenship has written and produced on “The Last Ship” and “Arrow”.

You can watch “Naomi” on The CW. New episodes arrive on Tuesdays.

Archive 81 (Netflix)
showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine

An archivist is hired to restore a collection of old, damaged videotapes. What he finds on them is the work of a filmmaker who was investigating a cult.

Showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine has written and produced on “The Boys” and “The Vampire Diaries”.

Four of the episodes are directed by Rebecca Thomas, director of “Limetown”, “Stranger Things”, and the upcoming live-action “The Little Mermaid” adaptation. Another two are directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, who helmed “Wadjda” and “Mary Shelley”.

You can watch “Archive 81” on Netflix. All eight episodes are available at once.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform (Crunchyroll, Funimation)
directed by Kuroki Miyuki

A girl from the country gets into an elite private school. The show takes its name from how excited she is just to put on the school uniform. This seems like it could be a wholesome, slice-of-life anime.

Director Kuroki Miyuki has previously directed on “The Idolmaster Side M” and assisted directed on the “Fate/Grand Order” franchise.

You can watch “Akebi’s Sailor Uniform” on Crunchyroll or Funimation. New episodes arrive Saturdays.

Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout (Crunchyroll)
directed by Yamai Sayaka

I mean, some of the titles save me a lot of descriptive work. Two men are transported to a fantasy world by a goddess. One of them is transformed into a woman (after he indirectly wishes for this), and now the two have to navigate both this world and their newfound sexual tension.

There are a lot of ways this could go wrong, and anime has about as bad a history on trans rights and gender dysphoria as U.S. media does, but I will say Anime Feminist gave this a strong early review and they tend to have a progressive stance on these issues as a critical site.

This is the first series directed by Yamai Sayaka.

You can watch “Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout” on Crunchyroll. New episodes arrive on Tuesdays.

Pivoting (Fox)
showrunner Liz Astrof

Eliza Coupe, Maggie Q, and Ginnifer Goodwin play friends who react to the death of their friend Colleen by upending their lives and pursuing new directions.

Showrunner Liz Astrof has produced on “2 Broke Girls” and “Whitney”.

You can watch “Pivoting” on Fox. New episodes arrive on Thursdays.

Saiyuki Reload Zeroin (Hidive)
directed by Takada Misato

Adventurers band together in order to stop the resurrection of a powerful, evil being. No English-translated trailer is available, but there will be translation for the series.

This is the first series directed by Takada Misato.

You can watch “Saiyuki Reload Zeroin” on Hidive. New episodes arrive on Thursdays.

Futsal Boys!!!!! (Funimation)
directed by Hiiro Yukina

Futsal is a 5-on-5 game of soccer played on a hard court that’s smaller than a football pitch. “Futsal Boys!!!!!” is a slice-of-life anime that follows young men playing the game. No English-translated trailer is available, but there will be translation for the series.

Director Hiiro Yukina has previously helmed “Hitorijime My Hero” and “100 Sleeping Princes & the Kingdom of Dreams”.

You can watch “Futsal Boys!!!!!” on Funimation. New episodes arrive on Sundays.

NEW MOVIES

Eternals (Disney+)
directed by Chloe Zhao

Chloe Zhao follows up her Best Directing and Best Picture Oscar wins for “Nomadland” (as well as screenplay and editing nominations) with a Marvel film that follows a race of immortal beings who’ve thus far stayed out of humanity’s affairs.

Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Richard Madden, and Kit Harington star.

You can watch “Eternals” on Disney+.

Bergman Island (Hulu)
directed by Mia Hansen-Love

A wife and husband travel to an island that inspired legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman to write. As they stay there, reality and fiction start to blur together.

Mia Hansen-Love quickly left acting in favor of writing and directing. She’s had success as a French filmmaker that includes a Cannes win and a Cesar nomination.

You can watch “Bergman Island” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

Edge of the Knife (Shudder, AMC+)
co-directed by Helen Haig-Brown

This First Nations drama is the first feature film in the Haida language, spoken on a series of islands off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. “Edge of the Knife”, or “Sgaawaay K’uuna”, tells the story of a man who’s traumatized after accidentally causing the death of his best friend’s son. Wracked with grief, he escapes into the forest and transforms into a Gaagiixiid, or a wildman.

Helen Haig-Brown directs with Gwaai Edenshaw. Haig-Brown is a Tsilhquot’in filmmaker. This is her first feature film.

You can watch “Edge of the Knife” on Shudder, on AMC+, or see where to rent it.

I’m Your Man (Hulu)
directed by Maria Schrader

We’re a few decades into men romancing android women, but women being romanced by android men hasn’t gotten the same amount of cinematic attention. In “I’m Your Man”, a scientist makes an agreement to obtain funding for her own research. She agrees to live for three weeks with a robot who’s designed to make her happy.

Co-writer and director Maria Schrader won an Emmy for her directing on “Unorthodox”, and is a well-known German actress.

You can watch “I’m Your Man” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

Sex Appeal (Hulu)
directed by Talia Osteen

A teenager who’s a perfectionist at heart needs help from her best friend to collect data for her sexual research app.

This is the first feature directed by Talia Osteen, who’s composed the music for “Imposters” and “Coffee Town”.

You can watch “Sex Appeal” on Hulu.

Brazen (Netflix)
directed by Monika Mitchell

Alyssa Milano stars as Grace, who investigates the murder of her sister, a webcam model. “Brazen” is an adaptation of the Nora Roberts novel “Brazen Virtue”.

Director Monika Mitchell has directed a number of TV and Christmas movies.

You can watch “Brazen” on Netflix.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (Amazon)
co-directed by Jennifer Kluska

Monsters are transformed to humans and humans into monsters in the latest entry of the “Hotel Transylvania” animated franchise.

Jennifer Kluska directs with Derek Drymon. This is Kluska’s first feature as director. She’s been a storyboard artist on “Bee Movie” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”.

You can watch “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” on Amazon.

The Legend of La Llorona (VOD)
directed by Patricia Harris Seeley

A couple vacationing in Mexico find that their son’s disappearance is tied to something supernatural.

This is the first feature by director Patricia Harris Seeley.

See where to rent “The Legend of La Llorona”.

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.

The Best Series of 2021

The most important thing to understand about lists like this is that they’ll always exclude something. No critic can watch everything out there that’s worth watching. The choices a critic makes in what they prioritize can help you understand how a list like this can be useful.

For instance, even though many of my friends have raved about it, I just can’t bring myself to watch “Succession”. Perhaps it belongs on this list. Satire though it may be, I just can’t bring myself to spend that much time invested in which billionaire gets to make more billions while others go home super sad about only possessing the billions they already have. I’m sure it’s good. I’m sure I’d also feel a deep pit in my stomach even touching it.

As viewers, the feelings we have like that are legitimate, and every good critic is ultimately a viewer who has a desire to connect with and share what they love with others. There are times when we push our comfort, for good and bad reasons, and there are times where we realize we can do more or better work in other places.

It was a priority for me to watch series from different countries. It’s great that South Korean series “Squid Game” is breaking through, and it’s on my list. Yet if we were really being inclusive in our viewing choices, South Korea’s television industry is so overbrimming it should be getting best-of entries every year.

When “Squid Game” is a breakthrough rather than part of a norm, it means that critics are following audiences rather than shining a light on what’s next. If “Squid Game” hadn’t set viewing records, would it have made so many critics’ year-end lists? Probably not, because there’s a well of other Korean series of equal quality in this year and years past.

Is “Squid Game” the only entry on a list from somewhere outside the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.? Then you know something about that critic’s scope. Don’t get me wrong – watching more international series means that I’ve sacrificed watching a few U.S. ones. My point isn’t that one is inherently better than the other; my point is that this information gives you a perspective on what different lists can tell you.

What other priorities inform this list? I tend to lean toward series that buck tradition and try something risky or ambitious. If there’s an element of absurdism, abstraction, or magical realism that’s pulled off well, I tend to like it even if it asks me to do that much more work as a viewer. I like empathy, not just on the part of a series, but also in being asked as a viewer to stretch and view perspectives I might not have sought out in the past.

I don’t mind if a series occasionally shortcuts a plot point with the mutual understanding viewers have seen it a thousand times before and can assume the A-to-B of it. I think world-building doesn’t matter that much for the world you’re creating; I need to see how it’s shaped the lives, understandings, and relationships of the characters who live in that world.

I don’t mind a little bit of melodrama. Where the U.S. tends to incorporate theatrical and even melodramatic performances told within a “gritty”, verite-heavy filmmaking approach, a lot of the rest of the world prefers more understated, verite performances told within a melodramatic filmmaking delivery. We all secretly like melodrama; the only difference is where we place it.

Oh, and some of the best series of recent years have been canceled prematurely. If you’re looking at committing to a series, it helps to know if it’s self-contained or will get to continue, rather than simply being canceled. I’ll mention on each whether it’s been renewed. On with the list:

10. What We Do in the Shadows

The series adaptation of the 2014 mockumentary follows a trio of vampires and their familiar living together on Staten Island. In season three, they’ve just been named leaders of their local vampiric council. It seems like a success, but it’s really the beginning of the group fracturing apart.

Past seasons have been funny, skewering horror movies, bureaucracy, and the “Office” style mockumentary format itself. This season turns into something else, though. Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen, and Kayvan Novak all feel like they have rangier roles to play, while still allowing room for now-regular Kristen Schaal to hit the ground running. It’s Matt Berry, in all his skill at overblown bluster, who ultimately reveals the deep heart the show’s built upon.

Without losing its humor, “What We Do in the Shadows” turns into a moving consideration of how found family unites and bonds – and also drifts apart. Questions about feeling lost in the world and wanting meaning abound in ways that are simultaneously hilarious and loaded with ennui. It feels like “What We Do in the Shadows” has taken on a much larger mantle than it has before, one that feels more immediate, relevant, and invested in the humanity of its inhuman characters.

Platform: FX on Hulu, Fubo TV

Is “What We Do in the Shadows” renewed? Yes. A fourth season will premiere in 2022.

9. Squid Game

“Squid Game” exquisitely describes the world we live in. Gambling addict Gi-hun is roped into a get-rich quick scheme. Go play some children’s games for a few days, and make millions. Effectively estranged from his daughter, he sees it as his only chance at making amends. The others who show up to play are similarly hard up – they owe money to the government, loan sharks, gangs, you name it. Even when it becomes apparent the losers of the games are all killed, the realities of the world outside make it clear that they have about as much chance in the games as they do in the corrupt, abusive world of late-stage capitalism.

There are wrinkles that I won’t divulge. Like any large organization, the place isn’t exactly run terribly well. Players cheat, employees cheat, all to make an extra buck. There’s as much tension in whether the games will continue as in who wins them. At the point where we as an audience are anticipating the next game and hoping it goes on, what does that say about us?

Lee Jung-jae gives an incredible performance as Gi-hun. He creates one of the most complex characters of the year. He’s at once deeply charming and hopeful, someone at his best when helping others, yet he’s also manipulative and constantly seeking enablement. It’s a delicate balance to still make us like and hope for him.

Oh Yeong-su captured every viewer’s heart as the elderly Oh Il-nam. Lost in some of the conversation is Jung Hoyeon, playing a North Korean escapee who wants the money to help her family leave that country. She’s asked once whether the outside is better, as she weighs the value of her own life against someone else’s for money. She doesn’t answer.

Platform: Netflix

Is “Squid Game” renewed? It seems to be, but they’re going to take their time with it. If I had to bet, I’d guess we won’t see a Season 2 until 2023 at the earliest.

8. The Club

This Turkish drama is lavish, intricate, and deeply felt, with a melodramatic flourish that reflects the 1955 nightclub at its center. Matilda is freshly released from prison after serving time for murder. She has a nearly grown daughter, Rasel, but Matilda doesn’t want to see her. She simply plans to leave for Israel. This is derailed when Rasel steals from the club and Matilda agrees to work off a blank debt.

The drama of “The Club” rises from defining Turkish cultural conflicts. The East and West meld and clash. As Matilda is Jewish, the shadow of the Varlik Vergisi weighs heavily on her past. This was a 1942 tax on non-Muslims that resulted in a massive transfer of wealth based on religion and ethnicity, and the forced internment of those who couldn’t pay

Characters in “The Club” don’t serve as metaphors for these events and influences, but they have lived through them. These shape characters’ histories, biases, hopes, and fears. The cast is roundly superb. Gokce Bahadir stands out as Matilda, as does Salih Bademci’s visionary but self-sabotaging singer Selim Songur. Firat Tanis is exceptional as the club’s corrupt, abusive manger Celebi. He has a connection to Matilda’s past she hasn’t figured out.

If you can feel at ease with a few melodramatic fluorishes, such as a swelling music cue here or there, “The Club” has an underlying magic that’s difficult to define. It transports in the way the best period pieces do, and the characters feel a genuine part of that lived-in history. It has that sweeping, yearning sense that comes from depicting a place through both the details of its world, and the conflicting emotional realities of those who live within it.

Platform: Netflix

Is “The Club” renewed? Part 2’s already been filmed and premieres very soon, on January 6, 2022.

7. Only Murders in the Building

Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, and Martin Short star in a comedy mystery. A man’s been murdered in their New York apartment building, and they take it upon themselves to solve what the police have deemed a suicide. They’re bumbling at best, and on top of it all, decide to make a podcast about it. “Only Murders in the Building” speaks to our true crime media addiction, one that seems to prioritize narrative over truth. Luckily, these three veer wildly enough to occasionally dig up some morsel of a clue.

Martin and Short are 80s comedy legends, so it might surprise that it’s Gomez who most solidly anchors the story. Between this, “Spring Breakers”, and “The Dead Don’t Die”, she’s delivered three exceptional performances and should be thought of more seriously. The supporting cast includes Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, Amy Ryan, Aaron Dominguez, Jane Lynch, and Sting, toying relentlessly with the idea that the famous guest star must be guilty.

What “Only Murders in the Building” is really about is loneliness, though. Each of the three leads deals with loneliness, isolation, trauma, and regret in very different ways. Gomez’s Mabel is self-sufficient and deliberate in her actions, Martin’s Charles is locked in an unthinking, melancholic routine, and Short’s Oliver reaches out constantly to those he’s already disappointed or betrayed. That “Only Murders in the Building” works as a caring, empathetic examination of loneliness, and a wildly successful comedy is a uniquely disarming pairing.

Platform: Hulu

Is “Only Murders in the Building” renewed? Yes. The first season leaves a cliffhanger for a Season 2 that was picked up quickly and is currently filming. Expect it sometime in 2022.

6. My Name

You could pick any number of Korean series for this list and have a strong argument. “My Name” was the one that captured me the most. The premise of a woman joining the police to track down a killer within their ranks reflects a number of other undercover gangster projects: particularly “The Departed” and its inspiration “Infernal Affairs”.

“My Name” mixes together a number of familiar elements from John Woo action films to Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy and Michael Mann projects like “Heat” and “Miami Vice”. I’d even say it does so better than its more well-known progenitors. It also avoids creating a false nobility for the gangs the way so many highly regarded U.S. projects have done in the past. What’s here is brief, brutal, and feels far more grounded than flights of golden era Mafia-worshiping.

“My Name” pitches to a fever intensity by the second episode that it refuses to let go until the series’ end. Han So-hee carries nearly every minute of the show. She delivers one of the top performances this year.

The action scenes feature creative fight choreography with a lot of moving pieces. There’s an evocative editing that reflects the single-minded drive of the show’s lead, while also pushing the emotions she can’t allow herself to feel. One interesting decision in the show is to lean heavily on a single song, repeating in different circumstances. It reflects how Ji-woo (undercover as police officer Hye-jin) has honed herself to just be one thing, to have a singular intent no matter the circumstance. In many ways the show is edited and scored to feel what its lead has compartmentalized away. “My Name” is one of the best revenge sagas of recent memory.

Platform: Netflix

Is “My Name” renewed? Like many Korean series, “My Name” is designed as a fully self-contained season. It’s not designed to be renewed, so it’s unlikely.

5. Evil

“Evil” follows a team that assesses mysteries for the Catholic Church. These range from suspected demonic possessions to investigating a potential sainthood. What makes the show work so well is that only one member of the team of three is Catholic – a priest in training named David. The psychologist Kristen and debunker Ben are both Atheist, though from different backgrounds. Kristen is a lapsed Catholic and Ben was raised Muslim.

The discussions they have in trying to figure out the mysteries are extremely well-written, and range from the personal to the philosophical. They add significant weight and meaning to the best horror show on TV right now.

Usually, I don’t go in for Catholic horror. It’s all so inconsistently codified it gets a bit silly to me. “Evil” doesn’t try to hide or explain away those inconsistencies, or avoid criticisms of the Catholic Church. Those inconsistencies and criticisms confuse and divide the characters, too. Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, Aasif Mandvi, Michael Emerson, and Christine Lahti make up my favorite ensemble of the year.

“Evil” reflects earlier unexplained investigation shows like “The X-Files” and “Fringe”, but it does a much better job than either of giving you multiple explanations. Some of its mysteries are debunked, others aren’t. When something is explained, is that simply the path something demonic took to achieve it? In some episodes, they don’t even know which religion’s demons are in question. Many situations are solved without being fully fixed, which feels realistic. By sometimes denying us the closure of consequence, “Evil” feels that much more consequential. The writing makes it reasonable that the believer still believes, that the Atheists don’t, and that they can all identify a common trust and productive purpose that pushes them forward as a team.

“Evil” also has a wicked, occasionally fourth-wall breaking sense of humor. Demons troll visions from God with meme gifs. A nearly dialogue-free episode at a silent monastery has way too much fun with subtitled inner thoughts. The pop-up book used to introduce episodes to the audience in the second season becomes real to the characters midway through.

Perhaps the biggest strength of “Evil” is one that it could be a little rough getting down in its first season: it incorporates elements of kitsch, camp, and meme culture in quiet, understated ways that subvert our expectations, unravel our explanations, and unnerve us with the very things that usually feel a refuge.

Platform: Paramount Plus

Is “Evil” renewed? Yes. A third season was announced halfway through season two, reflecting a strong showing. Expect it sometime in 2022.

4. Reservation Dogs

Four indigenous teens try to make sense of reservation life after losing their friend. They steal in order to save enough money to leave, some reconnecting with their families and some drifting further away. The series features all indigenous writers and directors, and a mostly indigenous cast. The amount of talent working here, that other studios and platforms have routinely overlooked, is staggering: Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, D’Pharaoh Woon-a-Tai, Lane Factor, Sarah Podemski, Dallas Goldtooth, Gary Farmer, Lil Mike and Funny Bone, Elva Guerra, each of them could probably lead their own shows.

It shows in the final result, with even small scenes taking on emotional weight and stellar comic timing. “Reservation Dogs” hearkens back to 90s indie comedy, particularly in its small-scale, sometimes aimless tone. Yet 90s indie comedy could also spark of a lot of privilege; “Reservation Dogs” uses the form to critique and highlight life without it. It has a way of building that the genre never had, of revealing moments that are far more real and relevant.

One thing I really appreciate here is that the comedy isn’t directed at me. It’s created to make indigenous people laugh. As a viewer, there are expectations of me to broaden my understanding of comedy staples and the truths they can evoke. “Reservation Dogs” doesn’t come with every reference explained, but that can help me see what an episode is doing in a way I wouldn’t if the explanation was catered to me.

There are absolute gems of episodes here: “NDN Clinic” turns an aimless, meandering day into a perfect memory, “Come and Get Your Love” connects the importance of legend to who we become, “Hunting” is a stunning, haunting, and funny reflection on loss, and “California Dreamin’” is a chance for Jacobs to demonstrate just how phenomenal an actor she is.

Platform: FX on Hulu

Is “Reservation Dogs” renewed? Yes. A second season has been announced for 2022.

3. Sonny Boy

An entire high school shifts out of reality, into a dimension of nothingness. The adults are nowhere to be found. The students organize, trying to make the best of the situation. As they shift through more dimensions, they realize some students have powers. Imbalances develop. The group splits, looks for people to blame, re-organizes. The dimensions they investigate each have their own rules, often born of metaphor, as if designed.

Magical realism and metaphor can struggle to work together in balance. One or the other usually takes over as a story’s focus, regardless of the medium. That’s fine, but “Sonny Boy” takes a difficult path in balancing the two elegantly. The series is exceptionally abstract: complex, disjointed, full of time skips, dimensions that only half-explain themselves, powers that equip the students with magical tools that look like toys, rulesets within rulesets.

The result is a series that would become too confusing to grasp if it wasn’t so well-guided by meaning. We make sense of the meaning first, and then the logic comes around and fills in some gaps, often hitting in a Kafka-esque way that can hurt. “Sonny Boy” begins to feel like an impressionist landscape of relationships, joys, anxieties, dreams, regrets. Moments can feel like a gut punch, yet never because of something over-emotive. Instead, it’s because we make sense of why a meaning is shaped the way it is. Why is a world designed just so? Why does a character leave something unspoken? What disaffection in the powerful shapes a society? What part of ourselves do we leave behind in order to adapt? What loss means enough to still be guided by the one we lost, or to even repeat that loss?

“Sonny Boy” can feel like an expression of helplessness, or the determination to work against that lack of hope. It manages to be both sides at once, to show the dual natures within us that feel forlorn at trying to change the world, and that will do our best to try anyway. No other show this year captures what it is to grow up, to put our past selves away even as we keep parts of them alive, to pair the joyful with the bittersweet, to choose the difficult because it’s at least a choice, to do the thankless because it’s right. No other show this year is so deeply, relentlessly, and sometimes pitilessly human.

Platform: Hulu, Funimation

Is “Sonny Boy” renewed? “Sonny Boy” seems expressly designed as a single, self-contained season. It’s original, not based on a manga or other source material, so there’s no outside indication to think it would continue. Its ending is perfect in what it says, so in many ways I hope this season is it.

2. Made for Love

Hazel is trapped with everything she could ever want. She’s married to billionaire Byron Gogol, and lives in a holographic mansion with access to anything and anywhere. She’s desperate to either kill herself, or escape. She does the latter, only to discover he’s implanted a chip in her head that’s designed to fuse their minds together as one.

The high-concept premise works as both an extremely dark comedy, and as a cyberpunk allegory. Both center on our interconnected world, where who we are is whoever we portray, regardless of its reality, and where that portrayal itself becomes our source of fulfillment.

I’ve worked with people who’ve been stalked, and I’ve been stalked myself. Scenes of this in “Made for Love” are as close as I’ve seen to the horror of feeling like someone else controls where you can even feel safe, and what your choices are. Cristin Milioti is getting wildly overlooked for her role as Hazel.

The comedy here can range pretty far afield. Hazel’s refuge and ear for fundamentally feminist issues is her estranged father (Ray Romano), who turns out to now be in a relationship with a sex doll. Investigators on both sides are regularly distracted or incompetent. These things always come back to reflect on the core, though: the horror of who we are being controlled by who someone else wants us to be. When who we are and what we’re fulfilled by is a portrayal we project, and someone else gains control of it, then who the hell are we anymore?

Platform: HBO Max

Is “Made for Love” renewed? Yes. Season 2 is likely to drop in 2022.

1. Arcane

An overwhelmed technocrat stands before a warlord. It’s the technocrat’s city, but this doesn’t feel like his space. He is in uniform. She is naked in a bath, getting a massage. Between them in the frame stands the mural of an army. They face him, spears descending row by row until they come to point at him. He is out of his element. She is biding her time.

The rain in Caitlyn’s life always slides down surfaces in fits and starts. You can’t keep track of the lines it traces. It gives an impression of movement as she stays still, grasping to make a decision before others make it for her. She always meets the consequences head on, but she’s never able to track the cause and effect well enough to get ahead of them.

Two men stop each other on a ledge at different points in their lives. One meets the moment with closed eyes, the other open. They both offer support in ways they may not fully realize.

The voices of those lost are scratches on the film. The memories are drawn over like a child scratching out a word. She hides their expectations for her, their criticisms of her. Jinx destroys the reality of the story itself, even as we’ve seen it. She erases what we’ve witnessed so that she can rewrite her story as she pleases.

“Arcane” follows so much – twin cities that are breaking apart through inequality, an abusive police force, generations of characters whose accomplishments and mistakes echo in government, magic, and war for decades to follow. It follows young idealists who concede in order to realize ideals now poisoned. It follows a fight for freedom and self-determination. It follows a woman who’ll stop at nothing to save her abandoned sister, a…terrorist? A freedom fighter? It portrays the best romance of the year, a lesbian relationship that develops in fits and starts because of the overwhelming nature of the life-or-death decisions happening around them.

Crafted by French studio Fortiche, “Arcane” is one of the best pieces of fantasy put to screen. It’s an incredible leap forward in animation, fusing 3D and 2D approaches into something genuinely new. It’s the best piece of western animation since I was five. It’s the best piece of steampunk on film or TV. Its world-building is on par with something like “The Golden Compass”. It released as three acts, three episodes apiece, and if you wanted to call each act a film, then I’d call it the best film trilogy since “Lord of the Rings”. Forget the modifiers; it’s thus far one of the best shows ever made. Even when I write these things, it feels like I’m understating just how emotional, artistic, and impactful “Arcane” really is.

“Arcane” is the show I always dreamed about because I knew it could never be made. I’m not talking about the source material, with which I’m only vaguely familiar. I mean what it becomes as a series. There’s not an episode I didn’t shed tears at – sure, because some parts are so human and empathetic, and sure, because it’s unique and overwhelming in its beauty. Yet there’s something deeper, something more artistically fundamental at play. It’s because when you’re in the rhythm of a phrase, when the poet or the painter needs you to yearn or smile or break, there’s a giving up at play. There’s a loosing of control that’s utterly rare, that requires so high a trust be given over.

Maybe it happens for a moment, when a word pierces our guard, when the twist of an idea is pushed home. That’s the thing – you expect it to happen for a moment before your guard returns. You don’t expect it to be down for hours at a time. You don’t expect to trust that much. What an impossible space that would be. What a relief in a world that batters us so much.

This is what “Arcane” creates so well. It’s a harrowing story, complexly told, beautifully depicted, it’s an advanced course in French art history, but above all it manages that impossible thing – it delivers that magic of becoming a place so beautifully, it feels safe to relinquish your burdens while you’re there. You’re in a storyteller’s hands, and what they’ve made is crafted with such exceptional, seemingly unprecedented care, you can feel the whole thing without guard.

Platform: Netflix

Is “Arcane” renewed? Yes. The first season took six years to make, and while a second season certainly wouldn’t take that long, it’s unlikely to premiere before 2023.

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

Stripped and Sold for Parts — “Cowboy Bebop”

Netflix’s live-action “Cowboy Bebop” proves that camp filmmaking isn’t easy. Why the contemplative, atmosphere-drenched sci-fi anime has been turned into a campy hodge-podge of kitsch is anyone’s guess. It’s not the adaptation I’d want to see, but I’m game for the concept. The problem is this: if you’re going to carve out the soul of a source material and transplant another one in, you’d better have a firm grasp on what you’re replacing it with and why.

“Cowboy Bebop” follows Spike, Jet, and Faye, bounty hunters in a post-Earth solar system. They’re constantly scraping by while jumping from planet to planet for their next target. These targets often embroil them in local politics and vendettas. They do their best to stay clear of these with varying degrees of success. Spike and Faye both hold secrets about their former lives, while Jet abides and gives them the benefit of the doubt even when they let him down.

John Cho’s Spike, Mustafa Shakir’s Jet, and Daniella Pineda’s Faye are the best thing about this show. There are changes from the anime, but the biggest ones have less to do with how the characters act, and more to do with their stories.

This is where I want to tackle “Cowboy Bebop” from two angles. I firmly believe that an adaptation doesn’t have to be too accurate when it comes to the details. Story changes are fine, so long as they maintain the broader intentions and themes of the original.

I have issues with “Cowboy Bebop” as its own entity, and as an adaptation. I want to split those two things apart. Let’s start with:

“COWBOY BEBOP” AS ITS OWN THING…

For some reason, “Cowboy Bebop” wants to be camp. The anime it’s based on wasn’t, but adaptations should feel free to change things like this. The problem is that showrunner Andre Nemec seems to think that camp is just one thing. The tone shifts from 60s fumetti adaptations (take “Barbarella” as an English example) to 70s exploitation films, into 90s Hercules/Xena modes, and through Robert Rodriguez territory. There are a lot of situations in which that breadth of campiness would be incredible. There’s no problem with doing all of the above, but there is a problem if you don’t understand the difference between these forms of camp and what each requires from its filmmakers.

Let’s take stilted line delivery as an example to show you what I mean: Fumetti adaptations were 60s and 70s adaptations of European comics, often in Italian and French. Their awkwardness and aggressive absurdity served as a contrast to the French New Wave movement they also drew from. Less studio-bound, raw filmmaking techniques that emulated the real world sat next to ridiculous situations, dialogue, and line readings to create a dissonant viewing experience. The quality of actors speaking in languages they didn’t know or being covered by underfunded dubbing only served to accentuate this dissonance.

By contrast, exploitation films ranged from blaxploitation to Troma and at their best encapsulated a subversive, insurgent activism. Isolated line readings served to call attention to those lines with sleek delivery within a relaxed editing rhythm, creating cinematic icons where they hadn’t existed. Exploitation could build on the outsider narratives of noir to then critique the voluntary helplessness to which noir – and its viewers – often succumb. These line readings were intentionally highlighted as a way of dismissing challenges from those that this new iconography made uncomfortable. These would in large part be bastardized into the one-liners of 80s movies.

“Hercules” and “Xena” in the 90s faced stiff budgetary constraints. By calling attention to their own shortcomings, they invited the audience to join in the play of it all, to feel like a partner alongside the actors in the same campy sandbox. These series also served as a hotbed for low-budget cinematography and technical experiments that laid foundation to the New Zealand filmmaking renaissance that would follow.

Robert Rodriguez makes his camp deliberate, both existing in and commenting on the genres it uses. He dials up stylistic elements in order to see how much he can squeeze out of a budget. Every line is an opportunity for a character to show off. Regardless of how well it serves the story, Rodriguez wants his performances to offer a high melodramatic return-on-investment. Get the most out of a line, worry about how well it fits later.

They’re all camp, but each approach does something completely different, and is built on a different shot selection and editing pace. The writing and filmmaking priorities for each is completely different. If you don’t know the difference between these, then you don’t know what each needs to be successful, and this is just talking about what one element of camp needs to work.

The first episode of “Cowboy Bebop” plays with the mistimed acting cues of fumetti that “Barbarella” made such successful comedy of, with the Dutch angles and intentional tableau of Rodriguez, with the inviting meta and budget-limited middle distance creativity of “Hercules” and “Xena”, with the isolated line as cool character moment, but none of them are housed within the styles or technical elements that give each of these things a foundation.

The isolated, cool line reading of exploitation cinema does not work within the mistimed cue of a fumetto adaptation. The wide range of exacting tableau Rodriguez delivers doesn’t work when every tableau is filmed as a middle distance two-shot. Dutch angles highlight the artificial nature of a shot in order to evoke something uncomfortable in pushing us away; they work directly against a moment of meta humor that invites us to feel alongside the actors.

The live-action “Cowboy Bebop” seems to believe camp is easy just because it’s silly, but this misses the very things that help camp create coherent alternate realities of storytelling that drive home its themes. Camp filmmaking here is understood as a quirky monolith, but just these four foundations of camp come from four different eras, four different places (Europe, the U.S., New Zealand, Mexico), and they speak to four different storytelling cultures – and these four are hardly the only anchor points in the history of camp filmmaking.

This might seem like: who cares, this is delving way too far into something that’s just silly. I could just say “Cowboy Bebop” is a muddled pastiche that can’t settle on a style and be done with it. The truth is, though, that “Cowboy Bebop” has settled on a style, and that style smacks of appropriating what came before without understanding any of it. It evokes someone showing up and acting like they know how to do something without having done the work to understand how and why it functioned time after time before they even got there.

Those line readings are just one example that describe so many more. This misapplication of camp permeates every element of the show. There has to be a knowledge of what kind of camp you’re aiming for, why that works for this scene, and what else has to be there to support it.

Camp is about irony. If you don’t know which approach to use because you treat them all the same, then you don’t know how you’re being ironic. Everyone can tell what you’re being ironic about, that’s the easy part. Congratulations, you just made “Family Guy”. But if you don’t know how you’re being ironic, then your audience sure as hell doesn’t either. It’s like cutting to the punchline of a joke without telling the setup. You told the most important part, sure, but that hardly means it works.

If comparing “Cowboy Bebop” to “Undercover Brother”, the 2000 “Charlie’s Angels”, “Hercules”, “Xena”, or “G vs E” finds it outclassed every time, something’s gone really wrong. Hell, last year’s “Vagrant Queen” didn’t do a lot right, but the things “Cowboy Bebop” does wrong are almost entirely what “Vagrant Queen” did get right.

None of this is the fault of the actors, and “Cowboy Bebop” is ultimately saved to some extent on the sheer charisma and talent of its three leads. Cho, Shakir, and Pineda do great work when the filmmakers get out of their way long enough for them to do it.

I’ve wanted to review “Cowboy Bebop” on its own facets before addressing how it does as an adaptation. The decision to make this camp is one that could have worked much better. What bothers me before even thinking about this as an adaptation is that this is a bad representation of camp, the points it can make, and the stories it can tell.

That sense of someone showing up and thinking they can do better with something they don’t understand only gets worse when you consider:

“COWBOY BEBOP” AS AN ADAPTATION…

Setting those problems aside, how is this as an adaptation of the anime “Cowboy Bebop”? Its success depends on what you want out of it.

The first episode of “Cowboy Bebop” is a disaster, trying to cram in so many nods and Easter Eggs from the show that it feels like one of those pages from “Ready Player One” that lists a bunch of popular items in the hope it can convince you bulk recognition is the same thing as nostalgia. The show does improve markedly after this, but it’s an uphill climb in the hope of getting back to sea level.

Let’s get into those three leads. The casting is perfect, but these aren’t 1-to-1 portrayals, either. Each takes their character and makes it their own. This means some changes in traits and tone; that’s going to come with any adaptation.

Their stories are often substantially rewritten, and many of these changes seem needless. I’m fine with an adaptation making changes like these so long as there’s a good reason and they don’t betray core meanings – I think it can be argued that Jet’s, Faye’s, and especially Julia’s stories are changed to the point of violating core meanings.

Is there a good reason for these changes? That’s very arguable. Do we need Jet to be an absentee father, chasing after a doll for half the season? Is “Cowboy Bebop” the most apt place to be retelling “Jingle All the Way”?

No, that’s just filler. The show is rife with writing that takes complex relationships of partial trust and different views on moral quandaries and reduces them to Odd Couple sitcom dynamics. This sitcom-style rewriting has its ups and downs, and sometimes it’s even well done. Cho, Shakir, and especially Pineda bring a ton of energy to it. What they’re doing in “Cowboy Bebop” I have no idea, but these sitcom elements are the most watchable part of the show, and writing that sentence makes me feel like I need to take a shower.

In other cases, the adaptation changes major character plotlines so that it can fill in its own explanations. The original anime was content to keep a lot in the dark, just as the characters were from each other. When you explain what’s mysterious, though, you lose the mystery. Yes, that might be the single most obvious sentence I’ve ever had to write, but it seems to be the philosophy behind this adaptation. And again, that’s fine if you’ve got something to replace it.

What made the original “Cowboy Bebop” so enticing was that mystique. We didn’t know these characters as well as we wanted, and we filled in what we didn’t know with hope for them that they may not have had for themselves. That was compelling, and it brought out what was human in the viewer. It made us catch our empathy in our throats. It brought out the stark divide of watching their universe even as ours grows to look more and more like it. The criminals Spike, Jet, and Faye brought in for bounties were often the only ones fighting the corporatism, corruption, and exploitation that had ruined each of their lives, that was ruining lives every place they went.

In researching their bounties and trying to understand who they hunted, the trio would often commiserate and identify with their quarry’s motives, even if their target had long ago lost the thread or become corrupt. The show was a scream from inside a broken system, a warning of what’s to come in a world with no future.

Its adaptation carries no such complexity. This “Cowboy Bebop” gives passing reference to these contemplations and hand waves them away in favor of kooky bounty hunting antics. Its plot explanations lose the existential, mistaking what was once anxious, absurd, and alienating for comedy quirk.

Even when a story is expanded with a good reason, such as Julia’s, it runs directly against the biggest throughline “Cowboy Bebop” had. Julia deserves her own agency and story, something the original never found the time to offer. This “Cowboy Bebop” focuses heavily on her story, but in so doing doesn’t find the same message as the anime. Instead, it seems to say that empowerment can be found within the same corporatist system that “Cowboy Bebop” was created to warn against. Julia should have an awesome expanded story. It shouldn’t be one that finds the empowerment everyone else lacks in the very system that first allowed her to be abused and threatened, and that removes power from everyone else.

So much of what made the anime great was this idea that Spike, Jet, and Faye were functioning as cogs within a corrupt system just to make it by, while resenting that system for taking away their lives and making everyone’s future bleak. How do they marry this idea of helping the system to continue while constantly running up against those who’ve decided to resist? It’s a concept that has only grown more and more relevant today. For the live-action adaptation to suggest a character’s escape from that system is simply to become the one running it and abusing others is a devastating betrayal of the original’s message. It’s a misunderstanding not just of the anime’s social value, but of how that fight exists in people’s lives today. Within the context of an adaptation, it’s at best a misunderstanding of empowerment and at worst a lie about it.

This adaptation is – in every way it can be – the epitome of someone walking in and thinking they can do better with something they haven’t even done the work to understand at its most basic level.

I went in with tempered expectations because the anime is a masterpiece. You can’t compare an adaptation to a masterpiece. Yet if the adaptation turns its back on the ethos of the source itself, that’s difficult to overcome or justify. The style, the ethos, the message, all of it is gone, replaced with a camp approach that could still work as its own thing but fails to understand how and why camp is used.

And maybe it’s not the worst of these issues, but the best way I have to sum up the adaptation is this: the stillness of the original is gone. The anime “Cowboy Bebop” was centered on jazz and blues. Every viewing was a syncopation, a calm before a chaos. Each character represented a moral viewpoint that had been transgressed, yet was desperately held to. Tension was created in which would win out: The transgression or the moral? The chaos or the calm? The hunter or the bounty? The system or the motive that resists it?

The anime was jazz, in the truest sense of the word. Here, the jazz is just the soundtrack to an asset strip.

You can watch “Cowboy Bebop” on Netflix.

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

New Shows + Movies by Women — October 15, 2021

This is a phenomenal week for surprises. It includes a new psychological horror from one of the best directors out there, Claudia Llosa. It also features one of the best reviewed horror movies of the year, the latest in a recent surge of Welsh suspense. Nineties franchise “I Know What You Did Last Summer” gets re-adapted as a series. To top it all off, Kate Beckinsale goes against type in an ego-driven dark comedy. This is where we’ll start:

NEW SERIES

Guilty Party (Paramount+)
showrunner Rebecca Addelman

Kate Beckinsale stars as Beth, a discredited journalist. She tries to relaunch her career by ingratiating herself with a mother sentenced to life for murdering her husband. Beth is determined to prove herself relevant again- er, to prove the woman innocent.

Showrunner Rebecca Addelman has written and produced on “Dead to Me” and “Ghosted”.

You can watch “Guilty Party” on Paramount+, with new episodes premiering weekly.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (Amazon)
showrunner Sara Goodman

“I Know What You Did Last Summer” is a new adaptation of the Lois Duncan novel. It also saw a popular 1997 film adaptation. Five teens hit someone with their car on the night of their graduation. They hide the body. A year later, someone starts killing them one by one.

This is the first series showrun by Sara Goodman.

You can watch “I know What You Did Last Summer” on Amazon.

Build Divide #000000 Code Black (Crunchyroll)
directed by Komada Yuki

I really appreciate Japanese titling. From “Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon” to “Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense”, and even “Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code”, they’re just so much braver than our surfeit of boring, old 1-3 word titles.

Anyway, in “Build Divide #000000 Code Black”, players in a trading card game attempt to defeat the king of Neo Kyoto. If they do, their wishes will be granted. (#000000 is the hex code in a spreadsheet for black, if you’re wondering what the connection is. I’m…still not sure that clarifies anything.)

Komada Yuki previously assistant directed “Mugen no Juunin: Immortal”.

“Build Divide #000000 Code Black” is simulcast as it airs in Japan, with new episodes every week. You can watch it on Crunchyroll.

NEW MOVIES

Fever Dream (Netflix)
directed by Claudia Llosa

“Fever Dream” is an adaptation of Samanta Schweblin’s 2014 novel of the same name. It tells a surreal tale of horror inspired by environmental abuses in Argentina.

I named writer-director Claudia Llosa’s “The Milk of Sorrow” my best film of the 2010s. She is a brilliant visualist and patient storyteller. You could say her sense of empathy has infused her movies with elements of cultural horror (about misogyny and colonialism), but this looks like her first crack at a film that’s housed in the horror genre. The crew she’s gathered is a stunning group, including “Loki” composer Natalie Holt, “The Orphanage” cinematographer Oscar Faura, and “A Fantastic Woman” production designer Estefania Larrain.

You can watch “Fever Dream” on Netflix.

Censor (Hulu)
directed by Prano Bailey-Bond

Enid is a film censor. She’s strict, with a specialty for censoring moments of violence. When she’s tasked with reviewing a particular film, its details spur childhood memories about her sister’s unsolved disappearance. Enid sets to work investigating the film’s origins, even as fiction and reality increasingly blur.

This is the first feature from director and co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond. It also marks another well-reviewed Welsh horror entry centered on family bringing to light generations-old wrongs. Welsh horror is carving an extremely unique voice with independent-styled films that focus on characters who convey different realities based on privilege. These horror metaphors tend to center on gaslighting, often of women and often in relation to long-disappeared or dead family members.

I can’t help but notice the popularity of this theme, and wonder how much it might connect to a history of English abuses and cover-ups such as the culturally defining Aberfan disaster.

I featured “Censor” when you could rent it, but this is the first time it’s been on a streaming service. “Censor” now also appears on Hulu.

The Blazing World (VOD)
directed by Carlson Young

In this fairy tale horror, a woman returns to her childhood home. She’s stayed away since the accidental drowning of her twin sister. Yet as she returns, she finds access to an alternate world where her sister may survive. She’ll have to convince three demons to release her sister back into this world.

This is the first feature for director and co-writer Carlson Young.

See where to rent “The Blazing World”.

Moving On (MUBI)
directed by Yoon Dan-bi

In this Korean slice-of-life movie, two children move into their grandfather’s house for the summer. Their aunt soon follows, and the three generations work out how to live under the same roof.

This is the first film from writer-director Yoon Dan-bi.

You can watch “Moving On” on MUBI.

On the Fringe of Wild (VOD)
directed by Emma Catalfamo

The story of two young men falling in love in small-town Ontario is inspired by “Romeo and Juliet”.

This is the first feature-length film from director Emma Catalfamo.

See where to rent “On the Fringe of Wild”.

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.