Tag Archives: Brea Grant

New Shows + Movies by Women — March 5, 2021

Last week featured two new series and no movies. This week, it’s seven new films and no series. That’s a weird back and forth. Part of me wonders if we’re getting to a point in the pandemic slowdown in production where streaming services can’t saturate every week. The other part of me recognizes that as I go through titles every week, that doesn’t seem to be a major problem for titles overall.

The truth is, projects by women still make up only a small portion of the number of overall shows and movies. A momentary shift that would be imperceptible in a larger sample size – such as the number of movies men get to platforms – suddenly becomes noteworthy in a smaller sample size.

If I was doing this series for new shows and movies made by men, there wouldn’t be a single week that even approached fewer than 40 titles. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it on a weekly basis. Centering it around women filmmakers means that I’m relieved there are seven films after a week with zero.

It’s a strange signifier of just how much the goalposts are moved. I realize saying that is pretty privileged. Women see that every day, in every aspect of their lives. I see it when I’m putting focus into, well, actually seeing it – and even then I’m just observing, I’m not experiencing it. If I feel deflated at that realization, I have no comprehension of what it must feel like to live it every day.

I’ve worked in politics, as a journalist, as a critic – you can see double-standards for miles in what those jobs cover, and in the industries doing the coverage. Yet even covering it, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt betrayed by the feeling of relief like I was when there were seven films this week after zero the last – as if that was some sort of victory instead of staring down an ongoing disaster. I guess it’s rare to step outside a moment of damaging normalization and realize how you’re trained to feel relieved about it.

If men had only 7 films come out in a week, it would be an unprecedented drop. Women have seven films coming out this week, and it’s a relief that it’s that many. That feeling of relief is such a lie. What that says about how inured men are – what we’re normalized to treat as equal when it’s only just a fraction of the space…. That normalization and rationalization can often convince us fixing it all is simple steps, and even then the fight is over just being able to do those. We barely understand that that fight is just a first layer, that it’s not a fix, that it’s just holding down the symptoms enough to start getting at the root causes.

So much of what men debate over in allying is just forcing harmful normalizations to fall back from Plan A to Plan B – so much of what we fight over accepting isn’t even a fix, it’s just levels of survival patriarchy is prepared to accept. I realize none of this is news to women, but I know some men read this, too. So many of the frameworks we work with on this fight come pre-negotiated for our comfort. So many of the new norms that we’d feel successful about are only the barest half-measures. We often frame this work as feeling good about what we do, rather than as recognizing a change has been accomplished and secured. Our best allyship is often what we’re trained to feel is a noteworthy accomplishment, a success we’ve taken as far as we can, a plateau of allyship rather than a first step on which other steps now have to be built.

NEW MOVIES

Moxie (Netflix)
directed by Amy Poehler

A girl comes across her mother’s records of high school protest. In the face of the boys’ annual rankings of who’s “most bangable” and her school’s double-standards and plausible deniability, she’s inspired to follow suit by publishing a feminist magazine. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.

One thing I’ll note is the proven comedic pairing of Alycia Pascual-Pena and Josie Totah in supporting roles. The two were superb as leads in the genuinely surprising “Saved by the Bell” continuation last year.

Director Amy Poehler is co-creator of “Russian Doll” and “Upright Citizens Brigade”. She also starred in “Saturday Night Live”. Most famously, she was the star of, as well as writing and directing on, “Parks and Rec”. She also directed 2019 comedy “Wine Country”.

You can watch “Moxie” on Netflix with a subscription.

The World to Come (VOD)
directed by Mona Fastvold

Two neighboring families run struggling farmsteads. Things are rough – it’s the 1800s and the living is difficult. To stave off isolation, the two wives keep each other company. As they do, they gradually fall in love.

Director Mona Fastvold is primarily known as a Norwegian writer and actress. This is her second film as a director.

Note that this does feature Casey Affleck, who also produced on the film. He has been sued twice for repeated sexual harassment and disparagement. (I’m not able to track the major names and their histories on all projects, but when an obvious one comes up like this, I will try to mention it. )

See where to rent “The World to Come”.

Lucky (Shudder)
directed by Natasha Kermani

May is a self-help author who finds herself being stalked. A man comes to kill her every night, no matter how many times she kills him. People around her recognize it, understand what’s happening, and treat it as completely normal.

Natasha Kermani has directed the surreal “Imitation Girl” before this. “Lucky” is written by Brea Grant (who also stars). Grant recently directed horror comedy “12 Hour Shift”.

You can watch “Lucky” on Shudder with a subscription.

Summerland (Showtime)
directed by Jessica Swale

Gemma Arterton’s made a name for herself in a few franchises, but it’s always been the under-the-radar work where she’s shown an incredibly complex range. “Summerland” tackles the story of a novelist during World War 2. She unexpectedly has to take in an evacuee from London. His father’s at war, and London became untenable for children during the London Blitz bombing campaign. Many rural families were asked to take children in and care for them during this time. Arterton’s Alice hides the secret that she couldn’t be with her great romance – another woman.

This is writer-director Jessica Swale’s feature debut.

You can watch “Summerland” on Showtime with a subscription, or see where to rent it.

The Broken Hearts Gallery (Starz)
directed by Natalie Krinsky

Dealing with a recent break-up, Lucy starts a gallery. Anyone can leave a memento of a past relationship there, creating an ever-changing landscape of closure.

This is the first film directed by Natalie Krinsky. She also wrote the film, and she’s worked as both writer and story editor for “Gossip Girl” in the past.

You can watch “The Broken Hearts Gallery” on Starz with a subscription.

Sophie Jones (VOD)
directed by Jessie Barr

Sophie is in high school and struggling with depression and aimlessness after her mother’s death.

“Sophie Jones” is directed by Jessie Barr, not to be confused with her co-writer Jessica Barr (a cousin). Both are coming at the project from personal experience, as both lost their mothers to cancer when they were just 16. This is the first feature for either one. Both have worked as actresses before this.

You can rent “Sophie Jones” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube.

CW: pregnancy loss, image of a dead animal

Undertow (VOD)
directed by Miranda Nation

Claire is coping with the loss of her baby when she begins to suspect her husband’s having an affair. She becomes close to the newly pregnant woman, even as her reality starts to unravel.

This is the first feature film from writer-director Miranda Nation.

You can rent “Undertow” on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube.

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 5, 2021

February is when studios start rolling out under-the-radar horror films. These are films that they didn’t expect to make money with more favorable release dates. It may be because they consider the movie good but too challenging for audiences. It could be that the film’s cult or indie nature limits its audience appeal. And sometimes it’s just because they don’t think a movie’s very good.

Holiday and awards show boosts start to fizzle in February, and it’s historically been too early for the event movies spring and summer bring. Of course, this isn’t a typical February, some awards shows have delayed announcements, and you can’t expand award films to audiences that are staying home during a pandemic. That said, it doesn’t look like the scheduling of genre trends has changed too much.

“Black Panther” and “Deadpool” have challenged February’s box office history a bit in recent years, but they’re still the only February releases with $100 million weekends. With a dearth of event movies, February often belongs to romantic comedies due to Valentine’s Day, and movies featuring Black actors due to Black History Month. There’s another conversation to be had about squeezing movies by Black artists into a single month as opposed to both featuring them now and scheduling major ones across the calendar. Studios can abuse the intention of Black History Month as an excuse to relegate excellent movies by Black artists into a month where audiences don’t often go to see movies, but that’s a whole other article.

Underneath these two bigger factors, there’s an annual dumping of horror films where studios take whatever they have left over and throw it at the wall to see what sticks. This starts in February and really ramps up into March. It doesn’t define all horror in these months, since there’s a consistent interest in counter-programming rom-coms around Valentine’s, but it does describe a lot of it. The thing is, there are always gems in that heap, there are cult movies that break big, and there’s a lot of fun stuff that may not be great but will be memorable.

What about franchise horror? It’s usually saved for September and October – the school year and Halloween. Those are films that studios are willing to devote real marketing to even if they’re no more likely to be good.

This is the long way of saying there’s a flush of horror movies coming on nearly every service. The vast majority are directed by men, but three of the four movies directed by women this week are horror – and very different kinds.

NEW SERIES

Firely Lane (Netflix)
showrunner Maggie Friedman
mostly directed by women

“Firefly Lane” stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as lifelong friends maneuvering through midlife careers. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Kristin Hannah.

Showrunner Maggie Friedman created and wrote “Eastwick” and “Witches of East End”.

Six of the 10 episodes are directed by women: two apiece for Vanessa Parise, Lee Rose, and Anne Wheeler.

You can watch “Firefly Lane” on Netflix with a subscription.

NEW MOVIES

Rocks (Netflix)
directed by Sarah Gavron

The director of “Suffragette” returns with a film about two abandoned children. A homeless teenage girl nicknamed Rocks takes care of her younger brother.

Aside from “Suffragette”, Gavron has directed “Brick Lane”.

The film is written by Theresa Ikoku and Claire Wilson. This is also a movie where nearly every major department is run by women. Helene Louvart is cinematographer, Maya Maffioli edits the film, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch composes the music. Production design is by Alice Normington, set decoration by Sophie Phillips, costume design by Ruka Johnson, and Amy de Rees is makeup supervisor.

Composition and cinematography have been particularly difficult fields for women to break into on a consistent basis, and recognition is rare. In the entire history of the Oscars, there have only been 10 nominations for women for musical scores. That’s an even worse statistic than it seems – for the vast majority of Academy Awards history, there have been two categories for score. It only became the norm to nominate five films a year instead of 10 in 1999.

But wait, there’s more! It used to be the norm for 20 or 30 films to be nominated each year. I believe the record was 34 nominations in 1944, just outpacing the 33 nominations of 1945. And only 10 ever have gone to women.

Want to be even more pissed off? There has only been one nomination of a woman for Best Cinematography. One. They’ve been giving that award out since 1929.

You can watch “Rocks” on Netflix with a subscription.

12 Hour Shift (Hulu)
directed by Brea Grant

Mandy is a nurse who needs to pay for her drug addiction. Her patients don’t need all their organs, do they? Her cousin Regina serves as a courier to an organ trafficker, but when she loses a harvested kidney, he tells Regina he’ll take hers if she doesn’t get him another. What follows is a dark comedy of errors where Regina keeps on killing in order to provide a kidney that works and Mandy keeps cleaning up after her.

Mandy is played by Angela Bettis, and this is her territory. She’s been a generational star in indie horror and horror-comedy. She’s best known for Lucky McKee films like “May” and Tobe Hooper’s “Toolbox Murders”. There’s a sort of interstitial, experimental space underneath mainstream horror that still exists separate from B-horror where she’s become a legend.

Writer-director Brea Grant might be more familiar as an actress from “Heroes” and “Dexter”. This is her second feature-length film as director and third as writer. She also directs on the sci-fi series “Pandora”.

You can watch “12 Hour Shift” on Hulu with a subscription.

A Nightmare Wakes (Shudder)
directed by Nora Unkel

This period piece adapts Mary Shelley’s creation of “Frankenstein” into a horror movie of its own. In “A Nightmare Wakes”, Shelley’s horrors arise around her as hallucinations, but these in turn inspire her to question the abusive relationships she’s asked to endure.

This is the first feature from writer-director Nora Unkel. She’s directed and produced on a number of short horror films in recent years.

You can watch “A Nightmare Wakes” on Shudder with a subscription.

HellKat (VOD)
co-directed by Rebecca Matthews

An MMA fighter finds herself fighting demons for her son’s life and her own soul. Luckily, it turns out demons have their own MMA tournament. That’s convenient. She’ll have to fight all manner of creatures in order to be declared victor.

Rebecca Matthews has produced and directed on a large number of…let’s be real and call them discount horror films. That’s not a knock; they have an audience and they reliably make money. She has nine scheduled to arrive just this year, including “Bats: The Awakening” and “Cannibal Troll”. There’s obviously a market for these films. I mean, the big budget versions of this kind of shtick make up most of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, and that was enough for people to go, “That qualifies him for governor, right?” I digress. The point is, these films can be fun in their own way. They’re often great as a party movie to riff on (but please keep social distancing), or as something familiar to put on in the background.

See where to rent “HellKat”.

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.