A strange thing happens around the holidays. There’s a deluge of films around Christmas, each meant to capture attention for Oscar runs. The effect is muted this year because the rules have changed and theatrical runs aren’t as necessary to qualify for various awards.
Muted or not, this effect has tended to favor male directors. Some of this may be variations on the old boys network. Some of it is because studios want to push directors who’ve had previous Oscar success, and the Oscars have favored men in the past. That means Paul Greengrass’s “News of the World”, George Clooney’s “Midnight Sky”, and Pixar’s “Soul” (directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers) get those dates. Greengrass and Clooney have each been nominated for an Oscar as a director in the past, and Pixar films regularly win Best Animated Feature.
Of course, the big name these past two weeks has been Patty Jenkins’s “Wonder Woman 1984”. As divisively as it’s been received, it’s almost certainly been a success in terms of viewership. It was streamed more in its first week than any other movie in 2020.
There is another film in a qualifying theatrical run. This is Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman”, but I’ve been choosing not to feature theatrical runs during the pandemic. I’ll feature it as I have every other film throughout COVID – when it’s available for rental or streaming. This is because going to a theater isn’t safe right now in terms of health risk, whereas watching at home is. A film isn’t yet accessible to the public if its only accessible in an unsafe manner.
One other note: there’s a new short animated film (6 minutes) directed by Madeline Sharafian. “Burrow” is on Disney+, and follows a rabbit trying to build her dream burrow. Unfortunately, she keeps digging into the homes of her neighbors by accident.
half directed by women
“Bridgerton” is half Regency romance series, half political intrigue. The show’s gotten a lot of discussion for casting actors of various races and ethnicity. This is something a vocal minority of the internet is fine with when white actors take roles of color, but suddenly becomes offensively inaccurate to them when the reverse takes place.
It’s worth noting that almost everything in Regency romance movies is complete fantasy – the plots, the people, the sets, the music, the costumes, the events – but for some reason the line must be drawn at casting? Sure thing there.
The big name attached to Bridgerton is one of the three executive producers, Shonda Rhimes. Chris Van Dusen is the showrunner, however. Instead, this makes the list because four of the eight episodes are directed by women: Sheree Folkson and Julie Ann Robinson direct two apiece.
Folkson can point to series like “Call the Midwife” and “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels”. Robinson has directed on “Suburgatory” and “Scandal”.
You can watch “Bridgerton” on Netflix with a subscription.
showrunner Tea Lindeburg
An entire class goes missing in this Danish noir series. Did they run away, were they kidnapped, or did something else happen? Astrid lost her older sister that day. 20 years later, the only survivor from those disappearances dies. Astrid sets out to solve the conspiracy around this mystery.
Tea Lindeburg has directed a few Danish TV series. She’s also the creator of “Equinox”.
You can watch “Equinox” on Netflix with a subscription.
Wonder Woman 1984 (HBO Max)
directed by Patty Jenkins
A month ago, I don’t think anyone had this pegged as one of the most divisive films of the year. I enjoyed it, but I can absolutely see why some don’t. The film has an incredibly strong central concept combined with a script that’s heavy on shortcuts and pointless scenes. It’s a superhero movie with a great and timely supervillain, yet that gives its superhero almost nothing to do.
If you’re interested in the concept, the villain’s path, and what’s being critiqued in our society, you’ll likely stay interested in the film. If you want a superhero movie that features Wonder Woman centrally in the way the first film did, you may be utterly flabbergasted by the choices made in “Wonder Woman 1984”.
I don’t think either takeaway is right or wrong. The film has a lot to say. More importantly, it addresses its themes in a way that the superhero genre is built to handle, yet too often avoids. At the same time, it’s weird that one of the few superhero movies about women that we get would choose to nearly sideline her.
Look at the review if you’re still on the fence.
You can watch “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max with a subscription.
Days of the Whale (HBO Max)
directed by Catalina Arroyave Restrepo
Cristina and Simon are graffiti artists living in Medellin, Colombia. They decide to paint over a threat made by a gang. There are consequences to a decision like this.
This is writer-director Catalina Arroyave Restrepo’s first film.
You can watch “Days of the Whale” on HBO Max with a subscription.
I Used to Go Here (HBO Max)
directed by Kris Rey
A novelist is invited to speak at her alma mater. Her writing career is stumbling, and the trip finds her involved in the lives of current students and her former professor. Caught in between, she has to figure out what direction she wants to take next.
Director Kris Rey has an intriguing life story. She was once a Chicago public school teacher, and then later a successful independent ice cream maker who lost a battle for her business with the state of Illinois. This opens up a whole other conversation about the political power of Big Ice Cream in Illinois – and no, I’m not even kidding. I grew up there; the ice cream industry is a viable path to political power in the state.
After being forced out of that industry, Rey formed a filmmaking duo with Joe Swanberg in the mid-2000s. The pair helped elevate the mumblecore movement and were responsible for casting Greta Gerwig in one of her first roles, “Young American Bodies”.
I previously included this film when it came to rental, but this is the first time it’s on a subscription service.
directed by Maiwenn
After her grandfather dies, a woman is spurred to learn more about her Algerian roots.
There’s no English-translated trailer at the moment, though Netflix itself should have the option available on the movie.
Maiwenn is best known as an actress, and this is her fifth feature film as director. She directs, co-writes, and stars here. The film reflects her own background as she’s of mixed Vietnamese, French, and Algerian descent.
You can watch “DNA” on Netflix with a subscription.
Terlalu Tampan (Netflix)
directed by Sabrina Rochelle Kalangie
A boy rarely leaves his home. When he does, he wears a helmet. Why? Because he’s too handsome. His parents worry, so they finally make a deal where he’ll attend school in person. His handsomeness exposed, his life turns to chaos when the rest of the world discovers. The film is adapted from a popular online comic in Indonesia.
Once again, there’s no English-translated trailer at the moment, though Netflix itself should have the option available on the movie.
The comedy’s gotten good reviews. It’s the first feature from Kalangie, who also co-writes the screenplay.
You can watch “Terlalu Tampan” on Netflix with a subscription.
Before the Fire (Showtime)
directed by Charlie Buhler
An actress moves back to her rural home during a global pandemic. Someone she knows from her past uses the opportunity to stalk and terrorize her.
This is the first feature from director Charlie Buhler. It’s the first feature written by Jenna Lyng Adams, who also stars in the lead role.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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