It’s a packed week. Several high-profile, high concept series are premiering. Betty Gilpin, Rachel Weisz, Keri Russell, Zoe Lister-Jones, and Olivia Colman all have leading roles in projects this week. Why delay? Let’s get right into it:
New series by women come from France, Japan, and the U.S. New films by women are from Ireland and Nigeria.
Mrs. Davis (Peacock) showrunner Tara Hernandez
Betty Gilpin stars as nun Sister Simone. Her ex-boyfriend joins her on a globetrotting journey to find the Holy Grail and destroy an A.I. known only as Mrs. Davis.
Tara Hernandez previously wrote and produced on “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon”.
“Mrs. Davis” is on Peacock. The first four episodes are out, with new ones dropping every Thursday for a total of 10.
CW: sexual assault, sexual abuse of patient
Dead Ringers (Amazon) showrunner Alice Birch mostly directed by women
“Dead Ringers” stars Rachel Weisz as identical twin gynecologists. It’s based on the 1988 David Cronenberg film, where the role was originally played by Jeremy Irons. In the film, the doctors pressure their patients into relationships. The more outspoken sibling passes the women on to his shy twin when tired of them, with the women being unaware of the substitution.
Alice Birch showruns. She’s co-written the BAFTA-nominated “The Wonder” and “Lady Macbeth”, was the lead writer on “Normal People”, and story edited “Succession”.
Of the six episodes, Karena Evans (“Snowfall”), Lauren Wolkstein (“Queen Sugar”), and Karyn Kusama (“Jennifer’s Body”) each direct one, with Wolkstein directing another with Sean Durkin.
“Dead Ringers” is on Amazon Prime. All 6 episodes arrive tomorrow, Friday April 21.
The Diplomat (Netflix) showrunner Debora Cahn
Keri Russell plays Kate Wyler, a diplomat who’s assigned a high-profile job in the middle of a crisis. Her husband, a former diplomat, also can’t seem to stay out of her way. Rufus Sewell and David Gyasi co-star.
Showrunner Debora Cahn has been a producer and writer on “The West Wing”, “Homeland”, and “Fosse/Verdon”.
You can watch “The Diplomat” on Netflix.
Slip (Roku) showrunner Zoe Lister-Jones
Zoe Lister-Jones stars as Mae. She loves Elijah, but the romance has been disappearing from their relationship. He also wants a child, while she’s unsure. She slips and has a one night stand with Eric, waking up the next morning in a universe where she’s married to him and no trace of Elijah remains to be found. Mae realizes she slips into a different universe every time she orgasms, which raises a whole new set of questions.
Zoe Lister-Jones writes, directs, and stars, as she did on “How it Ends” and “Band Aid”.
“Slip” is on Roku. The premiere arrives tomorrow, Friday April 21.
Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts (Crunchyroll) directed by Kon Chiaki
A girl offered as sacrifice to the King of Beasts and Demons shows no fear of him. She has no home, and accepts her death readily. The King instead spares her and takes her as his queen.
I discussed director Kon Chiaki last week. She’s one of the most prolific women in anime, helming classics like “Higurashi: When They Cry” and averaging two series and movies a year.
You can watch “Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts” on Crunchyroll. The first episode is out, with new ones arriving every Wednesday.
Drops of God (Apple TV+) co-showrunner Yuko Kibayashi
Camille receives word that her estranged father has died. Her father was a famous wine critic, and she learns she must identify and describe thirteen wines for her inheritance. Her competitor for her father’s legacy is his adopted son, a young wine critic who must face the same test.
The showrunner is Tadashi Agi, the pseudonym used by brother-and-sister team Yuko and Shin Kibayashi. The series is based on their manga series of the same name.
You can watch “Drops of God” on Apple TV+. The first episode premieres tomorrow, Friday April 21.
Joyride (Hulu) directed by Emer Reynolds
Olivia Colman stars as Joy, who plans to dump her new baby onto her sister. Her plans go awry when a teen steals their taxi, but the pair quickly find themselves in cahoots.
The Irish film is directed by Emer Reynolds, who started in production assistant and sound editor roles in the 80s before becoming an editor throughout the 90s.
You can watch “Joyride” on Hulu.
CW: sexual assault
The Wildflower (Netflix) directed by Biodun Stephen
Three women live in the same apartment complex, each experiencing a man’s assault. One starts a revolt, and finds how extensively the system protects her rapist.
They say never to read the comments, but they can be educational. Something I’ve followed and written on for nearly a decade is how conservatives utilize social media to target and delegitimize specific projects and their creators. The modern framework is to astroturf projects with various contradictory and often unsupported claims. Both conservative media and media that’s happy to be complicit for clickbait (which is most) pick up on these comments and report them as actual concerns.
This is how “Don’t Worry Darling” director Olivia Wilde is apparently guilty of a number of unsupported and unsourced unprofessional behaviors, despite dozens of interviewed crew claiming these are all inventions. It’s how “The Woman King” is apparently guilty of whitewashing the African country of Dahomey’s historical practice of slavery from its narrative, despite the entire movie being centered on a depiction of and conflict over this very practice.
Often, these projects are bombarded with comments like “The part where Viola Davis went for Thanos’ head with the Mjolnir and shouted WAKANDA FOREVER- Truly Epic! I shed a tear”. I’ve corrected some spelling there, but these comments are based on what started as Reddit memes and copypasta – a popular form of making fun of a movie for being derivative. Or take, “When she shouted to her warriors: They can take our lives but cannot take our slaves” – that was sooo inspiring and brave!”
What was initially a joke format has been seized upon and turned into a key form of astroturfing, and something that signals to readers that the film is derivative in specific ways – regardless of whether the claims it supports are true or not. These comments suggest “The Woman King” is a ripoff of “Black Panther” (it’s not) and emulates “Braveheart” (it doesn’t). It references claims that are popular on conservative media and social media that the film lacks the historical accuracy of something like “Braveheart” (which is one of the least accurate historical epics ever made, but was made by a bigot and so is true in their hearts).
Should comments like these matter? Reporting on comments is a horrible clickbait trait today, after all. That’s the point. It’s what I opened with and it bears repeating: both conservative media and media that’s happy to be complicit for clickbait (which is most) pick up on these comments and report them as actual concerns. These organized astroturfing campaigns dictate news cycles and coverage of specific topics, regardless of whether the claims they’re covering are accurate. They dictate coverage of specific creators, and the popular narrative that results. Because so many outlets report on comments, when there’s a movement of comments, they can’t report quickly enough or often enough. The false claims the comments make or reference are treated seriously because the comments are treated seriously. That’s the entire strategy, and when that strategy is part of an organized movement that’s aimed from one woman to the next, why wouldn’t we educate ourselves on its nature?
While the methods have evolved, the end goals are the same, going back to the foundational framework established by Gamergate and the harassment of Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and Anita Sarkeesian. We act as if these campaigns have little to do with each other rather than being the training ground for tomorrow’s fascists – Gamergate gave rise to Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich, and gave Steve Bannon and Breitbart the boost they needed to sway national politics at a mainstream level. To put it as bluntly as possible, if Gamergate had received more backlash and resistance, much of the white supremacist movement’s reignition could have been mitigated, and the chances of Trump’s election in 2016 could have been reduced.
But even as media watchdogs warned us then, we treated the gaming industry as too niche…just as media watchdogs warn us now and we treat these concerted actions against women in the movie industry as too niche. Everything’s too niche or an isolated incident until we scratch our heads and wonder how we got to white nationalists and fascists.
So I pay attention to the comments even on trailers because when they all say the same thing or use the same tactic, you can understand that a project and its creators have become a target. When racists and misogynists are organizing to discredit something, that’s a good sign that it’s worth paying attention to. Sometimes this makes me deeply interested in a project I otherwise would have overlooked. For instance, I’ve never been a fan of “Grease”, and I would have had no interest in “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies”, but seeing conservative reaction to its creator’s discussion of feminism and the visuals of its inclusiveness, noting the comments mirror the nature of that astroturfing starting line, now I’m deeply interested in it.
April brings a surge of new titles, particularly for series. New shows come from France, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S., and new movies from Nigeria and the U.S.
Transatlantic (Netflix) showrunner Anna Winger directed by women
“Transatlantic” recounts the story of Mary Jayne Gold, an American journalist who helped 2,000 refugees escape out of France in 1940-41. Gilliam Jacobs stars as Gold.
Showrunner Anna Winger is the co-creator of the extremely well-regarded “Deutschland” series (which depicts the two Germanies of 1983, 86, and 89). Winners of Swiss Academy Awards, directing duo Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond helm four episodes. Mia Maariel Meyer directs the other three.
You can watch “Transatlantic” on Netflix. All 7 episodes are out tomorrow, April 7.
Hell’s Paradise (Crunchyroll) directed by Makita Kaori
A superhuman assassin is captured during a mission, but nothing seems to be effective in executing him. He’s offered a pardon instead – if he can secure an elixir of immortality in a dangerous realm. Five expeditions have already been lost, and his will be made of convicts each facing execution. Only the one who returns with the elixir will be pardoned, and only if they return with their personal guard alive.
Makita Kaori also directed “Kakegurui Twin”. She got her start as an assistant production manager on “Space Dandy” and design manager on “Terror in Resonance”.
You can watch “Hell’s Paradise” on Crunchyroll. The premiere’s out, I’ve seen it, it is exceedingly, darkly beautiful. New episodes arrive every Saturday.
The Good Mothers (Hulu) co-showrun by Eliza Amoruso
“The Good Mothers” tells the story of three women who were born into Italian mafia clans. A new prosecutor focuses on a strategy of turning women inside the mafia against its patriarchs. She brings these three on board to build a case.
Elisa Amoruso showruns with Julian Jarrold. The U.K. production sought to become an Italian co-production in order to embrace authenticity, and Amoruso has experience working with actors and producers from around the world. The novel on which “The Good Mothers” is based was written by U.K. journalist Alex Perry, so the collaboration also reflects its source.
You can watch “The Good Mothers” on Hulu. All 6 episodes are out.
Tiny Beautiful Things (Hulu) showrunner Liz Tigelaar directed by women
Kathryn Hahn plays Clare, who’s kicked out of her own home after giving away her daughter’s college fund. She has nowhere to turn, but an old friend needs a new writer for his advice column. Clare takes it on despite her own life falling apart.
Showrunner Liz Tigelaar also wrote and produced on “Little Fires Everywhere”, “Bates Motel”, and “Revenge”. Desiree Akhavan (“I Love That For You”), Rachel Lee Goldenberg (“Minx”), and Stacie Passon (“Dickinson”) direct.
You can watch “Tiny Beautiful Things” on Hulu. All 8 episodes are out tomorrow, April 7.
Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies (Paramount+) showrunner Annabel Oakes mostly directed by women
The spinoff of the 1978 musical is a prequel. It’s four years before “Grease” and before rock ‘n’ roll has changed the school’s social dynamics. The show follows four outcasts who spark a moral panic. 30 new songs have been recorded for the series.
Bonus points for conservative media having a conniption that this school in the 50s is shown as diverse. Everyone knows that California, home to the oldest Chinatown, Japantown, Vietnamtown, and Koreatown in the U.S., didn’t spontaneously generate Asian, Black, and Hispanic people in Los Angeles (Spanish for “the angels”) until the 1990s.
Don’t get me wrong, California had its own segregation issues and still has redlining issues, but these were not as wholesale as the Southeast, and the “hire the best person crew” suddenly no longer agrees when that person isn’t white. I’m pretty sure they didn’t break out into song three times an hour in the 50s either, and if you’re relying on “Grease” for historical accuracy purposes, something’s already gone terribly wrong in the old brainpan.
Showrunner Annabel Oakes wrote and produced on “Minx” and “Atypical”. Alethea Jones (“Dollface”), Marie Jamora (“The Cleaning Lady”), and Oakes direct on the series.
You can watch “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” on Paramount+.
Skip and Loafer (Crunchyroll) directed by Deai Kotomi
Mitsumi has just moved from a backwater town to Tokyo, and she intends on using her prestigious new school as a stepping stone toward law school. She runs into countless misfortunes that ruin her plans, but luckily the laid back (and handsome) Shousuke is there to support her.
Deai Kotomi directed on “Silver Spoon” and two “Natsume Yuujinchou” series, so she’s well experienced in coming-of-age, slice-of-life shows. She got her start as an assistant production manager on “Samurai Champloo”, before quickly moving into storyboarding on “Ergo Proxy” and episode directing on shows like “From Me to You”. In other words, her resume’s ridiculously good.
You can watch “Skip and Loafer” on Crunchyroll. The premiere’s out, and new episodes arrive every Tuesday.
Thicker Than Water (Netflix) showrunner Nawell Madani
A journalist shields her brother from the law, getting her family wrapped up with drug lords.
Showrunner Nawell Madani also stars.
You can watch “Thicker Than Water” on Netflix. All episodes are available tomorrow, April 7.
KamiKatsu: Working for God in a Godless World (Crunchyroll) directed by Inaba Yuki
The heir to a cult leader, Yukito suffers an unfortunate death. He is reincarnated in a world that lacks the concept of gods or religion. Will he introduce his own, and is it a good idea to fight injustice in this world with something that was unjust in his?
It’s the first series directed by Inaba Yuki. She’s previously done episode direction on a number of series, including “Parasyte: The Maxim” and “No Game No Life”.
You can watch “KamiKatsu: Working for God in a Godless World” on Crunchyroll. The premiere’s out, and new episodes arrive Wednesdays.
Gangs of Lagos (Amazon) directed by Jadesola Osiberu
“Gangs of Lagos” is a Nigerian film following the lives of several friends who each make different life choices in Isale Eko, Lagos.
Director Jadesola Osiberu previously saw her film “Isoken” win at the African Movie Academy Awards.
You can watch “Gangs of Lagos” on Amazon Prime.
Praise This (Peacock) directed by Tina Gordon
A new transplant to Atlanta joins the praise team at her extended family’s church. She wants to update their focus on traditional gospel to something more modern before the national praise championships.
Director Tina Gordon co-wrote “Drumline”, “ATL”, and “What Men Want”.
One of the films I’ve been most looking forward to is coming out on streaming. That’d be the campy “Please Baby Please”. I get that Andrea Riseborough’s a controversial topic right now due to her Oscar nomination (“To Leslie”) over Viola Davis (“The Woman King”). That’s a systemic issue with the nominating process and not exactly Riseborough’s fault. There’s no reason to avoid featuring her films here.
There are no new series this week, but new films by women come from Nigeria, Spain, and the U.S.
Please Baby Please (MUBI) directed by Amanda Kramer
A gang obsesses over Bohemian 1950s newlyweds, thrusting them into a musical exploration of sexual identity. Andrea Riseborough, Harry Melling, and Demi Moore star.
Amanda Kramer is an experimental filmmaker who also directed “Paris Window” and “Ladyworld”.
You can watch “Please Baby Please” on MUBI, or rent it.
Next Exit (Hulu) directed by Mali Elfman
Two strangers seek roles in a scientific experiment that would send them to the afterlife. They road trip across the U.S. to get there, one with a haunting past, the other literally haunted.
This is writer-director Mali Elfman’s feature debut.
You can watch “Next Exit” on Hulu.
Here Love Lies (Netflix) directed by Tope Oshin
Amanda is a travel blogger who’s wooed by an American tour guide over social media. She travels to the U.S. so they can meet up, but things quickly go sideways into thriller territory.
The Nigerian film is directed and co-written by Tope Oshin. An established director in Nigeria, Oshin helmed “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” in 2018. It was refused a theatrical release in Nigeria due to its queer characters, but was later picked up by Amazon and earned several wins at the Best of Nollywood Awards.
You can watch “Here Love Lies” on Netflix.
Love at First Kiss (Netflix) directed by Alauda Ruiz de Azua
(Netflix lacks an embeddable trailer, but there is one on their site.)
A 16 year-old boy discovers he can see the entire future of a romance whenever he kisses someone for the first time.
The Spanish film is directed by Alauda Ruiz de Azua, whose “Cinco Lobitos” earned her a Goya Award (Spain’s Academy Awards) as Best New Director last month.
There are three kinds of holiday programming that are easy to identify. The first is holiday movies and, occasionally, series. An article went up covering new holiday films by women on Monday – check it out. These are easy to recognize, since they tend to be plastered with holiday iconography so there’s no chance of mistaking them for something you could put off watching.
The second is so-called prestige projects. This is kind of a cheat since it covers anything that could be going for an award. Event films that are thought to have a shot at Best Film and Director awards come out in theaters. “Auteur” films such as Guillermo Del Toro’s recently-released “Pinocchio” are split between theater releases and streaming projects. These are films that may contend for a wide array of awards, but have to make due as the box office undercard to movies like the new “Avatar”.
Within prestige projects, you’ve also got the smaller films hoping to sneak in an award or two – a best screenplay or best supporting actor bid. Many have come out earlier in the year but time their streaming or VOD releases to get eyes right before awards nominations take place. A single best actor nod in a bigger ceremony can give these films second lives that outpace their initial releases. Finally, some smaller films with big awards clout will come out in just a few theaters for qualification before platformed expansions and finally hitting streaming in February or March. That means they’re more realistically 2023 movies for how audiences have access to them, but they often rely on 2022 awards nominations to build their marketing.
That covers a lot of territory, but generally the idea is that everyone’s taking their best shot at awards at this time of year. A lot of prestige series are also released, less because of awards timing (especially because the Golden Globes got moved up so far this year) and more because younger demographics have a solid chunk of time over the break to binge watch them.
That gives us two categories: holiday movies and the broad scope of prestige projects. The third is counter-programming. Counter-programming takes on different shapes depending on the time of year. During the summer event movie season, counter-programming looks like romantic comedies. They’re built to appeal to audiences that may have less interest in those event movies. The holidays have a surplus of comforting seasonal films and prestige projects, so counter-programming takes the shape of what’s unsettling: horror series and movies. This week, we’re starting to see some of these directed by women.
Before we get to that, I also want to note Alice Rohrwacher’s short film on Disney+, “Le pupille”. It finds girls at a Catholic boarding school rebelling during a time of war and scarcity. Short films are often a director’s route to studios taking bigger chances on them, and they have been immensely important for underrepresented groups such as women getting better-funded projects off the ground.
This week, new series by women come from Nigeria and the U.S., and new films by women from India and the U.S.
Kindred (Hulu) mostly directed by women
The adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 novel finds a Black woman named Dana pulled through time. Some moments, she’s working as a writer in the modern day. At others, she’s surviving on a 19th century plantation.
Directors include Ayoka Chenzira (“Queen Sugar”), Destiny Ekaragha (“The End of the F***ing World”), Amanda Marsalis (“Ozark”), and Janicza Bravo (“Zola”). Women direct 7 of the 8 episodes.
You can watch “Kindred” on Hulu. All 8 episodes are out.
Far From Home (Netflix) co-showrun by Damilola Elebe
In this Nigerian series, a teen finds himself out of his element when he earns a scholarship to an elite school.
Damilola Elebe showruns with Chinaza Onuzo. She started as a radio presenter before becoming a screenwriter.
You can watch “Far From Home” on Netflix. All 5 episodes are out.
National Treasure: Edge of History (Disney+) co-showrun by Marianne Wibberley
This continuation of the Nicolas Cage movies finds a DACA woman named Jess investigating her late father’s involvement in a network of treasure protectors.
Lisette Olivera, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and (the severely underappreciated) Breeda Wool star, with Harvey Keitel and Justin Bartha reprising their roles from the films.
Marianne Wibberley showruns with husband Cormac. The pair co-wrote both “National Treasure” movies, as well as other 2000s actioners like “I Spy” and “Bad Boys II”.
You can watch “National Treasure: Edge of History” on Disney+. The first two episodes are out, with a new one arriving every Wednesday for a total of 10.
Nanny (Amazon) directed by Nikyatu Jusu
Aisha is a nanny and an immigrant. Taking care of a child in New York’s Upper East Side, she encounters secrets that challenge her access to the American dream. Anna Diop and Michelle Monaghan star.
This is the first feature from writer-director Nikyatu Jusu.
Twenty years after her daughter’s disappearance, Darlene is a recovering alcoholic preparing to host her family’s Christmas celebration. He ex-brother in law shows up unannounced, triggering a cascade of secrets and horror.
This is the first feature from writer-director Alison Locke.
You can watch “The Apology” on Shudder.
Doctor G (Netflix) directed by Anubhuti Kashyap
A male doctor reluctantly finds himself the only man in his gynecology class, challenging his chauvinism and assumptions of the field.
Anubhuti Kashyap directs and co-writes the Hindi-language film.
There’s a lot this week, but before we dive in, I want to highlight that Celine Sciamma’s “Petite Maman” has arrived on Hulu. If you asked me the best filmmaker working today, the “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Girlhood” director is the first name that comes to mind. I try to feature films when they hit VOD and then hit their first subscription platform. A subtle fantasy about a girl helping her parents after the death of her grandmother, “Petite Maman” has already been on MUBI most of the year. I know that is a niche platform to many. It’s worth mentioning now that it’s on Hulu, which a lot more folks have.
Series this week come from South Africa, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. Films comes from Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden, and the U.S.
Little Women (Netflix) directed by Kim Hee Won
Loosely based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, three sisters who grew up in poverty find themselves involved in the disappearance of a fortune and embattled with the wealthiest family in South Korea.
Director Kim Hee Won has helmed a growing list of South Korea’s most lauded series, including “Vincenzo”, “The Crowned Clown”, and “Money Flower”.
You can watch “Little Women” on Netflix. Two episodes are out now. A new one arrives every Saturday and Sunday (two a week), for a total of 12.
Wedding Season (Hulu) half-directed by Laura Scrivano
Not to be confused with last month’s Netflix film of the same title, Hulu series “Wedding Season” starts as a breezy wedding-themed romcom, only for the bride to find her husband’s entire family poisoned. The suspects include a cross-section of her romantic life, as well as herself. “Alita: Battle Angel” and “Undone” star Rosa Salazar is the lead.
“The Lazarus Project” director Laura Scrivano directs four of the series episodes.
In this Swedish film, a couple’s romance, marriage, and slow fragmentation are considered from a scientific perspective…of a sort. Can’t find an English trailer I can post here for it, but Netflix has options on the film itself.
Writer-director Tuva Novotny is an actress who made the jump to director on “Lilyhammer”.
A couple detox from all things digital in a remote town, but things quickly devolve into chaos.
This is the first film Debra Neil-Fisher directs, but you’ve almost surely seen her work before. A sought-after comedy editor, she edited the first two “Austin Powers” movies, all three “The Hangover” films, the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog”, and “Coming 2 America”.
Closing in on October means an influx of indie horror films. It also means the very beginning of a ramp-up toward awards contenders. Beyond this, it’s interesting to see what’s getting brought in from other countries. The pandemic meant a slowdown in production, and a more deliberate pace as things get back underway. In the effort to keep the rate of new series and movies steady, streaming services have increasingly brought in projects that they might not have just a few years ago.
Netflix has been particularly good when it comes to a few countries – their curation of Filipino, Nigerian, and South Korean projects didn’t start with the pandemic, but the slowdown seems to have made them a greater priority. In addition, Amazon and Netflix have invested in India’s filmmaking industry. A number of women writers and directors have been empowered by this, as India’s sometimes misogynistic production structures and laws mean half the talent is often skipped over. I wrote last month about new Indian laws and ‘enforcements’ that are attempting to crack down on and silence women filmmakers in the wake of streaming services picking up their projects.
This week is mostly English-language projects, and there are some good ones, but please don’t skip over what comes out of other countries. When I started this weekly feature, I thought about shoving anything with subtitles to the back of every list, knowing that some readers might skip over these. I decided not to because it shouldn’t be that way. Acting as if the projects from women in the U.S. and U.K. matter more than women from other countries would just be kicking the can down the road on misogyny, and my generation has seen how dangerous that is as we come across every issue those before us declined to handle. Why repeat that? Look at non-English projects. The less of these you’ve watched, the more great work is out there just waiting for you to see it. If you feel like shows are redundant and repeating, and all you watch is English-language projects, then the explanation should be obvious – you’re only seeing things from a narrow range of perspectives. Of course they’ll repeat.
There are shows from France, Japan, and Nigeria this week. Take a look at them. Consider the list of Indian shows and movies by women from last month – if there’s enough of an audience for them, streaming services will be more likely to buck India’s crackdown on women filmmakers and continue to fund their work. Streaming services organize films from other countries pretty well. Choose a place you’ve never seen a film from, and pick what looks interesting. Watching shows and movies doesn’t become repetitive if the places you’re picking from aren’t repetitive.
Y: The Last Man (Hulu) showrunner Eliza Clark directed by women
Based on the comic book series, “Y: The Last Man” posits a world where every mammal with a Y chromosome suddenly dies…with the exception of a single artist. This is Yorick, and he is chased by those wanting to protect him, experiment on him, and kill him.
Both the original comic and the series base this on chromosomes – so trans women with a Y chromosome and women with androgen insensitivity are part of this. Showrunner Eliza Clark has been specific in saying what sets Yorick apart isn’t his maleness, as other men also survive. What sets him apart is simply that Y chromosome. There are updates that need to be made to the comic series – it started 20 years ago, and cultural and scientific knowledge has improved since then. The series looks promising in terms of including trans creative talent, with actor Elliot Fletcher in a role, and Hugo Award-winning writer Charlie Jane Anders in the writers room.
Showrunner Eliza Clark is a playwright and actress. All the directors on the show are women.
You can watch “Y: The Last Man” on Hulu, with new episodes weekly.
The Heike Story (Funimation) directed by Naoko Yamada
Biwa is a blind girl with the ability to see the future. She travels as a musician to make her living. When she meets the patriarch of a powerful clan, she offers him a prophecy of bloodshed and war. The series is based on a 13th century epic about the rise and fall of the Taira clan.
Director Naoko Yamada has directed series including “K-on!” and films such as “A Silent Voice”.
You can watch “The Heike Story” on Funimation, with new episodes weekly.
Smart Money Woman (Netflix) directed by Bunmi Ajakaiye
Zuri is living a life she can’t afford. Her four best friends each have their own problems, but they’re able to help her figure out her life step by step.
“Smart Money Woman” comes from Nigeria and is directed by Bunmi Ajakaiye. She’s a well known photographer, writer, and director who’s helmed two films and now her second series.
Lola murders the wife of the man she’s sleeping with. Ex-convict Cheyenne witnesses it, and believes she’ll be the one blamed. The two pair up to hide the crime. The series is subtitled; there just isn’t a subtitled trailer available.
Creator, showrunner, and writer Virginie Brac is a prolific French TV writer.
Sam decides she’s going to drop the charges against her rapist. Her friends and siblings stage an intervention at Thanksgiving.
This is the first film from director Amy Northup, an intimacy coordinator who runs classes on consent practices for filmmakers. On her website, Northup discusses, “the same way that we have prioritized the safety of our teams in violent scenes with stunt choreographers, it’s time to normalize the safety, boundaries, and consent of everyone involved in the making of intimate scenes”.
The Mad Women’s Ball (Amazon) directed by Melanie Laurent
A woman is forcibly institutionalized in a Paris asylum. She plans her escape with the aid of an employee there.
Director, co-writer, and star Melanie Laurent is probably most familiar to U.S. audiences as the vengeful survivor Shosanna in “Inglourious Basterds”. She’s had an extensive career acting in both French and U.S. film. “The Mad Women’s Ball” is her fifth film as director.
You can watch “The Mad Women’s Ball” (listed as “Le Bal des Folles”) on Amazon.
Best Sellers (VOD) directed by Lina Roessler
Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine star as a young publisher and the author she coaxes out of retirement. The polar opposites invite disaster as they mount a publicity tour for a man who resents the public. Cary Elwes also stars.
This is director Lina Roessler’s first feature. As an actress, she’s starred in “Lost Girl” and Canadian staple “Murdoch Mysteries” (aka “The Artful Detective”).
There are new series on Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon, but the new movies this week are on more niche platforms like MUBI and Shudder. I’d urge everyone to take a look at these smaller streaming services. MUBI features a great curated selection of independent, classic, and foreign films. It’s this last category where they bring in movies that you really don’t get a chance to see anywhere else. It’s still not easy in the U.S. to see the low-budget, independent, or experimental movies from other countries that push cinema as a whole forward.
Shudder picks up a lot of low-to-mid budget horror movies, but competes for these with streaming services that know there’s a solid audience for them. They can’t outbid a Netflix or Hulu for these, so their newer films can be a mix. What I’d really recommend them for is a selection of classic horror films that show the evolution of the genre spanning across decades.
There are also great options that aren’t featured this week. OVID TV has become one of the best and most interesting platforms for featuring documentaries made in recent years.
Most of these are relatively inexpensive, too. MUBI runs $11 a month, OVID is $7, Shudder is just $6, and each has some version of a free trial.
I’d also like to highlight Kanopy. Kanopy is free through many universities and public libraries. If yours takes part in the service, all you need to watch is a university log-in or your library card. It includes many new and classic movies, the library of A24, a portion of the Criterion collection, the list goes on. They have a Directed by Women category that includes films as new as this year’s “Shiva Baby”, “Shadow in the Cloud”, and “Carmilla”, and films from recent years such as “The Assistant” (my pick for best film of 2020), “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, “The Farewell”, “Clemency”, “Lady Bird”, and “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”. The service’s focus on film history means they also boast films like Larisa Shepitko’s Soviet-era “The Ascent”, Ida Lupino’s 1953 thriller “The Hitch-Hiker”, even Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette-animated films from the 1920s. It’s an amazing resource across the board, and because Kanopy is designed to be used for academic services, it’s incredibly well-organized.
Take a look at these other services, because that’s where you’ll find so much that’s glossed over or skipped entirely on the more popular ones.
OK, that’s enough of my spiel, let’s get to this week’s new series and movies by women:
Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. (Disney+) showrunner Kourtney Kang
Lahela Kamealoha picks up the torch of Doogie Howser as a wunderkind starting her medical career while she’s still a child. The show takes place and is shot in Hawaii.
Showrunner Kourtney Kang has previously written and produced on “How I Met Your Mother” and “Fresh Off the Boat”, two of the best sitcoms of the last two decades.
You can watch “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” on Disney+.
On the Verge (Netflix) showrunner Julie Delpy
Julie Delpy, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Jones, and Alexia Landeau star as women facing midlife crises in L.A.
Showrunner Julie Delpy is best known as the star of the “Before Sunrise” trilogy opposite Ethan Hawke. She also became co-writer of the latter two in the series: “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”. Both earned Oscar nominations for their writing. Delpy has also written and directed a number of French, often multilingual films. This includes a nomination for France’s national film awards, the Cesars, for writing “2 Days in Paris”.
Pretty Hard Cases (Amazon) showrunners Tassie Cameron, Sherry White
Competing detectives from two different departments team up in a buddy comedy. The series comes from Canada. It also features a rare live-action role for Tara Strong, whose voice you’ve probably heard if you’ve even glanced at an animated series in the last decade. (One of her most recent roles was as Miss Minutes in “Loki”.)
Tassie Cameron and Sherry White have produced a number of Canadian shows together.
Leah is a girl who lives in a clergy house. Many are helped there throughout the day, but leave at night. That’s when she’s visited by a girl who appears to be an angel, but might not be all that she seems.
This is Ruth Platt’s third film as writer and director.
We see life in a rural Chinese village during the 1990s, recounted through the eyes of a 12-year-old. The film is a semi-autobiographical recounting of the last days of writer-director Li Dongmei’s mother.
One of the things I’ve been paying attention to lately is the content creation niche that’s dedicated to arguing why every project by women fails. I’m in a few “Star Trek” groups (shock) and one of the ‘analysts’ we regularly shake our heads at is Doomcock. Now first off, he should really get that checked out by a doctor. Secondly, he traffics in “inside rumors” and “sources” that he insists makes him a resource for prognosticating the future of shows.
He’s railed against newer “Star Trek” series by insisting they’ve turned their backs on the previous eras by focusing on inclusivity and diversity. Never mind the inclusivity and diversity of the entire canon. Hell, “The Next Generation” spent an episode discussing assisted suicide, followed up by an episode where Riker tries to save someone from conversion therapy. That was in 1992, the year before they launched a show where a Black commander, his best friend who’d changed genders, and a famed terrorist led “Deep Space Nine”. This was all unheard of in 90s TV; if anything, modern Trek could stand to push boundaries even more.
Where is this going? Doomcock (see a doctor!) and those like him rely on their “sources” to break news like “Star Trek: Discovery” getting canceled. It wasn’t; it would subsequently film its fourth season. His “sources” revealed that “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” would never even get to filming. It finished filming its first season in July. Nearly every rumor is complete fabrication, nearly every source unreliable to an historic degree. And yet…people still tune in because it feeds the narrative they want to hear – one that says shows about women, that prioritize women, that are made by women, and that focus on inclusivity, diversity, and intersectionalism are all doomed to failure. It feeds the thinking that these are things that are unsustainable in our culture, instead of the reality that we keep renewing them and getting more of these shows because there’s such an audience and hunger for them.
One of the biggest narratives this cottage industry of hate has been pushing this year is the failure of “Black Widow”. Why, it’s a $200 million film that’s only made $180 million domestic! Forget the pandemic, forget that it’s made around 75% more on Disney+. (Disney’s own figures put its opening weekend at $60 million on Disney+, in addition to the $80 million it made in theaters).
“Black Widow” is a film directed by Cate Shortland, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s second film centered on a woman protagonist and first directed solely by a woman (“Captain Marvel” was helmed by directing team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck). It has to be a failure. They cannot fathom or allow it to be interpreted as successful.
The reality is that “Black Widow” stands as the highest earning movie at the box office this year at $180.6 million. “F9: The Fast Saga” is second at $172.6 million, and “A Quiet Place Part II” is third at $160.1 million. Nothing else crests $100 million.
“Black Widow” very likely made at least another $140 million via streaming, which would make it more profitable than any of the three “Thor” movies that have been released. People like Doomcock (at least get some ointment!) make excuses for similarly expensive movies led by men – they came out during a pandemic, they have same-day streaming releases – while calling the most watched and highest earning movie of the year a failure. It must be in order to fit their narrative.
This happens in a year where Kate Herron directed every episode of “Loki”, Kari Skogland directed every episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, and Jac Schaeffer showran “WandaVision”, all three of them popular successes and media darlings.
We saw the same thing in 2020 with Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey”, the sixth highest earner all year, declared a failure. The results of films by men are given excuses, whereas films by women are held to a standard as if the pandemic isn’t even happening. Be in the top six and it’s a failure. Be the top performer and it’s a failure. Men get the contract to direct the sequel no matter how they perform. Women effectively get fired from the franchise. Leading a movie? Could you imagine Disney+ refusing to pay Chris Hemsworth? Meanwhile Scarlett Johansson has to sue to get half her pay in a film that outperformed all three of his.
On to this week:
King of Boys: The Return of the King (Netflix) showrunner Kemi Adetiba
“King of Boys” was a 2018 Nigerian political thriller about power struggles and corruption. It centers on a woman, Alhaja Eniola Salami (played by Sola Sobowale). The TV series continuation “King of Boys: The Return of the King” sees Salami return after 5 years of exile in a ruthless attempt to seize power.
Kemi Adetiba created, wrote, and directed both the movie and this new, seven-part limited series. She’s won numerous awards within Nigeria’s music video industry.
You can watch “King of Boys: Return of the King” on Netflix.
Really Love (Netflix) directed by Angel Kristi Williams
A Black painter tries to break through the art world in a rapidly gentrifying Washington, D.C. that’s less and less interested in Black art. He tries to balance this with his personal life, but he may not have the energy for both.
This is director and co-writer Angel Kristi Williams’s first feature film.