women in film

52 Films by Women: A Mid-Year Update

At the start of the year I pledged to watch 52 films directed by women. As it is now half way through the year I thought I’d check in and see how my viewing is going. I’m actually finding it kind of fun and interesting looking for films that are directed by women, Netflix is great for this and my list on Netflix is mainly made up of films with female directors. It’s also nice when I watch a film because it’s one I’ve been meaning to watch for a while or it features an actor I like and then when I’m looking it up on IMDb later on I discover it’s directed by a woman.

It’s been good to see that woman can and do direct all genres. I’ve watched comedies, family dramas, documentaries, sports movies, and crime films and they’ve all been directed by women. It goes to show that women can direct any genre as well as, if not sometimes better than, a man.

So here are the films I’ve watched in these first six months of 2016, those with links go to their review – I was intending to review all the films I watched for this challenge but that didn’t really work out.

– Point Break (1991) directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Whip It (2009) directed by Drew Barrymore
W.E. (2011) directed by Madonna
– A League of Their Own (1992) directed by Penny Marshall
– It’s Complicated (2009) directed by Nancy Meyers
– Green Street Hooligans (2005) directed by Lexi Alexander
The Hot Flashes (2013) directed by Susan Seidelman
Wadjda (2012) directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour
– It’s a Wonderful Afterlife (2010) directed by Gurinder Chadha
– You’ve Got Mail (1998) directed by Nora Ephron
– Laggies (2014) directed by Lynn Shelton
Speak (2004) directed by Jessica Sharzer
– D.E.B.S. (2004) directed by Angela Robinson
– The Hunters (2004) directed by Nisha Ganatra
– Lost in Translation (2003) directed Sofia Coppala
– Wayne’s World (1992) directed by Penelope Spheeris
– Bran Nue Dae (2009) directed by Rachel Perkins
– Advanced Style (2014) directed by Lina Pliolplyte
– American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) directed by Lynne Ramsay
Miss Representation (2011) directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Thick as Thieves (2009) directed by Mimi Leder
Second Coming (2014) directed by Debbie Tucker Green
Money Monster (2016) directed by Jodie Foster
– Josie and the Pussycats (2001) directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan
– The Decoy Bride (2011) directed by Sheree Folkson
– Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) directed by Susan Seidelman
– Obvious Child (2014) directed by Gillian Robespierre
Infinitely Polar Bear (2014) directed by Maya Forbes
Powder Room (2013) directed by M.J. Delaney

I’ve watched 30 films directed by women so far this year so I’m well on my way to my goal of 52 films. If you have any suggestions of female-directed films that you think I should watch do let me know. While I may not blog about the challenge much here, I keep a list on Letterboxd that I regularly update with the films directed by women I’ve watched.

REVIEW: Powder Room (2013)

powder room posterWhen Sam (Sheridan Smith) goes on a night out with her old college friends, she is forced to revaluate her life as her new best friends arrive in the club and threaten to ruin the façade she’s put on for her old, more successful friends.

The majority of Powder Room takes place in the women’s toilets of a nightclub, a place where there’s arguments, laughter and tears. Having it set in such a small place means characters are always bumping into each other and there’s secondary characters who appear as the film goes along and you see how their night turns out too.

There’s so many relatable characters and situations in Powder Room. Sam is trying to appear more successful than she is and hiding who she really is from her old college friend Michelle (Kate Nash) and her friend Jess (Oona Chaplin) who are both beautiful and have seemingly wonderful lives in Paris. Sam’s best friend Chanel (Jaime Winstone) is a man-eater, while Paige (Riann Steele) is worrying she’s become boring now she’s settled down with her boyfriend and Saskia (Sarah Hoare) just wants to have a laugh.

Powder Room is a lot of fun and it’s British comedy at its best. So many young women can watch it and recognise themselves or who they used to be, sneaking into nightclubs when you’re under eighteen or ending up spending more of the night in the toilets than on the dance floor. Perhaps most importantly, it’s funny and honest about what female friendship is really like – both the highs and the lows. 5/5.

REVIEW: Miss Representation (2011)

miss representation movie posterA documentary exploring the under-representation of women in media, especially in positions of power and influence in America.

Miss Representation is an accessible documentary for all ages. It has the opinions of teenagers, both male and female, as well as women and men from academia, the entertainment industry and politics. It’s a simple, a well-structured documentary but it is also exciting and empowering and the sort of film that can and should prompt important discussions.

The people involved in the documentary tell their own stories, there are many well-known people featured and their open and honest attitude towards the situation is refreshing. Women like Condoleeza Rice talk about often being the only woman in the room in the White House while Geena Davis and Jane Fonda talk about women in the film industry and how while a few tiny things have changed over the years, a lot of things haven’t and some aspects of the industry and how women are presented have gotten worse. It is often frustrating and upsetting viewing as you see how the media treats men and women so differently, especially in politics.

One of the great things about Miss Representation is that it also has some men talking about their experiences and how the media’s attitude to women has a negative on men and young boys. If all children see on TV is scantily clad women and women being treated as objects, then boys will grow up with an unhealthy attitude towards women. That being said, while it is important to look at the broader impact of how the media says women should look and act, the film never takes away from the social, political and emotional impact these images have on girls and their aspirations.

Miss Representation is an important film and while the current situation between women and the media may be bleak, it does offer hope for a better future. 5/5.

REVIEW: Wadjda (2012)

wadjdaWadjda (Waad Mohammed) enters her school’s Koran recitation competition to raise money so she can buy the bicycle that she wants, even though she’s told girls can’t ride bikes. As she puts her plan into action, she also has to cope with problems at home.

Wadjda is a beautifully shot film that shows the everyday life for a young Saudi girl. She still gets in trouble with her teacher for wearing converse with bright laces instead of sensible shoes and for her money making business of selling wristbands to her fellow students.

The relationship between Wadjda and her mother (Reem Abdullah) is one of the best mother/daughter relationships I’ve seen in film. They fight about Wadjda wanting a bicycle but they also laugh and sing as they make dinner together. Often Wadjda hears her mother and father (Sultan Al Assaf) fighting so she does what any child would do and try and sleep or turn her music up to drown it out.

Wadjda seems to be a bit of a lonely child as she doesn’t have any friends who are girls and her only friend is Abdullah (Abdullrahman Al Gohani), a boy she shouldn’t be playing with. Their friendship is interesting as they often fight but after saying that girls can’t ride a bike, he helps her to learn how to ride a bicycle and will listen to her talk. It’s definitely the sweet friendship between young children we have all experienced to some extent.

Wadjda is a simple and charming story, but through that story you get to see into the everyday lives of a society and culture that is often viewed as complicated and “other”. Through Wadjda you can gain an insight to Saudi Arabia and how the culture effects women of any age. Wadjda is also notable as it is the first full-length feature film shot entirely within Saudi Arabia and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al Mansour.

It’s the relationships that make Wadjda so great. That and the way it’s shot and edited makes it often feel more like a fly-on-the-wall documentary about an ordinary girl and her family makes Wadjda a very watchable film. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Hot Flashes (2013)

the hot flashesA group of middle-aged women, all former high-school basketball champions, come together to compete against the current high-school champions to raise money for a mobile breast cancer screening unit.

The Hot Flashes is a lot of fun. It’s got that mix of comedy and relatable characters that really pulls you in. It’s Beth’s (Brooke Shields) idea to put together a middle-aged basketball team and by doing so she discovers more about herself. Beth’s marriage doesn’t seem to be going great and her husband Laurence (Eric Roberts) is just waiting for her to get bored of this basketball team idea like she usually gets bored of everything else. Beth surprises herself and her family with how determined she is about this cause.

The bond between Beth’s team is what really drives the film. As usual in sports films, not all of them get on to begin with but over the course of the training and three matches against the high-school girls, they become really close and good friends. The team is made up of five very different women; Beth, Florine (Wanda Sykes) is running for Mayor and doesn’t think playing basketball would necessarily be good for her image, Ginger (Daryl Hannah) a car saleswoman who has been living with her roommate for 16 years, Roxie (Camryn Manheim) a tough biker who believes her husband is no longer interested in her, and Clementine (Virginia Madsen) a woman often shunned by the town for her promiscuity.

The basketball games are fast-paced and well edited so you never lose what’s happening even if you don’t know the rules of basketball. There’s also a great soundtrack full of high tempo songs that help pull you in and root for the team.

The Hot Flashes is built on the relationships between the women in this story – both good and bad. There’s Beth and her team, Beth and her teenage daughter Jocelyn (Charlotte Graham) who is on the high-school basketball team so there’s a rivalry between the two but they never stop caring about each other, and Jocelyn and Millie (Jessica Rothe), the most popular girl in school and on the basketball team.

The Hot Flashes is kind of cliché but that doesn’t make it any less fun or heartfelt. 5/5.

Thoughts on the A-Z Blogging Challenge – 2015 Edition

That’s another April over and I’ve completed the A-Z challenge for the second year in a row! This year was much more focused as it was all about women in film and I did my best to include women of colour and the more “older woman”. You can see all my posts by clicking here.

My most popular ones were B is for Cate Blanchett (possibly due to a discussion on actresses, fashion and the sorts of questions they’re asked on the red carpet in the comments) and L is for Lexi Alexander. Lexi Alexander herself actually came across the post and shared it with her thousands of Twitter followers and was very positive about it. She now follows me on Twitter and we talk about women and diversity in the media and it’s great!

Only today I got some hits on my blog which I’m pretty sure came about after someone googled “What’s so great about Rinko Kikuchi” I hope my post shed some light on how awesome she is.

I did my best to visit lots of other blogs and the start of the month I did well. Maybe I couldn’t check out blogs during the week due to work but on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I did visit a lot. Unfortunately the later half of April was quite busy for me so I didn’t visit as many blogs then. I did always reply to people’s comments on my posts and go and check out people’s blogs who’d commented on or liked one of my posts and returned the favour.

I’ve really enjoyed the A-Z in April Challenge this year. Some days I was quickly writing and posting a blog before the clock struck midnight but everyday I posted a blog when I should.

How did the challenge go for you?

S is for Marjane Satrapi

marjansatarpiMarjane Satrapi is a director and writer and has made four films so far.

The only film I’ve seen of hers so far is The Voices (2014) which is a dark horror comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick. I saw it a couple of months ago and I loved it. It’s seriously weird and funny and walks a fine line between being clever or offensive.

I recently bought the graphic novel Persepolis which she wrote and is about her early life and own experience in Iran during and after the Iranian revolution. I know nothing about the Iranian revolution so I think reading Persepolis would be a great way to learn more about it and at the same time I’d be reading a graphic novel that is critically acclaimed. Marjane Satrapi also directed the animated film adaptation of the book and it got nominated for an Oscar so once I’ve read it I’ll definitely be checking out the film.

I actually met Marjane Satrapi quite recently through my work. She was hilarious and such a nice, fun and happy person and seemed to really love her films and was happy to talk to the “little people” which made me like her instantly.

L is for Lexi Alexander

MV5BMTczNjQ5ODE1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODkzNDcwMg@@._V1_SX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Lexi Alexander is a director who’s directed a pretty great comic book adaptation in Punisher: War Zone (2008). I didn’t know that much about the character of Frank Castle/The Punisher when I’d watched it, I’d seen the other Punisher film from 2004 so had a basic understanding but that’s about it. Now I’m reading the current Punisher comic by Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads and feel that Lexi Alexander made a great film about a great character. I point to Punisher: War Zone when people say women can’t make superhero or action movies because it’s an obvious example that they can and those people are stupid.

The thing that has made me respect and like Lexi Alexander so much is that I’ve recently started to follow her on Twitter. I love how she talks about gender and race in Hollywood and the structure of Hollywood with institutions like the DGA which “normal people” wouldn’t know much about or how they work. I find her thoughts about piracy fascinating and what she thinks about women filmmakers in this industry that isn’t always helpful or kind to women is eye-opening. Her Twitter handle is @Lexialex and you should totally hit the follow button.

One of my film-watching goals this year was to watch more films written and/or directed by women so I’m definitely going to be checking out more of Lexi Alexander’s work over the next few months.

A is for Angelina Jolie

Angelina-Jolie-Critics-Choice-Awards-2015-Red-Carpet-Fashion-Atelier-Versace-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO-31I (like I’m sure many people did when the news first broke all those years ago) didn’t particularly like Angelina Jolie for breaking up Brad Pitt and Jenifer Aniston – but what do I know about what goes on in these people’s lives? It takes two to tango and some relationships aren’t destined to work out while others flourish. Angelina and Brad’s relationship is certainly flourishing and it’s great to see such a great family in Hollywood. I’ve grown up a bit now so no longer particularly care about celebrity gossip but it’s interesting to see how we as a society react to these types of stories.

I think the first film I ever saw Angelina Jolie in was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and boy was that some great casting?! I still have a soft spot for that film all these later.

Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy a few years ago was big news and recently it was announced she had also made the tough decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a preventative measure to make it less likely for her to get cancer. That must have been an incredibly difficult decision to make, one that affects her and her family. But it’s a decision that also brings light to cancer and the measures that can be taken to stop it.

I think her openness about both operations is commendable and the fact that she has gone through two big operations and changes while still acting and directing as well as being a wife and mother is admirable.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge – 2015 Edition

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0I’ve signed up for the A to Z in April Challenge! It will be my second year taking part and I’m really looking forward to it. The A to Z in April Challenge is when you post every day in April bar Sundays and since there is 26 days in April (when you minus the Sundays) and there’s 26 letters in the alphabet, each day corresponds with a letter of the alphabet. There’s still time to sign up for the challenge here.

Last year I had a lot more free time (I was at University and only have six hours of classes a week) but there was no clear theme – though a lot of my posts were about films or books.

This year I’m going to have a theme! The theme brings together two things that are very important to me – films and feminism. So this year, each day/letter will be dedicated to a woman in film who’s either first name or surname begins with that letter. The women may be actresses, directors, musicians who have worked in film or something else I haven’t thought of yet – though most of them will probably be actresses.

These will be my favourite women in film and while there will be some women whose name begins with the same letter that I love that I’ll have to leave out – I will give out honourable mentions and don’t think I hate one woman because I chose another one instead. Also, I know no one’s perfect and I’m sure if you go back far enough in these women’s history they may have said or done something that’s questionable or possibly offensive – they are human so I’m not going to put them on a pedestal. I’ve already started planning my posts (I hope to have at least ten written before the 1st April) and it’s already really hard to figure out who I’m going to write about.

I hope to feature a diverse group of women of different ages and different backgrounds so if that sounds like something you’d enjoy please come back to check out my blog during the month of April. It’s going to be a crazy month but I’m looking forward to it.