In the midst of some momentous historical changes here in the UK, and across the vast European continent (and the world) I am in such a hurry to re-focus our attention to film. The following movies may not all be a bed of roses, what with fighting for rights, or gang territory. All directed by women. Here are 5 more essential motion picture experiences to aid your escapism from the current real world developments.
Suffragette (2015) – Sarah Gavron
There are already too few films about such important subjects in our history, attempting to shine a dimming light on the suffragette riots, women trying to secure their own voices to vote. And here we are a mere 100 years on and we are still trying to illuminate the equal rights by whatever means necessary in various arenas – like motion pictures with women directing them for example. Written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron then, Suffragette is one of the grittiest, most powerful films of the last year or so. An unflinching view of the struggles women had to mark their rightful place in the world. A bold cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, devour the historical content, doing justice to its meaning and intent. As Maud Watts, the superb Carey Mulligan gives blood, sweat, and tears, lighting up every single frame given its abundance of dark, dark moments. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
City of God (2003) – Kátia Lund
The Brazilian masterpiece, City of God, is, like Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiersand Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, one of the best films of its decade despite the fact that it is a feature that relies primarily on non-actors in primary roles. Its fractured realism structure, kinetic cinematography, editing and score make it an experience that totally immerses the viewer into the criminal atmosphere of Rio favela life. A major component to its artistic achievement was co-director, Kátia Lund, who supervised the crew, worked the rewrites, rode shotgun over the huge amateur cast and participated in the editing. She was hired as co-director by Fernando Meirelles based on her documentary experience in the favelas and a short film the two of them co-directed which was sort of a test-run before tackling the adaptation of the original novel. Yet, in true Hollywood style, she did not share the Best Director Oscar nomination with Meirelles and her name does not appear in the title sequence of the initial version released (by the Weinstein’s Miramax) to the world in 2003, a year after the film took Brazil by storm. Was this omission due to the Big Boys Club, the DGA, who have final say over who should be nominated for an Oscar? Maybe it was just sloppiness based on the Miramax title sequence? Whatever the reason, imagine the outcry if Jerome Robbins failed to receive a nod for West Side Story, Buck Henry ignored for Heaven Can Wait, or, God forbid, either of the Coens dropped from the credits (and nominations) for True Grit or No Country For Old Men. The error has since been corrected and Lund shares the Best Director awards from both the AFI and Washington Film Critics, among others, and is now officially acknowledged as co-director of the work in all circles. Meirelles went on to mainstream success with The Constant Gardener, but as for Lund, she eschewed Hollywood and has remained based in Brazil. Although thrilled by the film’s four Oscar nominations she did not attend the Oscar ceremony that year, despite receiving an invitation. – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) – Miranda July
Miranda July writes and directs a rather unique, yet engaging ensemble affair, the film ambles along at what feels like a random pace, delving deep into the insecurities and urges of its main characters. July (too playing a central part herself) loosely joins the bunch of misfits together through the story, colorful and often flippant, touching on the world of attraction and discovery from the points of view of both children and adults. The cross-over at times is offbeat and eye-widening, but intriguing and believable all the same. July offers casual, magnetic story threads, there is no real redeeming climax or plot twists, and these are by no means flaws of the film. Uncompromising, and awkwardly refreshing, see it with an open-mind, but make sure you do see it. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
27 Dresses (2008) – Anne Fletcher
I’ll go ahead and pre-empt my endorsement of a film like 27 Dresses by declaring the endless wave of formulaic romantic comedies don’t tend to rock my boat. Anne Fletcher, who appears to be a proficient rom-com pro, gives 27 Dresses a depth of emotion, non-more-so than the breakable bond between two sisters that goes much further back than any mere crush. Above all its merits, this is Katherine Heigl’s movie though, spent many years finding her feet in the movie industry (after a career-high in Grey’s Anatomy), she is well suited here, beautiful, charming, this is an endearing, assured performance, Heigl is an under-rated and under-used actress, proving here she has the talent to balance comic and dramatic acting. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Appropriate Behavior (2014) – Desiree Akhavan
Written, directed, and starring Desiree Akhavan, Appropriate Behavior is a hysterical comedy that examines the difficulties of trying to be more than one person all at the same time and failing for the most part across the board. Akhavan plays Shirin, a young woman in Brooklyn who tries to be both true to her bi-sexuality and her Persian mother, and she can’t seem to keep up both appearances. This leads to a series of comical yet unfortunate circumstances for Shirin, as she struggles to maintain a steady relationship with her girlfriend while keeping the relationship a secret from her conservative family who would never allow such a relationship. Real, sad and funny at the same time can be a hard act to keep going, but Akhavan does a fantastic job keeping all those plates spinning simultaneously. – – – Tim J. Krieg @FiveStarFlicks
Originally published in June 2016.