Earlier this year gritty thriller “Destroyer” (2019) stormed onto the big screen, with all of its rage, vengeance and gusto. Surprisingly it failed to blow up, instead crashing and burning at the box office making only $5.5 million in comparison to its $9 million budget. We can only really guess at what exactly caused the film to flop, but poor distribution and weak marketing certainly played their roles. Despite gunning for those golden gongs, especially with Nicole Kidman’s central phenomenal transformative performance, it received barely any attention on the awards circuit, although it has to be said organisations like The Academy have never been known for their good taste in cinema.
With all of the Scrooges out there bashing “Last Christmas” (2019), it seems that it is important to remind people that feel good movies are something we all need. The flack “Last Christmas” is receiving is from Tarantino/Scorsese/Kubrick Film Bros (my assessment of the situation), who think that every movie needs to be riddled with piousness, plot points that make no sense, and toxic masculinity. So, when “Last Christmas” (2019) hit theaters, it certainly did not please this crowd.
When "Foxfire" came out in 1996, I was only one-year-old. While watching it only a few months ago, it became clear that Annette Haywood-Carter's drama exists in the dimension of exceptional productions. Those productions have a crucial influence on young women's lives. Meet Legs Sadovsky (Angelina Jolie). Nobody knows where she came from. Tomboy-ish looking, young woman is a mystery, especially to Maddy Wirtz (Hedy Burress). Maddy, a high school teenager, doesn't even know that Legs will change her life forever. After hearing about the teacher's sexual harassment, the mystery girl teaches Maddy, Rita (Jenny Lewis), Goldie (Jenny Shimizu), and Violet (Sarah Rosenberg) to stand up against abuse and fight for their rights as women.
François Ozon’s “8 Women” (2002) is a locked-house murder mystery whodunit with over the top caricatures who fling around accusations and burst into song. It’s ultra-theatrical and it’s brilliant. Based on Robert Thomas’s 1958 play “Huit Femmes”, the film is set in the 1950s in a snow-bound French manor far from help. As the family gathers for Christmas the patriarch Marcel (Dominique Lamure) is found murdered. Of course nobody can contact the police or get out through the snow. The murderer is amongst them and they need to figure out which one of them it is.
I think we can all agree that Hallmark-adjacent Christmas movies like “Love, Actually,” “The Holiday,” and most recently, “Last Christmas” were made with female audiences in mind, right? The romantic scenarios that would never happen play on the ladies’ heartstrings during the most festive time of year, the holidays. But, branding a piece of media this way comes at a cost, and that cost is reducing its value as a film. “Last Christmas” (dir. Paul Feig, written by the illustrious Emma Thompson) draws inspiration from the George Michael song of the same name. It centres on Kate (Emilia Clarke), a hot mess of a woman surviving, not thriving, in modern London. She works as an elf employee in a Christmas shop, hoping to someday make it as a performer at West End.
Over the years, genre cinema has had a lot of examples of crime dramas from the female perspective. We have had stellar examples further in the past like Kathryn Bigelow's sharp "Blue Steel" (1990) and F. Gary Gray's "Set It Off" (1996) and just recently, we had Lorene Scarafia's vibrant "Hustlers" (2019) and Andrea Berloff's problematic "The Kitchen" (2019). On the more ambitious side, we have had crime films that meld with other genres like Park Chan-wook's artistic "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" (2005), Carol Morley's "Out of Blue" (2018) and Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" (2012). In the case of Abner Pastoll's "A Good Woman Is Hard To Find" (2019), we have that perspective alongside other promising notions that make the film look great on paper. Firstly, it is a British film; and British cinema is well-known for their intensity within crime stories like James Watkins' "Eden Lake" (2008) and Daniel Barber's "Harry Brown" (2009).
A young girl has extraordinary skill in the defensive arts. She is independent, smart, humorous; in short, everything a mythic heroine should be. “Brave” (2012) captures the lush countryside of ancient Scotland in vibrant tones of green, brown and blue. We anticipate an epic journey for our heroine worthy of Joseph Campbell in the great tradition of Celtic folklore but are ultimately disappointed by a pedestrian plot that was clearly so much more at some point but has been reduced to clichés and confusion. At the heart of the film is the relationship between teenage Merida (Kelly MacDonald) and her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson). Like so many others in a Disney/Pixar production, Merida is a princess on the cusp of being married.
This is the female gaze like you’ve never seen it before. "Portrait"--a film set in Brittany, France in the 18th century--is a showcase of how the depths of insight and poignancy in a work of art comes as a result of the artist having a deep, loving, obsessive understanding of their subject. It is a film about two women on an island with hardly anyone else around them and the painfully, yet deliciously slow romance that materializes from a connection of their minds, bodies, and souls. The film is thematically rich and daring, yet never once seeks to shove a message or agenda down your throat; it’s a love story, plain and simple. Writer/director Céline Sciamma clearly isn’t interested in subverting history in an effort to appease the needs of a contemporary audience--yet in spite of that, this is a film brimming with human truths. It is reminiscent of the underpinnings and themes found Greek and Gothic literature and poetry. Tender, yet complex and multifaceted--this is in no way a political film, but rather, a subtle social commentary on the kinds of job opportunities available to women in the 18th century.
A social worker happens upon a trailer home. In it she finds a dead woman who has presumably overdosed; her body is surrounded by various pill bottles and a half-consumed NyQuil. The social worker explores the home and finds a young girl in a wooden chest. This is a chilling start to a tale which portrays grief and guilt in such an engaging and fresh way. Although flawed in structure, it succeeds in delivering the hysterical mother trope in ways which are fresh, exciting, and haunting. "The Deep Red" demonstrates, vividly, that some clichés deserve to be demolished and rebuilt; that in a more adventurous movie environment undercutting these tropes wouldn’t feel as fresh as it does here.