On August 15th, I made the pledge to watch 52 films directed by women in a year. It's now October 12th, and I've just completed my fifth movie. Now, math has never been my strong suit, but I think this means that I'm a bit behind.
Unfortunately, life has kind of gotten in the way of completing my challenge, but I'm hoping I can catch up in the next few weeks before NaNoWriMo dominates my November.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the films I've watched so far for the #52FilmsByWomen challenge and am excited to start researching for my next round of five films.
The Hurt Locker (2009) | Kathryn Bigelow
IMDb: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 98% | My Review: 4/5
Takeaways: Powerful performances by Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, excellent cinematography, deft leadership by Bigelow.
As an undergrad, my friends and I would always watch the Academy Awards, but it would usually be just a few of us hanging out in the basement common area (we were pretty sure it was haunted and chose to spend as little time as possible there). But in 2009 when Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for best director, there were a lot more of us transfixed to the T.V. than any other Oscar Sunday, and even more students joined us towards the end of the award show just to see who would win the statuette. There was an explosion of triumph in that creepy basement when Bigelow won and took to the stage to accept the award.
And seven years later, The Hurt Locker is still an excellent and incredibly relevant film. This movie is raw and unapologetic, and Bigelow's choice to focus on Staff Sergeant James' work instead of the geopolitical themes all too familiar in contemporary war films is a successful one.
The Piano (1993) | Jane Campion
IMDb: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 90% | My Review: 4.5/5
Takeaways: A unique vision for the genres, fantastic performances from the cast, especially Hunter and Paquin, dreamy soundtrack and score.
When I asked for suggestions for this challenge, the reoccurring answer was, "You've got to watch a Jane Campion movie!" I settled on The Piano, and I am very glad that I did. Although I'm not particularly drawn to melodramas or romance films, I felt that The Piano was a unique addition to these genres. This was a movie that left me questioning and thinking about it even days after, and I think that is a great testament to a filmmaker's abilities. Additionally, Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin were fantastic, and I could easily understand how they won their Academy Awards in 1993.
Shrek (2001) | Vicky Jenson
IMDb: 7.9/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 88% | My Review: 3.5/5
Takeaways: C'mon, it's Shrek! It's a fun and funny movie that everyone can enjoy.
The first two films by women I watched for this challenge were quite serious, so I wanted to go in the exact opposite for my third choice -- enter Shrek! Shrek is a fun movie with a lot of heart and actually has a great message. I have to admit that I haven't seen most of the other films in the Shrek franchise (There are four! With one more in the works! Plus spin-off series and a Broadway musical!), but it was fun to revisit this movie, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn through my research that it was co-directed by a woman to boot!
American Psycho (2000) | Mary Harron
IMDb: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 67% | My Review: 2/5
Takeaways: Christian Bale is a scary mofo. Don't ask for his opinion on business cards.
Of the five movies I've watched so far for this challenge, American Psycho was my least favorite. Christian Bale gives a hell of a performance, and I can appreciate the film for its style and its satire, but American Psycho was just not my cup of tea. If you've got a thing for gory amounts of ketchup-esque blood and Gordon Gecko, this is the movie for you.
Miss Representation (2011) | Jennifer Siebel Newsom
IMDb: 7.7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: N/A | My Review: 5/5
Takeaways: Thoughtful interviews with industry professionals and young women, well-researched, compelling message.
I wanted to watch a film in honor of International Day of the Girl, and even five years later this documentary is certainly as relevant as ever. Young people, particularly women, deserve to see themselves accurately and diversely portrayed in the media, and I think that Miss Representation is a documentary that should be shown widely and often for this very reason. This film is the comprehensive testament to the idea that the media can have both a positive and a negative effect on audiences, and how the media can encourage young people to pursue their passions instead of their expectations. "You can't be what you can't see."