Concerning my favorite monthly content, May was all about female-driven bombshells, literally and figuratively: Hedy Lamarr, Agnès Varda, and The Handmaid's Tale. I don't know why I keep encountering these accidental themes; maybe I'm just a sucker for patterns?
What were some of your favorite films, television shows, web series, or podcasts from May? Let me know what you're looking forward to seeing in June!
As I've mentioned before, I'm a bit of a history geek, so I'm a sucker when it comes to biographical documentaries and biopics. When Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, written and directed by Alexandra Dean and produced by Susan Sarandon, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, I waited (impatiently) to view it, but I was so excited to finally watch it as a part of PBS' American Masters series last month. Safe to say, it was well worth the wait.
Bombshell delves deep into Hedy's life, including her six failed marriages, crippling methamphetamine addiction (no thanks to Dr. Feel Good), and mental health issues, but it does so from her perspective. Unlike her salacious biography Ecstasy and Me (1966), Bombshell focuses on Hedy's interviews with journalist Fleming Meeks with Forbes Magazine and personal accounts from the people who knew her best. Hedy's life was complicated, messy, and at times her behavior seemed to spiral out of control, but this documentary focuses on her story in a way that she would have wanted to tell it -- candidly and honestly.
Known internationally for her glamorous beauty, charm, and work as an actress during MGM's Golden Age, Hedy was also an inventor and innovator; her patent for a "Secret Communications System" or Spread Spectrum Technology with friend and composer George Antheil laid the groundwork for frequency hopping and the entire telecommunications industry. Without her, we may not have Bluetooth technology or WiFi today. Unfortunately for Hedy, the U.S. government revoked her patent, nearly erasing her contributions to STEM and WWII efforts from history, but still utilized the technology she engineered as early as the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She was slighted by the very country she felt compelled to protect and serve.
Too often, biographical documentaries sugar-coat or attempt to revise personal histories. Thankfully, Bombshell does not. Equal parts educational and entertaining, Bombshell documents the extraordinary life of a remarkable woman; it is bittersweet knowing that Hedy is gaining notoriety for her achievements so long after the fact.
The word "delightful" is one of my least favorite adjectives in the English dictionary. I don't know why; it's a perfectly fine word, but all I can think of is a villain with a lofty British accent using the word condescendingly and sarcastically. Oh, how delightful. I guess it's similar to how some people have an aversion to the word moist. However, as much as I hate to admit it, this film starring Agnès Varda and JR was utterly delightful.
While its premise is simple -- two artists embark on a road trip to make more art -- Faces Places follows Agnès and JR's budding friendship as they adventure across France in JR's photography and printing studio on wheels. JR learns from Agnès' 90 years worth of wisdom, and she sees the country, and its people, that have fascinated and captivated her throughout her life and work. They have mutual respect for each other and their crafts, sharing what they know and have learned along the way. Their chemistry is instantaneous and infectious, and if this film doesn't make smile at least once, you might be an android.
Where this documentary-style film truly shines, apart from Agnès and JR's adorable friendship, are the individual stories they cover through their art. Both artists excel at finding and revealing human stories, wether through film, photography, or street art, and they work well together to get subjects to open up to them and reveal a deeper story behind each image.
Again, Faces Places is based on such a simple concept but is so enjoyable to watch; I would watch this over and over again.
This is adorable. But honestly, if I ever had the opportunity to meet the mother of French New Wave cinema, I'd be pretty starry-eyed too.
If you have not seen the first season of this series, please DO NOT SKIP AHEAD TO THE SECOND SEASON!
Sorry for the sudden dramatic CAPSLOCK, but please start at the beginning of this series with season one if you're even remotely interested in watching The Handmaid's Tale. I would also highly recommend reading Margaret Atwood's novel from which the show takes its cues.
Okay, on to season two.
Personally, I was a little worried (read: skeptical) of a second season. The first season of The Handmaid's Tale, though at times incredibly painful to watch, was done so well. Elizabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel offer two standout performances, and the entire cast is excellent, but this season Ann Dowd's performance as Aunt Lydia has been both awe-inspiring and utterly terrifying. What The Handmaid's Tale gets right is not just the struggle of the handmaids against a Christian theonomic, totalitarian, and patriarchal society, but also the dynamics between the different classes of women. The Republic of Gilead is extreme and hyperbolic, but still, depressingly, relatable in our current political and cultural climate, making at all the more horrific and real. The Handmaid's Tale is visceral and will shock you, and that's the whole point of the series.
Only halfway through season two (the season finale airs July 11th), I don't know where this roller coaster ride is going, but I'm equal parts intrigued and terrified.