January Roundup

Black and white image of a woman with dark hair styled into a bob applying thick dark eyeliner. She is wearing a horizontally striped top. Behind her is patterned wallpaper and a poster of Margaret Atwood dressed as Madonna.This was initially going to be an update on my resolutions but then I realised I wanted to do a roundup post for each month, too, and got freaked out at the thought of so many posts to write up. A few days later I thought ‘why not do both together?’, i.e. make the resolution update part of my roundup, so that’s what I did!

As it’s the first of this type of post, I’m still figuring out exactly how I want to format it and even what to call each section. I’m also the kind of person who feels the need to include every tiny little thing so figuring out what was relevant was tricky. OK, on to the post!

Bits and bobs or things that made me happy:

I’m going to start off with a selection of several different things that got me excited or made me happy in the movie world, this month.

-I told myself I wouldn’t watch any more trailers this year because I’ve been disappointed by amazing trailers for lacklustre films lately but the temptation is too great! Especially with two of my favourites from January: Suicide Squad and the second for Hail, Caesar!

A lot of people are disappointed by the way Harley has been presented in promos, etc., for the upcoming Suicide Squad film and, while I understand why, I still think the movie looks like it could be a whole lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it, with cautious optimism. Only time will tell, after all!

This second trailer for Hail, Caesar! left me in stitches. ‘Would that it twere so simple’.

-There’s not a lot to go on in the first look at the Wonder Woman film, set to be released in 2017, but I was really heartened by what Patty Jenkins (who is directing) had to say:

“The greatest thing about Wonder Woman is how good and kind and loving she is, yet none of that negates any of her power.”

It shows she really gets what Wonder Woman is about.

-I found this great review of Point Break (1991) that says basically everything I would want to about the movie.

-Apparently 2015 was the best year at the box office for Australian film in 14 years! Huzzah!

Favourite January watches:

An image from Before Sunrise of Julie Delpy, a white, blonde woman with Ethan Hawke a white man with brown hair, standing next to each other. I watched a lot of great movies in January (I watched a lot of movies, in general) so picking out a select few as favourites was tricky. The first new-to-me movie of the year was Before Sunrise (pictured above), which I’d been putting off thinking it would bore me. I couldn’t have been more wrong because it was incredibly charming and romantic. One of the best I watched in January. Speaking of romantic, I finally saw Brooklyn (pictured below) which was just lovely. It was both heartbreaking and joyful and I’m glad I finally got to see it. Saoirse Ronan is shaping up to be one of my favourite actresses.

An image from Brooklyn of three women looking in a mirror. The woman on the right is fixing the hair of the woman in the middle.Aside from some films that fit into the categories below (so I’ll talk about them there), my other two favourites were Mommy and The Two Faces of January. Mommy was the better of the two – Xavier Dolan is easily one of my favourite directors working now – but I can see myself re-watching The Two Faces of January a lot. I’m a sucker for period thrillers.

I only managed to see two films at the cinema (Brooklyn and The Hateful Eight), which is really disappointing. I have to ration my energy, these days, and that often means missing out on seeing movies.

Resolutions updates:

Watch more movies made by women.

An image of Jessica Chastain in Miss Julie. A redhead woman in a blue dress is standing by a grey door. She is visible from her shoulders up.Thanks to the pledge to watch 52 films directed by women in a year, I’ve been doing OK with this one. You can see the list of what I’ve watched so far here. I decided to include rewatches for the pledge but I still want to get to at least 52 new-to-me women-directed movies this year. I also decided writing about each of them on this blog was too much. (I talk about this a little more toward the end of this post).

A black and white image from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night of a young woman in a chador holding a cat.My two favourites were Miss Julie (top image), which I wrote about here, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (bottom image). I’m hoping to write a post about the latter, too, but I may need to watch it again, first. My overwhelming impression of it, though, is that it’s incredibly cool; I’m very much in the target audience. I was surprised by how much I liked The Nativity Story, considering biblical movies really aren’t my thing and I Could Never Be Your Woman was more enjoyable than most reviews lead me to believe it would be.

Watch more Australian films.

An image from BMX Bandits of three teenagers sitting in a cafe. The boy on the left wears a blue and white striped shirt, the girl in the middle is drinking flavoured milk and wears a light blue shirt and has very curly hair. The boy on the right is drinking milk from a carton and wearing a red shirt.Not doing quite as well with this one but I am making a more conscious effort. I managed to watch a couple that were on my list for years (and are also on my 30 by 30 list), so I’m happy with that. While I would say that, objectively, Ten Canoes and Balibo were the best, my favourite was BMX Bandits (pictured above). It was a whole lot of fun and silliness – two of my favourite things. Balibo was very difficult to watch and I just sobbed most of the way through, but it felt worth it.

I also watched Samson and Delilah, The Heartbreak Kid and Not Quite Hollywood (which is what inspired me to finally watch BMX Bandits).

Write (and read) more!

I feel like I’ve been reading more articles (but not blogs, books, etc.) but as I’ve never tried to track that before, it’s hard to tell.

I have been writing more but I don’t know that I’m writing any better. Any writing I can manage to do at all right now is a huge accomplishment, to be honest. So while I am writing more, and I’m proud to be writing anything, I’m not particularly happy with the finished results.

I’ve decided that I won’t write about each of the 52 Films by Women here, after all, as dashing off so many posts has meant that I don’t have the time to work on thoughtful, well crafted ones like I want to. I know some people are capable of creating beautiful writing in a short space of time but with health issues I find it difficult.

I’ll keep writing my short off the cuff reviews on letterboxd but keep the blog for writing about the films I feel more strongly toward (for now). I think some shorter posts in between will be a good idea, but it’s a work in progress. (Speaking of works in progress, I’m aiming to make my blog more accessible by writing image descriptions, changing font colours, etc., but it’s taking up huge amounts of my energy so, again, baby steps).

January reading recommendations:

To finish off, here’s some recommended reading, including news you may have missed as well as articles, reviews, etc. A lot of them are to do with (the lack of) diversity at the Oscars. I actually don’t care about the Oscars, but because it’s such a huge cultural event that is important to many, I still believe it’s important that it represents all people.

A Year With Women: What I Learned Only Watching Films Directed by Women in 2015 at Cinema Fanatic

50 Films by Women You Can Watch Online Right Now at Flavorwire

Film HERstory: 60+ Classic Films Directed by Women (and Where You Can Watch Them) at Nitrate Diva

Radha Mitchell: Back in Oz for female-led Looking for Grace at The Screen Blog

Meet Alice Guy-Blaché: The First Female Director at Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

‘Carol’ and Ineffable Queerness of Being at Bitch Flicks

How Xavier Dolan’s soundtracks made it cool to be uncool at Dazed

Yes, You Should Be Mad About the Oscars at Birth. Movies. Death.

The Academy Proves that Oscars are Only for White People, Again at The Huffington Post

Oscar Diversity: It’s been 54 years since a Latina took home an Academy Award at Los Angeles Times

Gina Rodriguez Shines a Spotlight on Latinx Talent with #MovementMondays at The Mary Sue

Academy Takes Historic Action to Increase Diversity at Oscars.org

‘Birth of a Nation’: The Slave-Revolt Movie That Will Have Sundance Talking at The Hollywood Reporter

Sundance: ‘Birth of a Nation’ Lands at Fox Searchlight in Record $17.5 Million Deal at Variety

 

(Header image from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, edited by me).

 

Directed &/or written by women, February 2016

To follow on from last month, here’s the releases for February (Australian release dates) that are directed &/or written by women. (Including co-directed and co-written).

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Films directed/co-directed by a woman opening in February 2016:

The 33 directed by Patricia Riggen, release date 4th of February 2016

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict directed (& co-written) by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, release date 18th of Febraury 2016

Sherpa written and directed by Jennifer Peedom, release date 25th of February 2016

One-off screenings

Love is All directed by Kim Longinotto, showing at Mercury Sunday Sessions of the 14th of February 2016

Another Country directed by Molly Reynolds, showing at Mercury Sunday Sessions on the 28th of February 2016

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Films written/co-written by a woman opening in February 2016:

How to be Single co-written by Dana Fox and Abby Kohn (directed by Christian Ritter), release date 18th of February 2016

Son of Saul co-written by Clara Royer, release date 25th of February 2016

One-off screenings

Man Up written by Tess Morris (directed by Ben Palmer), showing at Mercury Sunday Sessions on the 14th of February 2016

Rangle River co-written by Elsa Chauvel (directed by Clarence C. Badger) showing as part of Cinematheque’s Ranch Nights (you need at least a four session pass for these films)

How-To-Be-Single-Movie-Poster

Check below for where the films are screening:

Palace Nova; Hoyts; Wallis; Greater Union; Capri Theatre; Odeon Star; The Regal Theatre/Trak Cinemas.

Once again, I’ve mostly checked Adelaide cinemas – sometimes other states get different films, so apologies if I’ve missed anything. If anyone wants to help me out with screenings from other states, including festivals, I’d really appreciate any suggestions to add! Also, I’m not sure if it’s necessary to include written/co-written films for the Cinematheque sessions.

 

Designer Spotlight: Colleen Atwood

Picture heavy post.

Time for the (very overdue) second post in my designer spotlight series! This time I am focusing on Colleen Atwood. It was hard not to just post costumes from all the Tim Burton films she’s worked on, because their collaborations are always stunning, but I managed to pick just two Burton films for this post. I’ve mostly looked at one costume per film to keep it brief(ish). This post will be just as picture heavy, but may be a little lighter on text than the last one as I’m very tired today.

titleColleen Atwood, b. 1948 in Washington, has been working in movies since the early 1980s. She has been nominated eleven times for an Academy Award and has won three times, including for Chicago (2002), which is one of my personal favourites. Her filmography is extensive and includes many of my favourite film costume moments.

1ItW_04771ItW_00581ItW_0476I’m going to work backwards, chronologically, through the five films I’ve chosen, starting with Into the Woods. All of the costumes in Into the Woods are gorgeous and evocative but it’s no surprise that Little Red Riding Hood’s costume caught my eye the most. (I also love the wolf’s zoot suit, reminiscent of the wolves in Tex Avery cartoons). Red and light blue is one of my favourite colour combinations and the contrast between the puff-sleeved dress and cape is particularly striking (especially against the darkness of the woods). You can just see some of the details on the hood in the middle image, above, like the cutout designs and soft scalloping around the edge.

1ItW_05211ItW_0536I love the smocking and Peter Pan collar. It reminds me a lot of vintage little girls’ dresses from the 30s-50s, which I’ve always found to be very sweet and charming.

Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0183Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0172Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0170Next is Snow White and the Huntsman. While I adore the redesign of Snow White’s look into something quite practical, it’s Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who wears the most elaborate and fun costumes. I absolutely adore her wedding gown, with the skeletal-like cage around her shoulders. While the costume is undoubtedly beautiful, I like that it’s not soft as we usually think wedding gowns should be. It hints at Ravenna’s journey and nature that we see revealed. In an interview, Atwood says ‘there’s always an element of trapped death in her costumes, such as the skeletal cage around her shoulders in her wedding costume.’
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Miss Julie, 2014 (52 Films by Women #5)

Image of Jessica Chastain as Miss Julie sitting on Colin Farrell as John's lap. Miss Julie is a redhead woman in blue dress with a scoop neck. Colin Farrell is a dark-haired man wearing a tan waistcoat and white shirt. They are sitting on a chair in a 19th century kitchen in front of a lit stove.I’m falling a little behind on these write-ups but number 5 for 52 Films by Women was Miss Julie directed by Liv Ullmann. Miss Julie, based on the play by August Strindberg, takes place over the course of one night (Midsummer Night’s Eve), and has only three characters: the titular Miss Julie played by Jessica Chastain; John played by Colin Farrell and Kathleen played by Samantha Morton. This adaptation sees the story set in Ireland, rather than Sweden.

Movie still showing three people standing in a 19th century kitchen - the view shows a cabinet on the left, a doorway in the middle. The first person, a woman, is wearing a white apron and has her hands folded. The second person has her back to the camera, wearing a blue velvet jacket. The third man is wearing a waistcoat and white shirt, his hands behind his back.Class, power and social structures (and how they are changing) are explored through the emotional monologues of the three characters. The most interesting aspect is undoubtedly the raw and intense acting, and I think it will be too ‘slow’ for anyone not invested in that.

Movies like this can be hit or miss for me, but I found Miss Julie engaging because of the excellent performances from Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell and especially Jessica Chastain. It was emotionally draining just to watch Chastain’s performance – I can’t imagine what the experience would’ve been like for her, bringing up all that turmoil and agony. Even at the beginning when there is an almost playfulness (maybe) to her actions, her pain is quick to surface in between when we see tears come to her eyes.

I know pretty much nothing about the play (except what I’ve now read on Wikipedia), but that’s hardly surprising given my knowledge of theatre is limited to the musical variety. It does still have much of the feel of a stage play, rather than being cinematic, but that doesn’t bother me (mostly because of the performances, but also because that never bothers me much). I’ve seen it described as claustrophobic but it didn’t feel that way to me.

A closely cropped movie still showing Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain from the side. They both have their eyes closed and strands of hair hanging in their faces.The first thing that struck me, though, was the way it looked. The cinematography is quite static in contrast to the tumultuous emotions expressed by the characters. There are a lot of airy, beautifully lit shots. It’s just gorgeous to look at in general. I particularly liked when there was a mixture of colours on the actors’ faces – the blue of natural light from outside, mixed with the yellow of candlelight. You can see this in the photo above.

The quality of light in this film just kills me. It’s so clear. And it really does give the feeling of an airy house with huge windows letting in all that gorgeous natural light.

A close-up still of Jessica Chastain. Her shoulders and head are visible, and her red hair is pulled back with tendrils around her face. There is a shallow depth of field so only she is in focus.It may sound cliched and a little obvious as it’s said about many redheads, but there is something of a Pre-Raphaelite model about Chastain. That last shot of her definitely put me in mind of Millais’ Ophelia.

It’s quite different from most period dramas I’ve seen; it’s a heavy film and I did need some breaks but it’s definitely worth watching.

Screencaps from here.

The picture below contains a spoiler for the ending but the play was written over 100 years ago, so I’m including it. I wanted to show what I meant about the painting comparison.

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The Bling Ring/Om Shanti Om (52 Films by Women #3 and #4)

bling-ring

The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola, was the third film I watched for 52 Films by Women. I had meant to see The Bling Ring when it was out at the cinema as Sofia Coppola’s films have always interested me but I never got around to it. I love Coppola’s aesthetic(s) and the worlds she creates.

This is not a perfect film, but there’s so much to enjoy here that it overrides any flaws. The young cast is very good, particularly Katie Chang and Israel Broussard as Rebecca and Marc.

I was totally captivated by their escapades with and without the rest of the eponymous ‘Bling Ring’, and was a bit anxious waiting for them to get found out. It made me think of how easily I can get caught up in the cult of celebrity, myself. (Though definitely not to the same extent).

The Bling Ring is a stylish, fun film and I can definitely see myself revisiting it at some point. Maybe I’ll have a Sofia Coppola marathon, one day.

om-shanti-om1The fourth film I watched was Om Shanti Om, directed by Farah Khan. I haven’t seen many Bollywood films – I think this makes number 3 in total – but I’ve loved the ones I have seen including this.

Om Shanti Om is so infectious. I really got swept up by the songs and acting and sets. It’s very easy to become emotional when watching this.

Even without much frame of reference, I could tell that it both pays tribute to and pokes fun at the Bollywood industry, while it tells the epic tale of love, reincarnation and revenge.

I liked the whole cast but Deepika Padukone was particularly charming as both Shanti and Sandy. Shah Rukh Khan was very funny as Om, too.

It’s left me wanting to see many more Bollywood films! (Recommendations are welcome).