Girl Week: Underseen Films of the Decade

 

Remember 50 years ago when I was putting together underseen movies of the past decade and had to break it into several parts because I had too many? Well, that's still a work in progress but Dell's Girl Week has given me the motivation to keep on going. Here are a few of my favorite films from the past decade where it centers around a female character


Afternoon Delight - Kathryn Hahn plays a woman who heads to a strip club to spice up her marriage and ends up bringing home Mckenna (Juno Temple) to help nanny for her children after befriending her. Hahn and Temple are great and I thought it tackled that sexual slump that people can sometimes go through really honestly. 

Breathe (Respire) - Mélanie Laurent may be famous for what she does in front of the camera, but here she steps behind the camera and tells a story about two Parisian teenagers who become friends, then something more. It may not be the most original story but I thought it was a great film.


Columbus
- Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is more of a co-lead in this movie. While John Cho's story is what drives the film, it's Casey who changes everything. She plays an all too familiar young woman stuck in her home town and wanting something more. I really felt like I could relate with Casey and overall this is such a beautiful little film.


Christine
- This may not be underrated on Twitter, or in the blogosphere where we talk about Rebecca Hall being robbed of that Oscar nomination for this BUT if you haven't you should really see Christine. Based on a true story this is a very important film about mental health and how one woman unfortunately lost her battle with it. It's expertly acted and never feels exploitative of its real life subject.


We Are What We Are
- This follows two sisters who live out in the middle of nowhere with their father and younger brother. From the start, we know something is off. Are they super religious? What's their deal? This film reminds me a bit of Audition in execution. A very slow burn that eventually builds into something crazy.


White Bird in a Blizzard
- Shailene Woodley was that IT girl for a while, and this is one of my favorite performances of hers. She plays a girl whose life changes after her mother disappears. She didn't feel comfortable in her own home prior to this event, but afterwards she's forced to really take a good look at how she feels, and I felt this was a great way to showcase that inner turmoil and how traumatic events can cause you to reflect on everything that happened prior.

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Non English Shows

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is the one I dread every year because I do not watch enough TV shows that aren't in the English language. Since I don't re-use the same choices I have in past years (ie: all the anime I watch), please join me once again in reaching for the stars. And while we're here, let's make it GIRL WEEK too! All of my picks star women.

1) Unorthodox

HEAR ME OUT, the majority of this show was in Yiddish so I'm counting it. It's a wonderful four part mini series on Netflix that I highly recommend. Shira Haas is fantastic in it. 

2) Yashahime 

This is in Japanese and is the sequel to the first anime I ever got into, Inuyasha. It's funny, I tend to write my TMP posts in advance, usually in a rough draft that I clean up the night or so before, and I had written "Maybe I'll like this better by the time this is ready to post." Spoiler alert, I don't. The more I watch, the more annoyed I get. The new characters are interesting, but the way the story is being told is awful. 

3) Blackpink: Light Up The Sky

I know this is a documentary but since it aired on Netflix we can pretend its a TV documentary, right? RIGHT?! Yes, I know this is a major reach but I felt a bit like I was in the Josie in the Pussycats movie. You know that part where Josie puts on the cat ears, and the crowd mimics her? It was like I went in going "yes, I'm aware of Blackpink" to "Yes, now I love Blackpink." It was like I was hypnotized. These women were just not what I expected them to be and I just found them so endearing. Now I must buy all of their music.  




Girl Week: Underrated Animated Female Characters

 


It's that time of year again over at Dell on Movies - Girl Week! All week long, ladies have the focus. I always love making lists, as I've done a few times for this blogathon in the past, but this time I wanted to show some love for the animated girls. Here are a few underrated female characters from animated movies. 


Saoirse from Song of the Sea - I adore this movie and while Saoirse is silent for 98% of her time on screen, I really just enjoyed her presence She's a Selkie, so she can turn into a seal. While the film is mostly from her brother's point of view, we never lose sight of Saoirse's place in all of this. And her Selkie scenes are visually stunning.

Penny from The Rescuers - I feel like everyone prefers Rescuers: Down Under but I always had a soft spot for the original. Penny has it so rough and I think as a mostly sad child I felt like I could relate to her a lot. Even though she's in such an awful situation, she still finds the bright side of things and cares deeply about the animal friends she makes. You go, Penny.


Suzy from The Rugrats - In these past few years, Suzy has started to get the appreciation she deserved as the logical and sassy child in the Rugrats gang, but it took way too long for everyone to acknowledge how awesome she is. She was nice to the babies, she put Angelica in her place when need be, and she represented black girls on a cartoon with mostly white characters. I realize even more now how important that was, and how there should be more of it. 

Raven from Teen Titans - Teen Titans itself isn't "underrated" anymore, it's just that the version from the early aughts is rarely talked about. The newer, kiddier version Teen Titans Go! is huge now and WB has a live action version that's about to start its third season. But 2000's Raven? Absolutely love her. Her stories were always very interesting and she was easily the most powerful of the Titans. 

Ginger from As Told By Ginger - This show came on right when I was starting to age out of cartoons, but I was also the same age as Ginger was in her show, so I watched a bit of it and honestly, it was great. I was always too embarrassed to admit to my friends that I'd occasionally tune into episodes. (Though I found out later they all did too) but I felt like this was such a mature thing for Nickelodeon to do at the time and they tackled a lot of the same things I was going through at the time. I think it was the first time I really looked at an animated show and felt that way. 

Astrid from How To Train Your Dragon - I can't talk about animation without bringing HTTYD into it. I loved Astrid's entire journey. She started off as this overly determined kid who was very standoffish but became more open to other points of view and eventually Hiccup's #1 supporter, and now she's Chieftess. Plus I always loved that her weapon of choice was a warhammer. 

Nani from Lilo and Stich - I was going to avoid using Disney all together but Lilo and Stitch is pretty popular in my house and as a parent watching, I can't help but appreciate Nani, Lilo's older sister so much. While I don't believe her exact age is stated she's clearly in her early 20's at best and is working hard raising her little sister and has probably been doing so since she was a teenager. Obviously it takes a huge toll on her and she's forced to deal with CPS (AND aliens) It's just a lot for a young person to do and I have nothing but respect for her. 

Tell me who some of your favorite animated girls are. 

Review: Sound of Metal

Learn to be deaf.


Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is in a metal band with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) when he starts experiencing intermittent hearing loss. When he goes to a doctor, he finds his hearing at the 20% mark and a cochlear implant is 40k and not covered by insurance. Through his sponsor, he goes to see Joe (Paul Raci) a man who runs a program for deaf individuals. There, he teaches Ruben "how to be deaf" as he puts it, while Ruben comes to terms with his life completely changing.

I was lucky enough to see this early, it hits Amazon Prime in December and it's one I've been looking forward to since seeing the trailer. I've been a fan of Ahmed since he blew me away in The Night Of, and I knew he'd be wonderful here.

It's fitting that a film like this would be so quiet. It's somewhat of a slow burn, but I appreciated how the pacing did not lag when it came to Ruben working through his new way of life. They could've easily dragged out his acclimation, made him get angry and give up more than once, but they didn't. They keep a steady pace. They also touch on the very real rift within the deaf community about implants, which is something we don't see often.

Ahmed of course is wonderful but Paul Raci also really impressed me. He's not an actor I'm very familiar with but I was captivated by him on screen. Cooke doesn't have a lot to do, but you can see and feel how troubled she is by everything in her few short scenes. I liked her chemistry with Ahmed.

While the ending is somewhat predictable, and I personally wished it would've wrapped up one loose end that it didn't, I'm really looking forward to watching this again. It's very different from the other films I've seen this year. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Those moments of stillness, that's the kingdom of God" - Joe (Paul Raci)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies About Villains

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about the times where our protagonist is actually an antagonist. It's not easy to tell your story from the villain's POV, but here are three films that do it well.

1) American Psycho

I'm sure this one will be popular today, but how can you not go with Patrick Bateman? Sociopath extraordinaire and frequent fan of video tapes.

2) Pretty Persuasion

This one might be a bit obscure, but Evan Rachel Wood's Kimberly puts the Plastics to shame. What she does in this film is some high stakes teenage fuckery. 

3) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I love that Tim Burton went full gore with this musical. While it's easy to feel sympathy for Sweeney, the guy does murder a lot of people.

Review: Kajillionaire

 What's your share?


Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) and her parents, Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) have been scammers as long as she can remember. Stealing, haggling, trying to get by on the cheapest thing possible. That's their life. While doing an elaborate scam to get some insurance money, they happen across Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) who happily joins them on what she thinks will be a light hearted way to earn extra cash. But when Robert and Theresa start treating her very differently, Old Dolio starts to realize just how much love she's missed out on over the years.

Director Miranda July is a very interesting filmmaker. I loved her first feature, Me And You And Everyone We Know, but was far less impressed with her last, The Future. I'm happy to say that Kajillionaire is more in line with her first. I'm not even sure I'd call this "quirky" July's filmmaking is a bit beyond that. It's meticulously weird, but in a way that works. She showcases awkwardness in many different forms. 

Evan Rachel Wood is wonderful here. Many of her biggest acting moments are her simply observing and she says so much with her eyes. She speaks in a much lower register in this film than she naturally does, and it never sounds phony. Jenkins, Winger and Rodriguez are good as well. Normally I can get easily annoyed with characters who have a debt to pay, then frivolously spend on something else instead of paying said debt (which is 100% on me and just being careful with money) but I didn't feel that way here. The feel of this film was different enough to let it slide.

I will say, there is one thing that happens towards the end of the film, and I completely get WHY it happened. It's a great visual, but it was so illogical that both me and my husband were completely thrown off by it. I just could not suspend my disbelief enough for that to work. It reminded me a bit of how I felt about The Trial of the Chicago 7 honestly. One single scene I just hated in an otherwise great movie. It's not worth skipping because of it, but it might make you scratch your head.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "This is it. It's the big one." - Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood)

2020 Blind Spot Series: Jules & Jim

 

What I knew going in: That this was a popular French New Wave film

Jim (Henri Serre) a Frenchman is friends with Jules, (Oskar Werner) an Austrian living in Paris in the 1910's. They both fall in love with a woman named Catherine. (Jeanne Moreau) Catherine eventually marries Jules, and after WWI, the three meet again in Germany and Catherine starts falling in love with Jim. The film follows these three as they attempt to make a relationship work.

I picked this film as I wanted to see more work from director François Truffaut and this seemed like a fairly popular choice, but I have to admit I'm a bit perplexed after watching it. Jim and Jules together make a great pair of friends. Catherine is to put it blunty - kind of a flake, but I wouldn't say I disliked her character. I just found nearly every decision this trio makes to be kind of illogical and I never understood how these two guys would go to such lengths to keep Catherine. I also don't understand why Catherine even entertained some of these ideas in the first place. I won't go as far as to say these characters are underwritten, I'm just utterly unconvinced at their motives.

The film is shot beautifully and has moments I really enjoyed, but the climax felt like it came out of nowhere tone wise. I actually had to stop and rewind my DVD just to make sure what really happened, happened. 

Ultimately, this was just a bit weird. I still have a long ways to go with French New Wave and while there was much to appreciate here, I don't think this is a film I'll ever return to.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "I'm afraid she'll never be happy on this earth. She's a vision for all, perhaps not meant for any one man alone." Jim (Henri Serre)

Thursday Movie Picks: Favorite Cinematography


 This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves was a suggestion by me! I wanted to talk about female DP's because we never hear enough about them. We didn't even have the first Oscar nominated female DP until Rachel Morrison was honored for Mudbound in 2018. So here are three very beautiful films shot by women

1) The Neon Demon


Shot by Natasha Braier, say what you want about this movie's plot but there's no denying that this neon drenched film is beyond gorgeous. Braier shots this like the candy colored nightmare its mean to be. 

2) Black Panther


Shot by Rachel Morrison, while Mudbound earned her that first Oscar nomination, Black Panther should've been her second. It's the most beautifully shot of all the Marvel films. 

3) Water Lilies


Shot by Crystel Fournier, She was director Céline Sciamma's DP on her first three features and as I've mentioned before, Water Liles holds a special place in my heart. It's such a wonderful coming of age film with the final shot of it being one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

Review: Driveways

 An unlikely friendship.


Kathy (Hong Chau) has recently lost her sister and goes to another town to clean out her house. Unbeknownst to her, she became a hoarder in her life and Kathy has a ton of work cut out for her. Her young son, Cody (Lucas Jaye) comes with her and after a bad run in with some neighboring kids, forms a bond with the retiree next door, Del. (Brian Dennehy)

Think of it as Gran Torino, but without turning all the racism into comedic relief. This is a very quiet film anchored by the lead actors. There's nothing showy, though it's shot very beautifully. It also doesn't end in tragedy, which is someone unexpected in stories where a young person befriends an older one like this.

Hong Chau is a really interesting actress and I hope she continues to get a bunch of work. I really liked her character here. She's just trying to get through this, and do what's right for Cody. She's quick not to take shit from the micro-aggressions coming from her "new neighbors" and I really enjoyed her chemistry with Jaye and Dennehy. Jaye is a promising young talent in his own right and carries this movie well.

At 83 minutes, this is a very quick watch and while it may not be as exciting as other films out there, I think it's definitely worth your time.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Is my son bothering you?" - Kathy (Hong Chau) 

Review: Sorry We Missed You

 Be your "own" boss.


Ricky (Kris Hitchen) has just gotten a job as a delivery driver in the UK hoping it solves he and his family's financial woes. His wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) is a carer, and their two children Seb (Rhys Stone) and Liza Jae (Katie Procter) couldn't differ more academically. But the delivery job isn't what he expected it to be, and the added stress that comes with it leaves them worse off.

Director Ken Loach's last feature, I, Daniel Blake was the main reason I wanted to see this. That was a very hard hitting look at the lower working class in the UK, and Sorry We Missed You is no different. Ricky's family feels real. You might as well be watching a documentary, nothing about this feels artificial. If you've ever struggled with money, it can be a tough watch, but thankfully Loach isn't relentless with this content. There's a few laughs thrown in to break the tension.

What I appreciate most about this feature was the relationship between Ricky and Abbie. They're a couple that even though they're struggling and they do fight, they make a serious effort in truly listening to one another and talking about their problems. That's what sets this movie apart from others involving the same plot. It would be easy to write them with a ton of animosity for each other and to have them at each other's throats for the duration of the film, but I really enjoyed how much they attempted to hear each other out and work towards their shared goal. It's a rocky relationship, but one that has a strong foundation of love underneath and that's never lost on the viewer.

The actors were great. It reminded me a lot of how Katie Jarvis was in Fish Tank. That feel of someone plucked off the street and put into a film. It works so well.

The ending might be a bit off putting, I know my husband and I were split on it, but overall I thought this was a really solid film.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Nobody messes with my family." - Abbie (Debbie Honeywood)

Ranking HBO's Miniseries

 I think I'm going to make this a ~thing~ at my blog, ranking TV shows network by network. I already ranked the episodic TV shows on HBO here, but I wanted to separate the mini series just because I watch so much content on that channel. I'm also going to include the few Docuseries I've watched here as well, but I'm going to leave out Vice since that morphed into its own channel and I feel like the lines are so blurred content wise. So here we go, hopefully I don't forget something like last time.



The Pacific - This is one of the first mini series I remember watching on HBO and honestly I could not tell you a thing about it now. I remember thinking the actors were good, but it just didn't stick with me over time.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark - This documentary personally was just very hard to watch. I feel so deeply for the victims and I'm glad they got the chance to tell their story, but it wasn't an easy viewing, which is why it doesn't rank higher. It makes me sad that Michelle McNamara didn't live to see how all of this ended. 

McMillions - Despite this scam being all over the news at one point, I never bothered following it so seeing it all laid out as a series was good for me personally. I think they could've trimmed it down a bit more, but it was an engaging watch.

The Third Day - God, I'm torn on this. One one had the story WAS interesting but every character makes the dumbest mistakes possible in order for the plot to keep moving and they left a ton of questions unanswered at the end. But at the same time, I don't think I could've sat through more of this to get those answers. 

Mildred Pierce - I liked this, but after seeing the Joan Crawford version it really can't compare, even though I think Evan Rachel Wood is tremendous in it. The low ranking doesn't equal bad, I still think its good, but I just like others better.

The Jinx - I was wary to watch this for a while because the way Andrew Jarecki framed his doc before this, Capturing The Friedmans in a very bias way was slightly off putting, but I'm glad I gave this a shot. It was very informative and catching this asshole admitting to his crimes on his hot mic as something else. 

I Love You, Now Die - I think this might be the first time in true crime doc history that I went into a doc with one opinion and came out with another. Usually I go into these things blind, but this one I was familiar with and it made me realize just how much the media warped the story surrounding this case.

The Case Against Adnan Syed - This was another true crime series that was based on a popular Serial podcast, that I had never listened to. I thought it was really informative, but frustrating because this case really feels like it won't go anywhere.

I Know This Much Is True - Overall, this one is very good and features a career best from Mark Ruffalo but it's also sort of emotional torture porn, which is why it's in the middle. 

The Plot Against America - This was also a bit hard to watch because even though it was set during an alternate WWII, it felt like it could be happening now. I wish this series had gotten a bit more attention but it came out in the same year as Watchmen and it just couldn't compare.

Lovecraft Country* - This COULD end up as a regular series, but a second season hasn't been announced yet, and that's why I didn't include it on the regular series post, but I wanted to talk about it somewhere. While I don't think it quite stuck the landing (okay, I'm just bitter about Ruby) I loved this show. The costumes were gorgeous and the actors were excellent. Like Watchmen, I appreciate it amplifying black stories and talking about important parts in history (like the Tulsa Massacre) that are egregiously left out in a lot of American education. 

I May Destroy You* - Again this COULD end up as a regular series, but creator Michaela Coel says she has no plans to expand on it for now so I'm treating it as limited. I thought this was brilliant, I love Coel and even though this was about sexual assault, something I have a hard time watching in media, they framed it in a way that I didn't find overly triggering. I loved the characters, and I hope I see them again.

The Night Of - Side note, this has one of my favorite opening theme songs. This put Riz Ahmed on the map for me and was so well acted in interesting. The mystery aspect was engaging, but it's seeing what prison can do to a person that was the gut punch. I still think about the final shot of this show.

Sharp Objects - I'm a huge fan of Gillian Flynn and adapting Sharp Objects into a series was such a great choice. All the actors were great. As much as I love Amy Adams, she wasn't initially how I pictured Camille, but once I started watching it didn't matter. She was wonderful.

Watchmen - Yes, I'm still on that Watchmen high so this has to be my number one. This show always had an uphill battle. The Watchmen movie (unrelated) had mixed reviews and the first episode tells you right away it's going in a different direction but all of that is worth it. This is easily one of the most important shows HBO has ever done. 

Thursday Movie Picks: Bookish Films

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is bookish movies. I feel like this theme could go a few ways, but I'm interpreting it as films where books play a huge role to central characters. Here's what I came up with.

1) Matilda

Neglected Matilda's imagination comes to live when she reads. This is such a sweet movie and I've had a soft spot for it since I was a kid myself. 

2) Little Women

Jo March dreams of being a writer and I love how Greta Gerwig left Jo's romance subplot open to interpretation. Did it happen? Was that just Jo's imagination as she pitches her book? You can have it either way.

3) Stranger Than Fiction 

Even if Will Ferrell is not your cup of tea, you absolutely have to see this film about a man who wakes up one day hearing narration, and it turns out he's the lead in an author notorious for killing her main character's new book. It's lovely and I still cannot get over the moment where Harold gives Ana, his baker friend "flours." It's beautiful, damn it.

What I watched on TV in October

In a month where Halloween was essentially cancelled, at least I had my TV. Here's what I watched.


Lovecraft Country
- This show is amazing but that finale...I'm gonna need Ruby to be OKAY next season. (If there's a next season?) and I also need an explanation on why they framed Dee like a Bond villain at the end of it. Either way, this show hit it out of the park. Jig-a-Bobo and Rewind 1921 were tremendous episodes. 


The Sopranos
- I finished! I must be dumb because I did not see Tony killing Christopher coming at all. I expected Paulie and Chris to get into it and be the end of each other. I really didn't care for the focus going on AJ during the last few episodes. He was such an awful character and it felt like a nuisance. Bobby's death hit me the hardest in the final season. I don't care for the ending, but I knew it was going to end that way before I started, so at least I was prepared.


The Third Day
- This show should've been called "Poor choices: The mini-series." I'm at a weird place with this. it's simultaneously intriguing and frustrating. It's a good story, but the plot dictates that every single person must make at least 5 dumb as fuck decisions at any given time. The ending was satisfying for a few characters, but far too open ended for others. And I hate to single out a child actor but one of them was so bad in this that it was distracting. 


The Vow
- I was pretty positive about this documentary last month, but now that it's finished, I'm annoyed. At first I understood why there were so many episodes, but after watching the last two, which really hammer in the point of this hard, I realize they didn't need all of this. They could've made it more concise and now there's a season two on the horizon...why? What more can they possibly use as filler?


Fargo
- This season has been so underwhelming. It will be interesting for a few minutes, then goes right back to being boring. What a waste of a tremendous cast.


Unsolved Mysteries
- I'm happy they had more of these but their supernatural stories are such a bust...right? Those are always the least interesting to me.


The Undoing
- I'm already hooked on this, even though I was essentially screaming at my TV for Nicole Kidman's character to throw her husband under the bus.



The Mandalorian - Season 2 got off to an amazing start! JJ Abrams could learn a lot from this show on how they do subtle fan service, and not forced garbage like we got in TROS. I'm happy this is a weekly thing again.



The Haunting of Bly Manor - I binged this show in a few days and overall I really liked it, but episodes 6 and 7 almost made me wish I didn't start it. I absolutely hate when scenes repeat themselves. It gives me Vantage Point flashbacks. I think they could've explained themselves far better and in a far more concise way, but it doesn't ruin the series as a whole.