First off, I recently took the opportunity to participate in Directed by Women’s year-long communal blogging initiative, and I encourage all of you to participate by writing your own reflection, 365 words or less, on a film (or short! Or episode of television!) directed by a woman in the 21st century which you deem to be crucial. You can message me with any questions about the process; if my imposter syndrome can make it through, anyone’s can. I want to read your work!
I wrote about Rama Burshtein’s crucial romcom The Wedding Plan. I love this movie, as everyone should.
Onward! More Than Blue, a remake of a Korean film I have not seen, is an honestly absurd story about two friends who are secretly in love with each other. When K learns that, like his deceased father, he has cancer, he decides to keep it a secret and get Cream married off to a nice guy so she’ll be taken care of when he’s gone. Look, I’m not recommending that anyone see this, but I will freely admit that it features gorgeous people crying a lot while wearing beautiful sweaters, and the night I saw it that was exactly what I needed.
Pulling up the IMDb page for The Crossing, I was astonished to see it was the first feature from writer/director Bai Xue. I hope this is the beginning of a long career. The Crossing is the story of a teen girl who lives in Shenzhen and goes to school in Hong Kong. There are a number of crossings at work in the film: from child to adulthood, daily back and forth through customs, and from a side hustle in phone cases and screen protector application to smuggling phones from Hong Kong to the mainland. It’s a strong debut, a woman-focused film with elements of noir, and a frankly terrifying scene when she needs to get a broken screen replaced. I can’t wait to see what Bai Xue does next.
I’ve talked a lot about Us in the real world, so here I’ll just highlight a few things: 1) nominate Lupita you cowards 2) also please create an award for choreographer/movement consultant Madeline Hollander 3) there are a lot of ideas here and seeing it a second time pays off, seeing how everything ties together 4) I will read every piece everyone writes about this movie forever.
French near-future disaster movie A Breath Away provides an unexpected argument in favor of upzoning. After an earthquake, Paris is filled with a heavy, poison gas. If you’re on the top floor, you will survive (for now, at least). The story centers on a family, separated parents who are still very close, caring for their teen daughter who has a respiratory disorder which requires her to live in a bubble. They make some bad decisions, or so it seems to me, a sworn victim living outside of the movie, but it was fascinating as non-Hollywood genre films often are.
It’s very French in terms of how characters relate to weapons, and there are a few scenes where you can imagine how different an American film handling the same premise might be. This film keeps the story intimate in both character and location. Bonus: it features Romain Duris in full-on hot dad mode.
Giant Little Ones is a small Canadian film about a boy who has an undefined sexual encounter with his best friend on his seventeenth birthday, and then tries to figure out what (if anything) it means. His father is played by Kyle MacLachlan, an absent parent who doesn’t want to be, and who’s later-in-life coming out adds another wrinkle to this complex story about sexuality. It’s also complex on gender – our lead has a close friend who is AFAB, but MOC and maybe trans. While some folks will probably be frustrated by the lack of firm conclusions on either point, I appreciated a more fluid story. A lot of people don’t have answers to those questions by seventeen. When I was seventeen, I didn’t even know there were questions! Anyway. Also, Kyle MacLachlan made me cry, damn him. He has a lovely scene reminiscent of Michael Stuhlbarg’s speech at the end of Call Me By Your Name, though of course MacLachlan’s character made a different choice.
I didn’t know I was seeing Transit until it happened, and my regret about that is I didn’t have a chance to rewatch Barbara & Phoenix ahead of time. Transit is the end of that loose trilogy, also a WWII story, but set loosely, eerily, fittingly, in present day Europe. Even the tech – or lack thereof – is unsettling; there are surveillance cameras, for example, but no cell phones. Georg is trying to get out of the country with the assistance of two dead men, and as we learn eventually, he’s not even telling his own story. It’s haunting.
For home viewing, obviously Shrill, which I’m delighted to report has been renewed, thank you Hulu.
Also, I tried Operator, which has been in my Netflix queue for ages. I added it for Martin Starr, but it turned out to be a movie about how he didn’t deserve to be married to Mae Whitman, and also where Cameron Esposito scared the shit out of him (this part was deserved). Opening the IMDb page now I’m actually annoyed all over again by the movie, this time by the framing: “Joe, a programmer and obsessive self-quantifier, and Emily, a budding comedy performer, are happily married until they decide to use one another in their work.” No. They’re in a codependent relationship until he asks her to provide the voice for an automated phone system, at which point he decides he prefers interacting with the AI of his wife rather than with his actual wife, and she uses improv to process this bullshit. Whitman was really great in it (and Esposito was a treat!), but Starr’s character needed a lot of therapy and less sympathy from the film.