We’ve almost made it! 2020 will soon be behind us, and it’s time we each embark on a fresh new start—a common theme in storytelling and rightfully so. A compelling character is one who embarks on a journey striving to arrive at a better place from whence she’s begun—a good resolution for us all. To provide inspiration, and perhaps a few cautionary tales, here are some viewing recommendations featuring characters to help guide our way…
Perhaps the reason we’ve yet to see Dolly Parton in a superhero film is because she’s too busy playing one in real life, gifting books to underprivileged children around the world, financing a Covid vaccine to save the world and still finding time to rescue a small child from a speeding vehicle. To boot, she’s a damn fine entertainer as the following films attest. In 9 TO 5 (1980, Hulu), she conquers the dumb blonde stereotype by taking down her corrupt, demeaning, sexually harassing boss; in THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS (1982, Prime) she gives the hooker with a heart of gold a set of brains and ovaries to match, fighting for the rights and safety of sex workers, and in LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (2012, Prime)—a documentary about fellow legend Linda Ronstadt—Dolly joins forces with Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris to show us the beauty and power of sisterhood. So, why the hell are they limiting this enormous talent to made-for-TV holiday films? Where’s this generation’s 9 TO 5?
THE HOURS (2002, On Demand): The film tells the story of three women from different eras whose lives are connected and influenced by the Virginia Woolf novel, “Mrs Dalloway.” Nicole Kidman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the writer.
THE FAREWELL (2019, free on Prime): A young woman travels to China to say goodbye to her grandmother. Should the family tell her Grandmother that she is terminally ill with lung cancer? The film captures the turmoil that all families will inevitably face when confronted with such devastating news. THE FAREWELL is the debut of writer/director Lulu Wang.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017, On Demand): Feminist icon Billie Jean King takes on former tennis champion Bobby Riggs in the landmark tennis match that was a global sensation. In a win for the women’s movement, King emerges victorious, but off-the court, struggles with her marriage and sexuality. The film depicts the blatant discrimination that women faced in the professional world of tennis and how they fought back by establishing their own circuit tour. These brave women, led by King, became a force with which to be reckoned as serious athletes and activists.
THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (available on Netflix): A beautiful coming of age period drama about an orphaned chess prodigy and her struggle with drugs and alcohol as she rises to the top. Anya Taylor-Joy does a tremendous job playing heroine Beth Harmon, who is a beacon of strength and intellect, demons and all. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Harmon always has a sharp rebuttal for sexist remarks, the sharpest of which being her raw skill.
DISCLOSURE (available on Netflix): This amazing documentary follows the history of Hollywood’s portrayal of trans people, as told by trans actors, directors and other creative minds. Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Chaz Bono and many others discuss the nuances of this representation, and suggest where we can go from here.
THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON (available on Netflix): A gripping dramatization of the infamous O.J Simpson trial. The limited series skillfully captures the competing tensions of race, gender and class in the US criminal justice system. With the summer of 2020 fresh in our memories, this series reminds us that concerns about police brutality and misconduct are not new and lack resolution. It also shows us how the O.J. Simpson trial was a seminal moment in the public awareness of domestic violence, and in some ways laid the foundation for the #MeToo movement.
We’re gonna take a quick hiatus for the month of January, but we’ll be back on our regular weekly schedule starting on February 2nd. See you then! Happy New Year!
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