As Amy straddles two coasts and Devi merrily struggles to keep up with a highly intensive year-long fiction workshop, we’ve been remiss in keeping up with the blog the past few months but, dedicated as always to exploring feminism and storytelling that embraces it, we aim to resume a more regular posting schedule, ideally on alternating Tuesdays. Thanks for your patience!
Now, to kick things back off, here are some titles that have grabbed our attention of late—
Some back story on my picks for this month… An assignment for my fiction workshop, required that we deconstruct three novels that share a common thread with our own novels-in-progress to examine what we might learn from them. For my darkly comedic tale of a doomed romance, I chose Colin Higgins’ HAROLD AND MAUDE, Philippe Djian’s BETTY BLUE and Eric Segal’s LOVE STORY. All three have been adapted to film, but as I cannot in good conscience recommend LOVE STORY (the movie strips the female lead of all her agency and she already has too little in the book), I will replace it with one of my new favorite series of all time, based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel, THE END OF THE FxxxCKING WORLD, which my mentor recommended as another comparable story.
THE END OF THE FxxxCKING WORLD (series, Netflix): In the opening scenes, this does not seem like a feminist-friendly story. The male lead, believing himself to be a psychopath, decides he will kill the female lead who aggressively pursues him as a sexual partner. What ensues, however, is an ironically endearing, strangely romantic tale of two lost souls trapped in a hellish society in which abusive men are enabled and the affected women become victims and/or monsters, yet through love and friendship they regain their humanity. Now if only the rest of the world could do the same.
HAROLD & MAUDE (1971, free on Prime): My all-time favorite film centers around another unorthodox romance, this one between a young lost soul and a wise old soul, the former a 19-year-old boy and the latter an 80-year-old woman. Maude is my role model and religion offering invaluable advice about what it means to be human. I’ll go into more detail as to why in an upcoming post on Radical Comedies.
BETTY BLUE (1986, Prime): My second favorite film of all time, and one of the few films for which I think I might prefer the theatrical release to the director’s cut, Jean-Jacque Beineix’s stunning, moving film in either version depicts one of the most memorable male-female romances ever made. Darker in tone with lower lows juxtaposed with the wonderfully high highs, it’s still an uplifting and informative journey into what makes life worth living with an emphasis on art, passion and compassion. It also, for me, contains tone of cinema’s most romantic scenes ever, in which the male lead demonstrates his support and solidarity for his partner’s pain, a pain distinct to women, in a simple yet profoundly honest, sensitive and unselfish way.
There’s been a lot of controversy and press coverage recently about how Americans don’t want to return to work as the country starts to see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. These feminist- friendly films celebrate working women and also illustrate why so many Americans aren’t eager to return to the workplace.
ZOLA (2021, in select theaters/Prime): To describe ZOLA as one of the summer’s more interesting films is probably putting it mildly, but this cinematic depiction of a wild road trip featuring two strippers, a pimp, and a loser boyfriend is worth the ride. Director Janicza Bravo is celebrating the volatility of female friendship and “those moments in our lives where we found ourselves falling in love with other women really intensely.” The film is based on a series of tweets that resulted in the Rolling Stone article, “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted.” Yes, this film is based on actual events proving the old adage that fact truly is stranger than fiction.
WORKING GIRLS (1986 / Criterion DVD and Blu-ray): The world’s oldest profession deserves the same respect as other professions and the workers who toil in this industry should be treated with dignity and given the benefits of labor protections. This is the theme of the film based on a group of female sex workers working a shift in a NYC brothel who are forced to contend with johns, a greedy madam who doesn’t share fairly in the profits, and the conflict of keeping their work a secret from their partners. Indie director Lizzie Borden has crafted a thoughtful, feminist film that explores themes of capitalism, labor, racism, and equality, all the more revelatory given the film was released in 1986.
REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (2002, Amazon Prime/ Hulu): This film is noteworthy for a plethora of reasons not the least of which is it introduced movie audiences to the wonderfully talented America Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros, and this at a time when Latinas were woefully underrepresented in leading film roles. Director Patricia Cardoso tells a poignant story of the life of a second generation Mexican-American young woman who dreams of college, but finds herself working long hours for low pay in a factory to help support her family. The lead role of Ana is a great feminist role model who celebrates her voluptuous figure while working a shift at the factory in one of the most inspiring cinematic scenes of female empowerment in recent memory.
Back next Tuesday with Devi’s long overdue post on 1950s Sex Comedies…
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