Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve been offering a list of viewing recommendations based on our prior month’s favorites, but I’ve decided to shake things up and now include both recommended films as well as disappointing ones to examine because I often sit through (and occasionally fail to sit through) even more that do not earn my admiration, and often we learn as much if not more from mistakes made as we do from successes.
CELIA (1988, streaming in Tubi, free with ads) Sadly, this one has just left Criterion where it was ad-free, but I’d argue this film merits the inconvenience. Written and directed by Ann Turner, I’m shocked this one flew under my radar. Featuring strong and memorable female characters, this film beautifully captures both the joys and horrors of childhood with a unique lens from cold war-era Australia.
JULES (2023, in theaters): Imagine a subtler, more intimate E.T. replacing the kids with Septuagenarians, and you’ll get an inkling of what to expect with this witty, heartfelt film starring Ben Kingsley, Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtin that reminds us a little kindness goes a long way.
BARBIE and BOTTOMS (2023, in theaters): I’m lumping these two together, because my take on each is similar. Both films are written and directed (or co-written and co-directed) by women (Greta Gerwig and Emma Selign respectively) who have previously made what I consider to be more feminist- friendly and smarter films. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see that both of these female-driven films have gained a wide audience and are generating pleasing discourse. Neither made my Highly Recommend list, however, as both also contain disappointing moments that seem counter-intuitive to the overall feminist-friendly viewpoint. In BARBIE, it’s a hoot when Barbie’s ridiculously high-arched feet go flat, the first sign that she is no longer the image of patriarchal female perfection. But lamentably thereafter she makes a similar stink about developing cellulite. While the high arches represent a manmade ideal, cellulite is all too natural, and by pairing the two as making a woman “lesser,” it merely perpetuates the same body-shaming it’s trying to denounce in its critique of patriarchy.
Similarly, in BOTTOMS, a cheerleader leaves her two-timing loser boyfriend for a female misfit in her high school, but when she learns her new paramour is likewise betraying her, she runs right back to the arms of her ex. In a film that’s purportedly about young women finding agency and community with each other, why does this character run to a man who mistreats her rather than simply remain independent?
There were several additional disappointments in each of these films, but I still enjoyed them and recommend both for entertainment purposes as well as excellent diving off points for group discussion.
THE FISHER KING: Damn. I remember loving this film when it came out in theaters, a fact that disturbs me to no end now that I’ve revisited it. The female characters are the worst kind of patriarchal stereotypes, concerned only in finding a male mate, no matter how ill-deserving he might be. Meanwhile, the men take for granted that these women are merely there to provide them comfort and stroke their egos (and their penises). Stalking is rewarded with romance, as is sexism and emotional abuse. But I suppose this should not come as such a big surprise After all, it was written a and directed by Terry Gilliam who essentially dismissed Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults as “the way it works in reality” and called the #Metoo movement a “witch hunt.” Shudder. It makes me scared to revisit BRAZIL.
Tune in next week for Amy’s October Picks…
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