Election Day is here at last, and as our team shared our respective selections for this month, it came as no surprise to discover we’ve been drawn to themes of accountability, female empowerment and cosmic justice—all things we here at BTB hope the majority of our fellow Americans likewise supports as the ballots pour in.
So, when you’re done voting, and need a break from the angst of reality, perhaps some of the following offerings may provide some welcome food for thought…
My titles definitely leaned towards stories of accountability this month, starting with a clever sleeper, streaming on Prime called, AN INSPECTOR CALLS (2015). Based on a play by J.B. Priestley, it centers around the interrogation of a wealthy family by a mysterious police inspector who gradually, and masterfully, reveals how each member’s own actions has contributed to the circumstances that have led to a woman’s death.
Still more disturbing on the accountability front, is the all too real story depicted in the chilling documentary WEINER (2016). This one centers around the aptly named former congressman Anthony Weiner during his doomed run for governor of New York disrupted by his penchant for texting unsolicited photos of his penis to non-consenting females, some of whom are underage to boot. A chilling portrait that reveals how narcissism and unchecked toxic masculinity are by no means partisan traits.
And cranking disturbing right on up to 11, I feel compelled to defend Ryan Murphy’s wrongly maligned and critically underappreciated Netflix series, RATCHET. Yes, it contains brutal and graphic depictions of horrific violence, so it’s not for the weak of stomach or heart. Nevertheless, not a single one of these depictions is gratuitous, each imposing great consequences for the characters and plot. Additionally, this series offers an ingenious back story to explain how yet another two-dimensional shrew of a female character from a lauded work of literature (and excellent film despite its unfortunate gender stereotypes) was only a monster because the patriarchy made her that way.
COMA (available On Demand/Prime): Doctor Susan Wheeler is a young woman completing her medical residency at a hospital in Boston who discovers a terrifying plot involving patients intentionally placed in comas following minor surgeries. The doctor is an appealing feminist heroine forced to expose a corrupt medical system only concerned with profit to protect the lives of unsuspecting patients. The film is chillingly topical and relevant.
MARIE ANTOINETTE (available On Demand): A biopic of the doomed Queen of France. The film traces her life as a young bride from Austria up through her final days at the Palace of Versailles. It’s an evocative and compelling portrait of the misunderstood and unfairly vilified royal pawn caught up in historical events beyond her control. The film features a modern twist with lots of pop cultural references and never feels like a stuffy historical drama.
THE INVISIBLE MAN (available On Demand): This recently released horror film saw its theatrical release curtailed due to the pandemic. Elizabeth Moss is terrific as an abused woman who bravely escapes her violent and controlling lover. She must take matters into her own hands after he stages his death to look like a suicide and continues to stalk her as an invisible figure. An inspiring depiction of a woman who refuses to be a victim of domestic violence.
THE GOOD PLACE (available on Netflix): Selfish and amoral Eleanor Shellstrop has died and gone to The Good Place, a highly selective afterlife utopia. Realizing she has been put there by accident, after being mistaken for a lawyer that got someone off death row, Eleanor seeks the wisdom of moral philosophy professor Chidi Anagonye to help her become a better person and earn her spot in The Good Place. In the universe of THE GOOD PLACE, there is order to the universe, good deeds are rewarded, and evils (such as racism and misogyny) are unambiguously and rightly punished. THE GOOD PLACE is a reassuring interpretation of cosmic justice for the times, when it seems like such a thing no longer exists in our earthly realm.
GRACE AND FRANKIE (available on Netflix): Two senior women, Grace and Frankie, are forcibly brought together when their husbands leave them—for each other! Rather than passively take this huge life change, Grace and Frankie use it as an opportunity for self-discovery, new romantic ventures, and kicking ageism’s ass. In a pandemic and political climate that repeatedly tells us that the lives of those over 65 don’t matter (unless they are president), GRACE AND FRANKIE gives power to those individuals, especially older women.
FLEABAG (available on Amazon Prime): Phoebe Waller-Bridge presents us with a hilarious and sometimes tragic character study of a free-spirited woman (solely known as “Fleabag”) recovering from trauma and family issues. Like THE GOOD PLACE and GRACE AND FRANKIE, FLEABAG shows that people are capable of change and improvement, even if that process is extremely painful. Season 2 is especially a masterpiece—it made it onto Barack Obama’s favorites list!
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