For any newbies out there, the first Tuesday of every month we like to share some of our favorite viewing selections from the month before. Here are some feminist-friendly films we enjoyed in February 2023…
Although this is a little late, it seems fitting to share these films in honor of Black History Month. These films have developed an appreciative audience in the years since they first played and are significant for being some of the earliest films ever directed by African-American women.
LOSING GROUND (TCM, Criterion Channel): This is a gem of independent filmmaking that in recent years has finally gotten the acclaim that it rightfully deserves. It’s notable for featuring a largely Black cast, at a time when minorities were rarely portrayed in cinema and for being one of the first American films directed by an African-American woman. It tells the story of a marriage between a college professor/academic and her artist husband who leave the city to spend the summer in upstate New York. Director and screenwriter Kathleen Collins fashions a story that captures the complexities of marriage and the conflicts that arise in even a happy partnership. Although it was ignored by distributors after playing at film festivals, the film eventually found an audience and its cultural significance was recognized by its induction into the National Film Registry.
THE WATERMELON WOMAN (TCM, HULU): Another excellent independent film directed by an African-American woman that’s also considered a classic of New Queer Cinema. This romcom is the story of a young woman with dreams of being a filmmaker who becomes obsessed with uncovering the history of a black actress from the 1930s who had been known for her portrayals of the stereotypical “mammy” often depicted in films from that era. During her research, she struggles to obtain information regarding the identity of the actress who had been known as the Watermelon Woman, her personal history so erased that it was as if she had never existed. The film explores themes regarding the importance of personal narratives, representation in art, and the complicated legacy of Black entertainers working in an industry that demeaned them and then rendered them invisible by erasing their history. This film also has the honor of being chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry.
WOMEN TALKING (in theaters): Wow, for the first time since maybe ever, I’m excited about two films nominated for the BEST PICTURE Oscar (instead of none). Since EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is also up for BEST DIRECTOR, however, I’m hoping WOMEN TALKING wins (alas, it was directed by Sarah Polley, who happens to be a woman, so naturally she didn’t make the cut.) This film should be mandatory for anybody who lives in a patriarchy (I’m pretty sure that includes all of planet Earth). Loosely inspired by a true story (that’s worth reading about), WOMEN TALKING uses an almost all female cast to illustrate the problematic reality for both men and women who grow up in a patriarchal society (i.e. pretty much all of planet earth.) What’s remarkable is that while it covers heavy topics from a wide variety of perspectives, it never feels preachy and is an utterly engaging film with unexpected moments of humor and levity to help the bitter medicine go down. One critic compared it to 12 ANGRY MEN only with women in a barn, and I’d have to agree, except that it’s also so much more.
TIME AFTER TIME (1979, Prime): I’ve recently been exploring H.G. Wells and thought it would be fun to revisit this oddball film to see how they captured the author who considered himself a feminist, despite many of his less than feminist-friendly perspectives. As such, I was pleased to see the spunky female love interest called him out on these very hypocrisies in a film that holds up remarkably well. Part time travel movie, part thriller and part rom-com, there’s something for everyone in this fun and deceptively charming film (that also features Jack the Ripper.)
BULL DURHAM (1988, HBO/Prime): Reviewing films for my next post on 1980s rom-coms, I was nervous to revisit this one as I had such fond memories of it. Fortunately, those have they not been tarnished. If anything, I appreciate the film even more now. Annie Savoy, brilliantly brought to life by Susan Sarandon, is a baseball enthusiast who tames the shrews of new ball players, teaching them to be better athletes, better lovers and better people. Nevertheless, she does so on her own terms, never forgetting to also look out for herself. The smart script and clever humor make this a rom-com by which to set a higher bar. You listening, Hollywood? More films like this one please.
Amy & Devi
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