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52 Films By Women: January

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As an aspiring scriptwriter myself I have become more and more aware in recent years of the imbalance currently in cinema, from the moment a script begins to the day a film arrives in cinemas. So I decided to start making a conscious effort to watch more films either written or directed by women: be they new films or old, first-timers or rewatches.

Of course, I was not the first person to do this and the marvellous #52FilmsByWomen is already a big thing on Twitter. That’s the hashtag sorted already then!

Without further ado, then, here’s your list for the titles covered in January…

FIRST-TIMERS

In a World (Netflix UK), written and directed by Lake Bell

Lake Bell leads this delightful look into the world of voice-over work and that iconic trailer intro we all know and love. In In A World (2013), Bell plays Carol, the daughter of one of the most celebrated voice-over artists in the business who is trying to break into the industry herself. But far from encouraging her to follow in his footsteps, her father is determined that this is a man’s world, a man’s industry and he won’t have some silly woman coming in and ruining it, least of all his own daughter.

A funny, self-deprecating film about both living in the shadow of someone who doesn’t want to give up the limelight and owning your own voice, In A World is a real treat!

See also: Man Up (written by Tess Morris and starring Lake Bell and Simon Pegg)

 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Netflix UK), directed by Mira Nair

Alarmingly relevant in the current political climate, this film follows Changez (Riz Ahmed) as he struggles to cope with the racism and persecution he receives in a post 9/11 world due to how he looks and what he believes.

The film is really bold and daring and explores a sensitive subject . . . until the end lets it down. However, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is absolutely worth a watch, for the sheer bravery in the direction and the phenomenal work done by Ahmed and co-star Kate Hudson.

See also: Queen of Katwe or Monsoon Wedding (also directed by Mira Nair)

 

Punisher: War Zone (DVD), directed by Lexi Alexander

With the comic book violence so intense it almost makes Tarantino look tame, Lexi Alexander’s take on the Punisher story is explosive and fun, with a moral core that keeps our anti-hero moving forward.

Ray Stevenson is a marvellous Punisher, pulling off the tortured quiet of his character with apparent ease, while great support comes from the likes of Colin Salmon and Wayne Knight.

Dominic West’s Jigsaw is so utterly over-the-top ridiculous that the character switches frequently between funny and scary. Yet the ridiculousness of his character – and that of his brother ‘Loony Bin Jim’ – serves as a reminder to just suspend disbelief and go along for the ride.

And what a ride it is! The action shots are jaw-dropping in both their level of blood spatter and the precision with which they are executed. (A personal favourite is the move the Punisher manages to do with the assistance of a chandelier.)

Mad, violent. Riotous fun.

See also: well, I’d love to recommend another comic book movie directed or written by a woman but … well … the list is pretty short. You could always check out The Matrix (the first one only, obviously!)

 

REWATCHES

Point Break (DVD), directed by Kathryn Bigelow

A favourite for many film-fans of my generation, Point Break was one of those films I adored as a teenager (because, hello Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves!) and then grew to love even more as I got older and appreciated it for the genius it really is.

That this very testosterone-fuelled film is directed by a woman only makes it all the more brilliant, because it’s bold and unapologetic and doesn’t fit into any kind of pre-conceived notion of what a film directed by a woman is supposed to look like.

A story of bank robbery and surfing, Point Break is fun, intense, silly and dark. It’s beautifully shot: there is some stunning hand-held camera work for an intimate, on-foot chase scene alongside but also equally impressive skydives and surfing sequences. (Swayze does one of the jumps on camera himself!)

Reeves and Swayze are a phenomenal pairing on screen, their performances enhanced by the support of Gary Busey, Lori Petty and the rest of the ex-presidents, and the pace never lulls, blending humour with drama and tension.

Unlike so many action films of recent years, this film blends the action flawlessly with great characterisation, a plot filled with twists and turns (and some quality one-liners!) and the captivating vision of this very talented director.

And there’s just enough time left over to throw in a hint of cheese. Perfection.

See also: The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty (also directed by Bigelow)

 

Juno (DVD), written by Diablo Cody

Juno sees a teenage girl fall pregnant and decide to give the baby up for adoption rather than have an abortion. With the support of her friends and family, she navigates the challenges of pregnancy and the impending knowledge that she will be giving up her child.

The film quickly became a cult classic and it’s easy to see why. With a witty script, brilliant music and a plot that remained light and adorable whilst not overlooking the repercussions of teenage pregnancy, Juno was a fun and sweet delight with a quirky mix of comedy and sincerity.

The fantastic cast includes Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Michael Cera and J. K. Simmons.

See also: the brilliant ‘Tallulah’ (which can be found on Netflix). Tallulah reunites actresses Ellen Page and Allison Janney and is written and directed by Sian Heder.

 

Clueless (Netflix UK), written and directed by Amy Heckerling

Like, OK, this is something of a staple of my teen years, you know. It’s so NOT last season. Heckerling’s delightful tale is a joy from start to finish as Cher (Alicia Silverstone) navigates school, peer pressure, dating, friendship, her own prejudices and the constant cry of a makeover.

Superb one-liners, great comedic timing and a sincere sweetness combine to make this absolute 90s gem.

See also: Look Who’s Talking Too (also directed by Heckerling). Roseanne and Bruce Willis together as the voices of a young brother and sister makes for all-out hilarity. Plus, ya know, Travolta.

 

Tweet me your thoughts on the above or your own suggestions at @filmvsbook.

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