Spring is here! The weather is changing, the vaccines are flowing and the movies are coming. This week’s new films are highlighted by two big swings (one certified miss and one ymmv). Last week we saw the Academy recognize two female directors in Best Director for the first time ever (Chloe Zhao for Nomadland & Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman).
So I wanted to spotlight four films from four female directors that most certainly didn’t get the eyeballs they deserved, outside of the critical bodies. It’s unfortunate that the first two films by established, canonized male directors will get a zillion streams while one more on the latter four films would be a win. Regardless, please watch them, they are very good films.
New or noteworthy…
Divisive director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, BvS) had to leave the DC team up film in 2016 due to the death of his daughter (amongst other feuds with Warner Bros). Joss Whedon took over, reshooting and rewriting—some estimate 75 percent—of the film. It was a critical disaster, and since then the internet clamored for the original vision of the film, dubbed The Snyder Cut. At four hours long, it feels like a wholly new film. A much darker and tonally serious one at that. With character arcs and stingers that no longer apply to where the DCEU has gone, it’s a relic of what could have been. Trailer. 242 mins. Watch on HBO Max.
Poor Tom Holland. He really puts in a dramatic performance as the titular protagonist, showing his range, shedding his boyish appeal. Unfortunately, Cherry, the latest from the Russo brothers (Avengers Endgame), is an overlong mess. The story of a poor kid turned army medic turned bank robber, all in the name of love, is wayward at best. It has flashes of Jarhead in the second act, but without any soul. It’s entertaining at times and the chemistry between Holland and Ciara Bravo is decent, but skip unless you’re a Tom Holland superfan or have nothing else. Trailer. 140 mins. Find it on Apple TV+.
Films by female directors…
My personal favorite of 2020 releases, is Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. A tale of brotherhood and survival in the Pacific Northwest frontier, it’s quiet and funny film, that stays with you longer than you’d expect. A critically heralded filmmaker for years, the film is the most “commercial” (if that can even be said) of Reichardt’s film, which also include Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy). Rotten Tomatoes isn’t everything, but she’s never had a film score below 85%. Watch more Kelly Reichardt films. Trailer. 142 mins. Watch on Showtime via Hulu or buy on Amazon Prime ($14.99).
Read David Sims’s piece at The Atlantic.
Some of you might know Karyn Kusama from Jennifer’s Body or The Invitation, but her 2020 release Destroyer was lost in the Oscar buzz of Parasite/1917 that year. The film features a burned out and desperate Nicole Kidman as a former-undercover cop looking to make violent amends on her past. It’s not magnus opus work from Kusama but it’s effective enough, gritty, and shows Kidman in a completely new light. Trailer. 123 mins. Stream it on Hulu.
A stunning debut for filmmaker Mati Diop, Atlantics is a genuinely cinematic trip. Gorgeously shot (by Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s DP Claire Mathon), it tells a story of young love, migration, and loss that’s all at once haunting and beautiful. For those subtitle-averse (in 2021, it’s wild that people still are), Atlantics is told mostly in Wolof (Senegalese). Trailer. 105 mins. Watch it on Netflix.
Read Monica Castillo’s piece at RogerEbert.com.
A quiet, heartbreaking family drama highlighted by two magnetic performances anchor Director Nia DaCosta’s debut Little Woods. As two sisters on the opposite spectrum of the drug trade in small town North Dakota, the duo are forced to reckon with their past when their mother dies. Gripping performances and incredible small-scale storytelling are why DaCosta has garnered bigger and bigger projects (2021’s Candyman and tbd Captain Marvel 2). Trailer. 105 mins. Check it out on Hulu.
Now that it’s out and people have started Falcon & Winter Soldier, it’s time to plug WandaVision. As much a creative experimentation as it is a Marvel plot vehicle, WandaVision follows Wanda (Elisabeth Olsen) and The Vision (Paul Bettany) as a goofy couple shown through various decades of stylistic TV. From I Love Lucy to Bewitched to Modern Family, the show fills in Marvel story gaps, introduces us to new characters (no spoilers!) and features a great supporting cast (Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Kathryn Hahn, etc.). Trailer. Eight Episodes. Watch on Disney+.
Shoutout Letterboxd for helping the film community keep track!
For last week’s recommendations, check it out here.