Last December on TCM Underground we showed two films by “The Queen of Underground Film,” Sarah Jacobson: her 27 minute b&w short film I Was a Teenage Serial Killer and her only feature film, 1998’s Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore. Both films totally blew my mind. The American Genre Film Archive, aka AGFA, recently put out a new 2K restoration of the films. Right now they are only available as DCP/Blu-ray for theatrical display, but I have been informed a home video release is coming in August.
Laura Terruso’s Fits and Starts was one of my favorite films out of the 2017 SXSW film festival. Unfortunately I don’t believe the film ever got a proper theatrical release, but thankfully if you have Amazon Prime you can stream it with your subscription. It’s a delightful romantic comedy that looks at both the struggles of creativity, balances in relationships, and how sometimes success is all about how your present yourself to others.
Valentine’s Day is coming up and thus many of us are in the mood for something romantic. I combed through Netflix and Amazon Prime to come up with a list of 14 romantic films directed by women that you can enjoy this holiday.
This is another film I first discovered during A Year With Women. It was recommended by several people and at the time was available on Netflix (it’s not streaming there anymore, but it is for rent on Amazon, Google Play, and more online video rental services). Later that year TCM aired it during its inaugural Trailblazing Women In Film celebration. It was scheduled to be added to Spotlight: Women Directors on FilmStruck with an introduction by Alicia Malone, however the service was closed before it got added. Last year, which was the 25th anniversary of its theatrical release (it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 1992), the film made the rounds of repertory theaters in the United States and the U.K. I’m hoping it’ll get a nice Blu-ray release sometime in the near future.
When I first heard about this film I was a bit hesitant to watch it, but it was released during A Year With Women and I felt it would be wrong to skip it. The reason for my hesitation was that it is a story about a man with bipolar disorder, and although it is based on the real-life childhood of writer/director Maya Forbes, I was afraid of how the character would be depicted. The last major film to feature a character with bipolar disorder was David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, and while I thought that Bradley Cooper did an excellent job portraying the disorder I felt like the tone of the film betrayed him. The worst theatrical experience I have ever had was watching that movie and seeing him do such a great job and being surrounded by people laughing at him. I didn’t feel like they were laughing with him. They were laughing at him. Which made me feel as if they were laughing at me as well. Seeing what Cooper did in that film was like watching myself. I have had bipolar disorder half of my life. I felt that Russell’s direction of the film betrayed the great work Cooper did and I was afraid that it would happen again. Thankfully, this was not the case. Not only did Mark Ruffalo do a great job in his portrayal of the disorder, but I felt like Forbes brought much more empathy to the character and in the tone of her film, while imbuing it with equal amounts of humor and pathos.
It’s a new year which means catching up on new releases held over from last year, new new-to-me films, and a whole new year of cinema! As it stands, I watched six holdovers from last year, three new 2019 films, and a handful of films that were new-to-me. I also binge-watched a new favorite television show. As always, you can see everything I watched after the cut, as well as some favorites.
Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk first came on my radar when I was doing A Year With Women, but I couldn’t find it for rent anywhere online so I didn’t watch it that year. Last year I found it at Videodrome here in Atlanta and I finally got to give it a go. I’m not sure what I expected, but this film was not like anything I’d seen before. It’s a masterful adult fairytale about the confusion of teengirldom and the darkness that can lurk in men. On the surface the film’s plot could sound like it is anti-sex, but that’s distinctly not the case. The film is based on Joyce Carol Oates’s 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, which itself was inspired by a real life serial killer Charles Schmid, known as The Pied Piper of Tucson because he targeted teenage girls. There will be some spoilers after the cut.
I decided for the month of January I’m going to stay in the 1980s for Female Filmmaker Friday, and since this film will be airing on TCM next Monday (1/21/19), I thought now would be the perfect time to look at Kathleen Collins’s groundbreaking independent feature Losing Ground. You can buy this film on DVD or Blu-ray (and I recommend purchasing directly from Milestone Film’s site so you can support their amazing work), which includes a bunch of special features, including her first film The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy (which I still need to see!). I first saw Losing Ground in 2015 during A Year With Women when it was aired as part of TCM’s inaugural Trailblazing Women spotlight. It has since become one of my favorite films.
For this week’s Female Filmmaker Friday I’ve chosen a film I first saw on TCM during A Year With Women, and that I have subsequently re-watched many, many times: Joan Micklin Silver’s Crossing Delancey. The film is based on a play by Susan Sandler, who also wrote the screenplay. Much like Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan, this film captures an era and place in New York City that no longer exists. Featuring a score by the Roches, much of the film takes place in the Lower East Side. This article does a great job of breaking down the changes that have happened in the last thirty years to that neighborhood. There be spoilers after the cut.
In 2014, I launched a series called Female Filmmaker Friday, where I wrote about a film directed by a woman almost every Friday for almost the entire year. This in part inspired my A Year With Women project where I only watched films directed or co-directed by women for the entirety of 2015. In 2016, Female Filmmaker Friday made a brief comeback as a podcast, though that was also short-lived. Finally, I am excited to announce that I will be bringing Female Filmmaker Friday back as a regular feature on this blog. For its auspicious return I have chosen one of my all-time favorites, one that has become far more readily available in the last few years: Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts.