2015 Women & Movies

Living in the southern half of the planet, the long hot summer holiday months give me time to process my year of movies – and hopefully highlight some titles that other women may have missed out on.  Usually, I try to pick just 10 of my favourite “women-interest” films to share, but couldn’t cut down my initial ‘longlist’ of 30-odd films into a ‘shortlist’ this year, and have ended up with random ramblings in no particular order.

Forced to pick just one of the 5-Star offerings to highlight on my front page, I have chosen one of the Academy Award nominations for the Best Foreign Language film category:

mustang“Mustang” from Turkey. 5-starindex
Five orphaned teenage sisters splash about on the beach with  male classmates – innocent childish fun at the end of the last day of school before summer break. A neighbor passing by, reports what she thinks is illicit behavior to the girls’ family. The family overreacts, imprisoning the girls inside the house, subjecting them to endless lessons in feminine roles as preparation for arranged marriages. As the eldest sisters are unwillingly married off, the younger ones plan escaping the same fate.

I could find few faults with this movie, the ensemble cast were stellar in their performances, the direction and camera work powerful, in getting across messages with minimal dialogue, and the love between the sisters was a joy to behold.

Trailer available on  YouTube

As for the rest of my 2015 Women’s movies list, see over the page…..MORE—>

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London Road (2015)

London Road 2015

Recommendation: A Must-Miss.

I would recommend avoiding this film about the 2006 Ipswich (Suffolk, UK) murders of five prostituted women, from the perspective of the residents of the street where it happened – London Road.

I understand that London Road was the main site of street prostitution in Ipswich, and the film opens with an explanation that the real words of the residents of London Road from interviews were used, of their reactions and how they were affected by the murders and the subsequent investigations, culminating in one of the residents of the street being charged and convicted of the murders.

The real words of this local community were used and put to music, (and not very good music either) along with poorly choreographed group routines. I did not realise that Musical was one of the genres listed for this film, along with Adventure. I mistakenly thought it would be a dramatised ‘true crime’ film.

Presumably the “adventure” component referred to the development of a London Road resident’s association, repetitive (and musical) statements about how distressing and upsetting it was to live next door to a murderer’s house with police tape cordoning off the road etc and seeking counselling for their distress.

This all culminated in a community celebration, developing a ‘London Road in Bloom’ garden competition, complete with speeches thanking the police for finally getting rid of the “girls”. One of the ‘pillars of the community’ stated that if she had the guts, she would shake the murderer’s hand to thank him for what he did.

Is it appropriate to celebrate and sing about the deaths of five young women?
Trivialising it down to an appalling level by turning it into a musical garden party.

Apart from being an insult to the women and their families, there is nothing to recommend this film in regard to acting, direction, scripting, the music or choreography. The best thing about it is that it seems to only be on limited cinema release, on the arthouse film and festival circuit.

For those who may be interested in learning about the 2006 Suffolk murders I would highly recommend watching BBC One’s 2010 three-part miniseries, dramatising the events from testimonies of those directly involved, and titled “Five Daughters”.

Good, Bad & Mad women-in-Crime: Women-in-Action (2)

This sub-collection, focuses on women as lead characters in crime/thriller films, both as the ‘Good’ cop detectives, or as the Bad or Mad (or both) villainesses.

From her first appearance in nineteenth-century novels, the female detective/sleuth has been enormously popular with women audiences, including an impressively large collection of lesbian crime-mystery stories.  In contrast to their Magical Amazon sisters, these women are not presented with having magical unique powers, but are women using their wits and intelligence as their primary assets, as well as having a focus in life beyond the boringly domestic.   The heroine is often presented as a successful, self-confident woman whose determined inquiries, intense curiousity, refusal to take No for an answer, and attention to detail, often outshines the work of professional (male) detectives.  Many of the most famous in pop-culture fiction are  spinsters ( Jane Marple), widows ( Jessica Fletcher),  very young (Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars),  or lesbians (Kate Delafield, Stoner McTavish).

One common theme in all these types of women is that their professional interests and romantic ones rarely compete for attention.   In other words – their minds are usually focussed on the job, and not entirely unhappy about it.  They are ‘Outsiders’ and do not seem to bear much conflict between ‘career’ and ‘womanhood’ as defined through a relationship with men. Possibly, as good as it gets for genuinely independent female role models in pop culture under male supremacy.  Like their Magical Amazon sisters, you don’t see these women behind a keyboard or a mop.  The large sub-set of lesbian crime fiction however, does usually  include more successful blending of career with romance, than main(male)stream versions do.  Possibly because for lesbians in romantic partnerships, conflicts between ‘work’ and ‘home’ is less problematic.

For women readers/viewers the popularity of violent crime fiction,  I suspect it is even more complex.  Julie Bindel once wrote on this topic at The Guardian “Many of the most gruesome crime thrillers are written by women – and lots of us love to read them too. What attracts us to these violent stories?” Continue reading

Magical Amazons: Women-In-Action (1)

This collection, includes female action heroines, where women leads take some action, from kick-butt, to crime sleuthing.  I must admit that like many other women, I have also loved TV shows and films with strong kick-butt women leads,  but as Mary Magoulick writes in “Frustrating Female Heroism: Mixed Messages in Xena, Nikita, and Buffy” that “In spite of their female characters’ strengths, these shows contain troubling and sexist messages in images and plot lines that neither advance nor celebrate feminism.”   Despite this — No matter how much misogyny,  (overt or covert) is actually present, many women adore films of this type.  Every generation seems to have a favourite of their youth, eg Buffy, Xena.

The loyal fandom amongst women represents to me, not watching “feminist” role models – but just a simple expression of ‘relief’ from the far more blatant In-Your-Face misogyny of our everyday lives, and the other 99.999% of sexist propaganda hate speech in populist-culture, and mainly arising from the natural desire of women to see women experiencing epic adventures and in any role but the traditional ones.

As one character said on a Wonder Woman episode:  “You’ll never see her,  behind a typewriter”.

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Rape Culture Films, or Men Behaving Badly

Man (sic) was once called the “Tool-Maker” species, (until they found other species make tools too) but is more like the “Tale-Teller”. We tell stories. But throughout known history, females have not been considered human, not part of the ‘Human Condition’, and our stories are rarely told without male censorship or manipulation. In this section, I use ‘rape-culture’ very loosely, to cover all normalised male-dominance culture, of both social cultural violence as well as physical violence varieties of Man’s Inhumanity to Woman.
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Women’s ‘Revenge’ Films

One of my favourite genres of all, films where women “return fire”, usually for rape/assault, but also for other forms of male violence-against-women, occasionally revenge for men’s betrayals in other forms, eg setting up women to take the fall for crimes. These films may, or may not, include female kick-butt action – but my group of favourite revenge-flicks refers mainly to those films where the main themes and storylines, revolve around women taking action against male abuse, (and ‘win’) regardless of any action/violence content.

I have several favourites in no particular order, but with a preference for the rarest of all – women’s ‘collective’ revenge films, in which several women band together and work-as-a-team or form vigilante groups. In these films, I am struck by the film’s representation of female solidarity and teamwork beyond friendship. Indeed, often the women do not like each other.

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