Top TV Shows of 2018

There’s been some absolutely banging TV in 2018. From the new season of Doctor Who (come on Jodie!) to the emotionally turbulent Kiri on Channel 4, to binge-worthy Netflix originals like Home and Mindhunter, to the latest iteration of Queer Eye.

Better Call Saul Season 4

Not that they are comparable (though people really love comparing them), but Better Call Saul has surpassed the dizzying heights that Breaking Bad reached in it’s climactic seasons. Better Call Saul has been climbing higher and higher since it’s incarnation, but this season Vince Gilligan and the team have really stepped up the stakes.

There’s an effortless to Better Call Saul which is rarely seen in television programmes. Gilligan takes his time letting the story unfold, there’s no rush for events to happen or for the consequences of actions to take hold. One of the story arcs this season involved the building of Gus’ underground meth lab – something which could have been completed inside one episode. Yet Better Call Saul labours over the small details – the logistics, the manpower, how the workers will live etc. It makes mountains out of molehills and is divine for doing so.

Then there is the chemistry between Jimmy and Kim. You’d be hard pressed to find an opening scene which explains the relationship between two people than the split-screen ‘Somethin’ Stupid’ pre-credits sequence. My favourite part of season 4.

Killing Eve

BBC’s runaway success of this year is Killing Eve, the show that everyone couldn’t get enough of. As well as it’s biting sense of humour, Killing Eve was a nail bitingly tense and highly rewarding thriller. Even better – season 2 is coming in 2019.

Fresh from her magnum opus Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge created one of the most enticing, slick and darkly funny series to hit the BBC in years in the form of Killing Eve. With performances from the excellent Jodie Comer, Sandra Oh and Fiona Shaw, an incredible array of locations across Europe, and enough double crossing to keep us guessing for weeks – Killing Eve is the feminist masterpiece we’ve all been waiting for. I know I’m not the only one who was secretly hoping Villanelle and Eve were going to run off together into the sunset…

The only other thing to say about Killing Eve is that I bought a TV licence just so I could watch it and I have precisely zero regrets.

Wild Wild Country

As documentary series go, Wild Wild Country has to be the best of this year. A cult I had never before heard of, the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh were a fascinating and disturbing people to follow. Especially Sheelah.

A good documentary needs compelling and intriguing characters, and Ma Anand Sheela, right hand woman to cult leader extraordinaire Bhagwan, is exactly that. A woman of integrity, motivation and a desire to succeed – one never knows exactly what one is getting with Sheela. At times, she seems to be a reasonable person but the stories which filter through from other Rajneesh members tell a very different story.

A tale of clashing cultures, NIMBY-ism and obsession – Wild Wild Country weaves a riveting story throughout it’s arc. Never giving away anything too soon, directors Maclain and Chapman Way keep us guessing for most the season, only to completely floor us in the last few episodes.

Bojack Horseman S5

Every season of Bojack Horseman is brilliant, because… it’s Bojack. Always ready to give us some excellent commentary on celebrity culture, depression, addiction and relationships – season 5 is no different.

Yet, in a way, season 5 is very different to all those that came before. With the added layer of dialogue surrounding the #metoo movement (coincidentally the only show that has actually used #metoo as a jumping off point rather than a cheap storyline), Bojack slides slowly from someone we identify with to someone we might all be enabling.

The more we get to know Bojack, Mr Peanutbutter, Princess Carolyn, Todd and Diane, the more we begin to see more of ourselves in each one of them. How is it that the show about a cartoon horse has become the best representation and refraction of what it means to be human?

Homecoming

In her first move to television, Julia Roberts starred as Heidi Bergman in Sam Esmail’s new Amazon series – Homecoming. Esmail, best known as the brain’s behind Mr Robot (also Amazon), is similar tonally to his previous work yet tackles very different issues.

Set predominantly in the Homecoming facility where military personnel are seemingly recuperating on their return from war zones, Homecoming sets up an utterly compelling dialogue about PTSD, therapy and capitalism. Roberts’ Heidi was a counsellor at the Homecoming facility which we see through flashbacks, but is now struggling to come to terms with what it is she has been a part of.

The format is integral in making Homecoming as compelling a watch as it is. Half an hour episodes mean that it never overstays its welcome, the editing is snappy and the pace never lets up. Flitting between present day and the past (with subtle differences in frame sizing) keeps the tension throughout. Roberts is phenomenal, as is Stephan James and Bobby Cannavale.

Norsemen Season 2

This little known show is the only show about Vikings you need in your life right now. Or ever. Unlike an Amazon show of the aforementioned race, Norsemen is a comedy to end of all comedies – it’s Game of Thrones meets The Office, or some other similarly odd analogy.

Focusing on a small Viking town of Norheim in 790AD and the going’s on of the people who live there, Norsemen critiques and revels in Viking culture to wildly hilarious results. After the failings of Chieftain Orm in season 1, Arvid is now in charge and he has a lot of decisions to make. Mainly regarding his love life. Combined with the pillaging and the conflicts with other tribes (mainly the now no-handed Volk), life isn’t so easy for these Vikings.

The humour is subtle and nothing short of genius. My favourite moment of the season was Volk’s henchman checking his wrist (empty of any watch as it is 790AD after all) and then stating ‘I just like to look at my wrist when people are late’.

Special Mention: Inside Number 9 Live

Making live episodes of TV is becoming a bit of a ‘thing’ right now. Eastenders have done it, TOWIE have done it, even The Simpsons have given it a shot. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see Inside Number 9‘s live episode well… actually live, but I can only imagine it must have been even better than watching it via catchup.

It’s the most meta of meta, as introspective as it can possibly be – in a way that Inside Number 9 does better than any other show. The four series strong show has a way of pulling the proverbial rug out from underneath you every single time, and the live episode is no different. It does so in a way which also makes you question what it is exactly you are watching.

Starting with a seemingly run of the mill episode (an old man trying to return a lost mobile phone to its owner) suddenly becomes something altogether different. Several programming issue cards later (provided by BBC2) it’s not clear at all whether we are watching a live show or a complete digital meltdown complete with the ghosts of Granada studios. It’s basically brilliant. This is the best way to do a live episode – Pemberton and Shearsmith have done it again.

Top 6 Films of 2018

So here it is, another end of year list. 2018 has, by all accounts, been a wonderful year for film. For me, there’s been a fantastic spread of indie films – Shirkers, Apostasy, The Tale to name but a couple of my personal favourites. I’m not a fan of ranking films – it’s difficult to compare films which are remarkably different in subject matter, genre, style and substance and there is little point in comparing something like Shape of Water to the Avengers franchise. The films below are the ones which touched me the most in 2018, and are in no specific order.

So without further delay – here are my top six films of 2018 (yes I know it’s usually either 5 or 10 but I’m rebelling. Six is a nice number).

You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay

I’ve been in love with Lynne Ramsay’s film-making since I watched Morvern Callar about five years ago. I found it to be one of the greatest depictions of loneliness, isolation and then resounding hope that I had ever seen. Watching You Were Never Really Here is, in a way, an accompaniment to Morvern Callar – both Morvern and Joe are fundamentally alone in the world and in their own heads.

You Were Never Really Here is an unwavering and confident 90 minute rollercoaster guided by Joaquin Phoenix’s traumatised hit-man Joe – a man whose journey takes turns that neither he nor the audience is expecting. Ramsay’s film is violent and gory, but it never does show for the shock-factor. The violence portrayed is a reflection of Joe’s own mind as he tries to do the right thing.

Favourite Scene: The Lake

Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)

I went to see Leave No Trace almost by accident. The screening of the film I’d wanted to see was full (Apostasy – also a fantastic film), so instead of going home, I bought a ticket to see Leave No Trace instead. It was the best choice I made all year.

The story of Will (Thomasin McKenzie) and her father Tom (Ben Foster) is one wrapped up in the kindness of humans, the lasting effects of PTSD and the way our lives are so intrinsically entwined with nature even if we are not aware of it. Everything about Leave No Trace is perfect – the acting, dialogue, script, cinematography is all on point. Granik’s depiction of this small dysfunctional family trying to hold it together is sensitive and heartbreaking, but it also leaves the audience with something we all desperately need right now – hope.

Read my full review of Leave No Trace here.

The Rider (Chloe Zhao)

Striking a poignant chord between fact and fiction, Chloe Zhao’s The Rider tells the story of real-life cowboy Brady who is struggling to come to terms with his life after a devastating brain injury.

The Rider speaks at length about modern masculinity, friendship and what it means to have a dream. It is a very niche narrative – there’s probably few audiences who have been rising stars in the rodeo circuit – but the emotional gravitas here is something that feels universal.

For me, The Rider’s blend of fiction and fact made it such an interesting watch. It felt unpredictable within it’s own narrative, constantly keeping me guessing about Brady’s mental state and what exactly he would decide to do. It’s an utterly fulfilling ride.

Read my full review of The Rider here

Waru (Ainsley Gardner, Casey Kaa, Ranae Maihi, Awanui Smich-Pene, Briar Grace Smith, Paula Whetu Jones, Chelsea Winstanley, Katie Wolfe)

The premise of Waru, and the production behind it, is almost as intriguing as the film itself. Eight Maori women directors individually direct eight separate segments – all in real time – which depict the aftermath of a young child’s death due to neglect and abuse. From the schoolteacher who feels guilt for not noticing the abuse earlier, to funeral mourners – Waru is a deep dive into the effect that death has on a community, and those who are left to pick up the pieces.

Each segment is shot in real time, and in one shot, which makes the technical feat of Waru something that deserves to be watched on that basis alone. However, it’s not just the impressive cinematography that makes Waru feel accomplished – the characters are all incredibly well developed. We are introduced to new characters in each segment, and within a few minutes are already engaged their narrative and emotions.

With it’s realistic depiction of Maori culture to a vibrant conversation on abuse, there’s far more to say about Waru, but perhaps the only thing that needs to be said is: watch it.

Annihilation (Alex Garland)

Annihilation is the only film on this list that I’ve watched twice this year, and I am very close to watching it for a third time. With each re-watch, I notice more and more details that Garland has woven into the backgrounds of scenes, into the dialogue between characters. Annihilation is something to be re-discovered over and over again.

There are a seemingly insurmountable number of ways to read Annihilation. Is it a metaphor for cancer? Is it a take on climate change? Is it a commentary on our deepest desires, identity and the relationships in our lives? It is all of these, and more. Annihilation can read a simple sci-fi film – five brave adventurers exploring the source of a seemingly alien species – or it can be so much more.

Alex Garland has proved himself before with Ex Machina (also one of my favourite films), and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

Read my full review here.

*and a bonus number 6 film*

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Phantom Thread is like a fairy-tale. Girl meets (much older) man, they fall in love, man gets annoyed at how loudly girl eats breakfast, man loses his touch for creating beautiful dresses, girl poises man, man likes it, the end.

Much like the fabrics that Daniel Day Lewis’ Woodcock works with, Phantom Thread is exquisite. I was fortunate enough to see it on 60mm projection and every single frame felt alive. Between the gorgeous cinematography and Day Lewis’ and Vicky Krieps’ chemistry – Paul Thomas Anderson has made an instant classic. Phantom Thread is textured, layered and doused in a remarkable black humour that only Anderson can create onscreen.

It’s a film which captures something about the human psyche that so few other films ever manage to. We’ve all got our kinks, and we just need to find someone who can get down with them. Now, where are my mushrooms?

Femphile’s Alternative Academy Awards 2018

Hello!

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus (you may or may not have noticed) but I’m pleased to say I’m back baby! It’s been a weird month, finishing up at my last job and starting my new job this week but I am getting settled and really, it’s all quite exciting!

What is also exciting (depending on your definition of the word of course), is that tonight brings us the 90th Academy Awards. That’s 89 years of men winning Best Director, 90 years of male directors films winning Best Picture and 90 years of female artists, crew and actors being asked more about who they are wearing than about their craft, vision or talent.

Look, you probably know by now I am not the biggest fan of the Academy. The #metoo movement has blasted the doors wide open on the rampant sexism, abuse and horryfing attitudes of those whom the Academy pour endless praise on year after year (yes, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski I am looking at you). So I am not going to pretend that, to me, the Oscars are that big of a deal. The films nominated films for Best Picture barely measure up to what I would actually consider the best films of 2017/2018. Some are good, some are terrible and some are just existing somewhere in between.

What I’m aiming to do here, is to give you recommendations for other (sometimes better) films that you should watch if you’ve seen the Best Picture noms. They are films I have picked for various reasons – subject matter, narrative, visual style – but, for me, they are films which deserve to be seen just as much as the nominated films, if not more. So without further ado… Femphile’s Alternative Academy Awards begins below…!

 

If you liked LADYBIRD, watch PRINCESS CYD

Ladybird is one of my top contenders for Best Picture this year. Relatable, funny, sweet and sad – it’s Ladybird’s mother-daughter relationship that sealed the deal for me. As a first time director, Gerwig succeeds in certain places (authenticity, humour and her direction of both Soise Ronan and Laurie Metcalf), but I think Ladybird suffered from an odd pacing, and short sequences that never gave us a chance to properly get to know it’s characters. Still, it’s a film which we need right now, and one which seems to give an accurate voice to teenage girl experience.

Princess Cyd also came out in 2017, after boucning around the festival circuit, it has landed on Netflix. Directed and written by Stephen Cone, it’s the story of Cyd – a teenage girl who goes to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in Chicago. The film explores the generational gaps between Cyd and her aunt Miranda, the unresolved grief of losing Cyd’s mother, sexuality, gender and the trials of being a teenager. Though heavy in ‘issues’, Princess Cyd is a quiet and subtle film. Shot on film, and looking like a heady instagram filter throughout, Cone allows us to find our way through it – just as Cyd is finding herself. You’ll laugh and cry, and it will be no bad thing either way.

Princess Cyd

If you liked DUNKIRK or DARKEST HOUR, watch THEIR FINEST

I won’t lie to you, I have zero interest in either Dunkirk or Darkest Hour. Maybe that means I will have to revoke my cinephile license, or maybe it just means I have little time to waste on subjects that I have seen so many times before – either way, they are not my cup of tea.

What IS my cup of tea though, is Lone Scherfig’s WW2 drama Their Finest. Based on the novel, the film follows the misadventures of the UK’s Ministry of Information – Film Division team as they try to put together a morale raising epic about the Dunkirk evacuation. Protagonist Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is summoned to London to assist on writing scripts with the ministry as there are very few men left in the industry – most having been shipped off to war. Catrin, who is employed to write the women’s lines only to begin with, is headstrong, creative and becomes an absolute assett to the team. Amongst bombings, re-writes, heartbreak and a terrible American actor – Catrin perseveres It may not be the all-singing-all-dancing Dunkirk or star a heavily made-up Gary Oldman, but Their Finest draws from real events and gives a different perspective on WW2.

If you liked CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, watch LOVESONG

My personal favourite of the year, Call Me By Your Name doesn’t really need any recommendations to come afterwards. Just watch it on repeat and sob continuously to Surfjan Stevens. However, as the intention of this article is to give recommendations, I will give one anyway.

Lovesong is a 2016 indie, directed by So Yung Kim.  Starring Riley Keough and Jena Malone as two friends who go on an impromptu roadtrip, Lovesong is a sweet little film that gives more than I initially expected it to. Sarah (Keough) has a young daughter with her frequently absent, but successful husband. Annoyed and fustrated, she embarks on a roadtrip with her young daughter and her old college friend Mindy (Malone). Whilst at first they appear to just be friends, it soon becomes evident that the two of them have a complicated history. There are many stand-out moments in Lovesong, but it’s watching Mindy and Sarah ride the fairground ferris wheel in knowing silence which stands out the most. Beautifully shot, and with a soundtrack to match, it’s the perfect accompaniment to Call Me By Your Name.

If you liked GET OUT, watch RAW

It’s hard to pitch another film against Get Out. I’ve yet to see I can compare to it’s honest and brutal style, nor it’s phenomenal take-down of white supremacy and institutional racism. If there’s a film which deserves to win this year – it’s certainly got to be Get Out.

In the purest sense, Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2017) is right up there next to Get Out, for me. Tonally, and with the abject body horror concepts, Get Out and Raw share the same unique sense of storytelling, woven in with much bigger ideas about the society that we live in. In Raw, Ducournau explores the societal pressures on young women through the character of Justine, a former vegetarian who (upon tasting meat for the first time) gains a horrifying penchant for human flesh. Justine, and her older sister Alexia, both struggle to deal with their ‘illness’, and as much as they become a support for each other, they also become each other’s worst nightmare. Visually, Raw leaves a lasting impression (there’s plenty of gore to go around) but Ducournau’s message will stay with you for a while after switching it off.

If you liked PHANTOM THREAD

I watched Phantom Thread about three weeks ago and I am still not sure if a) I’ve fully recovered and b) whether I’ll ever truly understand it. It’s a unique film, which fits so well into Paul Thomas Anderson’s body of work, but it’s one which perhaps needs three or four viewings to get a complete handle on. If nothing else, it should certainly win best costume.

A hard film to pin down, it’s almost genreless, but if you are interesgted in the power dynamics between a sociopathic designer and his muse, then watch Dior and I. Inviting the audience behind the doors of the prestigious house of Christian Dior – director Federic  Tcheng centers the film on designer Raf Simons. Not only does Dior and I explore just what it takes to make a gown float aesthetically, or the tireless hours which the veteran seamstresses work, but also the power dynamics at play in an industry where hierarchy is of the upmost importance. If the fashion of Phantom Thread does it for you, then Dior and I will be the perfect accompaniment. Indeed if watching Reynolds obsess over his ideas on femininity, fashion and his craft – well Dior and I will certainly fill that void also.

 

If you liked SHAPE OF WATER, watch FAR FROM HEAVEN

Guillermo Del Toro has frequently stated that All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955) was a direct influence on The Shape of Water, and it isn’t hard to see that within the film. If the idea of forbidden love and a harkening back to the 1950’s does it for you, then you should definitely watch Far From Heaven – Todd Haynes’ homage to Sirk’s classic.

Starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert, Far From Heaven adapts Sirk’s original text exploring class divides into a film which features lovers hindered by sexuality, race, class and societal conformity. Cathy (Moore) is married to Frank (Quaid) and the two live a seemingly idyllic life, complete with a two kids and a white picket fence. Slowly though, their lives begin to fall apart as Cathy discovers that her husband is gay. Whilst attempting to keep the family together (and keep up appearances), Cathy ends up falling in love with their gardener, Raymond (Haysbert), which causes controversy within the neighbourhood due to Raymond being black. Haynes captures the melodramatic essence of Sirk’s film (both visually and narratively) whilst also using Cathy, Raymond and Frank’s struggles to appeal to a contemporary audience.

If you liked THREE BILLBOARDS, watch anything by the Coen brothers.

This isn’t meant to be a dig, but I have written previously about my beef with Three Billboards, so it’s probably not worth anyone’s time for me to repeat it all again here. What I will say is that Martin McDonagh’s film was so very much in the vein of the Coen brothers back catalog, that you may as well treat yourself to any Coen brothers film if you enjoyed it. You’ll probably (read: definitely) prefer them. My personal choice would be Fargo – also starring the impeccable Frances McDormand.

If you liked THE POST

Just watch All the President’s Men. Seriously.

Essential Reading for ‘Millennial Feminists’ – Part 2

Welcome to part two of my recommended books for ‘millennial feminists’. This time, it’s fiction. For part one, which is non-fiction, please click here!

There are many, many books that naturally belong on this list. Well known and well loved novels which instantly capture ideas about feminism and the reality of being a woman. Books like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale which is now more popular than ever due to the critically acclaimed (and now Emmy award winning) TV series. Books like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story which perfectly details the sexist concept of hysteria and how it has been used to silence women. Books like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson’s vivid re-imagining of her own childhood and her sexuality. Or Octavia Butler’s brilliantly written and wholly absorbing host of novels, particularly her Xenogenesis series, which reaches new levels of sci-fi in her exploration of gender, humanity, survivalism and prejudice. 

The books that have been chosen, however, have all had a personal effect on me and challenged my ideas about feminism, intersectionality, sexuality and identity. So yes, it is a personal list, but one I hope will resonate with many of you too.

That Thing Around Your Neck (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

This selection of short stories is Adichie’s third novel, and yes I am slightly cheating as That Thing Around Your Neck comprises of not one but twelve short stories. Though Adichie may be most renowned for definition of feminism, as used in Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ record, Adichie has been writing on feminism, both fiction and non-fiction for many years.

Adichie, born and raised in Nigeria, frequently writes about her hometown of Nsukka, the 1967- 1970 Nigerian civil War, Igbo culture and colonialism in Nigeria. Set against these backdrops, her stories explore how women are treated in Nigeria, issues of race and (most predominantly) emigration and the effect it has on identity, family and heritage.

Many of the stories in That Thing Around Your Neck deal with abuse of women – either within family relationships or by society in general. One of the stories which resonated with me the most was the titular story, ‘That Thing Around Your Neck’, which features a young girl who gains an American visa, only to be repeatedly abused by her uncle when she moves there. In Adichie’s works there are often discussions of the elusive American visas, and an idealisation of what life would be like away from the poverty and corruption of Nigeria. Like Akunna, the protagonist of ‘That Thing Around Your Neck’, many of Adichie’s characters discover that America presents them with just as much violence and corruption, but in a different form.

In ‘On Monday of Last Week’ and ‘A Private Experience’, Adichie gives us a closer look at relationships between women of different races, classes and nationalities. She bridges a gap between the interesting and diverse women she writes about, and is constantly toying with western ideas of feminism and racism.

Above all, That Thing Around Your Neck showcases her extraordinary ability to write relateable characters within such a short space of time. Each character in each story felt truly developed and I could identify with their inner struggles even after only a few paragraphs.

The Power (Naomi Alderman)

The sizzle of electricity. The spark of power. The smell of burning. Reading Naomi Alderman’s The Power is an experience for all the senses from beginning to end. I could see the lightning bolts of electricity being released from young fingertips. I could smell charred skin. I could envision the scenes which Alderman conjures up – the inspirational moments and the ones which outline the very worst that humanity has to offer.

Alderman’s story starts out from a very simple premise. Imagine if women developed a power. A power which made them physically stronger than men. What would happen? Through the eyes of orphan Allie, rising politician Margot, fearless journalist Tunde and Roxy, the daughter of a crime boss, we see the world begin to change and distort.

The Power could have been a simple gender reversal story. It could have righted the wrongs for women who had suffered for years at the hands of men. It could have slotted women into ‘male roles’ and had them become pseudo men. It could have shown us a good, kind and moral world where women rule peacefully, now that toxic-masculinity is no longer in power.

Alderman’s cleverer than that, though. She show us how power is transferred (quite literally), how the greed of power seeps into the hearts of men and women alike. She shows us triumphant survivors who can leave their captors, but she also shows us dictators and murderers. The intersections of politics, religion, culture with gender are fully explored with each of the characters. This a fundamental part of why The Power works so well – gender does not exist within a vacuum.

The result is a believable world, fleshed out from every angle. Alderman dissects all of our beliefs and all of our preconceptions to give us a glimpse of a world that (whilst strange) feels somehow familiar. Alderman puts rape culture, misogyny, tradition and oppression under a microscope and reveal the structures that exist within society.

The Power’s strength lies in its colourful and energetic descriptive language.  The words leap from the page, enticing you in. Only pick this book up if you have a 12 hour window free because you won’t be able to stop reading.

Gather the Daughters (Jennie Melmed)

Written on the blurb of Gather the Daughters is a recommendation. “If you liked The Handmaid’s Tale or The Power, then read this book.” So, naturally, I did. Whilst Gather the Daughters does invoke the sort of feminist camaraderie and oppression that The Power and Handmaid’s does, Jennie Melmed’s first novel is a powerful work by itsself, with it’s own story to tell.

The narrative follows four girls, with different chapters outlining their individual journeys. Vanessa, Amanda, Janey and Caitlyn. The girls live on an island amongst a patriarchal community, who are beholden to a Christian-like religion which dictates their every decision. They live a simple life, The religion, and the loyalty their Ancestors, is not dissimilar to most major religion – the women and girls are subservient to the men in on the island and do not hold any positions of power.

The main story involving the four girls begins just before the summer – a time of the year where children are a law unto themselves. They are allowed to run, play and scream – luxuries that they not usually allowed. Vanessa, Janey and Caitlyn enjoy their summer, roaming around the island but Amanda has become a woman and so she must face her ‘summer of fruition’. A ritual where girls who have began their periods must find a husband.

I’d quite like this to stay spoiler free, but I will say this: Gather the Daughters will break your heart. I think it’s also important to mention that Gather the Daughters deals with sexual abuse, particularly of young children. Having said this, Melmed’s discussion and explanation of the abuse is amongst the most tactful I have ever read. It is never said outright, merely implied between the lines of text. Melmed allows us inside her characters minds, and so we don’t need to be told what is going on. We can feel it.

Ideas about conditioning are prevalent throughout the novel, showing how oppression and abuse are born out of systematic misogyny. Other than Janey, who doesn’t even fully understand her own reasons for not complying with the norm, the girls take a long time to realise the harm that is being done to them. They have no language with which to express it, and no environment to express it in. Gather the Daughters lays out the idea of the cycles of trauma and the strength in the unity of all women (or rather girls in this case) to break out of it.

And one for younger readers – Time Zero (Carolyn Cohagen)

Interesting and unique dystopian novels for YA audiences are pretty difficult to come by. Time Zero exists, for me, as a little sister to The Handmaid’s Tale. With many similar themes and ideas, Time Zero builds upon the world that Handmaid’s built but brings to the 21st century. Protagonist Mina is just like any other 15 year old, except for the fact that she lives under an extremely oppression regime, one which aims to keep women and men completely separate. Mina has a powerful secret though, and she is just beginning to wake up to the world she is in.

I would highly recommend Time Zero to all readers, but it’s a fantastic book for younger feminists. Cohagen writes Mina as an average 15 year old, somone whom we can all relate to, and so when Mina begins to question the rules imposed on her, we go on that journey with her.

Essential Reading for ‘Millennial Feminists’ – Part 1

Ugh, I can’t believe I just used the word millennial in the title of this. Am I a millennial? I’m pretty sure I am but I also think if I have to ask, I’m probably not. I grew up with floppy disks, Pokemon and bubble bags but I am also much better equipped to deal with the internet and social media than any generation before me…I don’t know. I also became a teenager during the elongated gap between the 3rd wave feminism of the early 90s and the digital feminism of today, in a world which didn’t seem to want to use the ‘F’ word very much. 

It’s got better recently, I think. There’s good and bad in Twitter-feminism, keyboard activism and the insane amount think pieces about whether we have achieved equality. Either way, at least feminism is in the mainstream now. 

I am not going to pretend to have all or indeed any of the answers. Apparently we are now on 5th wave feminism, according to the Women’s Equality Party email I received the other day. This scared me a lot, because I thought we were still on 4… What I do know, however, is that reading has helped me a lot in shaping my ideas about feminism, equality and how we go about changing it.

The issue for millennial feminism (which I am sure is an actual phrase, not one I just made up), is that we are utterly saturated with new information all the time. Everywhere we look there are alternative and opposing opinions telling us how to be a ‘good feminist’. Is it feminist to shave your vagina? Is it feminist to wear heels? Can I be a feminist if I hate other women?

Forget it. Below are three non-fiction books which I consider to be essential reading for all twenty somethings growing up today. You can thank me later. (Check back for Part 2, where I’ll be listing my top 3 fiction books for millennial feminists!)

 

Animal – Sara Pascoe

Anyone who has been within a 3ft radius of me in the last month has probably been subjected to a lecture on just how bloody wonderful Sara Pascoe’s Animals is. The tagline, ‘the autobiography of the female anatomy’ is a pretty good summary of it, and yet it is so much more.

Taking us a through a succinct yet detailed history of our ancestors, Sara Pascoe explores how humans have evolved to be the way we are – sexually, relationship-wise, biologically and culturally . She challenges traditional ideas about monogamy by breaking down the biological theories that have never truly been tested. For instance, are men really pre-dispositioned to cheat? Male scientists may believe so (no shit), but there’s a lot of compelling evidence to the contrary. She also introduces us to some utterly wild and exciting theories about why certain women can achieve penetrative orgasm, why women moan more during sex and what a sperm war is.

Whilst combining science, history and cultural traditions, Pascoe also talks frankly about her own relationship with her body. There’s a level of honesty that is kind of surprising – especially since she talks about her editor asking her to dial it back. I, for one, am glad she refused to listen as the open and explicit dialogue is what sets Animal so far apart from many non-fiction feminist books. There is no such thing as an overshare, which is important as women have been so often vilified about bodily functions, body autonomy and sexuality.

In addition to being incredibly informative and full of ‘oh-my-god-I-did-not-know-that’ moments, Sara Pascoe is an incredibly charming and funny writer. Little quips, social commentary and trumpet fanfares made me chortle out loud several times on public transport whilst reading Animal. If that’s not the sign of a good book, then I don’t know what is. The best news is that Pascoe is writing a sequel – a biography of the male body! Get in!

 

Fat Is a Feminist Issue – Susie Orbach

Susie Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue was originally published in 1978 but remains completely and utterly relevant today. Though a fantastic resource, it’s sad to think that almost 40 years on, we are still trying to work through the heinous crap that society tells us to think about our bodies.

Part experiment and analysis, part self-help book, Fat is a Feminist Issue details Orbach’s investigations into femininity, womanhood and fatness. Though she touches on eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, her main focus is compulsive eating disorder within women and how gender inequality causes women to become fat. The second half of the book is more of a manual on how to set up your own compulsive eating group with other women, and suggestions of agendas. This advice stems from Orbach’s own journey with food addiction.

Her ideas are radical, even today, and completely at odds with our fatphobic culture. For starters, Orbach illustrates how fatness is not an addition to our body – but part of it. We must accept and choose to love our fat as part of us instead of seeing it as an external outer layer that can be removed if we choose to. She also talks at length about fatness as a ‘screw you’ to patriarchal society – a way of removing oneself from being sexualised.

Frequently described as the original ‘anti-diet book’, Fat is a Feminist issue is an absolute must for your feminist bookshelf. And if anyone wants to start a self help group, please can I tag along?

 

Feminism is for Everybody: passionate politics – bell hooks

I found the opening of bell hooks Feminism is for Everybody so profoundly moving and true, that I gathered my sister, her girlfriend and my mother into our tiny kitchen and proceeded to read the whole thing out loud to them. I wouldn’t let them leave until I had finished. I’d had an epiphany about what it meant to be a feminist, and I wanted them to share in my new-found knowledge.

A short yet perfectly written and brilliantly executed mini-book, Feminism is for Everybody is a wonderful resource and one that deserves to be shown to absolutely everyone. Hooks outlines her ideas in chapters about abortion rights, oppression, how the patriarchy affects men, women at work, gender and relationships amongst other topics and engages the reader to truly think about what we need to do collectively in order to get rid of gender-based oppression. Hooks also, in my humble opinion, provides the categorical definition of what it means to be a feminist. ‘Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression’.

Hooks has written an abundance of important and influential texts about feminism and has bought intersectionality into the spotlight. Throughout works such as Ain’t I a Woman and Feminist Theory, Hooks explores the intersection between black women, femininity, oppression and feminism. Of course, I’d encourage you to read every single one of her books, but if you have only time for one- Feminism is for Everybody gives a small, yet significant insight into Hooks’ ideas and theories.

Feminism is for Everybody is full of hope for the future of gender equality and feminism. Which is what makes it so powerful. Hooks’ writing is convincing and confident of a better future people everywhere.

 

read part two (fiction) here!

5 Films For the Upcoming Apocalypse: A Guide

I’ve tried to put a funny spin on this because at this point if we don’t laugh, we are going to continually cry.

This could have been a list of informative and useless films to help us combat life under white supremacy. It isn’t. Instead, this is a list of films that I think accurately predict the dystopia we are now on the verge of living in. It’s not heart warming, and it won’t make you feel better about what is happening and for that, I am truly sorry. Try watching Mamma Mia if you want to feel happy for an hour and a half (though we all know Meryl Streep is totally overrated, right Donald?). If you want to wallow in the misery of the next four years and beyond – then come with me on a journey of apocalyptic doom and watch the following.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road makes the list for a number of reasons, not least because Donald Trump and Immortan Joe share the same hairdresser. Both of their ruling ideologies are rooted quite firmly in toxic masculinity and are clearly destructive to all who live under them. Immorten Joe thrives off his power over the water supply, and the crowds who gather beneath him when he finally lets them have a drink. Bet those crowds aren’t as big as Trump’s inauguration though…

It’s Immortan Joe’s treatment of women that is suspiciously similar to Trump’s opinions too. They are commodities, there to be objectified, sexualised or pumped for breast milk. Trump also treats women like commodities – I am sure we are all very familiar with the grabbing quote by now. It just shows how much he dehumanises women and feels we only exist to be fodder for powerful men like him. WE ARE NOT THINGS.

Also, as we have seen with the Trump’s persistence regarding going ahead with the Dakota Access Pipeline, Trump really fucking loves oil. Like Joe, he’ll do pretty much anything (including sacrificing human life) to get at it. In Fury Road, Australia has been turned into a dystopian wasteland because of the pollution and carnage to the planet. America will surely follow suit under Immorten Trump’s leadership.

 

Children of Men

I don’t think that Brexit or Trump have set off a chain reaction of infertility across the world – though there’s definitely a joke in there somewhere. Children of Men though, paints a fantastic portrait of what happens when the government decides to close of its borders and treat refugees and immigrants as if they are subhuman.

We have seen the beginnings of this. During the Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage once stood in front of a billboard depicting displaced young men coming from war torn countries having experienced horrifying events, the likes of which most of us could never imagine. The caption? ‘Breaking Point’. No, he didn’t mean breaking point for the thousands of people dying in Syria – he meant it was breaking point for the UK. This is a small snippet, a tiny glimpse into how the leave campaign used immigration as their main talking point, encouraging xenophobia and Islamophobia in the process.

This is what happens in Children of Men. A whole country turns a blind eye to the mistreatment, executions and torture of refugees at the hands of the government. The last scene, as Kee and Theo arrive at Bexhill-on-Sea, we see how those in the camp are treated. It’s stomach churning. The scariest part is that we aren’t worlds away from this now – detention centres like Yarls Wood are notorious for their lack of abuse and dehumanisation of its residents. With Brexit pushing racial hate crimes up by over 41%, attitudes in the UK are shifting very dangerously towards Children of Men’s depiction of humanity.

Most recently, with Trump’s ‘not-a-Muslim-ban’, we are closer to a Children of Men attitude towards refugees than ever before. Fortunately, the executive order has been halted for now, but it hasn’t done anything to relieve stigmas towards immigration and refugees.

 

Look Who’s Back

This indie film has made a few waves, and not only because it features Hitler time travelling to 2014 and instigating the reprisal of fascism in Germany. The strength of Look Who’s Back lies in it’s ability to make you laugh along with Hitler (yes, a phrase I never thought I would say) and then pull the rug very firmly out from underneath you when the realisation hits. You, like the characters in the film, have been normalising Hitler the whole time by laughing along.  

This is something that can seen across the UK and America. Instead of treating Neo-Nazi’s as the scum they are,  during Brexit the BBC actually interviewed one of them on the 6 o’clock news – essentially giving the swastika-tattooed young man a platform to air his bigotry. Likewise, Jimmy Fallon invited Donald Trump onto his show and, instead of showing Trump for the bigot he is, Jimmy Fallon ruffled his hair and sent him on his way. Nigel Farage has spent the last year posing for photo ops in local pubs. Nazi’s, in the Western world, are now called the ‘Alt Right’ – as if they are just a different version of the right wing, not bigoted maniacs. There was even an outcry when self-confessed Nazi Richard Spencer was punched live on air. I’d recommend watching the remixes here – very satisfying stuff. 

In Look Who’s Back, we watch in shock and horror as Germans around the country salute to Hitler, take selfies with him and agree with him on foreign policy. The hard-right is alive and well in Europe, and one of the reasons why Brexit ended up quite how it did. The thing is, the first half of Look Who’s Back posits itself as a comedy. We laugh at Hitler (what’s he like!), until he decides that actually, someone needs to really take back control of the country. We all laughed at the idea of Trump becoming President, but this is where we are now. Too late.

 

Dr Strangelove

There’s two very important reasons for including Dr Strangelove. Firstly, the image of twenty or so white men sitting round a table, very incompetently discussing nuclear warfare is something I think we will be very familiar with in the Trump administration. Sure, they’ve already had a room of white men discussing abortion, and (I quote twitter) there are more black people in Beyonce right now than there are in his whole administration.  I can just see Mr Trump on the phone to Putin, apologising for the small misunderstanding regarding the nuclear warhead that is now heading directly towards them. Then, boom. We’re all dead.

Secondly, Dr Strangelove depicts the American military as people who will go along with orders without questions, regardless of the possible consequences. I don’t imagine this will change much with Trump in charge. Though we have seen certain members of the judiciary system speaking out against his executive orders, we have yet to hear anything from the military. We all know that the US Army and patriotism go hand in hand, and judging by Trump’s inauguration speech – that isn’t going to change much.

 

Snowpiercer

Last but not least, we come to the environment. There’s no doubt in any of our minds that global warming is going to get a whole lot worse (hotter) because Trump believes it’s a conspiracy from China, and without EU regulation, the UK doesn’t have to adhere to climate change reform. So we should all be buying factor 50 as soon as possible.

Snowpiercer actually depicts a world which has tried to combat global warming, but has failed with disastrous consequences. Having left it too late to reverse the effects naturally, scientists attempt to cool the earth down but the effect is to plunge the plant into an Ice Age, the only surviving inhabitants circumventing the globe on a never-stopping train. Of course, Snowpiercer also depicts a world where the poor are shunned, exploited and made to live in horrendous circumstances for the benefit of the rich – which doesn’t sound too dissimilar from our current situation where 62 people have the equivalent wealth of the rest of the world put together.

It is the harsh realities of making the planet uninhabitable though which makes Snowpiercer a film to add to this list. The frozen tundra rolls by the windows of train, reminding all the passengers that they are stuck in their locomotive world due to their own incompetence. The inability to save the planet. I don’t believe that we will end up on a train, circling the Earth. It might be a lot worse. Especially considering that London went over it’s yearly air pollution “allowance’ for the year, within the first five days of 2017. This is in addition the fact that Trump thinks that global warming is a Chinese conspiracy… 


 

The one silver lining we can possibly take from this list is that there is always a glimmer of hope for the protagonists. Also, the protagonists are (quite firmly) not racists, misogynists or Nazis. In fact, it’s the antagonists that encompass these charming values. And what do we know about films? They are always right, right?

The Box: What I’ve Been Binging Recently (#2)

With being extra busy at my new job (oh la la) and trying to maintain something of a social life, I feel that I have forgotten how to write about film and TV. I’ve been watching a LOT of television recently, and I’ve already been to the cinema more times this year than I did for the entirety of 2016. I’ve been wowed, awestruck and enjoyed a lot of what I have seen but I have yet to actually write anything about it.

Well, that changes now. I need to get back into the swing of things around here and what better way to start than to catch you up on what I’ve been binging recently.

 

The People vs OJ Simpson

 

In order of binge-worthiness, The People vs OJ Simpson scored very much at the top of my list. I started it last weekend as something to watch that isn’t Gilmore Girls (I’ll come onto that later), and by Tuesday night I was finished with it. Holy mother of God.

What started out as a bit of trashy American docu-drama, ended up being one of the most riveting and compelling series I have watched in years. A rollercoaster ride of emotions, plot-twists and draw dropping moments, I could not stop watching it. I even took my laptop into the bathroom to watch it, as I couldn’t I physically could not pause it. What I’m trying to say is this: The People vs OJ Simpson is addictive stuff and if you are not ready to dedicate 10 hours of your life in one go, then maybe wait until you are.

Maybe most of my enjoyment came from the fact that I know absolutely nothing about OJ Simpson or the trial. I was four years old when it happened, and besides I am from the UK and I’m pretty sure it didn’t get half as much coverage over here. I knew nothing about the crime, the trial or the verdict – which meant that everything was new to me.

Realistically though, most people would know at least whether OJ was found guilty or not and so the real pull of the show doesn’t stem from the narrative events. It comes from the characters and the emotions surrounding the case. The People takes us through each individual’s motivations, feelings, desires and struggles throughout the case, specifically those of Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Robert Kardashian and Chris Darden. Through the characters, I found myself utterly convinced that OJ was guilty one second, and then blatantly innocent the next. Instead of being a show about the case or the crime (a ‘whodunnit’) The People manages to present us with a clear dramatisation, and through a fantastic script and stellar performances, is completely compelling.

The People manages to have intelligent conversations about race, gender, police brutality and the Justice system without forcing it’s messages upon the viewer. We are not brow-beaten with figures or facts about racism or sexism – the characters speak for themselves on these topics. The choice to dramatise the trial certainly makes it more accessible to the wider public, who will hear these conversations perhaps for the first time.

Also Sarah Paulson was a-mazing, top marks..

Catastrophe

Are you fed of cliched love stories? Find yourself watching the same ‘boy meets girl’ crap over and over again? I have found the cure. Rob Delaney and Sharon Hogan’s Catastrophe. Boy meets girl in a bar in London, boy and girl have sex for a week straight (in a lot of bathrooms), girl finds out she is pregnant, boy flies back from America to propose and they have a child together. Mix that together with awkward couples dinners, Catholic parents and a cameo appearance by Carrie Fisher – and you have a winner.

Catastrophe is disgustingly honest about relationships, sex, love and getting old. One of the defining factors in Sharon (Sharon and Rob are also the names of their characters) keeping the baby is that she is just on the wrong side of 40 and feels that this may be her last opportunity.

The painful and hilarious honesty is what make Catastrophe so relatable. As expected, Sharon makes a speech to Rob along the lines of ‘you don’t have to do this, I can have this baby without you etc etc’, and when Rob tells her is sticking around, Sharon replies ‘thank-god… I definitely can’t do this on my own’. A refreshingly honest answer to a overused scenario. 

Catastrophe taps into the universal feeling of not being ready, or not being enough of an adult to handle life yet. Whether it’s a new job, a new relationship, a baby or anything else – we never feel as though we are qualified for it.

Whilst being absolutely filthy, Catastrophe is also incredibly tender and warm which is unusual territory for comedies to get right. Rob and Sharon’s shotgun romance is the perfect antidote for those who usually starting retching at the term rom-com… myself included. Even my partner, who point blank refuses to watch anything that has a vague whiff of romance about it, thinks Catastrophe is one of the best things we’ve watched. What I am trying to say is that Catastrophe repackages TV love as messy, complicated and a bit gross, because that’s what it is. Love is also clipping your pregnant wife’s toenails, or letting your husband rub his cock between your thighs because you can’t really be bothered to have sex.

It’s got an impeccable supporting cast with the likes of Ashley Jensen (Extras), Mark Bonnar and did I mention Carrie Fisher is in it? If that’s not enough to reel you in, then I don’t know what will.

Gilmore Girls

Confession time: I had never seen an episode of Gilmore Girls until the very end of last year. I know. Totally shameful. The one shining grace is that I have managed to watch almost five seasons in about 3 months, and I have realised that is the perfect binge-watching show.

Nothing ever really happens in Gilmore Girls. At least, nothing of any consequence. There are minor issues to solve, events that look like they will cause major problems for our two leading ladies, but nothing truly awful ever really happens. Like Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls is slow-paced, happy to meander around and watch the world go by. In comparison to a lot of TV shows these days (Scandal I am looking at you*), Gilmore Girls feels incredibly relaxed, and I like that.

Gilmore Girls is cutesy, funny and bright. It’s a world away from making any kind of statement about anything remotely serious – though it does often try and get it completely wrong. Remember Paris not getting into Yale after (or rather, because of) losing her virginity… yeah. It dips in and out of discussing ideas about class, specifically the differences between Lorelai’s life, and the life her parents designed for her, but never cements itself on any concrete ideas. It’s also very, very white. Which is not an issue as such, but when it does try to talk about the struggles of single motherhood or the working class – it does so from a very white and middle class perspective.

Despite this, and despite the fact that both Rory and Lorelai often annoy me in equal capacities, I really bloody enjoy watching it. It works for me on a level where I don’t need to engage with it, I can just switch off and enjoy it knowing that everything is always going to work out in the end. Gilmore Girls is almost like a safety net in our new world of insecurity. We don’t know whether Trump’s going to start World War 3 by the end of next week, but we do know that Rory and Lorelai will always be over at the Gilmore’s for Friday night dinner at 7pm sharp – and that in itself is pretty comforting.

 

*disclaimer

I really, really liked Scandal, but honestly, by the end of the third season, I just could not keep up with it. If I didn’t pay attention for five second, I missed about half an hours worth of content! It makes for super stressful watching!

Female Directors: Documentaries You Should See

Disclaimer: I really, really hate that I still need to put ‘female directors’ at the top of this post, because the default for a director is overwhelmingly male. Okay, that said…

Though the film industry is notorious for being male dominated, female directors tend to fare ever so slightly better in the documentary industry. Since 1967, at least 12 women have won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, in comparison to just Kathryn Bigalowe for the Drama Best Director award. There are a few probable reasons for this – one being that a vast many documentaries are made independently and out of sight of large studios, who may otherwise be very unlikely to put their money into a film directed by a woman. Documentaries are, on average, cheaper to produce. This means less capital needs to be provided by investors and larger distribution companies – giving the director more freedom.

Though all is not yet equal in love and documentary film-making, this does mean that there are more documentary films directed by women than there are fictional films. Documentaries do tend to be a bit of a niche, though Netflix’s expansive catalogue of docs has made the genre kind of ‘cool’ again. I’ve compiled a little list below of the female directed documentaries that everyone should see; political, social, impact and biographical.

BIOGRAPHICAL

What Happened Miss Simone (dir. Liz Garbus)

Opening the 2015 Sundance film festival, What Happened Miss Simone is a emotional roller-coaster ride through the life of Nina Simone – icon, activist and performer. Traditionally biographical, Miss Simone searches through Nina Simone’s life, the ups and the downs, and slowly uncovers a phenomenal person. A true activist, and wise beyond her years, Simone was plagued with mental illness and depression – informing her work throughout her life. Liz Garbus’ documentary is engaging, beautiful and heart-breaking. She expertly peices together archive footage with Simone’s performances and interviews with thsoe who knew her.

Dreams of a Life (dir. Carol Morley)

Carol Morley’s docu-drama telling the story of the haunting fate of Joyce Carol Vincent is a film which will top documentary lists for years to come. The true story of Vincent’s death in a small London flat in 2003 was unremarkable, except for the fact that she was undiscovered until 2006 – and only then by the local authorities when it became apparent she was no longer paying her utility bills. Morley saw the story in a newspaper and was inspired to discover how a seemingly friendly, outgoing young woman could die so painfully alone in that way. As expected, Dreams of a Life is tragically sad, but a fantastic watch from beginning to end.

The Arbor (dir. Clio Barnard)

The Arbor has frequently been described as an experimental documentary, masterfully directed by Clio Barnard. The film takes us through the life of Andrea Dunbar, working class Bradford play-wight, and the issues that plagued both herself and her family. Though the interviews are all recorded by Dunbar’s mother, father, daughters, friends and acquaintances – Barnard cast actors, who lip-sync the dialogue on-screen. It makes for a really unique experience, as well as critiquing the entire documentary genre in itself. Again, it isn’t a cheerful watch but it’s revealing about the nature of the media, of success and of film-making in general.

SOCIETY

Queen of Versailles (dir. Lauren Greenfield)

The Siegal family are, at the beginning of Queen of Versailles, one of the richest families in America. Before the economic crash of 2008, they had just embarked on building what was to be the largest house in the States and director Lauren Greenfield had begun filming the family and their day to day routines. What happened next was unprecedented. The 2008 crash engulfed the Siegal family business (timeshare apartments), and Greenfield manages to capture the anguish, tension and breakdown of a family unit. What begins as a look inside ‘how the other half live’, Queen of Versailles speaks volume about family, greed, wealth and what it means to be happy.

Lioness (dir. Meg McLagen and Daria Sommers)

Lioness follows a group of five female veterans, part of the first women to be permitted to fight in direct ground conflict. Directors Meg McLagen and Daria Sommer’s explore the difficulties the women have faced, mostly due to the lack of support and training given to the group post and pre-conflict. Though Lioness uses archive, news excerpts and observational footage, it is the intimate and revealing interviews with the women themselves that sets this film apart. Pulled together, it creates a haunting and desperate account of those forgotten in war, the Lionesses.

POLITICAL

The Lords Tale (dir. Molly Dineen)

The UK has some pretty weird traditions surrounding politics, and the House of Lords is one of them. Filmed over a crucial ‘reconstructing’ of the House of Lords, Molly Dineen’s documentary observes the results of the House of Lords Act of 1999 as the hereditary peers are whittled down from 800 to 93. For those interested in politics, The Lords Tale gives an unbiased view of the act and raises some very interesting questions about the idea of democracy. For those uninterested in politics, it is the characters within the film that are truly engaging. From the typical old, white toffs who seem to have no understanding of the real world to those who seem to be doing some genuine good in the world – it is the absolute honesty of the interviews that makes the film so special. Though you do have to wonder why some of them are allowed to make significant decisions for the country – especially when they can’t list names from 1 – 42 in order of preference…

The Square (dir. Jehane Noujaim)

Premiering at Sundance Festival, and receiving universal accalaim – Jehane Noujaim’s The Square depicts the day to day lives of those struggling against a political regime poised to destroy everything they stand for. In stark contrast to the Western media’s portrayal of the conflict in Egypt, Noujaim brings us close to the reality of activism and the fight for freedom. It’s a truly inspiring film, lifting a lid off one of the biggest conflicts in our world today. Expertly shot and directed, The Square is a film that everyone should see.

IMPACT

Blackfish (dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

When Blackfish came out in 2013, it completely changed the face of impact documentaries. Since it’s release, Seaworld has suffered financial losses, and has subsequently stated that it will phase out it’s orca programme over the next few years. Blackfish focused primarily on Tilikum, an orca who had been captured and raised at Seaworld Orlando, and had been responsible for several human deaths in his time there. Gabriela Cowperthwaite, a relative newcomer to the documentary industry, unveiled the horrific treatment of the orcas and shocking statistics about orcas lives in captivity vs in the wild. It’s a tough watch, but a fantastic documentary that has prompted real change.

The Divide (dir. Katharine Round)

Katharine Round’s 2016 documentary about the levels of inequality in the Western world could not come at a better time. For most of us, we have heard the statistics and seen the figures, but The Divide turns those (essentially) meaningless figures into actual, real human beings. We meet people who live at both ends of the spectrum and many who live somewhere in the middle – what becomes immediately clear is that everyone is striving for a better life. The unfairness of the economic system, the causes and effects of the 2008 crash and the struggle just to get through the day are all realised in Round’s documentary. Sit up, pay attention and see for yourself.

7 Best Girl Power Must-Sees Streaming on Netflix

A lot of the media would have women believe the only things that ever get promoted are beautiful bimbos in bikinis. And while that may be the style of Michael Bay (sorry, dude), it’s certainly not the norm anymore.

From kick-ass leading ladies to snarky girl relationships that teach us all how to be better debaters, there’s plenty out there that will remind you it’s not all about Baywatch, and they’re all streaming on U.S. Netflix. For international viewers, check out these tips from Secure Thoughts on how to watch Netflix outside of the U.S., so you too can grab your remote and pop open Apple TV for some much-needed girl power binge watching!

 

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 Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones’ take on female superheroism is something that has sparked the industry in a way that hasn’t been seen in any other television show, and it’s got all the execs talking. With frank conversations about rape and its portrayal of queer relationships, it’s Marvel’s first dive into the world outside of vanilla heterosexuality, and it’s not the only thing keeping everyone talking. From being called “a hardboiled feminist” to a “female anti-hero,” it’s obvious that Jessica Jones’ character has some actual depth, making her an anomaly in the otherwise male-dominated cinematic culture and is fascinating to watch.

 

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Iris

Nothing signifies girl power better than a woman who flouts protocol to do exactly as she pleases, and Iris is that Big Apple chameleon. This documentary may be about fashion, but it doesn’t dilute the raw otherness of Iris Apfel, a nonagenarian living, working and dressing in Astoria, New York City, and it makes her all the more remarkable. The documentary is about a businesswoman, interior designer and fashion icon, but Iris is not your average story. It’s about breaking the mold, giving into inspiration and not being afraid to be a little bit different. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life?  

 

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Rebellion

The only thing better than a little personal rebellion is a full-on national rebellion, and the girls at the heart of the miniseries Rebellion are certainly embroiled in something quite serious. Set in Ireland in 1916, the character-driven miniseries is positioned at the start of the Easter Uprising to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of one of the most defining moments in U.K. and Irish history. While history spoils the end of this five-part television series, the attachment to the characters at the center of the story and their fates is one that will compel you not to put the remote down until the very end. From fighting for what you believe in to learning the power of relationships and consequences, Rebellion is a tale for those who are interested in historical tales that, for once, put a highlight on the women at the center of them.

 

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 Amu

Debuting at the Berlin Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival in 2005, Amu is the tale of an Indian-American 21-year-old who travels to India to discover the culture of her past but uncovers something much more life changing. When Kaju, a recent UCLA graduate, decides to return to the country of her birth, she bypasses the traditional tourist track by visiting the crowded markets and slums of India to find she has serious feelings of having been there before. Between meeting new friends and coming face-to-face with her family in Delhi, the secrets of her past start to unravel as she delves further into the neighborhoods that bring back scarring, unbelievable memories. Unlike many films with female protagonists at the center, Amu doesn’t rely solely on others to help Kaju discover her past, and instead, the film illustrates how girl grit and intensity can expose a national conspiracy and cover-up. Talk about lady power—this film has it in spades.

 

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 V for Vendetta

Natalie Portman’s turn in V for Vendetta may have reinvigorated the on-screen head shaving trend in cinema, but she also sparked plenty of female protagonists to go out of their way to fight the patriarchy—hello, Katniss Everdeen—down the road. Based on the 1988 comic series of the same name, V for Vendetta is a new-age dystopian thriller that centers on an anarchist vigilante and the working woman who gets entangled in his plans. The 2020 depiction of the world is one that is both terrifying and almost believable in these confusing political times, and it will make the viewer wonder whether truth is more important than safety.

 

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 Dear White People

Labeled as “the movie for the Obama generation,” Dear White People had shock value with its title alone, but it follows through past first impressions and makes for a great girl power watch. Following Samantha, “Sam,” a biracial twenty-something going to school for film production at a predominately white college, the movie starts with her feeling the racial tension in her life and on her campus. She’s compelled her to start the broadcasting program Dear White People to criticize the racially fueled wrongdoings of white culture on her campus. Full of laughs, truths and wonderfully non-cookie-cutter characters, Dear White People is sarcastic, out to make its voice heard and, personally, I think it’s worth a listen.

 

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Gilmore Girls

The return of the Gilmore glamour to television has to be one of the most anticipated revivals ever to grace the small screen. Original gal pals Rory and Lorelai bring their bantering and family-friendly drama back for a second round, and it’s great news for lovers of strong female characters who have intelligence and extreme knowledge of pop culture. We’ve gotten a sneak peek at Stars Hollow and Luke’s Diner, which means there’s a couple returning characters in store, but even if you’re a newbie to the series, you’ll fall in love with this mother-daughter duo that reminds us why family and friendship are the greatest parts of our lives. Catch the original series on Netflix before the show returns in November.

If you’re into the kind of female characters who know when to talk and not listen, say what they think no matter consequences and give it all up for the things they believe in, watching the shows on this Netflix playlist is sure to entertain you for weeks—and I can’t say that I blame you. Have any other girl power movies and TV shows you like to watch? Leave a comment down below; I’m always looking for new material to devour.

 

 


Caroline is an entertainment, culture and feminist prose junkie. Having read and watched everything from Harry Potter to Ghost World, she’s all about strong female characters who remind her that all ladies don’t come in the same shape, size or type. Check out more of her work at Culture Coverage.

50 Films of the 21st Century (an alternative list)

BBC Culture released a list of the (alleged) top 100 films of the 21st Century yesterday, and it wasn’t terrifically received by most people. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that only 9 of the 100 films were directed by women, or that it placed Inception higher than Finding Nemo, or that The Wolf of Wall Street was on there at all. Instead of complain about it on twitter (though I did do that too), two of my greatest cinephile friends and I set about compiling our own list. Due to time restraints (you know, full time jobs and all that), we have only 50 films on our list and they are only in a very rough order. Whilst all films are pretty much equal in our love for them, the ones are the top are ranked slightly higher than those at the bottom.

Let the list commence!

 

Girlhood – Celine Sciamma (2015)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Ana Lily Amirpour (2015)

The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos (2016)

Amelie – Jean Pierre Jeunet (2001)

Mean Girls – Mark Waters (2004)

A Ma Soeur – Catherine Breillat (2001)

Far From Heaven – Todd Haynes (2002)

Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller (2015)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Michael Gondry (2004)

Under The Skin – Jonathan Glazer (2013)

City of God – Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund (2002)

What We Do In The Shadows – Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement (2014)

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (2007)

Little Miss Sunshine – Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (2006)

Mustang – Deniz Gamze Erguven (2015)

The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer (2014)

Attenberg – Athina Rachel Tsangari (2010)

Chevalier – Athina Rachel Tsangari (2015)

Dogtooth – Yorgos Lanthimos (2009)

Alps – Yorgos Lanthimos (2011)

Pans Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro (2006)

Her – Spike Jonze (2013)

Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold (2009)

Room – Lenny Abrahamson (2015)

The Great Beauty – Paolo Sorrentino (2013)

Il Divo – Paolo Sorrentino (2008)

Donnie Darko – Richard Kelly (2001)

Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki (2001)

Ida – Pawel Pawlikowski (2013)

This is England – Shane Meadows (2006)

There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)

Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee (2005)

Wild Tales – Damian Szifron (2014)

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle (2014)

In The Mood For Love – Wong Kar-Wai (2000)

Dreams of a Life – Carol Morley (2011)

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days – Cristian Mungiu (2007)

Senna – Asif Kapadia (2010)

Irreversible – Gaspar Noe (2002)

Love Trilogy – Ulrich Seidl (2012)

Bend it Like Beckham – Gurinder Chadha (2002)

Carol – Todd Haynes (2015)

Sexy Beast – Jonathan Glazer (2000)

Shaun of the Dead – Edgar Wright (2004)

The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)

Let the Right One In – Tomas Alfredson (2008)

What Happened Miss Simone – Liz Garbus (2015)

Y Tu Mama Tambien – Alfonso Cuaron (2001)

Inglorious Bastards – Quentin Tarantino (2009)

 

 

(Due to our lack of mathematical skills, this list is only 49… We studied film, not maths so give us a break…) Also I’d like to point out that one of our (unnamed and un-shamed) contributors wanted to put Gladiator on this list. That decision was overruled.

Any films you’d like to see in this list, or think we should have included? What did you think of the BBC list? Let us know in the comments!