12 of #52FilmsByWomen: Belle

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Belle (2013, written by Misan Sagay, directed by Amma Asante)

[12 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

`It’s always been done this way’ isn’t really a good justification that something is right. Human society is always changing as we learn to restructure ourselves based on our current ideas of how we treat each members of society fairly. But change is always hard, as we see in today’s politics and social issues. Probably because people who have established themselves within the present structure are invested in preserving it.

What better way to demonstrate this than having a movie take place in upper society England during 18th Century. Here everyone aspires to increase their social standing where value is placed depending on wealth, reputation, and skin colour (in that order, for some characters in the film). It is absolutely fascinating to see how these three conditions interplay and influence the actions of the characters. There’s a scene early in a movie where a noblewoman immediately dismisses Belle for her dark skin, but upon finding out that Belle’s significant wealth, she schemes to have her son marry her.

Continue reading 12 of #52FilmsByWomen: Belle

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Black rings explained

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Most people have heard of black holes before, and at least understand its idea. But not many have even heard about black rings. As was mentioned in an earlier post, the black ring is one of many types of black holes that most people haven’t heard about. One of the most recent and significant discoveries is the five-dimensional black ring. Discovered by Roberto Emparan and Harvey Reall in 2002, it sparked a new wave of interest in the research of General Relativity, which, during that time, was considered to be a well-matured (i.e., old) field of study.

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11 of #52FilmsByWomen: Fish Tank

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Fish Tank (2009, written and directed by Andrea Arnold)

[11 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

By now, it’s probably a well-worn cinematic trope that most teenagers are depicted as rebellious and apathetic. Though very few movies really explore why they tend to act that way. Fish Tank is one of the movies that explores the life of a somewhat delinquent teenager fairly well.

Continue reading 11 of #52FilmsByWomen: Fish Tank

10 of #52FilmsByWomen: Bright Star

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Bright Star (2009, written and directed by Jane Campion)

[No. 10 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Taking place in early 19th century countryside, this is a story about Fanny Brawne and her romantic affair with famed English poet John Keats.

Abbie Cornish and Ben Wishaw has amazing chemistry as Fanny and John. The characters were introduced well within the context of the movie that it didn’t matter that I did not know much about the historical figures these actors portray. Cornish plays a brash, opinionated young woman from a somewhat respectable family. She meets two poets, Keats and his friend Charles Armitage Brown who are renting a section of their house to live in.

Most of the film takes place in and around the house where they occupy, though the sets and surroundings were gorgeous. As an avid reader of Victorial-era novels (Austen, Dickens, the Brontë sisters), it is always fascinating to see the life of 19th-century England depicted on screen.

 

09 of #52FilmsByWomen: Advantageous

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Advantageous (2015, written and directed by Jennifer Phang)

[No. 9 of 52 of #52FilmsByWomen]

Advantageous an interesting exploration on how society values the appearance and looks of women above all other qualities. Particularly how this clashes with that other societal pressure placed on women – the responsibilities of motherhood.

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05-08 of #52FilmsByWomen: Girlfight, Across the Universe, Sunshine Cleaning, Whip It

Girlfight (2000, written and directed by Karyn Kusama)

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[05 of #52FilmsByWomen]
This is one of the movies that launched Michelle Rodriguez’s movie career. Written and directed by Karyn Kusama, the plot is somewhat reminiscent of Creed that came out 15 years later. Though in my opinion, Girlfight is slightly better paced than Creed because Creed seems like it felt the need to introduce an arbitrary villain late in the movie (Ricky Conlan), a character which felt disconnected from the rest of the movie. On the other hand, every character in Girlfight feels real yet fascinating without the need to fall into any stereotypes or archetypes.

 

Across the Universe (2007, directed by Julie Taymor)

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[06 of #52FilmsByWomen]
Usually I’m not a big fan of musicals, except perhaps for Into the Woods, and that one musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Nevertheless I am a fan of *music* and I love the punk rock renditions of Beatles songs. .

Across the Universe is a love story between Jude, a shipyard worker from Liverpool and Lucy, an American girl who becomes an activist against the Vietnam war. The psychedelic sixties sets and atmosphere rings strong and fun throughout the movie.

Look out for fun cameos by Eddie Izzard and U2’s Bono!

 

Sunshine Cleaning (2008, directed by Christine Jeffs)

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[07 of #52FilmsByWomen]
Ever wondered what happens after the police is done with a crime scene? Suppose a dead body is found in a hotel room. The police comes in, investigates, removes the body, and eventually the hotel has to be cleaned up and goes back to business, right? Someone has to do the cleaning up at some point.

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are two sisters that start a business of cleaning up crime scenes. The set-up of two bickering and bumbling siblings struggling to clean up brain matter from a crime scene is a good source of comedy. But at its heart is a poignant drama about how the two sisters deal with their difficult lives, which was dramatically influenced by the loss of their mother.

Whip It (2009, directed by Drew Barrymore)

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[08 of #52FilmsByWomen]
This is a movie about Ellen Page rebelling against her mother (and perhaps, society’s) expectation to be an elegant and demure young girl participating in beauty pageants. She joins a roller derby team as they compete in a tournament.

For me, having knowing nothing about the sport, this movie was a fascinating introduction. Ellen Page, as usual, gives a great performance as a somewhat rebellious teenager. Though in this one, she does remind me of her other titular character in 2007’s Juno. Also like Juno, her best friend is played by a former cast member of Arrested Development – this time is Alia Shakwat.

 

03-04 of #52FilmsByWomen: Selma, Wajdja

Wadjda (2012, written and directed by Haifaa Al Mansour)

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[03 of #52FilmsByWomen]
If I were to describe the plot of Wadjda, it would sound almost trivial. But the emotional journey that we follow with the 11-year-old girl leaves a lasting impact, and we could easily read the simple plot as an allegory to how does one reconcile his/her own identity and desires in a very traditional, conservative society.

The aforementioned simple plot is largely focused on Wadjda wanting very much to own a bicycle. Her mother does not allow it, since riding around on bicycles was typically not something girls do in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia. Determined to get one anyway, she joins a Quran recitation competition to win the prize money to buy one.

There are many aspects of this movie that reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki films, mostly because it involves a young girl overcoming challenges and coming to terms with her identity and her hopes. This is probably because there aren’t many stories focused on young girls whose plots aren’t about superficial things (i.e., chasingafter boys, as Miyazaki once famously said). Hopefully this serves as an example of the universality of human beings. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Muslim girl, or a modern Japanese family. We all share similar internal struggles and insecurities, and this is probably why stories are universal.

Wadjda is instantly likeable as a headstrong, resourceful and opinionated young girl who doesn’t always behave in the way figures of authority expects her to, though sometimes she tries. Reem Abdullah plays a crucial role as Wadja’s mother, who has her own struggles between having a difficult job, and maintaining her relationship with her husband, all while trying to be a responsible mother. Also likeable is Abdullah, a boy who is Wadjda’s ever loyal and resourceful best friend.

This is probably one of the most interesting movies I have seen so far for #52FilmsByWomen, and hopefully I’ll get to see more films from writer/director Haifaa al-Mansour.

 

Selma (2014, directed by Ava DuVernay)

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[04 of #52FilmsByWomen]
For a movie that takes place in 1865 focusing on one of the most important moments in the American Civil Rights movement, it seems much of the imagery found within it painfully evocative of modern day events. In what situation has it ever been acceptable for an armed police officer to beat up an unarmed civilian? This injustice, along with how reminiscent it is of real events people face today, works as the powerful and violent narrative stakes looming over characters whose main philosophy is peace.

It was clear from the outset that this film is not a Martin Luther King biopic, as it opens with a montage of Dr. King recieving the Nobel Peace Prize (scenes like these are usually saved till the end of the movie, like in A Beautiful Mind). It is first and formost, a movie about the Movement’s march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. Nevertheless David Oyelowo is utterly fantastic as King, whose performance and screen presence just glues me to the screen every time he’s in a scene.