Hunt for the Womenpeople: 2016 Films by Female Directors

Lots of 2016 top movie lists have been flying around the internet in the last couple of weeks. Me, I want to talk about the best movies that came out this year directed by women. Not a lot of women get hired to direct Hollywood movies – only about 9% of movies released are directed by women. And despite the work of those who do break through, few female directors are considered “auteurs” by the mostly male film critics who appear to decide such things.

Believe me, it’s not because women don’t make great movies. I made a conscious decision to watch more films by women this year. And I did, but honestly, it was annoying how hard it was to do so. I saw a lot of movies this year – 37 during the two weeks of the Vancouver International Film Festival alone! – and only 13 of the 2016 films I watched were directed by women. These are (for the most part) small movies with limited distribution. If you don’t live in a big city with a festival or an art house theatre, access is tougher and you might never have even heard of them.
The films listed below are not “women’s movies” or “chick flicks.” They may have been made by women, but they were made for wide audiences and represent a multitude of genres, perspectives and messages. These films are worth watching. Pay to see them if you can – they need the numbers more than the latest blockbuster.

1. Cameraperson – Kirsten Johnson
Compiled of unused footage from 15 years-worth of documentary cinematography and home movies, Johnson has essentially created a whole new documentary form – the visual memoir. For all its pieces and time jumps, it has a beautiful and coherent flow. This movie is brilliant. I laughed, I cried, I even forgot to breathe in one scene! Amazing, amazing, amazing. I can’t stop thinking about this film.

2. The Fits – Anna Rose Holmer
Coming of age film that captures that pre-adolescent combination of longing and fear related to growing up. A young tomboy joins a girls’ dance troop and one by one the girls succumb to a mysterious illness. The tension and mystery are the perfect metaphor for the cusp of adolescence and Royalty Hightower, the young lead, is extraordinary.

3. 13th – Ava Duvernay
Documentary examining the over-incarceration of African American men in the US. Traces this phenomenon from the 13th Amendment (the abolition of slavery included an exemption – forced labour was still allowed for anyone convicted of a crime), through Jim Crow, the beginning in the 1970s of political campaign scare tactics on crime and public safety that facilitated the targeting of poor, black neighbourhoods, and finally the explosion of the private prison industry in the US. I’m still blown away that she managed to tie all of these threads together in such a clear, coherent way. Must see. And on Netflix so it’s easy to find.

4. American Honey – Andrea Arnold
It’s no accident that she uses Rhianna’s “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” more than once in this soundtrack – this film finds beauty in some very ugly places. It’s kind of like Harmony Korine’s Kids on a roadtrip but less depressing. A little less depressing. You’re still watching a group of kids getting ripped off by their employer while they make questionable choices. There are some definite uncomfortable bits. But unlike Kids, there is joy and heart and empowerment too. Sasha Lane is amazing.

5. Toni Erdmann – Maren Ade
A father visits his workaholic adult daughter unannounced to check up on her. When he is worried she is unhappy, he stays on with a wig and false teeth and pretends to be a life coach to try to inject some humour and fun into her life. At first she is horrified, then begins to buy into the joke. Full of absurd comedy, but ultimately about an alienated and estranged father and daughter who find their way back to each other and to themselves.

6. Prevenge – Alice Lowe
Dark black comedy/horror about a pregnant woman whose unborn baby encourages her to kill people. She plays with so many tropes about pregnancy and womanhood and subverts all of them. Not for the squeamish but if you like very black comedy, you will dig this.

7. The Love Witch – Anna Biller
Talk about your female auteurs! Biller did almost everything on this film – writing, production and costume design, directing, editing… This is absolutely her own vision. Visually stunning, super campy, subversive film about love and relationships.

8. Things to Come – Mia Hansen-Love
This is a quiet film about change, loss, and resilience. Isabelle Huppert is genius and she gives us a beautifully rounded character who is strong and intellectual as well as compassionate and emotional. Nathalie is a philosophy teacher whose life is turned upside down by a number of major life changes that happen all around the same time.

9. Koneline – Nettie Wild
Some beautiful footage of parts of Northern BC most of us will never see in person. Wild wanted to take a more poetic, fluid look at the contested places and actors in a region where industry and the health of residents and the environment are often at odds, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions about where they stand.

10. All This Panic – Jenny Gage
Dreamy camera work and frank discussions in this doc capture that period of discovery and uncertainty as three girls try to figure out who they are and what they want while under pressure to decide their whole futures by the end of high school. They escape into college or drugs or relationships and vacillate wildly between egotism and insecurity. Challenges our nostalgia and our ideas about the younger generation.

11. Sonita – Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
A documentary about a young Afghani girl whose family’s desire to sell her into marriage threatens her dream of becoming a rapper. We need more films like this to introduce us to the experiences of women and girls in other parts of the world. This film also shows us an interesting conundrum for filmmakers: if the subject of your documentary needs your help, financial or otherwise, do you help or maintain an observational distance?

12. The Invitation – Karen Kusama
A man and his girlfriend are invited to his ex-wife’s dinner party. Is something not quite right? Or is it all in his head? This is a very slow burn until the last 20 minutes but i think that contributes to how effective it is.

13. The Intervention – Clea Duvall
Fluffy Big Chill-inspired comedy/drama with a loveable cast. Scored points from me for reuniting But I’m a Cheerleader’s Clea Duvall and Natasha Lyonne – my favourite movie lesbian couple of all time.

Other 2016 movies directed by women that I haven’t seen yet but desperately want to:
Certain Women – Kelly Reichardt
We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice – Alanis Obomsawin
Window Horses – Ann Marie Fleming
The Bad Batch – Ana Lily Amirpour
Maggie’s Plan – Rebecca Miller
Queen of Katwe – Mira Nair
Weiner – Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman
Paint it Black – Amber Tamblyn

Row Three Favorite Films of 2016

Here are all of RowThree’s contributors top lists for 2016. You are welcome.

Each contributor is listed below – just start scrolling – or you can jump directly to any individual member of the group with a click of their name provided below.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by the site, listened to any of the great podcasts hosted here and/or took the time to leave some comments in a post somewhere and some time throughout the year. We really appreciate each and every one of you. See you all in 2017!


Andrew James
Kurt Halfyard
Marina Antunes
Corey Pierce
Matthew Brown
Bob Turnbull
David Brook
Matt Gamble
Bryan Dressel
Matt Price

Consensus

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Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part One)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
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Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part Three)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (The Whole Bloody Affair)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part Two)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Row Three Favorite Albums of 2016

You came here for movie opinion. Well, the movies wouldn’t be the movies without music (most of them). Believe it or not, a lot of us around here are bigger music nuts than we are about the flickers. In that regard 2016 was a pretty solid year. Of course with a damn near infinite ocean of tuneage our there, it’s hard to keep track of it all; even for the most obstinate of fans. There are one-off singles on Sound Cloud from all over the world. Extremely talented musicians trying to make their way on YouTube and even in 2016, the full studio album continues to sell and inspire like gangbusters.

Just as in the world of film, it was a particularly difficult year for celebrity deaths. Prince, Bowie and Cohen all left us this year, though not without leaving one last token of awesome for all of us to enjoy – the Bowie album in particular is seeing huge critical and fan praise. George Michael was unable to finish the big Wham! reunion that was in the works but we’ve still got a metric ton of material to pore over.

So while there were some definite low-lights this year, it is with much pleasure that Row Three presents all of our favorite music from the year. There was so much it was difficult to keep it to just ten albums in many cases. If you’re looking for something new to whet your ear’s appetite for resonance, I can all but guarantee you’ll find something great in the list of artists below…

Enjoy!


Scott Olson
Andrew James
Corey Pierce
Jim Laczkowski
Bob Turnbull

 

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Lists. Lists! LISTS! (And A Montage)

“Shit just got real. Again.” Film critic and editor, David Ehrlich has compiled a beautiful year-end montage of the themes, moods and vibe of 2016 cinema, using, of all people, President Jimmy Carter, and his iconic state of the nation speech, as a framework. Take this as the initial kick-off of a series of best of lists that will continue until mid-January, 2017. This one is tough to beat.

List: ‘Best Picture’ Oscar versus ‘Significant Cultural Value’

After skipping this years Academy Awards last weekend, but nonetheless reading a lot about them online the next day, I started thinking about how much I enjoyed Spotlight (it’s fantastic), but also how much we will be talking about the film in 5 years or so. The Oscars have the reputation amongst, well, everyone, that in the past decade (or three) of getting the Best Picture so utterly wrong. Now this argument may be extended all the way to the inception of Best Picture in the 1920s, and the primary question about the futility of ranking of art is: By what criteria makes any one movie the best one of the year? Not so easy, but films that resonate, have been lifted into significance over time, and otherwise tickle the popular culture in interesting ways.

Will all due respect to The Dew Over podcast, which had guests (including myself) on a panel re-assess each year (one per episode) of the past several deacades, typically -but not always- in the context of the 5 or so Academy nominations for Best Picture, I took some time to consider the innovation value, cultural imprint, the overall ‘force of contribution’ to the medium of film for any film released in that year, from any country. (This is, obviously, as I see it, of course, not by any ‘scientific or consensus metric.)

I took a look at 1980 up until 2011. These dates were chosen because they constitute my main personal time consuming movies, as well as me living during their release. I was 6 in 1980, and my parents started taking me to movies often (weekly) at about that time, especially to films that were inappropriate for my age, but I digress. I have omitted the last few years due to the need for a little time and space for things to percolate in the culture. Feel free to discuss in the comments section (Obvious Disclaimer: Clearly this is more a fun exercise than a definitive one — because that ultimately is a futile effort, there is so MUCH content in this art-form we call film to really pin anything down, but us humans like our reach to exceed our grasp.)

The format is simple. I list the film awarded by the Academy for Best Picture, then I list what I believe is the ‘best representative’ of that year (yes it is slanted towards American cinema, sue me) and I list a ‘dark horse’ choice to keep things interesting.

1980
The Best Picture Oscar – Ordinary People
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SHINING
Dark Horse Pick – The Empire Strikes Back (Also: Raging Bull)

1981
The Best Picture Oscar – Chariots of Fire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Dark Horse Pick – Excalibur

1982
The Best Picture Oscar – Gandhi
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLADE RUNNER
Dark Horse Pick – Fitzcarraldo

1983
The Best Picture Oscar – Terms of Endearment
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RETURN OF THE JEDI (Star Wars)
Dark Horse Pick – Tender Mercies (Also: The Right Stuff)

1984
The Best Picture Oscar – Amadeus
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – AMADEUS
Dark Horse Pick – Paris, Texas

1985
The Best Picture Oscar – Out of Africa
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BRAZIL
Dark Horse Pick – Back To The Future

1986
The Best Picture Oscar – Platoon
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLUE VELVET
Dark Horse Pick – The Mosquito Coast

1987
The Best Picture Oscar – The Last Emperor
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FULL METAL JACKET
Dark Horse Pick – Broadcast News

1988
The Best Picture Oscar – Rain Man
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Dark Horse Pick – Grave of The Fireflies

1989
The Best Picture Oscar – Driving Miss Daisy
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – DO THE RIGHT THING
Dark Horse Pick – The Killer

1990
The Best Picture Oscar – Dances With Wolves
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – GOODFELLAS
Dark Horse Pick – The Sheltering Sky

1991
The Best Picture Oscar – The Silence of the Lambs
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THELMA AND LOUISE
Dark Horse Pick – Barton Fink

1992
The Best Picture Oscar – Unforgiven
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – UNFORGIVEN
Dark Horse Pick – Raise The Red Lantern

1993
The Best Picture Oscar – Schindler’s List
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – NAKED
Dark Horse Pick – The Piano

1994
The Best Picture Oscar – Forrest Gump
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – PULP FICTION
Dark Horse Pick – Chungking Express

1995
The Best Picture Oscar – Brave Heart
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – SAFE
Dark Horse Pick – 12 Monkeys

1996
The Best Picture Oscar – The English Patient
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FARGO
Dark Horse Pick – Trainspotting (Also: Crash)

1997
The Best Picture Oscar – Titanic
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE ICE STORM
Dark Horse Pick – Princess Mononoke

1998
The Best Picture Oscar – Shakespeare In Love
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – OUT OF SIGHT
Dark Horse Pick – The Big Lebowski

1999
The Best Picture Oscar – American Beauty
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FIGHT CLUB
Dark Horse Pick – Eyes Wide Shut

2000
The Best Picture Oscar – Gladiator
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Dark Horse Pick – Memento

2001
The Best Picture Oscar – A Beautiful Mind
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (LORD OF THE RINGS)
Dark Horse Pick – Mulholland Drive

2002
The Best Picture Oscar – Chicago
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Dark Horse Pick – City of God

2003
The Best Picture Oscar – Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MASTER & COMMANDER
Dark Horse Pick – Lost In Translation

2004
The Best Picture Oscar – Million Dollar Baby
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Dark Horse Pick – Birth

2005
The Best Picture Oscar – Crash
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Dark Horse Pick – Cache

2006
The Best Picture Oscar – The Departed
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE PRESTIGE
Dark Horse Pick – Children of Men

2007
The Best Picture Oscar – No Country For Old Men
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ZODIAC
Dark Horse Pick – There Will Be Blood

2008
The Best Picture Oscar – Slumdog Millionaire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MAN ON WIRE
Dark Horse Pick – Synecdoche, New York

2009
The Best Picture Oscar – The Hurt Locker
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Dark Horse Pick – Enter The Void (Also: A Serious Man)

2010
The Best Picture Oscar – The King’s Speech
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Dark Horse Pick – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Also: Melancholia)

2011
The Best Picture Oscar – The Artist
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – TREE OF LIFE
Dark Horse Pick – We Need To Talk About Kevin

Please chime in with something obvious wrong, or a key title(s) I missed for each year.

Row Three Favorite Films of 2015

A weak year or a strong year? You tell us. With an eclectic group of favorites from so many different people there’s an argument to be made that 2015 was one of the strongest years in film in a long time… but was it really? Well, in box office numbers, there’s no two ways about it. 2015 was the best ever (thank you Universal Pictures and Disney).

Whether you loved or were disappointed in 2015, we all found plenty to love and these are each of RowThree’s contributors’ favorite films of the year along with some honorable mentions, notable misses and even some stinkers. Each contributor is listed below – just start scrolling – or you can jump directly to any individual member of the group with a click of their name provided below.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by the site, listened to any of the great podcasts hosted here and/or took the time to leave some comments in a post somewhere and some time throughout the year. We really appreciate each and every one of you. See you all in 2016!

Marina Antunes
Kurt Halfyard
Andrew James
Corey Pierce
Matthew Brown
Bob Turnbull
David Brook
Matt Gamble
Bryan Dressel
Chewie Darsow
Ryan James
Matt Price

Consensus

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Row Three Favorite Albums of 2015

2014-albums

You know what’s great about music? Well of course you do: an infinite amount of tangible and intangible things. But in the internet’s “need to list everything” context, what I like is that there’s very little overlap. Because there is so much music released in any given year and it’s so incredibly diverse and there are so many different tastes, everyone’s list is unique and interesting and inspiring and full of frisson.

So it is with much pleasure that Row Three presents all of our favorite music from the year. If you’re looking for something new to whet your ear’s appetite for resonance, I can all but guarantee you’ll find something great in the list of artists below…

Enjoy!


Bob Turnbull
Andrew James
David Brook
Jim Laczkowski
Corey Pierce
Scott Olson

 

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