Tag Archives: Patty Jenkins

Wonder Woman

It pains me to say this so I’m just going to spit it out first thing: I hated Wonder Woman.

The film opens with young Diana, the only child living in idyllic Themyscira, a secret island free of men, where all the women are trained to be warriors strong in mind and wonder-woman-movie-gal-gadotbody. Her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) is the fiercest of them all, the greatest warrior the Amazons have ever known, and she’s in charge of training. Though Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to protect her daughter and extend her childhood, Antiope teaches Diana in secret. Themyscira is hidden from mankind, but you never know when the enemy might arrive. Themyscira is lush and beautiful. Filmed on location in Italy, the production is fantastic. The opening scenes where the diverse population of Amazonian women are all training with Antiope are gorgeous. The fight choreography is top notch, with particular sequences slowed down to showcase athletic feats. But we all know utopia can’t last forever, and as soon as Diana (Gal Gadot) is grown, one man does penetrate their paradise: a pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is shot down in their waters. Diana saves him from the wreckage but they’re pursued by Germans. An epic battle between Amazons and Germans unfolds on the beautiful beaches of Themyscira. The Amazons fight unlike anything anyone has ever seen, but the Germans are armed with guns and the Amazons suffer loss. Steve Trevor tells the women that the world is at war (WWI to be exact) and that millions of lives have already been lost. Aghast, Diana swears to accompany him back to where he came from so she can help bring peace, as is her sacred duty.

What did I hate so much about these first 20 minutes that sound so well crafted? I hated that it made me cry, and more than once. I wasn’t prepared to feel so emotional seeing Themyscira, a mythical land only for women, where all these badass ladies are just going about their business. I’ve never seen that on the screen before, and I thought: so this is what men feel when they watch a movie, when they see images of themselves being heroes. I felt proud, and moved. Each woman is highly capable and specialized but in WONDER WOMANbattle, there is no ego; they work together. The costumes are not sexualized as I feared, but instead they highlight muscular shoulders and toned legs. There can be no doubt that the Amazons are capable of truly anything. The fight sequences are among the best you’ve ever seen, the hand-to-hand combat precisely choreographed with as much grace as intensity. And it made me cry to see it. And I felt ashamed to cry, as a woman in 2017, ashamed that it’s taken this long to see a woman successfully take up the mantle of hero, and a woman behind the camera as well, capably directing a tentpole film. Patty Jenkins has so much unfair pressure placed on her shoulders but she’s made a movie that’s close to perfection, that far surpasses anything the DC Extended Universe has produced so far.

After such a soundly convincing start, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the film as intended, feeling confident that my entire gender wouldn’t be blamed if this movie was anything less than spectacular. It is fucking spectacular. Wonder Woman, though never called that in this movie, is a sight to behold. Gal Gadot is well-cast, which has proven to be of utmost importance in these franchises. We have to believe that she is a hero. Her comedic timing works just as well as her dramatic turns. And she’s got great chemistry with Chris Pine.

Wonder Woman is long overdue for a stand-alone movie as she is truly a phenomenal Chris-Pine-and-Gal-Gadot-in-Wonder-Woman-moviesuperhero. The action sequences in this film are among the best, a delight to watch, full of energy, strength and ferocity, as good and frankly better than the stuff we we’ve seen from other comic book movies lately. And arguably, the reason she’s so strong is because she welcomes her softer side. Believing in fighting honourably, while looking your enemy in the eye, Diana never picks up a gun. She runs toward machine guns with only a shield and her cuffs to protect her. And she fights from a place of love. Not duty, not fury, not patriotism or revenge. She fights because she loves. Male superheroes seem to think that love is a weakness, but Wonder Woman knows better: love is the greatest motivator you could ever have.

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Female-Directed Films to Look Forward to in 2017

Put your money where your mouth is: seek out films with women in the director’s seat, and see them in theatres. Women In Film Los Angeles has asked people to take a pledge to see 52 films directed by women in 2017. We’ll be writing about some excellent choices in the back catalogue, but here are some that will be screening in your local cineplex.

Wonder Woman: You’ll have to wait until June for this one, but it’s the first superhero blockbuster to have a female director, and it’s also the first time a woman has been given a budget of over $100 million. Director Patty Jenkins is best known for directing Charlize Theron to her Oscar in Monster. This movie already has a terrific trailer and star Gal Gadot looks pretty badass as the warrior princess, so it’s in pretty good shape.

A United Kingdom: this one hits theatres next month so you’ll soon be able to get a taste of Amma Asante’s work, if you haven’t already (she directed Belle, which you should absolutely check out). A United Kingdom is the true story of  Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and the white lady he chose to marry. You might guess that neither of their families are impressed, but it’s the South African apartheid government that poses the biggest problem. It stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and it debuted well at TIFF.

Lovesong: Also out in February, Lovesong is a road trip movie about two women, a single mother (Riley Keough) and a free spirit (Jena Malone) who see a new intensity to their relationship throughout their travels. Sundance has big praise for the Korean American director So Yong Kim and her intimate, nuanced portrait of strong female leads.

Raw: This one is for only the strongest stomachs among us. It debuted at TIFF to rumours of people fainting and\or vomiting over the graphic scenes, in which a young vegetarian is hazed at vet school by being forced to eat meat, awakening in her a real taste for flesh. Writer-director Julie Ducournau was praised for handling the coming of age stuff just as well as she presents the intensely disturbing stuff, and Ducournau’s just getting started: this is her first feature film, so watch out for her.

Their Finest: This is a romantic war comedy. Yes, you read that right. It sounds wrong but it actually is pretty fantastic. It stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and the wonderful Bill Nighy as the people behind morale-boosting movies during the great war. It’s deliciously funny at times but director Lone Scherfig makes sure it’s more than just that, and everyone rises to the occasion.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: I read this book so I know the film will be intense. It’s the true story of the couple who ran the Warsaw Zoo during the second world war; they used the zoo as cover to hide Jews, and ended up saving hundreds of lives, but not without cost. New Zealand director Niki Caro doesn’t have as house-holdy a name as the star, Jessica Chastain, but other notable movies of hers include McFarland USA, North Country, and Whale Rider. Her name is on its way up.

Rock That Body: I’m not quite sure what to make of this one, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. It’s a female ensemble comedy in the style of The Hangover, only instead of losing a friend, they accidentally kill a male stripper. These things happen! Starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoe Kravitz, and directed by funny lady Lucia Aniello. Fingers crossed that this one works! [Ed. note: this one was renamed Rough Night]

The-Beguiled-Movie-Set-1-1.jpgThe Beguiled: If it sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood. This time around it’ll be Colin Farrel in the Eastwood role, a Union soldier being held prisoner in a Confederate girl’s boarding school. All the young ladies fall for him (including Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, and Nicole Kidman), which means it’s not long until things get complicated. Really complicated. The (new) Beguiled will be directed by Sofia Coppola, who’s got some big titles under her belt like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. I hope this one’s a hit!

Lady Bird: This movie is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a senior in high school (Saoirse Ronan) who’s getting ready to leave home. It co-stars Manchester By The Sea’s Lucas Hedges, plus Jordan Rodrigues, Laurie Metcalfe, and Tracy Letts’ but oddly enough, this first-time solo director is probably the most famous name of all: it’s Greta Gerwig. Good luck to her, and may it be the first of many.

Unicorn Store: We’re not sure when this one’s even coming out but it’s never too early for mv5bodvinzc2ytetndy0my00odk2lwfkodqtmdvjzwzhndzkzmq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjixnde0ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1000_al_anticipation! It’s about a woman named Kit who moves back home to live with her parents and then gets an invitation that makes things interesting. Brie Larson will star AND direct, despite the fact that she’s got an absolutely packed 2017, what with Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire, Basmati Blues, and The Glass Castle all being released, but this quirky future Captain Marvel always has time to surprise us.

 

 

Monster

This movie came out in 2003. I bought the DVD and watched it once and never again – until now. Fifteen years later, it’s as rough as I remembered.

Aileen “Lee” Wuornos is a hooker past her prime. She meets Selby at a bar one night and it’s the oddest case of love at first sight. Lee (Charlize Theron) is smitten, and self-centered Selby (Christina Ricci) loves the attention she lavishes upon her.

Anyway, girlfriends are expensive. Pretty soon Aileen has to start working the highways again. One night, a trick goes wrong. Not that they’re ever right, but more wrong than usual. A john drives her int the woods and beats her unconscious before waking her back up with sodomy. Oh god. I can’t believe I just described that scene so flippantly! It’s HORRIFYING and I’m traumatized and I’m coping by being weirdly light hearted about it. Anyway, Aileen is in a bad way, but what he doesn’t know and she does is that she’s armed. She manages to to break away just long enough to shoot (and kill) him.

Is it weird to describe murder as empowering? Aileen is unsuitable for any other kind of work and though she’d like to quit prostitution, she and Selby can’t quite partying, so it’s back to working truck stops, only this time she only uses sex as the bait, and then murders them for cash and cars. This becomes another one of her addictions.

Aileen Wuornos is a real-life serial murderer. A lot has already been said about Charlize Theron’s physical transformation to play her, so I’m going to concentrate instead on what an interesting character she is. I mean, there’s no denying that Aileen herself is a victim. She even convinces herself it’s a justification for her increasing blood lust. What she does is undeniably wrong but society had already left her in the dust. Where, exactly, was Aileen’s place? That’s what earned Charlize her Oscar. She didn’t try to excuse away her crimes, but she did find empathy for her. Theron is intense as hell in this movie. Her eyes shoot laser beams with such focus you’d think her life depended on it – and in fact, for Aileen, it did. A moment’s inattention could have cost her her life. But otherwise she’s not at home in her body. Theron prowls as Aileen, her shoulders curling, discomfort in her very posture. Her performance is one for the ages.

Director Patty Jenkins treats Aileen with compassion, and she might be the first to do so. Monster doesn’t feel exploitative. Aileen might have had the morals beaten out of her, but we haven’t, and Jenkins’ framing of her always keeps this in mind. The first time Aileen kills, it’s in self defense. Subsequently though, she kills for every time a man has done her dirty, and that’s a very long list. When a tiny sliver of redemption offers itself, Aileen is unequipped to take it. But Jenkins refuses to objectify her; she treats her humanely, which is possibly more than Wuernos ever got in life.