Thursday Movie Picks: Films Directed by a Female Director

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Films Directed by a Female Director.

I have to admit I hadn’t seen as many films by female directors as much as I should. There are still a few movies I’m hoping to see later this month that are directed by women: Promising Young Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, One Night in Miami, to name a few.

Well, for this week’s TMP, I thought I’d pick two movies I saw in 2020 and one underrated movie by a female director that I haven’t talked about on this blog but I really think people should check out.

In any case, here are my three picks:

On The Rocks (2020)

Directed by Sofia Coppola

A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.

I mentioned this on my November recap that I decided to watch this after listening to a review of it on NPR. The idea of seeing a movie set in NYC where the characters roamed around Manhattan and having drinks at a swanky speakeasy bar like the 21 Club just sounds so enchanting during lockdown. I was living vicariously through Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, who play father and daughter in this Sofia Coppola dramedy.

I mentioned that there’s a bit of a Woody Allen-ish vibe to this movie. Now what I mean by that is Coppola seems to only make movies about affluent people and their problems just seem so trivial, perhaps even more so during a pandemic where people are dealing with live and death situations. In any case, I think the movie has its charm, but not exactly the director’s best work.


Nomadland (2020)

Directed by Chloé Zhao

After losing everything in the Great Recession, a widow embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

This was my pick of Movie of the Month in October. I was going to do a review of it this month but since its wide release is delayed until February 2021, I’ll delay my review until next year. I first saw Chloé Zhao‘s work in The Rider which was such a pleasant surprise. I love that she immerses herself in the subject matter and tackle her films with a curious mind that makes her films so thought-provoking. Mixing veteran actors (David Strathairn has a supporting role here) with non-actors, it’s an intriguing character study with a serene, quiet grace.

Confession: I still haven’t seen Frances McDormand‘s Oscar-winning turn in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but judging from its trailer, this is quite a different role for her. Her character Fern is taciturn and reflective, requiring McDormand to act with her eyes and mannerism alone. If you don’t mind a slow-paced film, and there is not much going on here, your patience will be rewarded. Plus, the visuals of Zhao’s films are always astounding.

 


Their Finest (2016)

Directed by Lone Scherfig

A former secretary, newly appointed as a scriptwriter for propaganda films, joins the cast and crew of a major production while the Blitz rages around them.

This movie has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet it flew so much under the radar. It’s too bad as it’s such a terrific film set during the London Blitz of WWII, starring the lovely Gemma Arterton who I also think is an underrated actress.

I like films about filmmaking and this one centers on the making of propaganda films. Arterton’s character Catrin Cole ends up investigating the story of two young women who supposedly piloted a boat in the Dunkirk Evacuation. The always-watchable Bill Nighy is fun to watch here as an actor named Ambrose Hilliard who’s hired as the leading man. There’s a tentative romance between Catrin and screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) but I wouldn’t categorize this as a rom-com, more of a dramedy.

I highly recommend this one which is available on streaming and free on HBO Max. In fact, I just might have to watch this again soon!


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

NOVEMBER 2020 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Wow!! It’s actually December!! Well folks, only a month left in 2020… the year that’ll definitely go down in history as one of the weirdest, most challenging year ever for many of us. I don’t know about you, but I never thought I’d experience a pandemic in my lifetime, but hey surely it isn’t the worst moment in this century. According to the CDC website, the flu pandemic of 1918 happened during WWI. Overcrowding and global troop movement helped spread the virus, causing at least 50 million deaths worldwide, including approximately 675,000 in the US. For comparison, so far Covid-19 has killed nearly 1.5 million people worldwide.

As of today, the lockdown in my state of MN still continues for another 3 weeks… and possibly could last through Christmas. Thank goodness for internet and streaming services … I honestly can’t imagine life without them.

In any case, here’s what I watched in November:

New-to-me Movies

The Nest


Read my full review

Life for an entrepreneur and his American family begins to take a twisted turn after moving into an English country manor.

On The Rocks

A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.

I was listening to NPR last Friday, and they were talking about this Sofia Coppola dramedy so I decided to watch it when I got home. I think it’s pretty enjoyable and worth a watch for Bill Murray being his fun, charming self, but overall it feels a bit Woody Allen-ish, and that’s not exactly a compliment.

The Life Ahead

In seaside Italy, a Holocaust survivor with a daycare business takes in a 12-year-old street kid who recently robbed her.

See my quick review below. Highly recommend this one!

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb

After unearthing a tomb that had been untouched for 4,400 years, Egyptian archaeologists attempt to decipher the history of the astonishing find.

I’ve always been fond of archaeological documentaries and this one is especially fascinating. All the archaeologists are Egyptians or from that region, which I think made it feel even more personal and even emotional as they truly care about what the findings mean for their people.

The Banker

In the 1960s two African-American entrepreneurs hire a working-class white man to pretend to be the head of their business empire while they pose as a janitor and chauffeur.

Based on a true story, Anthony Mackie + Samuel L. Jackson made for quite a wonderful duo though the adaptation feels rather too safe which lessened its emotional impact. Given the immense talents involved, this film could’ve been far more powerful. Still well worth a watch though.

The Love Punch

A divorced couple scheme to recover the retirement money that was stolen from them.

I actually watched this one and The Tourist back to back… I have to say the scenery is what appeals to me as this one took place mostly in the South of France. Plus it’s got Emma Thompson in what promises to be a fun comedy caper. Alas, no amount of star power nor stunning scenery could make up for a dumb script. It’s so embarrassingly bad, I’m willing to bet the actors signed up for this so they get a free vacation on the French Riviera.

A Princess For Christmas

At the invitation of an estranged relative, a young woman travels with her niece and nephew to a castle in Europe for Christmas, where she unwittingly falls for a dashing Prince.

I can’t even count how many holiday movies there are on Netflix w/ the prince/princess in the title 😀  Somehow I kept seeing this banner amongst its seemingly-endless Christmas rom-coms that got me curious. Whaddayaknow, this one has Sir Roger Moore as a rather curmudgeon English duke… and that Scottish hunk from Outlander Sam Heughan. The lead actress Katie McGrath, who looks so distractingly similar to Keira Knightley (esp her toothy grin), is quite likable despite her touch-and-go American accent. Well, predictably, the movie is filled with typical cockamamie fairy-tale plot that’s utterly schmaltzy, but it’s actually not as bad as I had feared. The scenes of the family decorating the Christmas tree and the servants helping the girl out is quite sweet, it sort of made up for the lack of chemistry between the two romantic leads.


TV Series

The Expanse season 4 | The Queen’s Gambit | The Crown Season 4 | The Mandalorian Season 2

I binged on four excellent series this past month. The Queen’s Gambit proved to be a hit on Netflix and it’s indeed excellent (check out Vince’s review if you haven’t already).

The Expanse season 4 kept up the thrills from the previous 3 seasons, and I love that this time, most of the drama takes place off the ship, in an earth-like planet referred to as Ilus, or New Terra by the UN. It made me even more excited to see Season 5, esp. involving a man from Naomi’s past, Marco Inaros.

I’m not a huge royal family fan, but I can’t help but get caught up in the whole drama of Charles + Diana again after watching season 4. Emma Corrin was really convincing as Princess Di, that’s quite an acting coupe to get someone who doesn’t just look the part but could portray the essence of who we think Diana was. Gillian Anderson is an inspired casting as Margaret Thatcher but I think she did a good job, and I ended up watching a couple of documentaries on the real Iron Lady on youtube.

I’ve only seen 2 episodes of The Mandalorian season 2, but I love that first episode with Timothy Olyphant as The Marshall. My hubby commented right away how he looked so much like Pierce Brosnan with his salt/pepper hair, so true!


Rewatches

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

A dose of Jane Austen is always a good idea. I love, love the visuals of this Joe Wright version and the music by Dario Marianelli.

Vanity Fair (Miniseries)

I wanted to see Tom Bateman in something, anything… and Death on the Nile has been delayed indefinitely 😦 Anyhoo, I quite like this miniseries, which captured the essence of the sly Becky Sharp, played brilliantly by Olivia Cooke. Mr. Bateman looks fetching in that cavalry uniform, even as he falls hopelessly in love with the shrewd miss Sharp.

The Little Mermaid (1989)

This is one of my childhood faves and I still absolutely adore the visuals and the songs by Alan Menken. I gotta admit though, the premise of a girl giving up her entire identity in search for a man’s love doesn’t have the same appeal anymore.

The Tourist (2010)

Can’t believe this movie is 10 years old! This was Jolie pre-Brangelina and Depp hadn’t even met Amber Heard yet… boy that seemed like three lifetimes ago. Well, this movie is so gorgeous to look at–and makes me yearn to one day visit Venice again–but the plot is still as daft as ever. I did find it funnier than the first time I saw it however, but I also find myself shaking my head how a movie credited with three award-winning writers, including Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes, could’ve written such a turd!!


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

THE LIFE AHEAD

Though Sophia Loren is one of the most famous actresses of Hollywood golden age, I’ve actually only seen one of her films, Arabesque (because I was hugely into Gregory Peck almost a decade ago). This is a comeback of sort for the 86-year-old actress, as her last feature was in 2010, and The Life Ahead was directed by her own son, Edoardo Ponti. I’ll do a full review of it at some point, but I highly recommend this beautiful and heart-wrenching drama, which you can now watch on Netflix.


Well, what have you been watching in November? What’s YOUR fave movie you saw last month?