Blogathons

Girl Week 2020: Female Directors of 2020

For 6 years now, one of my favourite movie buffs Dell at Dell on Movies has hosted his Girl Week blogathon, celebrating females in the movie industry. Many bloggers have been posting this week and I’ve snuck in at the last minute with a post of my own. If you want to find out more check out Dell’s announcement post and give him a follow if you haven’t already.

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In 2019 and 2018 I posted about the female directors of that year so far, and it feels right to carry on with that theme. At this point in November in 2018 I had watched 47 new releases, and just 4 of them were directed by woman, which shocked me. In 2019, I’d seen 70 new releases, and only 8 were directed by women. That’s still really bad, isn’t it? I told myself after that I would make a concentrated effort to improve that figure by you know, 2020 happened and I have to admit I haven’t kept track. So with that in mind, allow me a minute (or 20) to look at my Letterboxd account and run the figures.

Number of 2020 releases watched so far: 77
Number of 2020 releases watched that are directed by women: 16

You know what? I’m reservedly happy with that number. Of course I wish it was higher but that’s double the number of last year when I’ve watched roughly the same number of movies overall. I think it’s mainly due to having virtually no blockbuster movies this year, freeing up my time for indie releases. I’ll list all 16 for you now, and I may as well do a top 5, right?

365 Days – Barbara Bialowas, Tomasz Mandes
Emma. – Autumn de Wilde
Mulan – Niki Caro
Misbehaviour – Philippa Lowthorpe
High Note – Nisha Ganatra
Desperados – LP
The Old Guard – Gina Prince-Bythewood
She Dies Tomorrow – Amy Seimetz
Unpregnant – Rachel Goldenberg
On the Rocks – Sofia Coppola
American Murder: The Family Next Door – Jenny Popplewell

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#5 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend – Claire Scanlon

Chosing a 5th place was tricky because looking back at my film diary, I ranked a lot of these 7/10. The one I had the most fun with though was the interactive Kimmy Schmidt movie. The show cheered me up during the tough days of having a newborn baby, and now the movie is here cheering me up in a terrible year!

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#4 Birds of Prey – Cathy Yan

It almost feels surreal that I was at a cinema this year to see Birds of Prey. I don’t generally rate the DC movies but this was so much fun, and Margot Robbie is the perfect Harley Quinn. It sucks that WB didn’t give it the marketing it deserves, and now it’s been hailed as a flop.

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#3 Kajillionaire – Miranda July

Kajillionaire just represents everything I love about indie movies. Great characters, great acting and a weird as heck story. I’m so glad I got to see it at the cinema before they closed again, and I’m hopeful that a streaming service picks it up soon so I can watch it again.

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#2 The Broken Hearts Gallery – Natalie Krinsky

I’ve seen The Broken Hearts Gallery twice now and loved it just as much on a rewatch. There are hoards of average romcoms released every year but every now and again there’s a diamond in the rough and this is one of them.

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#1 Happiest Season – Clea DuVall

I haven’t written a proper review of Happiest Season yet (that’s coming next week) but there’s just no way I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I’ve always been a Kristen Stewart fan, I would walk on all the LEGO barefoot for Aubrey Plaza and these last couple of months I’ve binge watched an unhealthy amount of Schitt’s Creek for Daniel Levy so it would have taken a disaster for me to not love this movie.

Movie Reviews

Shithouse (2020)

shithouse-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Cooper Raiff

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Runtime: 100 Mminutes

Main Cast: Cooper Raiff, Dylan Gelula, Amy Landecker, Logan Miller, Olivia Welch, Abby Quinn, Joy Sunday

Plot: Alex (Cooper Raiff) is having a tough time settling in at college. He misses his family terribly and his roommate is a jerk to say the least. One night he pushes himself to try harder and attends a party at Shithouse, which is where he meets Maggie (Dylan Gelula), a girl who understands him.

My Thoughts: I might be in my 30’s with a husband, child and mortgage but I’m still a big kid deep down so let me start by saying that the title alone was enough to make me want to watch Shithouse. It won the biggest award at SXSW this year, quite the feat during a year when the festival was cancelled! In its most basic form, Shithouse is a coming of age movie, but deep down it’s so much more than that. It’s a movie for the kids who never fit in, who cried on the phone their Mum and stood awkwardly in the corner at parties.

It’s rare for a movie to show that side of college in the first place, let alone from a male perspective. Boys cry too, you know? Alex even has a stuffed toy in his room that speaks to him through the power of subtitles. When he meets Maggie it seems she has it all figured out, but the more he gets to know her it’s clear to see she’s struggling too. Even his roommate Sam (Logan Miller) is having a hard time, it’s just difficult to tell when he’s forever getting drunk and boasting about his comedic skills.

This is Cooper Raiff’s directional debut but I’d never have guessed. I’ll definitely be looking out for what he makes next. As an actor he does a great job but you can tell he doesn’t have the experience with bigger projects when he’s on screen with Dylan Gelula or Logan Miller. All in all, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Shithouse as much as I did. It’s a low budget movie that doesn’t need to try and be bigger than it is, and I highly recommend it!

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Best Bit: There’s no stand out moment for me, per-say, but I just loved how real it all felt. That’s the joy with indie movies I guess, they don’t have to pander to a wide audience so it’s easier to find something that really resonates with me. There’s no magical click of the fingers to solve a problem for Alex, he has to work at it.

Worst Bit: Again, no specific moments jump to mind but the middle section REALLY drags. It’s important to the story but it slows the whole movie down to a snail pace and my mind started to drift.

Fun Trivia: The film was set to have its world premiere at South by Southwest in March 2020, but the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The South by Southwest film competition nevertheless went ahead, and Shithouse won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 goldfish that, should you ever go on holiday, you shouldn’t leave in the care of Maggie.

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Movie Reviews

On the Rocks (2020)

on-the-rocks-2020-movie-review-posterDirector: Sofia Coppola

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 96 Minutes

Main Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate, Liyanna Muscat

Plot: Laura (Rashida Jones) feels stuck in a rut and has deep concerns about her marriage. Finding a woman’s toiletry bag in Dean’s (Marlon Wayans) suitcase is the final straw. After confiding in her father (Bill Murray) she gets roped into following Dean to find out if he’s being unfaithful.

My Thoughts: Can I make a confession? I’ve only watched one other movie directed by Sofia Coppola which was Lost in Translation (2003) and I really hated it. I know it’s one of those movies everyone loves but ugh, I couldn’t get into it at all, it bored me senseless. I love to check Letterboxd to see what’s trending and what everyone is watching and On the Rocks has been in that top list for a while now, but once I saw the director I just couldn’t watch it. Then I read Movie Rob’s review and told him my thoughts. Turns out he wasn’t a fan of Lost in Translation either but he enjoyed this! That’s all I needed to give it a go myself.

And I’m so glad, because I really enjoyed it. It was still quite slow paced and didn’t grip me from start to finish, but there was a lot to enjoy and it played on my mind a lot afterwards too, one of those movies you find yourself liking more after you finished watching it, if that makes sense? Rashida Jones is such a likeable lead, I’ve been a big fan of her since Parks & Recreation. It’s Bill Murray who steals the show however, playing an eccentric, wealthy father. The role feels like it was written for him, there’s noone else who could play it the same way.

I wasn’t expecting the adventure element that the movie had, I guess I thought a movie like this would mostly take place in one location. It certainly helped to keep things going and those scenes with Rashida Jones and Bill Murray together in his car are by far the best ones. I’m not sure I’ll be giving Lost in Translation a second chance any time soon, but I at least won’t shy away from any more of Sofia Coppola’s movies.

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Best Bit: *SPOILERS* Maybe I’m feeling cynical this year, but I really didn’t expect the outcome. I was so pleasantly surprised, because I think most movies like this would have ended with the suspicions being correct but the person left hurt being okay in the end and finding peace with it but this ending was just so wholesome.

Worst Bit: Other than it being a bit slow the only bit that really lost me was when Laura was happy to leave her kids behind for a few days while she went to Mexico. That was just a little bit too silly for me, although I understand why it needed to happen for the story.

Fun Trivia: A picture of Bill Murray and Barack Obama playing mini-golf in the film appears which happened in real life when Bill Murray was presented with The Mark Twain Prize.

My Rating: 3 and a half beautifully wrapped birthday presents containing a really handy gadget for the kitchen, but also disappointment.

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Book Reviews

The Guest List, Lucy Foley

Oh this second lockdown has got me into such a funk. I won’t complain but I’m just not me at the moment. I haven’t been watching as many movies as I’d like to, but I’ve at least been enjoying reading before bed each night. I’ll have to step outside my book-related comfort zone again soon, but the last book I read was The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Last year I read and reviewed another book of hers, The Hunting Party, so it was interesting to compare the two.

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Set on a tiny island off the Irish coast, The Guest List is centered around an extravagant wedding.  Jules is the bride, hugely successful but slightly on edge as she’s received a strange warning note about her husband to be – Will. He’s a charming man, famous for his TV show which sounds not too different from Bear Grylls. His past is coming back to haunt him in the form of his best man Johnno. Add into the mix a couple who don’t fit in at all, but whom one of them has a long history with Jules, and an extremely troubled bridesmaid, and it’s a wedding bound for disaster.

The disaster strikes very soon into the book – a body is found. But we don’t know who, we don’t know how, and we don’t know why. The rest then is a slow burn story that enlightens us to the main characters and how they might be linked to this death.

I’ve read some slow burns that have irritated me no end because nothing seems to happen until the twist but this isn’t the case here, there’s always something new to learn and it made the book difficult to put down. There were twists that I never saw coming and although by the time we learn who the body is it isn’t so much of a shock anymore, there are still surprises to come.

My biggest, and maybe only problem with The Guest List is the exact same problem I had with the other Lucy Foley book I read – the characters are so unlikeable! I’m starting to realise maybe this is intentional or just Foley’s signature way of writing her characters. I’m just not used to it? I don’t know. Anyway – it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book and I definitely recommend it to other fans of the genre.

Lists

Thursday Movie Picks: Favorite Cinematography

When I first got in movie blogging in 2014 I was only really watching the same kind of movies I’d ever known, all romcoms, comedies and blockbuster action flicks. Being a blogger has obviously opened my eyes to the whole spectrum but back then I had no time for what I know as ‘Oscar movies’. I actually laughed at the trailer for Whiplash (2014) but when I saw it? Wow.

That year, like many movie bloggers, I put together my predictions for the Oscars. They were all blind guesses, I’m not going to lie. Even now there are some categories I still have to make a guess at, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. But one category in particular confused me more than ever, and that was Best Cinematography. To try and explain it to someone else would make me look like a tit, but my best understanding of it now is the way a movie looks. You know those moments where you think wow, that looks beautiful? That’s cinematography.

And that’s the topic of Wandering Through the Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks this week. So before I make a bigger fool of myself, let me share some of my favourite shots.

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1917 (2019)

I could have picked 100 shots from this movie, it’s absolutely stunning. But this moment during night time is the one that sticks with me. I was already exhausted and on edge, and then in this quiet, stunning moment there’s a shadow in the distance and we have no idea if they’re a friend or foe.

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La La Land (2016)

Los Angeles has a special place in my heart. My husband and I first visited in 2016 on our honeymoon, and we went back last year with our daughter and my parents and brother to celebrate our 30th birthday. My favourite way to spend the day there was at one of its many beaches, walking the pier was just so peaceful. That’s just one of the many reasons I love La La Land.

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Sicario (2015)

Sicario was one of those first few movies to really shock me when I was still discovering movies outside my comfort zone. It was so tense, and yet absolutely stunning at the same time. The scenes shot at night time were incredible.