Top 8 female directors

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Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Yet again there was an absence of female directors in this year’s major awards ceremonies nominations. Apart from Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 Academy Award Best Director win for her film, The Hurt Locker, female directors have largely been neglected from the best director category at the Oscars as well as the BAFTAs.

Despite this, there is an abundance of talented creative women who should be known and appreciated for their contributions to the world of film. So, just in time for International Women’s Day, here’s a list of 10 fantastic female directors.

1) Lynne Ramsey

'You Were Never Really Here' premiere, BFI London Film Festival, UK - 14 Oct 2017

Lynne Ramsey’s latest film You Were Never Really Here starred Joaquin Phoenix in the leading role. (Credit: Pete Summers)

Scottish-born director, cinematographer, writer and producer, Lynne Ramsey, won the Cannes Jury Prize for her first short film Small Deaths and since then has gone on to direct, write and produce a number of successful films. We Need to Talk About Kevin, released in 2011, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller was met with positive reviews and was nominated for a number of awards including a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Most recently Ramsey wrote, directed and produced psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here. The film won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

 

2) Ava DuVernay

Before diving into the world of film, Ava DuVernay was involved in journalism and PR, working for 20th Century Fox, but ended up creating her own PR agency, The DuVernay Agency. But since 2005, after she made her first film Saturday Night Life, DuVernay has been involved in the production of films, television, music videos and advertising. In 2014, she directed Selma, a film based on the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 led by Martin Luther King Jr. The film was nominated for best picture at the Oscars but DuVernay missed out on a best director nomination. Most recently, DuVernay is set to direct a New Gods adaptation for the DC Extended Universe.

 

3) Jennifer Kent

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Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook terrified audiences in 2014. (Credit: Indiewire)

Starting her career as an actress, Jennifer Kent starred in a number of Australian-based television series before becoming an acting teacher at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. But it was in 2014 that she wrote and made her directorial debut making one of the most memorable horror films of the 21st century, The Babadook. Following the story of a mother and son in turmoil as they are haunted by a disturbing presence in their home, The Babadook received rave reviews from critics and won a number of awards including best horror at the 20th Empire Awards.

 

4) Karyn Kusama

After working on documentary films following her graduation from New York University, Karyn Kusama directed her first feature film, Girlfight, starring Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Widows) and released it in 2000. The film received a series of awards including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Kusama directed the cult classic comedy horror film Jenifer’s Body in 2009 and in 2015 directed the well-received psychological thriller, The Invitation. Now available on Netflix, The Invitation follows a number of couples at a dinner party gone wrong.

 

5) Valerie Faris

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The dysfunctional Hoover family captured the hearts of audiences in Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s Little Miss Sunshine. (Credit: Eric Lee/Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Teamed up with her husband, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris has won six MTV Music Video Awards while directing music videos for The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and Oasis just to name a few. However, the pair made their feature film directorial debut in 2006 with the highly successful, Little Miss Sunshine, which one two BAFTAs and two Oscars. The film starred big names including Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell and Alan Arkin and followed the Hoover family as they took a road-trip to watch Olive (Abigail Breslin), compete in the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ beauty pageant. Faris is currently working on Living With Yourself, a comedy series starring Paul Rudd set to be released on Netflix in the next year.

 

6) Catherine Hardwicke

It wouldn’t be a proper list of great female directors without the woman responsible for the first movie in the Twilight Saga. Love it or hate it, based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight made $35.7 million in the US on its opening day and at the time, the film’s opening weekend gross was the most ever made by a film directed by a women. Twilight aside, Catherine Hardwicke also directed The Nativity Story (2006), Red Riding Hood (2011) and most recently Miss Bala (2019).

 

7) Mary Harron

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Christian Bale starred as Patrick Bateman in Marry Harron’s American Psycho. (Credit: Culturised)

Starting out as a music journalist writing for Punk magazine, Mary Harron also wrote for The Guardian and The Observer before directing a number of documentaries for the BBC. Following her directorial debut I Shot Andy Warhol, Harron went on to direct American Psycho in the year 2000, based on the book by Brett Easton Ellis. The black-comedy starred Christian Bale in the leading role as the infamous Patrick Bateman, alongside Willem Defoe, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux and Reese Witherspoon. Harron has also directed numerous TV series including the 2017 Netflix miniseries, Alias Grace. 

 

8) Kathryn Bigelow

Becoming the first woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009 for her 2008 film, The Hurt Locker. Bigelow’s first feature directorial debut was The Loveless (1981), a biker drama starring Willem Defoe in the leading role. Since then, Kathryn Bigelow has directed and written a number of successful movies including the 2017 film Detroit, which stars John Boyega, Will Poulter and Algee Smith, just to name a few.

 

You can check out our favourite female film characters podcast here.

 

Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s directorial debut brings us the inspiring story of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Written, directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and based on the memoir of the same name, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of a young boy and his fight to save his village from a devastating famine.

Set in the early 2000s in Malawi, we meet William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba), a young boy living with his family near the rural village of Wimbe. The Kamkwambas are a family of farmers and it’s clear from the start that times are hard. William’s father, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works tirelessly in the fields each day and the family are struggling to pay William’s school fees. However, things take a turn for the worse when the village crops fail due to a horrendous drought. Many are forced to leave to avoid starvation, and the Kamkwambas are left desperate after they are robbed of their remaining grain stores.

Although William gets banned from school because his parents have been unable to pay the sufficient fees, he persuades his science teacher (who is interested in William’s sister) to allow him access to the school library. Towards the beginning of the film, we learn that William runs a small business fixing radios for people in his village and has a keen interest in electronics, but it’s at the library he learns about energy and wind power. After reading in the library and rummaging in the local scrap yard, he soon becomes convinced that he can save his village from hunger by building a windmill to help power a water pump to support the crops.

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Maxwell Simba plays William Kamkwamba in new Netflix release, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. (Credit: Netflix)

The film is a fantastic directorial debut from Chiwetel Ejiofor. It is visually stunning and succeeds in immersing the audience into the lives of the struggling Wimbe villagers. Ejiofor’s performance as William’s father is just as impressive. Although he has nasty traits, his facial expressions and the emotion in his eyes helps the audience connect with the character. You grow to care about Trywell and understand he is under a tremendous amount of strain to try to provide for his family.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic, but the standout performance comes from Maxwell Simba’s portrayal of William. Simba shows just as much raw emotion as veteran actor Ejiofor’s character, and this is Simba’s film debut. Apart from a few short scenes, the movie is essentially told from William’s perspective, giving Simba a tremendous task of guiding the audience through the narrative, but he executes this perfectly. In each and every scene, you can sense William’s drive and passion, even when those around him don’t necessarily believe in his ambition. It’s truly inspiring: you want to see him succeed and prove everyone wrong.

Despite the convincing performances from the cast, the film does have a pacing issue. There are several scenes and plot points that could have been shortened or left out entirely. For example, William’s sister and her ongoing relationship with William’s teacher features quite heavily but there isn’t much of a pay-off. It may have been more interesting to see this plot line replaced with additional scenes with the village chief, Chief Wimbe, played by Joseph Marcell (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). However, since the film is based on a true story, it’s difficult to comment on what should and shouldn’t have been included.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is by no means a perfect film and it’s not one I will be rushing back to watch immediately. But the emotional performances from the cast make it memorable and Chiwetel Ejiofor has triumphed with his directorial debut.

You can check out the trailer for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind below.

Read more of Olivia’s film reviews here:

Paddleton

Vice

 

Entertainment review: March 8th

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the new Game of Thrones season 8 trailer and the latest releases.

EN4 News Movie and TV Round-up

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the Oscars and the latest movie releases.

For more discussion on the Oscars, check out our Oscars reflection podcast here.

You can also check out Michaella Wheatley’s review of Fighting with my Family, or Olivia Hill’s review of Netflix’s Paddleton.

Podcast: Oscars reflection

The red carpet was rolled out for the Oscars last weekend for the biggest night in film. Olivia Hill, Liam Mackay and Paul Sinclair discuss all the night’s events in our Oscars reflection podcast.


One rarely falls in love without being as much attracted to what is interestingly wrong with someone as what is objectively healthy

Read another EN4News Oscars piece here.

And check out our Oscars nominations podcast to see if we got anything right!

Film Review: Paddleton

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Mark Duplass and Ray Romano bond over a game of ‘paddleton’ in new Netflix drama (Credit: Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

Netflix’s new bromance drama, Paddleton, will have you chuckling and reaching for the tissues at the same time.

Recently released on Netflix following its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival at the beginning of the month, Paddleton follows best friends Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano). The two face significant changes in their lives when they find out Michael has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The two embark on a journey together after Michael decides he wants to take life-ending drugs before his illness becomes too painful, and asks Andy to join him on a ‘road trip’ to purchase the medication to help him end his life. Although Andy is hesitant at first and continues to struggle to come to terms with Michael’s decision throughout the film, he accepts his friend’s choice and the two go on a strange, yet sort of beautiful journey.

Directed by Alex Lehmann (Blue Jay), Paddleton provides us with a refreshing take on ‘bromances’. We are often led to believe in film and television there is something funny or amusing about two men having a bromance. That there is something weird or abnormal about grown men having close platonic friendships. But Paddleton debunks this idea and shows us it is completely normal and healthy for two grown men to have a close, meaningful friendship with one another.

In Paddleton, Michael and Andy are essentially the most important people in each other’s lives. They’re neighbours, they eat together, they talk about work, they bond over watching kung fu movies every night and they play ‘paddleton’ with together. (Paddleton is similar to squash, but the ball has to bounce off the wall and land in a barrel).

But despite the pleasing friendship between the two leads, there is no escaping the serious subject matter explored in the film. The concept of ‘assisted dying’ has been examined a number of times in film and television over the years; perhaps most recently in Louis Theroux’s Altered States documentary, Choosing Death which sparked a lot of conversations online. It’s not an easy topic to digest and many people have conflicted feelings about the matter, but Paddleton manages to tackle the upsetting elements of the film in a sensitive manner and the interjections of comedy between Duplass and Romano ensure the narrative isn’t too heavy.

Ray Romano and Mark Duplass complement each other perfectly. Although neither character is particularly talkative, the dialogue is engaging and their conversations are amusing and believable. The level of comedy fades appropriately as the movie goes on, and towards the end of the film the interactions between Michael and Andy are raw and emotional.

The performances by both leads were exceptional but I was particularly impressed with Romano. We may perhaps be used to seeing Ray Romano in comedic roles. I for one remember watching Everybody Loves Raymond every morning before school. But Romano has shown more and more he is an actor with range. His performance in Michael Showalter’s Academy Award winning 2017 film, The Big Sickwas touching, memorable and entirely believable, so it’s exciting to see him take on a similar role in Paddleton.

This film is in no way revolutionary and it is not something I could watch again and again. The pacing is slow at times and nothing particularly special happens until the very end of the film. In fact, some may argue that the majority of the movie is largely insignificant. But Paddleton is a film I would recommend. It’s simple, but has a powerful message about the importance of friendship that we can all relate to.

You can watch the trailer for Paddleton below.

To read another of Olivia’s Netflix reviews, click here.

Podcast: Reactions to Liam Neeson’s racist comments

Luka Kenyon, Linnea Lind and Olivia Hill discuss the public’s reaction to Liam Neeson’s racist comments in another EN4 News podcast.

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Liam Neeson was criticised this week for making racist comments (Credit: flickr)

Entertainment weekly round-up

Olivia Hill takes you through the latest entertainment news including this week’s film releases.

 

You can watch the full trailers for all the films mentioned in this video below:

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Pet Sematary

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The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

All Is True

 

 

Series Review: Russian Doll

 

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Natasha Lyonne has to live the same day over and over in Netflix’s Russian Doll (Credit: imdb.com)

The Groundhog Day theme has been done way too many times in film and television right? Wrong. Netflix’s new binge-worthy series, Russian Doll, provides audiences with a brand new take on the concept.

Created and produced by Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Orange Is the New Black), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation) and Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), Russian Doll introduces us to Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) as she tries to escape from a 36th birthday party thrown for her by her friends in New York City.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t get very far. After running into the road to try to catch her missing cat, Oatmeal, Nadia is hit and killed by a taxi before finding herself back in the bathroom at her birthday party where she was at the beginning of the episode.

Throughout the following episodes, we see Nadia die in a variety of ways including falling down the stairs (multiple times), drowning and getting caught up in an elevator accident. Each time she returns to the same bathroom and the same song (you will either love or hate Gotta Get Up by Harry Nilsson by the end of the series) to repeat the same day over and over again.

As the show progresses, we see Nadia try to navigate her way through the situation and Natasha Lyonne is a joy to watch. Her character is quirky, she speaks her mind and she is incredibly funny. Even during her worst meltdowns, she manages to come out with some memorable one-liners. This makes her actions and interactions with other characters interesting yet Nadia is still level-headed enough that the audience can relate to her and care about her as she goes through this journey.

Although Natasha Lyonee’s performance as Nadia is engaging enough on its own to keep you interested, the show’s storyline takes an unexpected twist several episodes in, which totally changes the way you believe things might go, in fact, it changes the whole structure of the show. It becomes much more complex than someone just repeating the same day over and over and I guarantee you won’t be able to stop watching at this point.

Yes, Natasha Lyonne is fantastic and the twists and turns in the narrative do well at keeping the audience enagaged, but the best thing about Russian Doll is that the show doesn’t just focus on the groundhog day element, it explores the traumas haunting the main character and how she deals with this throughout the whole experience. The looping of each death could be a symbol of the fact that Nadia must learn that she has to face her demons, or she will keep facing the same issues over and over again, just like she keeps having to face the same day.

Natasha Lyonne has described the show as a “bizarre version of an autobiography” as the series touches on some issues she has faced throughout her life. This makes sense as her performance and the lines she delivers are entirely believable. You can tell this is a series that means something to her and that she and the other creators have tried hard to ensure the show has heart and will draw people in.

There are so many layers to Russian Doll and it’s a pleasure to watch as they are peeled back as the show progresses. Each episode is only 24 to 30 minutes long, which you wouldn’t think was long enough to become so engaged with characters in a show. But the perfect combination of clever writing and sharp, interesting dialogue, as well as the unique interactions between the characters, makes it possible.

You can watch the trailer for Russian Doll below.

WARNING: This trailer contains bad language which may be unsuitable for younger viewers.

 

 

Podcast: Tattoo talk

 

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Kelsy Karter’s fake Harry Styles tattoo caused quite a stir. (Photo credit: Instagram/kelsykarter)

 

 

Earlier this week, singer Kelsy Karter released a photo of her new tattoo of Harry Styles on her cheek. She then revealed that it was simply a publicity stunt to promote her single ‘Harry’. What do we think about face tattoos? Listen to Luka Kenyon, Olivia Hill and Linnea Lind as they discuss all things tattoos.

 

 

 

 

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