As the Academy Awards announce their nominations today, the chances are, some noble exceptions aside, chances are most female filmmakers will be ignored this season. Again. At least, this year, Tiffany Haddish will be delivering the news which is bound to make it at least slightly less sucky. And while we are sure there will be some protest you can join about that, the best way to deal with it is this: support good cinema made by, well, everyone who makes good cinema. If you want to see more films made by women – make sure you are PART of the process that makes those movies more successful and therefore financially viable (because, lets face it, Hollywood can say what they will, but $$$ still talks the loudest over there).
So, for starters, we assembled a great list of smart, funny, heartbreaking, original pieces of cinema made by women in 2017, which you probably have not seen (whoever has seen EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE, email us, we want to be friends).
So, instead of complaining about the nominations, you’ll have something better to do this week: share cool movie recommendations to those around you. We included handy “where to stream” links too.
BAND AID (directed by Zoe Lister-Jones)
Zoe Lister-Jones has had one of those careers where she has steadily been the best thing in everything she’s in, and with BAND AID, her directorial debut, she gives herself the vehicle she deserves: a story of a couple who, in a last ditch to save their relationship form a band to work out their issues through. So simple, so genius. Adam Pally plays the husband, Fred Armisen plays their weirdo neighbor who steps behind the drums. The songs are legitimately good, the style and substance co-exist in a way that makes you stop whatever you’re doing (likely dishes) and make sure you are holding the hand of the person you are watching this with. Oh, and the band name is The Dirty Dishes. Track this down. Where to stream.
LEMON (directed by Janicza Bravo)
Lemon is truly a movie like no other movie you’re ever seen this year. One of “those” LA films where no one is glamorous, everyone is disconnected, and the chasm between humans grows withe every second, the only way to describe it is, well, as a very stressful comedy. It shares with the world a story of a man (Brett Gelman, born to do this), left by his girlfriend of 10 years (Judy Greer) who tries to navigate what this means for him, in life, now. Everyone from Michael Cera to Gillian Jacobs and Nia Long shows up along the way, and things start to progressively both make more and substantially less sense. Bravo, who co-wrote the script with her life partner Gelman, is clearly a student and lover of the cinema, influenced both by classic European cinema, the technicolor American musicals, and the playfulness and sorrow of Agnes Varda. Where to stream.
THE LURE (directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska)
The Lure (or Córki dancingu in Polish) IS LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY EVERYTHING.
To expand on that – it’s a “mermaid horror musical comedy” (EVERYTHING), and is SO SO SO GREAT (EVERYTHING).
The story centers on Golden and Silver, two mermaids who are essentially adopted by a family band they come across in Poland. They form an act at a nightclub and are a huge hit (because who wouldn’t be into those siren song vibes), and (as you might guess) the pair of them struggle to straddle the line between bein’ a human and bein’ a fish.
The horror element comes into play because they eat people. (As one does.) Their teeth are lamprey-esque (terrifying), and we see these being used to bite off fingers, munch on human hearts, etc. throughout the film. One of the mermaids tries to control these urges, and even opts to have her tail surgically removed and replaced by a human lower half (mostly because she wants a vagina // apparently nobody told her about periods or yeast infections), but that whole sequence is pretty horrific in and of itself re: gore. If you’re a fan of campy spooks, you’ll be v. satisfied by all of this. (Bonus: if you are a lady who would like to punch Donald Trump and the alt-right in the dick, watching men be mauled by mermaids is likely to feel very therapeutic.)
BONUS – the fact that this film is a musical is beyond absurd, and that’s what I maybe love most about it! The music. Is. INCREDIBLE. The soundtrack (by Ballady i Romanse) isn’t available in the US yet, but we need it desperately. (So infectious, I cannot even.)
If you can stand to loosen your grip on reality and laugh at some dark shit (which we should get used to under this administration AMIRITE?!), then you’re going to love it just as much if not more (IMPOSSIBLE) than I did.
I REPEAT: IT. IS. EVERYTHING. Where to stream.
Agnes Varda has walked to the march of her own magical, probably since the very day she was born, back in 1928 in Belgium. One of the icons of New Wave, she directed Cleo from 9 to 5, Beaches of Agnes, Vagabond, and dozens more, never stopping working, exploring and learning. Faces Places, which is maybe the best documentary of 2017 period, finds her paired with JR, the 1983 born street artist and muralist on a project where these two travel around rural France in a special box truck equipped as a portable photo booth and traveling printing facility as they take photographs of people they meet. Beautiful, unexpected connections are formed in the process, not the least between these two. Varda does most of the talking and directing, and proves that 90 years in, she is still a true original. Still in theatres.
LANDLINE (directed by Gillian Robespierre)
The ladies behind Obvious Child, came back in 2018 with a movie that was just as funny, smart, and charming, with the added bonus of being set in the 90s. A story of a series of familial relationships set adrift, it sort of went nowhere in terms of publicity and it is a shame, because to quote our original review: Landline isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s a more interesting examination of the way we invest connections we have than just about anything you’ll see in theaters this season. Where to stream.
RAW (directed by Julia Ducournau)
One of the best horror movies of the year, Raw refreshes the cannibal genre, intertwining it with sex and youthful passion. The film follows 16-year-old Justine, a strict vegetarian who is leaving home for the first time to go to a specialized veterinarian school. While the freshman deal with a wide variety of hazing, Justine has to fight much darker urges. After being forced to eat meat for the first time, she breaks out in a rash and soon after starts sinking her teeth into any meat she can find. Director Julia Ducournau originally conceived the idea as part of a writing challenge. She wanted to see if she could craft a story where you would care about and empathize with the monster. Justine’s story might feature more gore than the average teen’s (hopefully?), but it also covers the insecurity and obsession that teens face so well. Also, the movie made people faint and vomit and that’s kind of heavy metal. Where to Stream.
STEP (directed by Amanda Lipitz)
I hope you’re ready to cry for an hour and twenty minutes straight because that’s the only thing I could so while I watched this movie! The doc follows the step team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women as they practice, learn and fight to win the Bowie State University step competition. Along the way, the doc dives deeper into the stories of three women on the team. Blessin Giraldo is a step genius and dance enthusiast, but her truancy and bad grades have set her back. Cori Grainger has a 4.0 and is working hard to get financial aide to go to her dream school, Johns Hopkins. Tayla Solomon is annoyed by her overbearing mother, but appreciates that she pushes her harder, both in step and in school. These young women have to fight twice as hard to achieve their goals, whether they’re dance related or not. Some of them come from homes where theres no food in the fridge, while others deal with the looming threat of having the lights turned off. It’s disgusting that these young women, these kids, have to deal with such adult problems while balancing school and step, but it’s the reality of many kids in Baltimore and in cities all over the country. Despite the obstacles, Step is a documentary full of heart and love and light. It’s going to make you sob, but it’s going to motivate you too. Where to Stream.
XX (directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin and Karyn Kusama)
Anthology horror movies are never going to win awards. They may have their niche fans, but they’re divisive among even the most serious horror buffs. Yet they serve a hugely important roll in the horror genre, they allow people to get weird. You might not be able to fund a feature film about raising the antichrist in a small town, but you can sure as hell make a short about it. Most of the anthology films of the last few years have been bro based. The V/H/S films and the ABCS of Death are the most popular example of this, but even smaller anthologies like Southbound lean toward your classic horror stereotypes of hot shrieking women. XX breaks from that considerably. Featuring only female directors, the stories told aren’t your typical horror narratives. The movies lean quieter, but considerably weirder and more unsettling. Annie Clark’s (aka St. Vincent’s) short about a birthday party gone wrong is shot of pure black humor, while Karyn Kusama’s (The Invitation, Jennifer’s Body) is a melancholy tale about motherhood. It might not be your favorite, but it’s not to be missed. Where to stream.
PAINT IT BLACK (directed by Amber Tamblyn)
Amber Tamblyn came out of 2017 as one of the bravest women in Hollywood. Paint it Black, which she directed and c0-wrote, adds another chapter to her ongoing narrative about women and the world they find themselves fighting, on a daily basis. Starring the always amazing Alia Shawkat, it tells the story of a fierce (FIERCE) rivalry between a young rocker and the pianist mother of her recently deceased boyfriend (played flawlessly by Janet McTeer). As each grieves the young man’s loss for different reasons, the two women become destructively entwined. A great reminder that there is no relationship like the one between two women, this one goes for the juggular. Where to stream.
BITCH (directed by Marianna Palka)
A woman snaps and assumes the personality of a tempestuous dog. Why? Because her husband is an asshole, that’s why. While the premise may sound a little, how to we put this, ON THE NOSE (poster tag line: Bring a Chew Toy) but the final result is more subtle and, yes, funny, than you’d expect. This NY Times review does a great job explaining why. Where to stream.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES (directed by Valerie Harris & Jonathan Dayton)
Battle of the Sexes, in theory, had the legs to become one of the most talked about movies of 2017. To quote our review: “Battle of the Sexes would be a fascinating film to watch in a class studying dynamics of sexism, power, and work. You have a woman doing the heavy-lifting, burdened with the impossible task of representing her entire gender, and a man who gets to have fun doing a thing he loves. The expectations are different, the metrics of success are different, and the way people will talk about and evaluate performance will be different. I use “will be” – future tense – intentionally.” Something didn’t quite click but still, Stone and Carrell are as winning as ever (puns intended) and Where to stream.
PROFESSOR MARSTON AND WONDER WOMAN (directed by Angela Robinson)
The other part of the Wonder Woman cannon in 2017 was a decidedly grown up, complicated story about how the woman came to be, and the relationships that surrounded her creation. No one saw it. Where to stream.
BEACH RATS (directed by Eliza Hittman)
Delicate and gritty at the same time, Beach Rats tells the OTHER you gay male coming of age story this year, this one set in Brooklyn and not in Italy, and things are nowhere near as elegant and romantic, and consequences are all too real. Where to watch.
THE BAD BATCH (directed by Ana Lily Amirpour)
Amirpour followed up her elegant, unsettling, romantic The Girl Walks Home Alone At Night with this Tarantino-esque story of a beautiful woman being used as food by a cannibalistic community somewhere in some dystopian desert. Brightly colored, ruthless, and surprisingly human at times, The Bad Batch is a great allegory for the state of affairs here and now, and a great reminder than no one understands terror the way women do. Keanu Reeves is in it too, which at this point in time, is always a bonus. Where to watch.
WOMEN WHO KILL (directed by Ingrid Jungermann)
In the mood for something a little different? Feel like you’ve seen all thrillers out there? Well, Ingrid Jungermann to the rescue! Set in the world of true crime podcasting, Women Who Kill is a pitch black, queer, Park Slope set comedy about that immortal question: “what do you do when you suspect the person you’re dating could be a killer?”. Are you in? You should be in Where to Stream.
BEGUILED (directed by Sofia Coppola)
This movie made it into the BYT favorite movies of 2017. It is directed by Sofia Coppola and stars MAJOR movie stars. It won a prize at Cannes. You should have seen it. But, chances are, you still haven’t. So go see it. Where to stream.
ALL THIS PANIC (directed by Jenny Gage)
Like a mini, less pompous Boyhood, Shot over a three-year period with unparalleled intimacy and access, ALL THIS PANIC is a feature length documentary that takes an intimate look at the interior lives of a group of teenage girls as they come of age in Brooklyn. Things feel so real at times your inner teenage girl may look away. Where to stream.
NOVITIATE (directed by Margaret Betts)
Margaret Betts made her directorial debut with this set in the early 1960s, the dawn of the Vatican II era, as radical changes in the Church are threatening the course of nuns’ lives. A young woman in training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, the changing church and sexuality. Raising questions about collective thinking and the dangers of imposing thoughts on young minds, the film is uncomfortable, studious, ardent and important. Free the thoughts. Still in theatres.
DID WE MISS ANYTHING? Let us know in comments and social, we’re always looking to discover more.