Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies with Strong Female Characters


Happy Thursday!!! I took a couple weeks off from this little exercise, but I'm back, mostly because of the topic - movies with strong female characters. Our Thursday Movie Picks host, Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves has pretty good timing. Without any prompting from me, she chose this week for this topic. It's a perfect warm-up for what I have coming up on this site next week - Girl Week 2017. So let's talk about some strong ladies, shall we?

American Violet
(2008)
Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) is a young, single mother of four living in the projects and working in a nearby diner. After she's unfairly implicated and arrested in a drug sweep of her building, she finds herself at a crossroads. Does she take a plea bargain to get back to her kids as fast as possible? Doing so means she will forever be branded a convicted felon. Or, does she fight the charges with the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence looming over her head? Beharie, known to most as Abbie Mills on TV's Sleepy Hollow, turns in what is probably the strongest performance of her unheralded career. Her character is filled with resolve. And she needs it to navigate an-all-too familiar road.


Chocolate
(2008)
Zen is a young, autistic girl with a penchant for watching martial arts movies. She's particularly fond of Ong-Bak, which makes sense because the same guy directed both films. I digress. The point is her sick mom needs money to pay for medical expenses and, as it turns out, a lot of dangerous and shady people owe her big bucks. Zen sets out to collect from these folks, armed only with what she's learned from watching those movies. Man, has she learned a lot! If the plot sounds like rubbish, it's because it is. That still doesn't stop this goofy flick from being an absolute blast to watch. (Full Review)


Sunshine Cleaning
(2008)
Rose (Amy Adams) is a single mom who works as a maid. Her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) is something of a slacker and just lost her job. In order to be able to send her son to a private school, Rose recruits Norah and the two begin a crime-scene cleanup service. Adams and Blunt have a really nice chemistry and it helps this quirky dramedy from when both were still up and coming actresses.



I'm not quite finished.

Last week's topic was Adaptations You'd Like to See. I think I've got a few.


The Father
poems by Sharon Olds
(1992)
As an African-American poet, yup I'm one of those, I did what most of us do. My teeth were cut on the words of Langston Hughes and others from The Harlem Renaissance, then the artists of The Black Arts Movement helped me come of age. Someone from either of those eras is supposed to be my favorite writer. I love many of them dearly, but the poet I find myself reading most often is Sharon Olds, a white woman who grew up in the aftermath of WWII with strict, abusive parents. If you've seen 2007's Into the Wild, you heard some of her work as it was used pretty extensively in that movie. Her bibliography is filled with extremely personal poems. This book is no different. It details her relationship with her father from the time she was a little girl until his death. In the right hands, it could make a marvelous, and gut-wrenching, film.


Larry Doby: The Struggle of the American League’s First Black Player 
by Joseph Thomas Moore 
(2011)
If you're not familiar with the name Larry Doby, it's okay. Most people aren't. This includes baseball fans, the most notoriously history-driven group of sports enthusiasts known to man. He became the second black player in Major League Baseball history when he made his debut for the Cleveland Indians in 1947, a mere three weeks after the iconic Jackie Robinson made his for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Back then, Cleveland being an American League team, and Brooklyn a National League one, meant the two teams could not play each other unless both reached the World Series. They played in a completely different set of stadiums. While Robinson was being verbally abused and worse in cities all over the country for simply having the audacity to be a black man playing baseball with whites, Doby was getting the exact same treatment. However, since he wasn't first, he's been largely forgotten. Most of the recognition he's gotten has been of the "Oops, here's something to make us feel better over forgetting you" variety. He's got an interesting life story, but perhaps without the spit and polish of Robinson's. Still, it deserves to come to the big screen.


 
What If...?
(Marvel Comics, 1977-???)
This comic features The Watcher as a Rod Serling type narrator. He wonders aloud what if some plot point or another in the Marvel Universe had turned out differently and away we go. I mention Serling because the best way to think about this series is as a comic book version of The Twilight Zone. Yes, I know that Marvel rules the world and basically prints money with the help of the Disney machine. That said, I don't know if we'll ever see this series hit theaters. The bottom line is it appears to be difficult to film. Let me rephrase that. I don't think it's all that difficult to film, but it's likely difficult to sell to kids without infringing upon the images of the characters represented, or gasp, be wholly separate from the MCU while simultaneously playing with its story-lines. I'd love it if they try, though.






24 comments:

  1. Sunshine Cleaning is a good movie, really liked Adams and Blunt in it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I liked Sunshine Cleaning, that's the only pick of yours I've seen. American Violet sounds like something I would watch though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you get to watch AV. It deserves to be seen by more eyes.

      Delete
  3. I haven't seen any of your picks but they sound interesting. I'd love a What I...? adaptation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think they are. A What If... could be really fun. Maybe they can do it as an anthology film.

      Delete
  4. Haven't seen your first two and the second doesn't really sound like my thing but I'm intrigued by the first. I'll have to track it down. I wasn't a fan of Sunshine Cleaning but then I find Amy Adams quite risible on the whole.

    I reached back for my three this time (I know big surprise) and even managed to come up with a trio of strong women for my first.

    Three Secrets (1950)-When a private plane crashes in the remote California Mountains the only survivor is a 5-year-old boy. As word spreads that the child had been adopted at birth from a certain orphanage the three possible mothers, housewife Susan Chase (Eleanor Parker), newspaper reporter Phyllis Horn (Patricia Neal) and ex-con Ann Lawrence (Ruth Roman), gather at the mountain base to discover the truth drawing on their strength to endure the ordeal of wondering “Could that be my boy?” Solid drama with three excellent lead performances was directed by Robert Wise.

    Tammy and the Bachelor (1957)-Young Tambrey "Tammy" Tyree (Debbie Reynolds) lives with her grandfather (Walter Brennan) on his houseboat in the swamps of the South. One day young pilot Peter Brent (Leslie Nielsen) crashes nearby and during his recovery Tammy develops a crush on him. He heads back to his family’s mansion telling Grandpa if anything should happen to have Tammy come to his family. Shortly after Gramps is arrested for making corn liquor and Tammy heads to town. Once there she shakes the place up with her common sense approach to all things relying on her strong sense of self to ride out any bumps along the way. Meanwhile Pete sees her in a new light. Debbie carries this with a light touch and scored an enormous hit with the theme song.

    His Girl Friday (1940)-Ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) is sick of the cutthroat world of the newspaper game and tells her editor and ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant) she’s quitting to get married to someone Walter considers a dolt (Ralph Bellamy). Walter tries every trick in the book to get Hildy to stay finally dangling a carrot he knows her aggressive take charge reporter’s heart can’t refuse-a murderer’s execution. Despite her protests the resourceful Hildy jumps into action and when the chance for a scoop comes along all else is pushed aside. Manic screwball comedy is noted for its extremely fast dialog patter between the leads. This set Roz on the path as THE boss lady of the movies for most of the decade.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm familiar with all three of these, though I have not seen any of them. Tammy and the Bachelor is highest on my watchlist.

      Delete
  5. I’m also using this week to re-recommend two films I’ve chosen before but they fit right in and both are terrific somewhat obscure films that deserve a look.

    Cry “Havoc” (1943)-As WWII rages in the Philippines a group of women volunteer to help the army nurses in a hospital unit on Bataan. Set mostly in their protective bunker and the switchboard that brings increasingly more dire war news this focuses on the struggles and hardships endured by the women as the front moves ever closer. The cast is comprised almost exclusively of great actresses, Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell and Fay Bainter among them, with only very brief glimpses of men, including a young Robert Mitchum. A compelling heavy drama leavened by doses of gallows humor.

    Westward the Women (1951)-Unvarnished look at the hard road faced by a group of women settlers on a wagon train to California. Robert Taylor, weathered and hard is the rough but fair wagon master and has the only significant male role. Hope Emerson stands out as a plain speaking, no nonsense traveler but all the performances are very good. The cost of the trip is honestly depicted as heavy with human lives. Written by Frank Capra and directed with an unflinching eye by Wild Bill Wellman, an involving, unusual picture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haven't heard of these. From the sounds of it, I'd be more likely to watch the second one.

      Delete
  6. As for your adaptations...you know me and comics/animation and I'm suffering somewhat of a superhero burnout on top of that so your last choice is something I'd probably skip if it were made but your other two sound like they would make fine films.

    I had a lot of fun with this particular theme since it was a chance to look at it from a different angle and I could propose three books I'd love to see on the screen.

    How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater (2005)-Comic novel by Marc Acito tells the tale of young sexually confused Jersey teen Edward Zanni and the lengths he goes to his senior year when his divorced father marries gold-digging shrew Dagmar and she blocks his way to attending Julliard. Helping Edward are his group of very resourceful and game friends, free spirit Paula D’Angelo, enterprising Natie Nudelman (affectionately called Cheesehead), Edward’s sometime girlfriend, perky blonde Kelly, exotic Persian transfer student Ziba and football jock Doug Grabowski who’s more at home with the theatre geeks than his sport cronies. Together, with the sometime reluctant help of Paula’s dotty Aunt Glo, they scheme to defeat the rapacious Dagmar and make Edward’s musical dream come true.

    The Queen’s Man (2000)-In the year 1193 young Justin de Quincy witnesses the murder of a tradesman on the road from Winchester to London. As he lies dying the man hands Justin a letter and begs him to find a way to get it to the queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Letter in hand he’s brought into Eleanor’s presence and her confidence leading to a world of intrigue and danger as Eleanor plots to save her favorite son, Richard the Lionhearted whilst her grasping younger son John schemes to seize the throne. Great historical detail and an engaging lead character makes a good adventure.

    A Cast of Killers (1986)-In 1982 author Sidney Kirkpatrick is commissioned to write a biography of King Vidor, director of classics The Big Parade and Stella Dallas among many others. Delving into Vidor’s papers he discovered a trove of research that the director and his good friend former silent star Colleen Moore had compiled on the unsolved 1922 murder of film director William Desmond Taylor. Putting the Vidor bio aside for the moment Kirkpatrick built on the existing research and plunged into the jazz mad world of the twenties where men with vague pasts such as Taylor’s could rise to the level of respected film director. Along the way he acquaints the reader with the many people, shaded by Vidor’s intimate knowledge of the film community of the time, involved in the case including the two stars, comic legend Mabel Normand and supposedly innocent Mary Miles Minter, whose careers were destroyed in the scandal and the massive cover-up and graft that protected the killer, whom Vidor deduced, for decades. A fascinating story begging to be filmed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not familiar with any of these, but the first and last sound all sorts of intriguing.

      Delete
  7. Your first movie sounds frustrating and tragic since she is innocent but considered guilty. It would be a good movie to watch. I'd like to see your 3rd choice as well since it sounds quite funny in a dark way. I don't know the first book but I did hear about the baseball player because my brother is an expert in sports. He told me about this baseball player and always felt he needed more recognition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right about AV. It can be a frustrating watch. SC is not quite as dark as it sounds, but it is a quirky picture.

      Delete
  8. Sunshine Cleaning was so so but Emily elevated the movie as usual

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've seen Sunshine Cleaning, I liked that film. I definitely want to see Chocolate and if we're in a more sensible world. Michelle Obama would be our president. Look at her guns. She could fucking rip a man in half if she wanted to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chocolate is nuts. And yes to Michelle Obama.

      Delete
  10. Cool picks! I haven't seen Sunshine Cleaning since it was first released, but I loved it at the time. Great performances and characters by Emily and Amy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I wasn't a fan of Sunshine Cleaning... a yad too depressing for me. Not seen American Violet but I want to see this now!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've seen Sunshine Cleaning, but that was a long time ago. I do remember liking it.

    ReplyDelete