Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Bechdal Test-Passing Movies to Watch on Netflix Now: Part 2



As I mentioned in my first instalment, in 2015 (and beyond) I'm make a conscious effort to watch more films that pass the Bechdel test. As pointed out in this article, the Bechdel test is not an ultimate standard but rather a bare minimum of female representation. I want films that go way beyond passing the test (as the films below do), but for me it provides a useful starting point for beginning to look at the representation of women in film. 

As with the first list, I've crudely categorised my list into 'serious' and 'funny', for want of a better system.  

Serious


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) UK

No part one alas, but you can find the second instalment of The Hunger Games series on Netflix. Jennifer Lawrence gives another engaging performance as protagonist Katniss Everdeen, in what Wiki tells me is the tenth highest grossing film at the US box office. Plus, the fact that the games select a male and female tribute from each district results in a good gender balance in the overall cast, so Lawrence's lead isn't set against an all-male backdrop. The Hunger Games gets a big double thumbs up from me. 

Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) & Vol 2 (2004) US

Basically tons of kick-ass women kicking some serious ass. I recently gave these films a re-watch and it struck me: anyone who thinks that a film with a female protagonist and largely female cast can't also be a high-grossing, hit at the box office, popular with critics, action-packed and super violent film... is a bloody idiot.

Funny


Whip It (2009) UK

I have so much love for this film. Female camaraderie - check. Brutal full-contact sport on roller skates - check. Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig and a veritable boat-load of other brilliant women actors - check. I really enjoy the female relationships represented here: Bliss and her mum; Bliss and her best friend; the Roller Derby girls in general. One of my favourite re-watch-on-a-wet-hungover-Sunday-afternoon movies.

Mean Girls (2004) US

Mean Girls was one of those movies that, on paper, I never expected to like. Then it turned out to be freaking awesome. Like a Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You for the 21st century. I suppose I should have guessed that with comedy genius Tina Fey writing the screenplay (as well as popping up in the film along with Amy Poehler as hilarious trying-to-be-down-with-the-kids mum), it was going to be pretty good.

Also, can we take a moment to appreciate some of the many quotable quotes! "Stop trying to make fetch happen." "On Wednesdays we wear pink." "Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die." "That's why her hair is so big: it's full of secrets." "You girls keep me young." If you watch this movie with friends, prepare for a multitude of quotes to invade your shared vernacular: you have been warned!

The First Wives Club (1996) UK

One of those movies that always seems to be on at Christmas, or when you're off work sick and moping about on the sofa, and (as far as I'm concerned) as comforting as a bowl of warm soup. With plenty of laugh out loud lines from an all star female cast (Goldie Hawn! Bette Midler! Diane Keaton! Maggie Smith!), I love that the main characters in this film are older women - a fleetingly rare occurrence in Hollywood. Frustratingly, when researching this post, I came across the reason that there's no First Wives Club sequel (hint: it's sexism). Grrr. 

Part three to follow! 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bechdel Test-Passing Movies to Watch on Netflix Now: Part 1

Bechdel Test Passing Movies to Watch on Netflix

In 2015 I'm making it a point to watch more films that pass the Bechdel test (that is, that contain at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man). For a while now I've been getting more and more bothered by the obvious absence of women in some much of our popular culture - especially film. 

While lots of my favourite TV programmes have female protagonists and/or casts that are well balanced in terms of gender (I'm thinking of shows like The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks & Recreation and Orange is the New Black), I'm consistently disappointed by films. Nowadays, I can't help doing a quick mental check of movie posters that I pass on the tube, or see on the sides of buses, and 9 times of of 10 it's the same thing - a cast of all men, or all men and a single woman. Sigh. 

The more I make a concerted effort to choose films with meaningful female characters, the more I realise how much I like watching stories in which my gender is actually represented. Films that don't only focus on the stories of men. I don't think it had dawned on me before, but it's a little... wearing, to watch film after film with one half of the population inexplicably missing, or relegated to the sidelines in minor roles. I want to see myself represented as the hero (or even the anti-hero), not the prize. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd compile a list of some fab films available to stream on Netfix (UK or US) which pass that Bechdel test. If you live in the UK and want to watch something on the US Netflix, or vice versa, a handy Google Chrome plugin called Hola will let you do just that. 

In no particular order, but very roughly categorised into 'serious' and 'funny', here's the first instalment: 

Serious 

Short Term 12 (2013) UK/US

A difficult watch at times, I'd still really recommend checking out this story about the staff and residents of a children's foster care facility. Well-acted with a complicated female protagonist, and comfortably passes the test.

Winter's Bone (2010) UK

A young Jennifer Lawrence is the strong lead in this gritty, sparse film. Not a walk in the park to watch (brutal at points, in fact) but a gripping story with some excellent performances.

Funny

Clueless (1995) UK/US

The 90s gem that bought us such classic exchanges as "Why should I listen to you, anyway? You’re a virgin who can’t drive" - "That was way harsh, Tai" and taught a generation of young women the word 'sporadically'. I watched my Clueless VHS (yes kids, I said VHS) so many times as a tween it started to wear out, so imagine how happy I was to find it on Netflix. 

The Sapphires (2012) US

Sentimental and a bit predictable, I still enjoyed this feel-good movie. Inspired by a true story, the film follows four young Aboriginal women who tour Vietnam entertaining the troops as soulful girl group The Sapphires. A tad schmaltzy, but has some infectious musical numbers and passes the Bechdel test by a mile.

Chasing Amy (1997) US

Surprisingly only just passes the test, but I'm a fan of this movie for exploring the the fluidity of human sexuality and having multiple gay characters without culminating in tragedy.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999) US


The film that asked the big questions ("I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"). With a young Julia Stiles as the deliciously acerbic, Plath-reading, Bikini Kill-listening, no-bullshit-accepting Kat, this film provided one of my first feminist role models in a way that my adolescent-brain could get to grips with. Plus: baby-faced Heath Ledger! Baby-faced Gordon Levitt! Shakespeare! Quivering members! Flash-mobbing before it was a thing!

Zombieland (2009) UK

Awesome, funny zombie movie with Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin playing kick-ass characters. Oh, and a pretty brilliant Bill Murray cameo. What's not to like? Actually, I might go re-watch it right now... 

Mystic Pizza (1988) US

Perm-tastic coming-of-age movie starring a young Julia Roberts and Lili Tyler. High fluff factor, but good for passing a rainy afternoon. Worth watching for Roberts' glorious 80s eyebrows alone.



Part two to follow! 


Image source: Flickr CC Wildebeast1 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Reasons To Be Grateful: February


Some things that I've felt grateful for in February: 

  • The kindness of friends. How I got lucky enough to have such an awesome group of people around me, whose out-and-out goodness never fails to amaze and humble me, I'll never know. (Okay, soppy monologue over, sorry, sorry). 
  • Very large cups of tea. Like, VERY large. Pug head large.
  • This song, which I've probably listened to once a day (conservative estimate). SHAKE. IT. OFF.
  • This whole album, which bought back memories. Hot damn No Doubt were good.
  • My body, for making me realise maybe I shouldn't be so hard on it after all. For showing me it can hold plank positions in super heated yoga studios, power through before-work spin classes, steal a couple of points from someone much better at squash than me. Good on you, body.
  • The 5 year anniversary of the lovely book club I attend (this one, in case you're wondering). Which makes me feel both old and happy at the same time.
  • Hot water bottles. Our warming rubbery buddies.  
  • Being grown up enough to take a second chance when it was offered. 



Monday, 23 February 2015

Motivational Monday #4



















The Holstee Manifesto makes me smile every time I read it. Even if I'm in a meh mood, I find I can't get to the end of it without feeling at least a little pumped. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion. Amen. 

If you need a bit more Holstee Manifesto in your life, you can buy it as a poster or simply download for free as a background for your desktop/phone/tablet. 

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