March Prompt: Female-Directed Films

I’m writing in the field today to discuss our March prompt — reporting from lively Salt Lake City, Utah.

This month we are going to focus on a personal blind spot of mine, films by female directors. Along with this month and going forward I’m going to make a strong effort to focus on films directed by women. I recently purchased Alicia Malone’s “The Female Gaze,” which I plan to use as reference material for upcoming watches. It is ridiculous how few female-directed films I’ve seen.

I don’t have any excuse. With all this information at our fingertips, it’s inexplicable that I haven’t made an effort to tap into these resources until now. The only female director’s career I’ve actually followed has been Sofia Coppola. Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron and Kathryn Bigelow have also made a mark. Besides the Shame, what really pushed me to find female-directed films were some statistics Brian Saur (@bobfreelander) mentioned on Pure Cinema Podcast discussing Film Debuts with director Sean Baker. Brian discussed Elaine May’s A New Leaf. Between 1966 and 1971 no studio produced a female-directed film. In 1979, the Directors Guild of America created the Women’s Steering Committee, which released a study that showed between 1949 to 1979, 7,332 films were distributed through the major studios, of those only 14 films were directed by women and three of them were directed by Elaine May. Those are some shocking statistics, I don’t know the current stats but I assume the improvement has been negligible.

For the month of March, I’m planning to watch these films for the first time:

Selma

Ava DuVernay’s Selma

Elaine May’s A New Leaf

Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky (a pick-up from Criterion’s recent flash sale)

Penny Marshall’s Awakenings

CertainWoman

Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (second pick-up from Criterion’s flash sale)

So for the month of March, let us know the female–directed films you plan to watch. You can reach us on twitter (@CinemaShame) or by email cinemashame@gmail.com. I am looking forward to the discussion and all the discovery.

@007hertzrumble has created a Cinema Shame Shop on Amazon with treasure trove of suggestions for female-directed films you need to watch.

female-directors

Remember to share your Shame!

@campbelldropout

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2019 Oscar Host will be Cinema Shame

With the Oscars right around the corner and airing on February 24th, it’s time to put forth the annual focus on award winners.

Usually, I enjoy the Oscar season, playing catch up with all the nominees and striving to sneak in a viewing of all the Best Picture nominees, but this year, I haven’t even taken time to watch the one that is accessible on Netflix.

oscars-olly-moss

Even though I may not be as hyped about the Oscars this year, I still enjoy the ceremony. I viewed something with an Oscar stamp as a seal of approval. I learned over time, of course, an Oscar nomination or win doesn’t guarantee quality. (If it did then my old James Bond VHS tapes would have been covered in little Oscar statutes.) They were an entryway, a guide for helping me access cinema. Thanks to TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, I was able to watch dozens upon dozens of Oscar nominated greats… and, well, not-so-greats.

During the month of February, Cinema Shame turns its focus on not just Oscar movies, but Oscar-Winning Performances, specifically Best Actor and Best Actress. Major Oscar performances you have overlooked in the past? Did you not catch Al Pacino’s career-defining (for better and worse) performance in A Scent of a Woman? Maybe you ant to get a grasp on how someone else beat Michael Keaton for his role in Birdman? Ahem. Bruce Dern over McConaughey, as well. 

My major resource, besides recommendations from Cinema Shame contributors and the Cinema Shame podcast, will be Danny Peary’s Alternate Oscars. The book goes from 1927 to 1991 and picks alternates for Best Picture, Actor and Actress. I will choose the performances that Peary did not change, which aren’t many. if you got the royal seal of approval from the Academy and Peary, you must be the cream of the crop. I’m picking four of these performances as my Cinema Shames for the month of February.

And the Oscar for my February Cinema Shame… Best Unwatched Best Performances goes to….

Vivien Leigh’s performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Joanne Woodward’s performance in “The Three Faces of Eve”

Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot”

Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull”

Raging Bull

While the prompt focuses on performances, feel free to share other Oscar-related Cinema Shames. Let us know about your choices on twitter (@CinemaShame) or by email cinemashame@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing about your Oscar picks. 

2019 Shame Statement

Another year, another list of cinema shame. I’m going to start with knocking off John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. I think this movie has been on my list for at least the past three years, so it is time to retire this one from the list. I’ve owned this on DVD and Shout Factory’s Blu-ray edition, sitting on my to-watch pile since that purchase. Below is my shame statement and a little bit of background on why I picked them.

 

  1. “The Thing” – It is time for me to watch this, as much as I loved Carpenter’s “Prince of Darkness,” then I should be ready to watch this masterpiece.
  2. “Body Heat” – Currently own and was listed in Danny Peary’s “Cult Movies 3.”
  3. “The Stunt Man” – I’ve had the special edition DVD for a while and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Peter O’Toole film.
  4. “Lawrence of Arabia” – Well if I’m going to see Peter O’Toole, then I need to see the best.
  5. “Ride the High Country” – This quote from Neil Fulwood’s book, sold me on it,  “The Films of Sam Peckinpah” really sold me on it, “ What he achieved was masterful, a low budget picture which MGM treated like a B-movie but which had a quality of acting, cinematography, intelligence and moral complexity that made it stand head and shoulders above most of the A-pictures fo the day. It elevated the western to art and established an intellectual blueprint for Peckinpah’s career as a film-maker.
  6. “The Quiet Man” – John Ford + John Wayne + a pricey purchase of Olive’s Signature Blu-ray release = I need to watch this.
  7. “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” – Pure Cinema Podcast’s recent episode on Martin Scorsese made me realize there are huge gaps in his filmography I am overlapping. Which is kind of crazy because along with Sam Peckinpah, Scorses was an early influence in my early film loving days. “Goodfellas” and “Casino” were constant repeats or discussion points with friends. I decided to go with some early work and some of the big films I have missed.
  8. “New York, New York” – Musical + Scorsese = I’m not sure what to expect.
  9. “Cape Fear” – Didn’t realize until a recent trivia contest that De Niro received an Oscar nominator for this performance.
  10. “Age of Innocence” – Keep the Scorses train rolling with this recent Criterion release.
  11. “Nashville” – Long time cinema shame that has been on previous yearly lists, time to take this Altman classic down.
  12. “Tom Jones” – Need to watch more Albert Finney, enjoyed his performance in “Under the Volcano.”
  13. “Moonlight” – I’ve seen bits and pieces of this film and they were mesmerizing. I need to give Mr. Jenkins the respect he deserves and watch this film.

 

Alright, I think I have enough to last me for the year. I’m sure there will be plenty more to add, as we start the prompts and hear everybodies lists. Here is too many more discoveries over the year and to a neverending list.

Calling All 2019 Cinema Shame Statements

A new year is upon us, which means another year of knocking off those unwatched films that might bring out a little bit of shame. It doesn’t matter where they come from, it could be a movie gathering dust on an unsteady ‘to-watch’ pile, or a film you’ve heard mentioned on multiple podcasts, or a film you just haven’t found the time to watch it.

This month we request contributors to proclaim the films they plan to take on in 2019. Create your list, post it and we will share it (shame it but in a loving manner). Feel free to add some background details for your picks, such as why you are picking it or the reason you haven’t had to chance to view this film.

I will be stating my shame this weekend, building my list from books (Danny Peary’s multiple books), podcasts (Cinema Shame’s episode on Hammer Horror and Pure Cinema Podcast’s recent episode on Martin Scorcese’s filmography), and some statistical data (letterboxd).

If you need ideas, you can check out the Shame Statements from previous years.

As the months roll around we will provide a specific prompt which may focus on an unwatched film from a specific genre, a favorite director or a favorite actor or actress. We still want you to discuss the films from your shame statements these prompts are meant to increase discussion of films and hopefully help everybody uncover some hidden gems.

Contact us by email cinemashame@gmail.com or tweet at us @Cinemashame.

Class of 2018 Cinema Shame

We are at the cusp of ending another successful year of Cinema Shame. The flurry of everyone’s best of lists for 2018 is starting to fall upon the internet. David Ehrlich’s release of his top 25 countdown is what I view as the first signal of this time of year. I think the end of the year gives us a perfect opportunity to focus on recent releases and announce our views on what current releases will be future Cinema Shames, years down the road. Does the cinematic class of 2018 include some future Cinema Shames? We need to know.

If you have a list of your top five, top ten, or top whatever feel free to shout them out on Cinema Shame. If you want to focus on several movies from this year, write up a post and let us know what needs to join the ranks of future Cinema Shame lists. I look forward to sharing my favorites from 2018 and I hope to hear about yours I missed from our contributors.

Submit what you think will be future Cinema Shame by tweeting  @CinemaShame or emailing us at cinemashame@gmail.com.

Only Angels Have Wings

“Only Angels Have Wings” was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2017. I didn’t know it was held in such high regard, its release on Criterion should have been a hint. I watched this directly after “His Girl Friday,” a screwball comedy directed by the masterful Howard Hawks. Knowing “Only Angels Have Wings” starred Grant, I was thinking it would be a natural follow-up to “His Girl Friday.” I went in completely blind and was expecting a comedy with a dash of romantic elements, the Criterion cover art should have clued me in that it was more action-oriented. “Only Angels Have Wings” could easily be classified as an early precursor to “Top Gun.” An action, adventure movie spilling over the brim with masculinity, pilots proving themselves by flying dangerous missions in some South America village. Jean Arthur plays Bonnie Lee, a character who arrives by boat to the tiny village. A simple layover ends when she becomes enchanted with Geoff Carter played by Cary Grant, the lead pilot of Barranaca Airways. Lee pines for Carter and tries to understand him and why he chooses to fly these ridiculous missions. As a viewer, we don’t get any real reasoning for their need to fly, in fact when Lee asks The Kid (Thomas Mitchell) his response is “I couldn’t give you an answer that would make any sense.” Basically, it’s dangerous or being one with the sky, or to touch the limits, or insert any type of daredevil statement. I find it easier imagining Humphrey Bogart giving a no response and throwing back a shot versus the responses from Mitchell and Carter. While I found the story to be a letdown, the action is top notch. There is pure craftsmanship in the flight scenes, remarkable effects that build a lot of tension as you wonder if they can land the aircraft. One amazing scene is the landing of a plane on a plateau, still an impressive feat 79 years later.

Jean Arthur should have put this film over the top for me. However, after watching “His Girl Friday” I was expecting a groundbreaking female character like Hildy Johnson. Bonnie Lee had no real purpose besides pining over Grant’s character. Arthur’s performance is good, she brings a lot to of a character to one that is basically one note. I read there were issues between Arthur and Hawks but in the end, I think it was the screenplay that hampered her versus direction or acting. All the males in this film are the same, stoic men unable to emote until they are on their deathbeds. The inability to show emotions reminds me of the recent release of “First Man,” where Neil Armstrong struggles to discuss his feelings with anyone. Another movie around flying and men. Maybe the correlation is that a career in flying impacts emotion instead of gender.

I didn’t dislike “Only Angels Have Wings” just disappointed. “To Have and Have Not”  fits in the same genre and does a better job of creating more realistic and interesting characters. I wonder if the World War II backdrop adds more gravitas to the movie versus mail delivery in South America. The stakes were higher with a war backdrop instead of trying to win some contract for postal service. I look forward to a rewatch of “Only Angels Have Wings”  (seems to be the case for a lot of Cinema Shame films) and hopefully I won’t hold this up so closely to “His Girl Friday.”

“His Girl Friday”

The director of “The Big Sleep” and “To Have and Have Not” is not who I would expect to be the director of “His Girl Friday”, a fast-paced, screwball comedy. Not to say there aren’t comedic moments to those first two films mentioned. The encounter between Bogart and the Acme book clerk in “The Big Sleep” shows comedic undertones, even though its covered by a thick layer of seduction. For Hawks to go from a classic standard of noir to a screwball comedy is a big leap in my view. The change to various film genres embodies the skill Hawks had as a filmmaker. Several features on the Criterion edition reiterate this point, stating his ability to work in a wide range of genres. Hawks was a director who placed a lot of emphasis on a good story and characters.

In “His Girl Friday” we have Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) appearing with her new finance to break the news to her ex husband and former boss, newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Burns is shocked, not by the fact she will have a new husband but by the fact that she is leaving the newspaper business to be a housewife. Burns recognizes Johnson’s skill as a reporter. The wheels start churning for Burns to prevent her from leaving the paper. Burns hatches multiple plans, lies, and schemes to draw Hildy in with one more story.  Once Grant and Russell are on the screen together, the movie kicks into high gear, with its overlapping dialogue and multiple storylines. A lot of the reviews give more positive words to Grant but I think Russell The one aspect I was surprised by regarding the story, was the lack of views from characters stating that a woman couldn’t be a reporter or shouldn’t be in his business. She was viewed as an equal by the other reporters and viewed as the best by Burns. A surprising development considering the movie’s release was in 1940. Not to say that Johnson’s new beau doesn’t expect their marriage to be following the more stereotypical gender roles, such as him being the breadwinner and her staying home with the kids. Excluding Bruce, everyone defines Russell as a news reporter, not by her gender or as a female reporter, she is their superior if not their equal. Her peers state disbelief in the fact she could only be a housewife, the newspaper business is a career she could never leave behind.

The film’s pace and dialogue are insanely fast. This will require will require a rewatch because I’m sure there are jokes and even storylines I wasn’t able to comprehend or completely missed. As soon as Russell and Grant appear together the movie is moving along at a breakneck speed, slowing down only when Russell interviews a convict. This slowdown could be a potential way to place emphasis on skill as a reporter. The introduction of new characters is nonstop. Not simple characters stating a few lines and then never to be seen again. We get characters who get involved and drive the story. A few examples include Johnson’s new mother-in-law, the sheriff, the mayor, the waiter, the convict’s friend, and even the waiter at the local restaurant play parts in moving the plot forward.

I definitely recommend everyone to check this movie out. It is worth your money and time. Criterion’s version comes with the original film “His Girl Friday” was based on “The Front Page”, here is a link to the release on Barnes and Noble website, which is currently having their 50% off sale (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dvd-his-girl-friday-cary-grant/3622238?ean=0715515189514).  I’m looking forward to a rewatch of “His Girl Friday” and deeper dives into the filmographies of Rosalind Russell and Howard Hawks.