For all of you who enjoy movies set in bygone times, films with strong female leads, I bring a list of recommendations. Period dramas I have enjoyed for their wardrobe, décor and cinematic style. Films I like to revisit for their characters and storylines. Films I have enjoyed for their music and cast. Films released in recent years or back in the 1990s.
Agora, starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer in late 4th-century
Anna and the King, starring Jodi Foster as Anna Leonowens, an English school teacher in Siam in the late 19th century
Being Julia, starring Anette Bening as Julia Lambert, a popular actress in London in the late 1930s
Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams as two nuns in 1960s New York (Bronx)
Driving Miss Daisy, starring Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan, a resolute widow in the 1960-70s
Enchanted April, starring Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, Joan Plowright and others as a bunch of English ladies who spent their holidays in Italy in the 1920s
Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker as two friends who are mastering life in the Great Depression
The Great Debaters, starring Jurnee Smollett as Samantha Booke, the first female member of her college’s debate team, set in the mid 1930s
A Little Princess, starring Liesel Matthews as Sara Crewe, a lovely rich girl who loses everything when her father dies in WWI
Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger as Beatrix Potter, the famous writer and creator of Peter Rabbit
Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, A Danish lady who emigrates to Africa in the early 20th century
Paradise Road, starring Glenn Close, Julianna Margulies, Frances McDormand and many others as female POW in Sumatra during WWII
Tea with Mussolini, starring Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Lily Tomlin and Cher as five expatiates in Italy in the 1930s through 40s
This list, of course, is far from complete. So whatever you miss, please feel invited to share your favorite flick with a strong female lead! 🙂
When I grew up, I was big on awards shows. Over the years, that interest has waned and I just keep track of potential nominees and actual winners. After last year’s delight (I’m still so in love with The Artist), this awards season is a lot less appealing to me and my vintage taste, but it has its perks nonetheless.
Last night, Argo‘s success pleased me, for example, and so did the buzz (however mild) about Lincoln, two films the Hollywood Foreign Press Association rewarded with Golden Globes. Adele was also honored with an award for Skyfall, her musical contribution to the untiring 007 phenomenon, and so was Julianne Moore for her haunting imitation (rather than mere portrayal) of Sarah Palin in HBO’s Game Change. Dame Maggie Smith also got another nod for her memorable cameos on Downton Abbey and Amour (a film I still haven’t been able to convince myself to watch) received a Globe in the Foreign Language category.
For all of you who are interested in a complete list of winners, here’s a link to the official site of the HFPA. Acceptance speeches are available all over the internet, but none is so wildly raved about as Jodie Foster’s 6 minutes 45. Any further comment on the content of that speech is unnecessary in my opinion, so I won’t go into details about it. Go see it on youtube if you haven’t already seen or heard about it – or be bold and don’t give a hoot in the first place.
Apparently, vintage-themed shows are in vogue these days and despite my aversion to so many of them, I cannot help but give each new program the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, I was put off again, this time by my guilty pleasure program Downton Abbey, ITV’s newest brainchild Mr. Selfridge and a Canadian production called Bomb Girls. The success of each show is beyond dispute, an increasing number of young viewers seems to enjoy their melodramatic quality without exception. Downton Abbey, which was just renewed for a fourth season, may still be the most commonly known show of the three, first and foremost because of an always excellent Maggie Smith and the unabated shower of awards and nominations. Designed like a soap, the show has remained faithful to its genre from the start and thus jumps the shark more frequently as the seasons rush by. Now set in the 1920s, fateful twists and unnecessary drama follow public demand. Bomb Girls uses similar tools by exploiting the dramatic background of WWII. As if war and its related cruelties wouldn’t be enough, the pilot episode already proved that modern vintage programs need sex, abundance or gore to authenticate themselves (the gruesome accident in the bomb factory still haunting me today). Mr. Selfridge and his department store empire seems tame compared to those Rosie the Riveters, but all the first installment did for me was celebrate extravagance. I really wonder what’s so appealing about these programs?!
With all our troubles in the world, maybe people are looking for consolation that 2013 is a better time to live in than the early 20th century. After all, according to those shows our attitudes and problems have barely changed – and if they did, only for the better (of course). I don’t like that kind of evaluation of the past, that mix of nostalgia for elegance in fashion and grand gestures of love. I prefer the past for what it was, with all its similarities and differences to our times. I do not like to see an interpretation of it through our modern eyes, glorified or demonized. There is nothing romantic about the turmoil of two world wars, nor have we reached the devastation of the Great Depression. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from past successes and ordeals, reducing yesteryear to a colorful setting for our modern ways and attitude, however, does no one justice. It only makes it harder for future generations to understand our roots and struggles. It waters down progress (or setbacks) and the price thereof. I know, a lot of people only see films and shows as entertainment, but by choosing a vintage setting, the writers and producers also influence the knowledge and perception of their viewers of the past. I wish, they would handle it with more care, and most importantly, as more than just a stage for beautiful wardrobe.