#52FilmsByWomen 2017 Ranked & Reviewed

When I first learned of the #52FilmsByWomen pledge in late 2016, I was horrified to discover that I hadn’t reached the “challenge’s” quota naturally that year, despite my voracious movie-watching habits. Promoted by the organization Women in Film, #52FilmsByWomen is merely a pledge to watch one movie a week directed by a woman for the entirety of a year. It’s not at all a difficult criteria to fulfill if you watch movies on a regular routine, but so much of the pop culture landscape is dominated by (white) male voices that you’d be surprised by how little media you typically consume is helmed by a female creator until you actually start paying attention to the numbers. Having taken & fulfilled the #52FilmsByWomen pledge in 2017, I’ve found that to be the exercise’s greatest benefit: paying attention. I’ve found many new female voices to shape my relationship with cinema through the pledge, but what I most appreciated about the experience is the way it consistently reminded me to pay attention to the creators I’m supporting & affording my time. If we want more diversity in creative voices on the pop media landscape, we need to go out of our way to support the people already out there who work outside the white male hegemony. #52FilmsByWomen is a simple, surprisingly easy to fulfill gesture in that direction.

With this pledge in mind, I watched, reviewed, and podcasted about 64 films directed by women in 2017. The full inventory of those titles can be found on this convenient Letterboxd list, which includes all the short films & re-watches of the batch. For the purposes of this article, I’ll only list the feature-length movies I saw for the first time last year, which serendipitously totaled a clean 52. Each film is ranked & linked to a corresponding review, since I was using the challenge to influence not only the media I was consuming myself, but also the media we cover on the site. My hope is that this list will not only function as a helpful recap for a year of purposeful movie-watching, but also provide some heartfelt recommendations for anyone else who might be interested in taking the pledge in 2018. It’s an experience I highly recommend, as I got so much out of it myself that I’ve already started a new Letterboxd list for my second year of participation.

5 Star Reviews

The Lure, dir. Agnieszka Smoczyńska (2017) – “The Lure is a mermaid-themed horror musical that’s equal parts MTV & Hans Christian Andersen in its modernized fairy tale folklore. Far from the Disnified retelling of The Little Mermaid that arrived in the late 1980s, this blood-soaked disco fantasy is much more convincing in its attempts to draw a dividing line between mermaid animality & the (mostly) more civilized nature of humanity while still recounting an abstract version of the same story. As a genre film with a striking hook in its basic premise, it’s the kind of work that invites glib descriptors & points of comparison like An Aquatic Ginger Snaps Musical or La La Land of the Damned, but there’s much more going on in its basic appeal than that sense of genre mash-up novelty.”

Orlando, dir. Sally Potter (1992)

Born in Flames, dir. Lizzie Borden (1987)

Mikey and Nicky, dir. Elaine May (1976) 4.5

4.5 Star Reviews

Office Killer, dir. Cindy Sherman (1997) – “Cindy Sherman delivers exactly what I want from my genre films here, the exact formula that won me over in Tara Subkoff’s #horror. She mixes lowbrow camp with highbrow art production in an earnest, gleeful work that values both ends of that divide. As faintly silly as Carol Kane’s performance can be as a deranged killer, Sherman colors her background with a genuinely horrific history of sexual assault, where she constantly has to hear praise for her abuser in a work environment. She employs infamous provocateur Todd Haynes to provide ‘additional dialogue’ to make sure that discomfort seeps in. The sickly, flickering florescent lights of her film’s office setting afford it a horror aesthetic long before the kills begin, especially when she focuses on the harsh, moving light of a copier running in the dark. Even the opening credits, which glides as projections across still, office environment objects, have an artfulness to them missing from a lot of tongue-in-cheek horror.”

Blood Bath, dir. Stephanie Rothman (1966)

Raw, dir. Julia Ducournau (2017)

4 Star Reviews

Blood Diner, dir. Jackie Kong (1987)  – “A supposed sequel to the grindhouse ‘classic’ Blood Feast (a film I have zero affection for), Blood Diner is pure 80s splatter comedy mayhem. It boasts all of the shock value violence & misogynistic cruelty of its predecessor (this time at the hands of a female director, Jackie Kong), but has a lot more in common with ZAZ spoofs or Looney Tunes than it does with its grindhouse pedigree. Everything in Blood Diner is treated with Reagan-era irreverence to the point where this pointlessly stupid horror comedy starts to feel like inane poetry. It shocks; it offends. Yet, Blood Diner is so consistently, absurdly mindless that all you can do is laugh at its asinine audacity in its cheap midnight movie thrills.”

Icaros: A Vision, dir. Leonor Caraballo (2017)

Lady Bird, dir. Greta Gerwig (2017)

A Night to Dismember, dir. Doris Wishman (1983)

Band Aid, dir. Zoe Lister-Jones (2017)

The Beguiled, dir. Sofia Coppola (2017)

Lemon, dir. Janicza Bravo (2017)

XX, dir. Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, Annie Clark, Jovanka Vuckovic (2017)

The World is Mine, dir. Ann Oren (2017)

Maggie’s Plan, dir. Rebecca Miller (2016)

Casting JonBenet, dir. Kitty Green (2017)

3.5 Star Reviews

Viva, dir. Anna Biller (2007) – “There are some thematic aspects of Viva I wish Biller had pushed a little further (and a few scenes I wish were shaved down to expedite the pace), but there’s an endlessly enjoyable aesthetic in her staging of the film’s lingerie lounging, Scotch swilling, porn-browsing swinger-era softcore smut I can’t help but take delight in. Just the way characters punctuate each of their own lame jokes with unwarranted, maniacal laughter feels both so true to the era & so clearly aligned with what Biller wants to accomplish in her modernization. It’s incredible she was able to figure out her own concrete sense of style as soon as her first feature.”

The Watermelon Woman, dir. Cheryl Dunye (1996)

Landline, dir. Gillian Robespierre (2017)

Loving Vincent, dir. Dorota Kobiela (2017)

Wonder Woman, dir. Patty Jenkins (2017)

The Kid Stays in the Picture, dir. Nanette Burstein (2002)

Mudbound, dir. Dee Rees (2017)

Prevenge, dir. Alice Lowe (2017)

Kedi, dir. Ceyda Torun (2017)

Isthar, dir. Elaine May (1987)

American Fable, dir. Anne Hamilton (2017)

Beware the Slenderman, dir. Irene Taylor Brodsky (2017)

Beach Rats, dir. Eliza Hittman (2017)

Speed Racer, dir. Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski (2008)

Snowy Bing-Bongs Across the North Star Combat Zone, dir. Rachel Wolther (2017)

Nude on the Moon, dir. Doris Wishman (1961)

Deadly Weapons, dir. Doris Wishman (1974)

B.C. Butcher, dir. Kansas Bowling (2016)

Sickhouse, dir. Hannah Macpherson (2016)

3 Star Reviews

The Velvet Vampire, dir. Stephanie Rothman (1971) – “The frustrating thing about The Velvet Vampire is that it’s almost something truly great. The dreamscape seduction scenes have a surreal Altered States quality to them that makes them immensely exciting and there’s a few stray moments of cinematic beauty elsewhere in shots of the titular vampire eating raw liver in her lingerie or lying naked in her husband’s coffin. The film’s also slightly transgressive in its third act shift toward lesbian seduction once the husband is no longer interesting as a plaything, especially in the vampire’s monologue about men’s envy over the power of female sexual pleasure. The film doesn’t follow through on any of its genuine art film impulses, though, so it’s much easier to take delight in its campier touches like its rubber bats, loosely defined vampire rules (sunlight’s apparently not a problem), and inane dialogue (listening to a man scream in pain, the dolt husband shrugs it off with, “It’s probably just a coyote.”). Because The Velvet Vampire is so beholden to the slow & stoned hippie energy of its era (as opposed to the much more alive go-go erotica of The Vampire and the Ballerina), though, it’s difficult to get too excited about the film’s occasional pleasures that languidly float by onscreen.”

Things to Come, dir. Mia Hansen-Løve (2016)

Another Day, Another Man, dir. Doris Wishman (1966)

Rough Night, dir. Lucia Aniello (2017)

Most Beautiful Island, dir. Ana Asensio (2017)

Bridget Jones’s Baby, dir. Sharon Maguire (2016)

Wexford Plaza, dir. Joyce Wong (2017)

Cold Steel, dir. Dorothy Ann Puzo (1987)

 Bound by Flesh, dir. Leslie Zemeckis (2012)

The Being, dir. Jackie Kong (1983)

Kiki, dir. Sara Jordenö (2016)

Mirror Mirror, dir. Marina Rae Sargenti (1990)

Would Not Reccomend

Play the Devil, dir. Maria Govan (2017)

The Bad Batch, dir. Ana Lily Amirpour (2017)

Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, dir. Beeban Kidron (2004)

-Brandon Ledet

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One thought on “#52FilmsByWomen 2017 Ranked & Reviewed

  1. Pingback: Film, Representation, and the Historical Record | Swampflix

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