#52FilmsByWomen 2018 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 now taken & fulfilled the #52FilmsByWomen two years in a row, 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 appreciate about the experience is the way it consistently reminds 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 59 feature films directed by women in 2018. The full inventory of those titles can be found on this convenient Letterboxd list, which includes all the 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 pledge 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 2019. 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 third year of participation.

5 Star Reviews

The Gleaners & I, dir. Agnes Varda (2001) – “I can’t believe that there was this succinct of a summation of my personal philosophies as a silly-ass, trash-obsessed punk idealist in my youth floating around in the ether and I completely missed it until now. I went into The Gleaners & I respecting Varda as a kind of mascot for unfussy, D.I.Y cinema with a genuine subversive streak, but left it believing her to be more of a kindred spirit, someone who truly gets what it means to live among the capitalist refuse of this trash island Earth.”

Dirty Computer, dir. Emma Westenberg, Lacey Duke (2018)

4.5 Star Reviews

Working Girls, dir. Lizzie Borden (1986) –Working Girls is often darkly funny, but it is first & foremost dark, depicting even the most privileged corners of sex work as an inherently exploitative industry hinged on power, greed, and violence. Whether that criticism is aimed at sex work in particular or capitalism at large is up for interpretation (I assume it’s a healthy dose of both), as the brothel setting of Working Girls is essentially the entirety of capitalism in an apartment-sized microcosm. I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a film with this much sex play as aggressively unerotic as what’s on display here, resulting in what’s basically a horror film about the hour-to-hour mundanity of sex work (and, by extension, all labor under capitalism), a slow burn creep-out & a low-key political screed.”

You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay (2018)

Faces Places, dir. Agnès Varda (2017)

Dogfight, dir. Nancy Savoca (1991)

Flames, dir. Josephine Decker (2018)

Shirkers, dir. Sandi Tan (2018)

The Adventures of Prince Achmed, dir. Lotte Reiniger (1926)

4 Star Reviews

Good Manners, dir. Juliana Rojas (2018) – “On a horror movie spectrum, the film is more of a gradual, what-the-fuck mind melt than a haunted house carnival ride with gory payoffs & jump scares at every turn. It’s an unconventional story about unconventional families, one where romantic & parental anxieties are hard to put into words even if they’re painfully obvious onscreen. Anyone with a hunger for dark fairy tales and sincerely dramatic takes on familiar genre tropes are likely to find a peculiar fascination with the subtle, methodical ways it bares its soul for all to see. Just don’t expect the shock-a-minute payoffs of a typical monster movie here; those are entirely secondary, if they can be detected at all.”

Ratcatcher, dir. Lynne Ramsay (2000)

Blockers, dir. Kay Cannon (2018)

Le Bonheur, dir. Agnès Varda (1965)

The Hitch-Hiker, dir. Ida Lupino (1953)

Mamma Mia!, dir. Phyllida Lloyd (2008)

Thou Was Mild and Lovely, dir. Josephine Decker (2014)

Butter on the Latch, dir. Josephien Decker (2013)

The To Do List, dir. Maggie Carey (2013)

Skate Kitchen, dir. Crystal Moselle (2018)

Sheer Madness, dir. Margarethe von Trotta (1983)

Revenge, dir. Coralie Fargeat (2018)

Blue My Mind, dir. Lisa Brühlmann (2018)

United Skates, dir. Tina Brown, Dyana Winkler (2018)

Double Agent 73, dir. Doris Wishman (1974)

3.5 Star Reviews

Morvern Callar, dir. Lynne Ramsay (2002) – Morvern Callar feels less like an original screenplay than it does like a feature film adaptation of a crumpled-up Polaroid Ramsey found in a sewer. Along with a fearless performance from indie movie mainstay Samantha Morton, Ramsey’s direction & scum-coated visual language capture a very specific phase of soul-crushing grief: the stage where you stumble in total shock, only emerging from drunken stupors long enough to pray for the release of death.”

Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker (2018)

Toni Erdmann, dir. Maren Ade (2016)

Variety, dir. Bette Gordon (1983)

Zama, dir. Lucrecia Martel (2018)

Tigers Are Not Afraid, dir. Issa López. (2018)

Trouble Every Day, dir. Claire Denis (2001)

The New Romantic, dir. Carly Stone (2018)

Saving Face, dir. Alice Wu (2005)

Let the Corpses Tan, dir. Hélène Cattet (2018)

Never Goin’ Back, dir. Augustine Frizzel (2018)

Blank City, dir. Celine Danhier (2010)

Generation Wealth, dir. Lauren Greenfield (2018)

The Spy Who Dumped Me, dir. Susanna Fogel (2018)

The Breadwinner, dir. Nora Twomey (2017)

Alaska is a Drag, dir. Shaz Bennett (2018)

Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami, dir. Sophia Fiennes (2018)

3 Star Reviews

Somewhere, dir. Sofia Coppola (2010) – “This is a deliberately simple, quiet work that scales back Coppola’s ambitions after the go-for-broke excess of Marie Antoinette, one that mirrors the listless emptiness of its the-price-of-fame protagonist. As a result, it would be easy to dismiss the film as a lazy act of pretension, but Coppola’s too tonally & visually skilled as an artist to let it sit that way. This may be the most underwhelming film in her catalog to date, but it’s also quietly sweet & charming in a way too few movies are, which is why she’s one of the best.”

Summer of ’84, dir. Anouk Whissell (2018)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhivan (2018)

Mary Queen of Scots, dir. Josie Rourke (2018)

Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge, dir. Marie Noëlle (2017)

A Wrinkle in Time, dir. Ava DuVernay (2018)

Nailed It, dir. Adele Pham (2018)

Would Not Recommend

Woodshock, dir. Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy (2017)

Imitation Girl, dir. Natasha Kermani (2018)

Romy & Michelle: In the Beginning, dir. Robin Schiff (2005)

Rabbit Test, dir. Joan Rivers (1978)

-Brandon Ledet

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