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There Are Fierce Women Filmmakers Out There Hustling… On Streaming

Wonder Woman brought the big screen conversation into focus. Today’s Opening Credits explores the other areas in which women filmmakers are doing their best work.

“What do you watch when you don’t have anything you’re required to watch?”

This is a question I get a lot. Thanks to this wonderful career in the world of entertainment journalism and punditry, there’s plenty that I am required to watch. For example, no one on the FSR team wants to see and review the new Transformers movie this week. So I’ll likely have to take that bullet (thanks, y’all). But every once in a while, I find myself in a position to just watch whatever comes to mind with no plans for coverage or attachment to some project. Over the weekend, I found myself in such a position. A Saturday afternoon spent cleaning the office turned into a Saturday evening date with my couch and Apple TV. And like any normal consumer of popular culture, I spent more time than I’d like to admit choosing something to watch.

It was a journey that ended with Hulu and its original show Casual, now in its third season. A fan of the first two seasons — — particularly the performances of Tommy Dewey, Michaela Watkins, and Tara Lynne Barr — — I was happy, as odd as that sounds, to find that I’d slipped behind by six episodes. Three hours of entertainment, secured. It’s a show about dating in its many modern forms, family and its many complications, and the occasionally frank look at intimacy. My kind of “Saturday Night at home alone, totally not thinking about loneliness” show. What I observed about the show’s third season is as follows:

  1. The show has matured brilliantly and continues to be inventive in mining comedy out of its somewhat basic premise.
  2. The additions of Judy Greer and Maya Erskine in season 3 are phenomenal.
  3. The show’s director list is a murderer’s row of female talent behind the camera.

It’s this final bullet point that’s stuck with me beyond a weekend of being delighted by Casual, including a spiraling reminder that there are a number of very talented women out there making things. The focus in these past few weeks has been around Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman — — the trashy question of whether or not a girl (*gasp*) is capable of commanding a big summer tentpole. (As it turns out, they can and they will.) I’d like to refocus this discussion and talk about the world of streaming. It’s important that, over the next few years, we reframe our discussions about success to include the work that’s being pumped into living rooms across the world via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others. The traditional logic was that directors working in TV were just out there keeping the lights on until their next big film project was given the green light. Now though, we live in a world in which television, or whatever we’re calling the amalgam of things created by traditional networks and streaming services, is just as lucrative and creatively fulfilling as anything you’ll see at your local cineplex. And it’s something that will continue to grow with time.

For example, put the scope of any of this summer’s blockbusters up against the seven weeks we’re going to get from Game of Thrones. Try to match this year’s Oscar contenders with the longer-form drama of Better Call Saul or The Leftovers. Go forth and find pulpy goodness in cinemas that match 8-hours of American Gods or Twin Peaks. I’m not here today to make the argument that TV has surpassed cinema as a storytelling medium, I’m simply implying that argument grows stronger every year.

Which brings us back to Casual and its season three directors list. Among the filmmakers chosen to work on the show, which is executive produced by Jason Reitman and run by Zander Lehmann, are Lynn Shelton, whose 2009 film Humpday was the sort of fun that gave us hope that she’d be pushing Adam Sandler movies out of cinemas by now; and Carrie Brownstein, who began directing episodes of her own show Portlandia and is slowly but surely branching out to other things; Lake Bell, whose film In a World… is a must-see for anyone who loves those insightful, honest, wit-filled takes on the world of Hollywood; and Gillian Robespierre, whose film Obvious Child is one of the finest comedies of this decade thus far.

Should all of these women be given big movie projects and have their work seen in as many theaters as possible? Absolutely. But it’s important to note they are out there hustling, doing great work, and making things. This drive for equality in this vast creative space is going to be a generational effort. We need filmmakers like Shelton, Brownstein, Bell, and Robespierre, to continue to do their best work and inspire the next generation of women. And right now, the answers are coming from all manner of platforms. Including the streaming ones that kids these days engage with the most.


Today in Pop Culture History

Today is the 65th birthday of John Goodman and the 50th birthday of Nicole Kidman. Both of them look fantastic for their age.

On this day in 1974, Chinatown was released. Despite it being Chinatown, Jake, we’ll never forget it.

Releasing on this day one year later, in 1975, was the summer blockbuster that pretty much invented summer blockbusters, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.


What You Need to Know Today

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is finally coming to Blu-ray. The film, released in 1993, will come to Blu-ray sometime in July.

Star Trek: Discovery has locked in a release date. The show will debut on September 24, 2017, airing its premiere as two separate episodes. It will air the first half of its season from September 24 to November 5, then returning in January to finish the back half of its season.

Godzilla 2 has begun filming. The cast — — which is fantastic — — includes Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Zhang Ziyi, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Aisha Hinds, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins. Also, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. Strap in, this could be fun.


ICYMI

Liz Baessler wraps up our coverage of American Gods with a review of the season finale, “Come to Jesus.”

Ciara Wardlow spends time looking for the summer movie season we’ve lost.

Danny Bowes explores the early work of Peter Bogdanovich, part of our ongoing partnership with Filmstruck.


Shot of the Day

A number of people laughed on Twitter when I posted this shot yesterday. Their laughter only fuels my appreciation for this fine piece of sharksploitation.

The Shallows (2016)