Wayne's World - #52FilmsByWomen

The year is 2011, a young 15-year-old Hannah has just entered into a pop-punk phase filled with over-the-top side-swept bangs, bright pink hair dye, bracelets up to her elbows, and a stick-it-to-the-man attitude. Hot Topic was the go-to shopping spot and Warped Tour became a frequent Summer festivity. Looking back on my younger self, you’d think I’d be embarrassed – on the contrary, I loved that phase. It was the first time that I had used artistic mediums to cope with my anxieties and depression – two things that became all-too-familiar at that age. Movies had always held a very special place in my heart, and obviously still do, but this was a time when music took a more prominent seat in my life. Back in the day, I used to sing with a program called School of Rock (yes, JUST like the movie), that took place after school a few times a week. I had always loved to sing but hated being in the choir, so this place was just what I needed to let out all of that teenage angst. It was the perfect opportunity for me to sing the classic rock songs, and even the current pop-punk jams, that I adored and would later perform with an insanely talented group of people in various dive bars around the Twin Cities. It was my safe haven to explore my personality, embrace my weird quirks, and be around people who shared similar interests.  

Dumplin' - #52FilmsByWomen

It's officially a new year, and with that comes new ventures. One thing I had on my 2019 to-do list was to spend time adding additional content on here to give readers more to explore. So welcome to a brand new year, dear reader, there’s plenty of great projects coming your way! Some of which now include a little something that I’ve always wanted to do – participate in Women in Film’s #52FilmsByWomen campaign. The pledge, which you can access here, encourages people to watch a film a week made by a woman for one year. I’ve signed it, and I’m more than ready to tackle it. Supporting women in film is very close to my heart, and I can’t wait to embark on this exciting journey through the female gaze. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” This quote, featured at the end of this film from the late, great Stan Lee, perfectly encompasses the beautiful message within Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse… 

Anyone can wear the mask. 

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Wreck-It Ralph is easily one of my favorite animated movies. At the time of its release, back in 2012, I was a 16-year-old that tore tickets, cleaned theaters, and filled concessions at AMC. On the day it premiered, I remember cleaning theaters and waiting for children, teens, and adults alike to exit the screening. I could hear everyone’s reactions as they strolled out -- It immediately piqued my interest. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have checked it out if it hadn’t been for everyone and their mother saying how much they loved it, and I’m SO glad that I did! 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The mystical world of Harry Potter is one that I’ve grown up admiring and adoring. I remember getting the first movie on VHS and watching it over and over again until the cassette wound up breaking. Man, that's an old sentence. Every couple of years, we’d get a sequel that would feel even more exciting than the last. When it all came to a close, I was satisfied -- until Fantastic Beasts came around and immersed us into a whole new aspect of the wizarding world. 

When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was first announced, I was skeptical as to how much more they could really add into this universe. It was a movie that dared to be different and introduced us to a character that, if you're a Potterhead, you may be familiar with from the Harry Potter books. If you don't know, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was a standard textbook written by Newt Scamander, a magizoologist, that Harry was required to purchase upon his arrival at Hogwarts. The book is actually available for all of us muggles to check out as well! Newt was a small part of Harry’s universe, but an intriguing one to explore. His story brought us further into the magical world that J.K. Rowling created.

Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard is no stranger to crafting delightful meta-stories. His directorial debut Cabin in the Woods was a fantastic horror comedy that embraced the scary movie tropes we’re all-too-familiar with and shocked us with its originality and self-awareness. He’ll make you believe you’re watching one thing, then strap you in for a metaphorical rollercoaster through sub-genres that will have you leaving the theater feeling surprised at how much you actually enjoyed it. It definitely leaves you eager to see what he makes next.

First Man

Damien Chazelle has proved to cinephiles all around the world that he isn’t confined to one genre. From his first jazzy movie musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench in 2009 to the intense drama Whiplash in 2014 to the colorful and wondrous musical La La Land that swept us all off our feet in 2016, he seems to transition flawlessly - always keeping a little bit of jazz in his back pocket to sprinkle into his stories.  

Now, we’re escaping the city of stars and heading up into a galaxy of stars.  

A Star is Born

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut was the fourth retelling of the classic story A Star is Born. It was also Lady Gaga’s first starring role on the big screen. Let me tell you, her transition from stage-to-screen appeared seemingly EFFORTLESS. I walked out of the theater smiling from ear-to-ear and wiping a few tears away as well. 

A Star is Born is, in the words of Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Potts, a tale as old as time. The original was released in 1937 and starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It was actually a drama about an aspiring Hollywood actress and didn’t have the musical aspect. The melodious wonder was added in the first remake in 1954, a period of cinema FILLED with musicals, and starred James Mason and Minnesota’s own Judy Garland. Yes, I am proud to say that Garland hailed from Minnesota – it’s an awesome fun fact. Then we went on to have the Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand version in 1976, now we're gifted with Cooper's vision. Each is slightly different from the last, but the story remains the same. 

A Simple Favor

Paul Feig has a dark side! The Bridesmaids director diverted from his usual path of comedy and decided to dip his toes into the thriller genre. This film piqued many people’s interest - myself included - when Blake Lively unfollowed everyone she knew on Instagram and started following women named “Emily Nelson” with a new bio reading, “What happened to Emily?” It was a brilliant PR stunt… and it worked. I had to learn more about Emily. 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Of the 122 feature films that premiered at Sundance, 37% were directed by women. Desiree Akhavan was one of those women and her film, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”, went on to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition. It’s based on the book by Emily M. Danforth, and all of the positive chatter around it is SO well earned. 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

I’m a big fan of romantic comedies and a definite hopeless romantic. These kinds of movies have always held a very special place in my heart, especially when I was a teenager. I loved envisioning Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” while dancing across the football stadium bleachers for me (and I know I’m not the only one who dreamt of that!) Alas, that didn’t happen, but that scene from “10 Things I Hate About You” remains one of my favorites and still brings a smile to my face every time I watch it. It has a lasting effect, and THAT is a sign of a good rom-com. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” tugs at those same heartstrings. 

The Tale

I was originally going to see The Tale during my quick trip to Sundance but was unable to attend. I patiently waited to see if it would be picked up for distribution. Luckily for me (and to everyone’s surprise) the film was acquired by HBO. This was on everyone’s mind during the festival, popping up in conversation amongst almost every movie-goer, so you can imagine my anticipation in seeing what all of the chatter was about. 

The Tale was written and directed by Jennifer Fox. She has frequented Sundance in the past with her documentaries, but this time her movie was featured in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. It’s a vulnerable memoir about Fox’s experience with sexual abuse as a teenager from her running coach, and she isn’t afraid to tell her story with complete transparency.