boys don’t cry

Pain spills off the screen in this tragic depiction of a boy trapped in a girl’s body. Hilary Swank nabbed an Oscar for her ingenuous high-wire act as boy-girl Teena Brandon, and Chloe Sevigny dazzles as the fierce lover who yearns to escape her no-way-out life. It’s a bleak portrait of trailer park desperation, and yet it avoids the cheap characters typical of White Trash movies. All the players, from the boozing mom right down to the wounded creeps who commit their brutal acts, are acutely drawn. Intense, graphic, sharply shot, and unforgettable. [us, 1999]

boys don’t cry

Pain spills off the screen in this tragic depiction of a boy trapped in a girl’s body. Hilary Swank nabbed an Oscar for her ingenuous high-wire act as boy-girl Teena Brandon, and Chloe Sevigny dazzles as the fierce lover who yearns to escape her no-way-out life. It’s a bleak portrait of trailer park desperation, and yet it avoids the cheap characters typical of White Trash movies. All the players, from the boozing mom right down to the wounded creeps who commit their brutal acts, are acutely drawn. Intense, graphic, sharply shot, and unforgettable. [us, 1999]

to kill a mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic tale of bigotry, compassion, and justice in small town America. Told through the eyes of 7-year old Scout, it’s also the story of a young girl’s admiration for her father, in this case, Gregory Peck in an Oscar® winning performance. A flawless, timeless film that will invoke real tears. What are you waiting for? [us, 1962]

all about my mother

This film by Pedro Almodovar’s won the Golden Globe for best foreign film, and won the Academy Award for best foreign film. Regardless, it’s an excellent film about the relationships between unrelated women (and former men) who make their own family. In true Almodovar style, the colors are bright and garish, the dialogue is tongue-in-cheek, yet the subjects are weighty. AIDs, prostitution, organ donation, and plastic surgery are all tackled without the usual melodrama. Highly recommended. In Spanish with subtitles. [spain, 1999]

girl, interrupted

Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie star in this overly long film based Susanna Kaysen’s memoirs of one year in a psychiatric hospital. After swallowing a bottle of aspirin and a bottle of vodka, Kaysen (played by Ryder) checks herself into a mental institution. Kaysen is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but many of the underlying themes revolve around perceptions of promiscuity and craziness. Touches of humour keep it from being too melodramatic, and Jolie picked up an Academy Award for her portrayal of an unhinged vixen. Whoopi Goldberg plays the ward nurse, and Vanessa Redgrave has a supporting part as an understanding psychiatrist. You might want to read the book first. [us, 1999]

sense and sensibility

This witty adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel won Emma Thompson, who also stars in the film, a screenwriting Oscar®. The story of two sisters with meager dowrys who balance love, romance, and propriety in the English countryside. Thompson and Kate Winslet are perfect foils as sense and sensibility, and since it’s Austen, there are misunderstandings, humor, seeming tragedy, all wrapped up with a happy ending. Ang Lee directs. [uk/us, 1995

antonia’s line

News of this quirky Dutch tale about the indomitable Antonia and her community of outcasts ripped through the women’s film viewing community upon its release in 1995. This strong reaction to an earthy little film with powerful messages about independence and freedom of thought helped it stick around art houses until the Academy couldn’t ignore it any longer and awarded it an Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film. [neth, 1995]

mildred pierce

This film noir classic revived Joan Crawford’s career and won her the 1945 best actress Oscar®. Crawford plays a doting mother who becomes a successful career woman when her marriage breaks up. The focus of her hard-won success is providing luxuries to her spoiled and conniving daughter. Fights over a snivelling playboy, murder, and lies come between them, as Mildred tries her best to hold her family together. [us, 1945]

two women

Sophia Loren stars as Cesaria in this heart-breaking story of a widow and her adolescent daughter trying to find peace and shelter in wartime Italy, where it’s unclear which passing soldiers have come to help and which have come to harm. Fearful for the safety of her daughter and ever protective, Cesaria flees Rome to her childhood village where they find some safety but little food. The film explores themes of protection, mother’s love, loss of innocence, and trust both at the personal and at the global level, and will stay with you long after you have first viewed it. Loren’s stunning performance won her an Academy Award, the first ever for a foreign language film. [italy, 1961]

driving miss daisy

In her Oscar-winning performance, Jessica Tandy subverts the old biddy stereotype as a proud old Southern woman forced to abandon the wheel after she plows her car into a neighbour’s yard. The movie, which also won an Oscar for best picture in 1990, explores a 25-year friendship between Miss Daisy and her African-American chauffeur. In this moving portrait of aging, Tandy shows her astonishing range as she ages from a feisty 70-year-old to an increasingly fragile and senile old woman.[us, 1989]