Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Kathryn Bigelow

Five Films Directed by Women


International Women’s Day is March 8th. In the spirit of the occasion, it seems appropriate to consider watching a movie with a woman director. Sadly, at present, this is a limited field, nevertheless we have found five worthy contenders and hope to see far, FAR more in the future.

The Piano (1993) Written and directed by New Zealand’s own Jane Campion, this romantic drama starring Holly Hunter as a mute piano player and widowed mother who becomes entangled in a convoluted love triangle with Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel. It made over $140 million worldwide on a seven million dollar budget, was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three; Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Best Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Best Original Screenplay for Campion. Campion also became the first and thus far only woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. She would later go on to direct the award winning romantic drama Bright Star, as well as write and direct the TV mystery/drama series Top Of the Lake starring Elisabeth Moss in a role that’s won her a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award.

Monsoon Wedding (2001) Directed by Indian born Mira Nair this romantic comedy details various entanglements and dramas taking place during a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi. Along the way we are treated to song and dance numbers as well as a number of observations about life in Modern 21st Century India and Punjabi culture. The movie was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival making Nair only the second Indian to win in that category. Nair would go on to direct such films as The Namesake (nominated for a Gotham Award and Independent Spirit Award), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (for which Nair won The Bridge, The German Film Award for Peace), and Queen of Katwe (nominated for four NAACP Image Awards and Winner of Best Family Film by Women Film Critics Circle.)

Lost In Translation (2003) Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola), this bittersweet comedy starring Bill Murray (in a role that many considered to be his best work to date and which launched a career renaissance for him) as a washed up movie star who connects with young, unhappy, newlywed Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson in her breakout role). The movie was a huge breakout success earning over a $100 million on a four million dollar budget. Johannson and Murray each received BAFTA Awards. The film garnered four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. Coppola actually won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Sofia would later become the first American woman to win the Golden Lion the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival for 2010’s Somewhere which she also wrote and directed.

The Hurt Locker (2009) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days). This war thriller about an Iraqi bomb squad starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty is one of the most suspenseful and grittiest war movies ever made with an incredible emphasis on the psychological toll of combat. It’s so intense and realistic you can almost taste sand in your mouth during one particular sequence. It was universally acclaimed by critics and went on to win six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Bigelow won the award for Best Director and as of this date The Hurt Locker remains the first movie directed by a woman to win either Best Director or Best Picture. Bigelow would go on to direct Zero Dark Thirty which would be nominated for five Oscar awards including Best Picture.

Selma (2014) Directed by Ava DuVernay. While DuVernay was the first African American woman to win the Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Director for her feature film Middle of Nowhere, it was this historical drama starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. based on the real life voting marches from Selma to Montgomery,that helped her truly rise to prominence. With Selma, DuVernay became the first African American woman to be nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Director as well as the black female director to have her film nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th examining race and mass incarceration in the U.S. She’s currently working on directing on an adaption of A Wrinkle in Time for Disney with a budget exceeding $100 million making DuVernay the first black woman to direct a live action film with a budget of such size.

Top photo: Bigstock

Five Desert Horror Flicks


Desierto, which opened on October 14, won a prize at the Toronto International Film Festival AND was selected as the Mexican entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.  The desert plays a staring role in Jonás Cuarón’s film about immigrants fleeing across an unforgiving landscape while trying to escape from a vigilante intent on killing those crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. It’s a sobering film and one that is must see. (Click to read the review.)

The film caused us to look back at others that have been set in the desert. Here are our selections:

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Written, directed and edited by Wes Craven the master of horror himself. Starring Scream Queen Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) and Michael Berryman of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Weird Science. A car crash leaves the seven members of the Carter family and their two dogs stranded in the Nevada desert. They end up set upon by a clan of savage, inbred, cannibals. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?) The film was originally given an X rating by the MPAA and had to do considerable edits to get down to an R rating. It did all right in its initial box office release but now enjoys a massive cult following and has spawned a major horror movie franchise.

Near Dark (1987) This American Western Horror film was among the earliest films directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) and she co-wrote it with Eric Red (The Hitcher, The Last Outlaw). Young Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar of Carlito’s Way and Heroes) with beautiful young drifter Mae (Jennie Wright of The World According to Garp and St. Elmo’s Fire). Unfortunately it turns out Mae’s part of a nomadic vampire ‘family’ living out of an RV and she bites Caleb so he can join them. It made almost no money in its initial release despite great reviews but has since become appreciated as a cult classic and genuinely fresh take on the vampire genre. Not to mention coining the classic phrase, “I hate it when they don’t shave.”

Tremors (1990) Directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers, Mighty Joe Young) and starring the one and only Kevin Bacon as cowboy Valentine McKee. ‘Val’ and his partner Earl (Fred Ward of Escape From Alcatraz) are a pair of handymen in former mining settlement Perfection, Nevada where a series of strange incidents occur. With the help of seismology grad student Rhonda (Finn Carter from Ghosts of Mississippi) they figure out that Perfection, is now being plagued by giant underground snake monsters. It was only a modest hit at the box office but did HUGE on video, TV, the Internet, etc.  It currently holds a ‘fresh’ rating of 85% on the Tomatometer and is a favorite among monster movie fans everywhere.

Wolf Creek (2005) This Australian horror film was written, co-produced, and directed by Greg McLean who later went on to work on such films as Crawlspace and Red Hill.  Three backpackers are taken captive.  They manage to escape only to be hunted by a depraved serial killer. Loosely based on the real life murders performed by Ivan Milat in the 90’s and Bradley Murdoch in 2001. It had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute awards including Best Director.

Bone Tomahawk (2015)  This Western horror film was written and directed by novelist S. Craig Zahler and starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and David Arquette. In the community of Bright Hope sometime around the 1890’s a series of mysterious deaths is finally traced to a clan of cannibalistic savages known as the Troglodytes who live in the Valley of the Starving Men. A posse of course is sent out but things don’t go quite as planned. Critically acclaimed, for its realism, its direction, its screenwriting and most especially for Kurt Russell’s performance it has an 89% fresh rating on the Tomatometer and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.