Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekly Buffet: Lady Business

Friday night I excitedly plopped down on the couch to finally watch Sophia Coppola's movie, The Bling Ring. At least 50% of it was highly enjoyable, but my expectations might have been set a little too high for this flick based a real life tale of ridiculous Hollywood obsessed teens who burglarized celebrity houses.

For a lady who is the master of creating dreamy looking movies, Coppola did not disappoint with highlighting the gorgeous palms and beaches of California, and the opulence of material goods glittering in the eyes of the young characters. 

Not even a great looking movie can make up for a surprising lack of story and mostly bland performances. Fame obsession is an interesting topic, but it seems like the real events could have been integrated into a more in depth story. There can only be so many scenes where teens dance and sing in their cars, or in front of their computers, before boredom hits.

While I zoned out during the zillioneth prolonged scene of each character snapping selfies at a club, it dawned on me that I was sitting there watching a film with a predominantly female cast - How exciting, I thought. That light bulb made me realize how lady centric this entire past week had been.

When it comes to TV, movies, and music these days, there are a number of admirable women lighting up the entertainment world. While I still recommend The Bling Ring, below are some actual current favorites that are more worthy of checking out immediately.


All week it was thrilling to hear the news about the Saudi Arabian women who were defying rules, so it was fitting to have a friend suggest attending a screening of Wadjda. 

This charming film is all about firsts: the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director, and it is the first time Saudi Arabia has submitted a film for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.Whoosh - what an exciting mouthful of information!

The hopeful story follows Wadjda (played by the delightful Waad Mohammed), a young girl who dons Converse and bops around her room to American pop songs all while finding little ways to rebel, just like teens worldwide. Women are not even allowed to ride bicycles in Saudi Arabia, for similar reasons as the driving ban, yet Wadjda wants to purchase her dream green bike anyway. Between selling her friendship bracelets (which are also banned) to girls at school and winning a Quran reciting competition, she might just earn enough money to get that bike.

While watching the film, it's equally infuriating and fascinating to see how women are treated and the entire family dynamic in Saudi Arabia, but the writer/director (Haifaa Al-Mansour) presented this in a non-controversial manner, much like bringing up a topic with a group of friends and then opening it up for further conversation. She was able to express the challenges for women through interesting characters without condemning the entirety of her own culture. Faced with a movie presenting these issues, the audience must think about how cultural expectations could be changed.

Between the release of Wadjda and the growing women's movement, this is an exciting time for the women of Saudi Arabia, and if Al-Mansour keeps making movies, an exciting time for the world of film. Good luck with the Oscars!

Look for Wadjda, hopefully playing at a theater near you. Walking out of the theater you will have a goofy perma smile stuck on your face.


Summer is over, which means it is time for musicians to re-do the hits we jammed out to under the sun. Imagine Cat Power's The Covers Record with a bonus Daft Punk cover and we have Daughter doing their take on "Get Lucky".

There's nothing better than a little gender swapping to mix up an already terrific song. Back when I watched American Idol, my roommate and I swooned hard over David Cook's cover of, "Always Be My Baby" - she made it her ringtone, and I never officially recovered.

As the lead singer of Daughter, Elena Tonra's smooth voice, combined with a slowed down beat, lend generously to elevate a lively dance song into a sophisticated tune. If this is striking your fancy, check out the rest of this English band's repertoire, including their 2013 album, If You Leave. Their song "Youth" may already sound familiar.

Women Of TV (No One Watches...Except Me?)

Apparently, the majority of female characters that I find most enjoyable are on show's with abysmal ratings. It's astounding that Parks and Recreation, Nashville, Parenthood, and yes, Trophy Wife, aren't more popular.

Between being drawn in by the appeal of more Bradley Whitford charisma and equally dragging myself away because of the title, Trophy Wife has become the new comedy I am rooting for. Whitford is in fact not a lady, so his appeal is beyond my point (for right now anyway). This show is wacky, honestly funny, features a hilarious gal (Michaela Watkins) who was on SNL for a hot minute, and has made Malin Ackerman amusing. It is a triumph, and a sign of quality, to make me like someone that I normally don't, so congratulations Trophy Wife. That reminds me of another ABC show...

Nashville made me a believer of Hayden Panettiere - who would have thought? The stories from this show are delightfully soapy, and between Panettiere, Connie Britton and Clare Bowen crooning away, it's easy to get invested and keep pining over the fictionalized drama set in the countrified world of the Nashville music scene.

Over on NBC the ladies of Parenthood and Parks and Recreations couldn't be better either.  Lauren Graham is still one of TV's greats and is criminally underrated. Anyone looking for a good cry look no further than the mother/daughter duo of Graham and Mae Whitman on Parenthood. For Parks and Recreation it's all about the personification of true heart and comedy from Leslie Knope, as played by Amy Poehler.

Please people, anyone looking for wonderful stories and performances by females of all ages looks no further than these gems!

Honorary tip of the witch hat to American Horror Story: Coven, for compiling an entire cast of badass ladies. People are actually watching this show, so it does not need an audience as much as the others, but it has to be noted that it is dazzling to find a legendary trio like Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, and Grace Coddington lookalike, Frances Conroy, all on the same television show.

Joni Mitchell At 70

It was not her first, but Joni Mitchell's most recognized album Blue, is just over forty years old, and even after all this time has passed her characteristically unique and effortless singing tone is unmatched by any modern female singer.

When I found out it was her 70th Birthday last Thursday, I busted out that classic album in her honor. Between "All I Want", "Carey", "Blue" "River", and, my personal favorite, "A Case Of You", she simply strummed a guitar, wasn't afraid of hitting the highest notes or the lowest, and created astoundingly beautiful melodies.

The true mark of legends, many other singers have taken to recording covers of her treasured songs. Everyone has their favorite version of River (which has become a modern Christmas classic), but it is James Blake's soulful version of "A Case Of You" that completely levels me into a crumbly mess of emotions - just try not to listen to that fifty times in a row.

Growing up with her music playing at my house has a direct correlation to my interest in other female singer- songwriters, Neko Case, Jenny Lewis, and Regina Spektor. Even though she appears to be out of the business now, Mitchell will continue to have a lasting influence in the music industry and to music appreciators.

Talented ladies are everywhere - what are some of your favorites?

Until next time.

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