By Erin Donovan
As with last year's list, this is a look at some of the best women-centered films released - except, notably, for the first one - to theaters or DVD in 2007.
Eve and the Fire Horse - A Sundance darling that has yet secure a US distribution deal, though it's aired on the Sundance Channel on Demand. Julia Kwan makes a magnificent directorial debut with a light-hearted film about coming of age, religious education, immigrant assimilation and grief.
Blame it on Fidel - Much like the recent Caterina in the Big City, Blame it on Fidel follows a young girl whose parents' political and social aspirations leave her embarrassed and bewildered. Although in young Anna's case her parents start out as buji yuppies and become Communist activists dedicated to ending worldwide poverty from their posh Paris flat.
Linda Linda Linda - A Robert Altman-esque Japanese film about a group of high school girls starting a rock band with a foreign exchange student singer who is painfully awkward but eager to fit in. Star Du-na Bae does a complete u-turn from her role as a heroic archery expert in The Host.
Georgia Rule - 2007's most striking example of how a wrong-headed marketing campaign can sink an excellent film. Georgia Rule's trailer makes the film look like 90 minutes of pratfalls, pies in the face and dick jokes. This is a smart, unsentimental and even occasionally funny family drama that has more in common with Ordinary People than American Pie.
The Dead Girl - Director Karen Moncrieff applies a masterful control of vignette storytelling to reveal how an act of random violence affects the lives of a dozen of people in one small town.
Secret Life of Words - A startlingly intelligent, caring and intense film about the aftermaths of war and torture. Sarah Polley (who made her directorial debut this year with Away From Her) has never been in finer form than here as a Yugoslavian woman trying to build a future while shutting out her past.
Broken English - A romantic tribute to the neuroses and glory of life New York City (the way it could only exist, in films) is a remarkable directorial debut from Zoe Cassavetes. Like Sex and the City with the brain cells added back in.
Sherrybaby - Okay, technically Sherrybaby is a 2006 release that I only caught up with this year. But Maggie Gyllenhaal is a tour de force in this grittier, indie counterpart to Will Smith's The Pursuit of Happyness.
Grindhouse - Marley Shelton deserves an Oscar for her portrayal of a mother whose son is killed during a zombie invasion in Grindhouse's first half Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof plays as a two hour love letter to stunt woman Zoe Bell (who was the subject of the 2004 documentary Double Dare). On an unrelated but puzzling note, these two films contain more scenes of male castration than the entire oeuvre of seventies feminist film. Yowza!
Zoe Bell (far left) and friends in Death Proof
Inland Empire - It's possible that no other American film director is writing better female characters than the gold standard oddball David Lynch. Inland Empire marks his first venture into digital film-making here with his muse (and neighbor) Laura Dern telling what could be the next chapter in Naomi Watts' story from Mulholland Drive about an actress slipping into a full psychological disconnect as she ages out of bankability.
Honorable mentions: Antonia, Cautiva, Dreamland, Offside [more here], Parting Shot, Puccini for Beginners, Stephanie Daley [more here], Waitress. Waiting for: 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days.
Erin Donovan writes reviews for GreenCine's Guru blog and has her own blog at http://steadydietoffilm.typepad.com/.
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