Philomena is a tale about an Irish woman searching for the son she was forced to give up. It stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and will open in late November in theaters.
In a month full of superhero releases, Philomena is one bright spot of a human-sized story about a real woman and her lifelong quest to find her son. If you’ve been thinking of scheduling a movie into your time off for Thanksgiving weekend but don’t want to see Thor or some other violent fantasy hunk bash people, Philomena looks like a wonderful choice.
Bomb Girls was a Canadian series, canceled after 2 seasons. It was a WWII story about women who worked in a bomb factory called Victory Munitions. It ran in Canada on Global TV and in the U.S. on Reelz. It’s available on Netflix.
The show had a huge and enthusiastic following. After it was cancelled, a #savebombgirls campaign started on social media, especially Twitter, lobbying for a movie. The campaign worked!
The original cast, including Jodi Balfour, Charlotte Hegele, Ali Liebert and Canadian Screen Award-winning actress Meg Tilly, are all back for the movie, which is set in spring 1943. The workers at Victory Munitions are tasked with making newly developed sonar equipment, but there may be a saboteur in their midst.
To celebrate the upcoming TV movie, I decided to rewatch the entire series on Netflix. I am up to season 2, episode 6, “Where There’s Smoke,” which is the episode these screen shots came from since that’s what I was about to watch when I started writing this post.
The series focuses mainly on a few of the many women who work at Victory Munitions. They are led by Meg Tilly as Lorna Corbett. Meg Tilly so seldom appears in movies or on TV, and she is so wonderful when she does. It’s worth watching this series just to see her in action.
Lorna has grown children – played by Natasha Greenblatt and Brett Dier – and a husband crippled by his service in “the great war,” WWI. The husband is wonderfully played by Peter Outerbridge. Brett Dier does a great job as the son, a tail gunner home from the war to go on a Victory Bond tour as a hero, but he suffers from what we now call PTSD.
Lorna is the “floor matron” and mother hen to all the young women who come away from their former lives to work in the bomb factory.
Part of the story deals with the fear and ostracism of Italian and German Canadians who were sent to camps as soon as Canada entered the war. Lorna’s character is involved with trying to get a particular Italian, Marco (Antonio Cupo) fired from the bomb factory as a security risk. Marco is a handsome Italian and is a temptation to Lorna as well as several other women in the story. I don’t want to give you any spoilers about Marco, but he is important to many storylines in Bomb Girls.
The theme of prejudice and bigotry appears in other ways in Bomb Girls, with German POW’s, Italian internment camps, Japanese-American soldiers, and an Indian doctor that Lorna’s daughter falls in love with.
Jodi Balfour plays the rich Gladys Witham. Her parents own Witham Foods, an important supplier of rations to the soldiers. Gladys is engaged to an American (Sebastian Pigott) who her father (James McGowan) is bringing into the company. When America, enters the war, Gladys’ fella enlists.
Gladys is a rebel and wants to work in the factory, on the floor, making bombs. She does this, although it causes a lot of family conflict. She becomes friends with the other girls who work on the floor. She also rebels against the sexual standards of the day in ways that her parents think “could ruin her.” She rebels against her parents view of the war as a great opportunity to make huge profits. If one member of the cast could fill the role of what modern women were set to become after the war, Gladys would fit the bill.
Tahmoh Penikett joins the cast as factory security head toward the end of season 2 and gets Gladys involved in security. This storyline apparently continues in the movie, because Tahmoh Penikett is in the movie and the mention of saboteurs would fit his and Gladys’ part of the story.
Charlotte Hegele is Kate, a runaway from her oppressive and abusive father. She’s using an assumed name and trying to find a new life. She’s a wonderful singer and performs a number of songs as the stories unfold.
One of the times Kate performs, she’s part of a trio doing a jingle for Victory Munitions. In those days, women’s trios all sounded like The Andrews Sisters, but Kate also sings jazz, religious songs, and ballads.
Kate spends a lot of time hiding her real identity and name, a habit which causes her problems when she finds a steady boyfriend.
Kate and Betty (Ali Liebert) live in the same rooming house, work the same shift at the factory, and soon become fast friends. Betty’s feelings for Kate run to love, not friendship. Kate is not able to return Betty’s feelings in the way Betty wishes she would, which causes some conflict between them. Even so, Betty is very protective of Kate and helps her escape from her father for good.
One of Betty’s ploys to try to fit in at the factory was to have a boyfriend – a very unsatisfactory relationship for her. About midway through season 2, episode 6 to be exact, Betty meets a soldier named Teresa (Rachel Wilson) who makes it plain very quickly that she understands Betty’s sexual inclinations and shares them.
When Betty is with Teresa, she finally has her first sexual experience that feels right to her. Betty is what might have been called “a tough cookie” in the 40s, yet she is complex and vulnerable in surprising ways.
Anastasia Phillips as Vera is the final major female character in the story. She is injured while working the line and has a terrible scar.
The scar affects Vera’s self-esteem in interesting ways – it brings her near suicide, but she comes out of it. She uses sex to help heal herself on the inside as the scar heals on the outside. In her job at the factory, it turns out she’s really smart and capable and she ends up bringing all sorts of good ideas to Victory Munitions. Vera is the kind of woman who probably went on to run a business of her own after the war.
Themes of friendship and feminism permeate the stories in Bomb Girls. All of the women in Bomb Girls teach each other lessons and offer each other strength. They also teach their male bosses, boyfriends, and families exactly how vital and important women are to the war effort. It was an exciting time for women in Canada and everywhere, and their stories explain how women’s early steps into feminism and the workplace happened.
Rosie O’Donnell does a turn as a newspaper reporter who inspired Lorna to ask for raises for herself and the girls, making equal pay another theme in the series.
You may not be old enough to remember how things looked and sounded in the 40s, but I am. The details in Bomb Girls in costuming and sets and props and music and radio broadcasts and magazines and every other way are perfect. And all those women’s hats! It’s a complete treat to watch just for the way it looks and sounds.
If you haven’t watched this series about women’s lives during a pivotal period of history, I think you’ll enjoy checking it out.
Angel, Spike, Xander, Mal Reynolds, Jayne, Dr. Horrible, Victor, Topher Brink, Tony Stark, Agent Coulson. Great characters. I enjoy them all. One thing they have in common is that they are some of the on-screen characters under the guiding mind of Joss Whedon. He uses some great characters in his stories – at least half of them are men.
I don’t care about any of those guys. Why? Because everybody writes great male characters for film and TV.
Joss Whedon does something that everybody else doesn’t always do. He writes great female character, too. Speaking as a woman, I can testify to the fact that women are desperate to see great female characters on their various screens. When someone like Joss Whedon gives us that with brilliant consistency, women notice. I pay homage to him today.
Here’s a little treat in the form of a few of the women Joss Whedon invented for the screen, with Joss’s fuzzy and warm face right in the middle. I’m not going to name characters and shows to match up with the faces below. If you don’t already know those facts, you need to embark on a study of Joss Whedon’s filmography immediately.
I love you, Joss, and every woman you ever created.
Whedon on Whedon Women
This is an old speech, from 2006 and Equality Now, but I know Joss Whedon still gets the same question everywhere he goes. It’s worth listening to his answer one more time.
Joss is right. Instead of asking him why he’s doing it right, we should start asking everyone else why they’re doing it wrong.
On 4 November, Equality Now will honor award-winning writer, director, producer and Advisory Board member, Joss Whedon, for his work on gender equality at an event in Beverly Hills, California. Chaired by Board member Gloria Steinem and hosted by Paul Reiser.
Tatiana Maslany got so much attention for her amazing work in Orphan Black. The series Orphan Black received rave reviews. Orphan Black looks and smells like success and money. How you gonna jump on the Orphan Black bandwagon?
Noomi Rapace is set to play 7 different sisters in What Happened to Monday? The premise of this dystopian sci fi future world is that overpopulation has limited the number of children allowed per family to one.
There are the rules, and then there are 7 baby girls. Seems we have septuplets on our hands. They are hidden away and only allowed to be seen one at a time.
The What Happened to Monday? director is Tommy Wirkola of Hansel and Gretel. Rapace played Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium series films – the original Swedish versions, not the American one – of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. She has also been in several American productions.
There’s more good news for the 7 sisters in What Happened to Monday? They were originally supposed to be 7 brothers, and Wirkola decided Rapace was perfect for the part. So, maybe they are cloning the clones, but they have a good star and what could be a good idea.
Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter is a series of six films in Swedish with English subtitles. They are based on Liza Marklund’s best-selling crime novels.
The six films (with descriptions from Amazon) are:
Nobel’s Last Will: While covering the annual Nobel Prize Banquet, Annika witnesses the spectacular murder of two prestigious individuals right in front of her. She’s a key witness, so she’s bound by the police not to disclose anything. It’s the story of a lifetime, and she can’t write a word.
Prime Time: On her way to a family gathering, Annika has to leave her two children in the care of her boyfriend so she can report on the murder of a famous TV host. The ten people who’d just spent the night at a mansion where the host’s program is taped are under suspicion; Annika learns that her best friend is among them.
Studio Sex: When a stripper from a club called Studio Sex is killed, the case becomes political dynamite after the police find out that the Minister of Trade visited the club on the night of the murder. Working the story also brings up bad memories for Annika and she finds herself taking it all personally.
The Red Wolf: In the dark winter of northern Sweden, a journalist is murdered. Annika senses that the killing is linked to a terrorist attack 40 years ago, about which the journalist knew too much. Her investigation brings her into a world of old loyalties that began with the 1960s leftists and extends into the liberal government of today.
Lifetime: Lonely and divorced, Annika spends most of her time at work to forget her private misfortunes. She reports on the strange case of a young female police officer who’s accused of killing her policeman husband and hiding their young son. She also suspects that there’s more to this story than an enraged wife.
A Place in the Sun: Annika travels to Costa del Sol, Spain, to cover a story about a Swedish family who was killed during a burglary. As she investigates, it becomes clear that the murders are connected to a drug trade that reaches from the hashish farms of Morocco to the streets of Sweden.
The films star Swedish actress Malin Crépin as the workaholic crime reporter Annika Bengtzon. She works at a newspaper on a crime beat and is friends with a number of police sources.
She has two beautiful kids at home, and a husband who whines if she isn’t home being wifely for him whenever he wants a meal or the children picked up. You might guess that the husband doesn’t last through every film in the series. Yep, he gets the boot. Since Annika tends to get very involved in the cases she’s writing about, it’s a constant source of conflict between her work life and home life.
I enjoy a number of things about this series. The acting is very good. The character Annika is brilliant at solving – not just reporting on – crime and often has it figured out before the police do. She’s awesome like that.
The crimes Annika reports on are fascinating – big complex mysteries with important implications and often dangerous for the intrepid reporter.
The Book Thief looks really good! It’s based on Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel from 2007 and is about a young girl in Nazi Germany. She seeks refuge in stolen books while her family hides a young Jewish man in the basement.
The film is directed by Brian Percival. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse and Ben Schnetzer. The Book Thief comes out in November.
Thirteen year old Sophie Nélisse has already won acting awards for her two previous films, and I’m sure you are aware of the acting talent you can expect from Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.
This is the international trailer for the film.
Also check out the American version of the trailer.
You might also be interested in this interview by Amber Gochoel with actors Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush and director Brian Percival.
What do you think of the film? Do you plan to see it? Or, if you have seen it, what did you think of it?
Queen to Play – original title Joueuse – is a little-known French film that is quiet, beautiful and ultimately uplifting. Released in French in 2009, it’s available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I think you’ll love it. Beware, spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Queen to Play: Small and Beautiful”