“I want to be great, or nothing.” This defining line from Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women has become a catchphrase of American literary feminism, repeated out of context, embroidered onto pillows, and championed nearly to the point of losing all meaning.
The sentiment, first delivered by Alcott’s Amy March in regards to her skills at a painter, rings particularly hollow when you consider its place in the countless film, television, and stage adaptations of Little Women that have come since its first publication. These retellings, like so many adaptations of classic novels, have rarely striven for that artistic greatness Amy speaks of—they’ve by and large been pale, sentimental imitations of what a great story looks like, designed to print cash and appease the period piece crowd, i.e. women. Aside from Gillian Armstrong’s hit 1994 film, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Little Women as vital as the original.
That is, until Greta Gerwig came along. The writer-director behind Lady Bird and Frances Ha has been emphasizing the value in quotidian stories about young women throughout her short filmmaking career, and her talents and interests have found a perfect home in Little Women. Lively, ambitious, and deftly directed, Gerwig’s adaptation takes both its subjects and audience seriously, building its own kind of greatness that extends far beyond the power of the original text. It doesn’t attempt to overwrite Alcott’s story with modern feminism, but rather highlight how the joys and struggles of her characters have persisted across time. Filled out by an exhilarating ensemble cast, Gerwig’s Little Women is the best we’ve ever seen this story—and it’s one of the best films of the year.
From Yorgos Lanthimos’ highly-anticipated The Favourite to Greta Gerwig’s star-studded interpretation of Little Women, 2018 will be the year of period pieces. In anticipation of these films, the Much Ado crew has put our heads together and shared some of our favorite period pieces. They span genres, directors, and countries, but one thing is for sure: We are a group who loves a good period piece.
Atonement (2007) dir. Joe Wright
I’m not here to introduce you to a hidden gem of historical fiction about a marginalized population or oft-ignored perspective – I’m here to talk about Atonement. Yes, the Ian McEwan adaptation starring Keira Knightley and directed by Joe Wright. The combination of those three names yields a period piece so period piece-y, it’s quintessential genre viewing.
This movie’s got everything: war-torn lovers, smoking parlors, sexual tension, an evil chocolatier played by Benedict Cumberbatch, family secrets, precocious Saoirse Ronan, dramatic deaths, and betrayal. Set against the backdrop of the First World War, Atonement follows the sweeping love story of beautiful, snobbish Cecilia and working class Robbie, played by Keira Knightley with a jaw so sharp it could kill a man and boy-next-door James McAvoy, respectively. Saoirse received her first Oscar nomination for her role as Cecilia’s incredibly annoying theater kid sister Briony (or at least that’s how I viewed her when I first saw the film as a preteen). But most of the gooey, decadent drama of the film draws itself from everything but the acting.
For many of us, the world sets unrealistic expectations of being materially or academically successful at a young age, leaving behind a lingering emptiness for the rest of our lives when we fail to achieve that in our 20s, maybe even our 30s. It’s the heavy wistfulness of wishing you were more, and the resonating regret because you weren’t. So we keep on chasing an ideal just within reach, but never winning the race.
When I woke up on Tuesday, February 20th and did my daily morning scroll on Twitter, I didn’t expect to be blessed with W Magazine’s latest issue on the spring fashion collections directed by three of 2017’s most talented directors–Greta Gerwig, Luca Guadagnino, and Jordan Peele. If their films didn’t show their artistry enough, Bringing insanely creative point-of-views to their respective spreads, the directors of this awards’ season’s most popular films, Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name and Get Out, combined film and fashion’s distinct powers to create stories that seem as if only they could make it happen.
Being only the fifth woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as a director, Greta Gerwig’s work and accomplishments have had a monumental impact on women across all industries. But, Lady Bird‘s highest nominations offer a deeper significance for a group of women I am proud to be a part of. Like Gerwig, I am a St. Francis High School alumna, an all-girls, Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. As St. Francis Troubadours, aka Troubies, we were taught that we would one day change the world, whether it be in STEM or the arts. Seeing other girls doing such amazing things as teenagers only made me eager to see what I, and the young women I went to school with, would do as adults.
Oh the mighty Award Season! In the second half of every year, fans of cinema everywhere, long forgotten their sufferings in the first half, start to say: “I wish Award Season was here already!”. And then before we know it, it’s here! Oh no… Our favourites are losing. Everyone is angry at each other. Non-Americans are staying up all night to watch red carpets just to see their favourites for 5 seconds then to suffer through bad jokes in award shows themselves. And then before you know it 2-3 awards have passed, three weeks till next one. “We needed a break.” says the fans of cinema, oh no they forgot their suffering and ask “It’s been a week c’mon when’s the next one?!” and the circle of life keeps going until the Oscars. Everyone is exhausted by then, friendships are torn, predictions are off the roof! And then, whoever wins wins. Everyone goes to bed and sleeps off the season exhaustion for 14 hours, wakes up next morning saying: “Did I dream that or did Annette Benning’s husband actually announced Best Picture wrong?”
Well don’t worry, Much Ado is here to give you a little bit of help in this award season of surprises. Here are eight films from some of this season’s best nominees to help you pass the time and help with withdrawals!
I’ve written a lot about how much Lady Bird means to me–whether it be how it made me admit how much I love my hometown of Sacramento, California or how it accurately portrayed the mother-daughter dynamic–but what I love most about the film is that it came from one of the few filmmakers I look up to, Greta Gerwig. There are many filmmakers whose work I thoroughly enjoy and respect, like Steven Spielberg or J.J. Abrams, but there are only two who I am truly inspired by and Greta Gerwig is one of them.