WIGS – Strong Female Characters Ahoy!

Serena WIGS

While searching for something completely unrelated on YouTube last week I stumbled, as I often seem to do, over something a little different. WIGS is an online channel that has been producing high quality scripted drama and releasing it on the internet for free since 2012. I realise that this makes me somewhat late to the game but my research technique mostly involves me clicking through the internet one page at a time so forgive my lateness.

If you are already aware of WIGS then please move along but if not bear with me a second.

What made WIGS stick out to me was firstly the fact that the short films and web series starred actual actors whose names and faces I recognised. Much as I realise this shouldn’t matter to me I have to acknowledge that it does, particularly in the Wild West of YouTube filled with plenty of videos so awful you’d be better off watching the adverts that precede them. I am to blame for some of these videos so I know what I’m talking about.

Faces you might recognise include Julia Stiles, Jennifer Garner, Dakota Fanning, Michael C. Hall, America Ferrera, Stephen Moyer, Jason Isaacs, Jena Malone, Alfred Molina, Allison Janney, Alison Pill, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and plenty others.

The second thing that intrigued me about WIGS may have become evident while reading that artfully copy and pasted list of names; there are women all over the place. It has not been a great time for women on the internet recently/ever and it was refreshing to be offered the opportunity to see female actors take on complex leading roles rather than being offered the opportunity to see female actors take off their shirts without their permission. The phrase “strong female characters” is bandied about a lot and often refers to examples of women in dystopian futures being manipulated and punching authority figures in the throat. A strong female character doesn’t need to possess physical strength just character, real motivations, and to be a protagonists not just a prop or pawn. WIGS provides these in abundance.

I have not been asked to push this particular channel so hard but liked what I saw and wanted to share it with you. To watch their videos I advise visiting their YouTube channel and I have embedded some highlights below:

Serena
Jennifer Garner & Alfred Molina star in a short about a woman taking confession.

Celia
Allison Janney & Dakota Fanning star in a short about a young woman visiting a doctor who also happens to be a friend of her mother.

Denise
Alison Pill & Chris Messina star in a short about an actress being picked up by a man she may have met before.

Dakota
Jena Malone stars in a series about a young mother relying on poker wins to survive.

Top 10 Road Trip Films (I Own)

For the next week and a half I will be roaming around the South West of England in a yellow VW Campervan called Barney embarking on A Very English Road Trip. To celebrate I’ve compiled a list of the top ten road trip movies I own on DVD. An odd criteria for a film list but these film lists are superficial at the best of times.

Away We Go
A surprisingly light-hearted film from Sam Mendes as a young couple visit friends and relatives while trying to find the right place to bring up their imminent baby. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are a convincing couple and provide the sanity amongst the crazy characters they visit. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney are the two main highlights along their journey.

Catfish
The only documentary on this list, Catfish follows the burgeoning online romance between Yaniv Schulman and the sister of a young artist he has been emailing. After some suspicious events Yaniv and his friends travel to the mystery girl’s house and uncover something they had never expected. There is debate about this documentary’s authenticity, either way it makes for a gripping watch.

The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson takes his signature style on the road, or rather on the track, as three brothers travel through India by train, looking for their mother and getting to grips with the loss of their father. Jason Schwartzmann, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson fit perfectly with Anderson’s tone as the three brothers and their journey is as much emotional as it is physical. Natalie Portman makes a brief, but revealing, appearance in the preceding short film.

The Go-Getter
The most indie film on the list unites Sundance darlings Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel and Jena Malone and brought together for the first time the she and him in She & Him. A young man has a quarter life crisis, steals a car and discovers love, and himself, on the road. A little bit twee to ever be successful, this is worth a watch if you are a fan of the cast, or just enjoy a gentle film about someone abandoning life and hitting the road.

Into the Wild
Speaking of a young man having a quarter life crisis and hitting the road… This time round the traveller is played by Emile Hirsch with a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart providing the tempting romance he finds along the way. Stewart’s role is quite small though and this is the biggest single-hander of the lot, with Hirsch the only character present throughout. This was Sean Penn’s last work behind the camera and is proof he should do more.

Little Miss Sunshine
An amazing cast go travelling in a yellow VW Campervan (not called Barney) in order to get Abigail Breslin to her beauty pageant. Darkly funny and more than a little moving this road trip ends the way all movies should, with a big dance number. Kevin Bacon would be proud. The film is notable for featuring Steve Carell’s most subdued performance, and for inspiring the colour scheme of this very website.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Even the Coen Brothers have made a road trip film, theirs being an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey and starring George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as three escaped convicts searching for hidden treasure. Encountering all manner of characters and obstacles along the way this is the quintessential road trip film, and the only one to involve the KKK.

Transamerica
Any good road trip forces the film to shift focus from traditional plot or location and instead focus on the characters who are the only constant through the film, and their relationships. Few films utilise this better than Transamerica as Felicity Huffman’s pre-op transsexual meets her son for the first time as she ferries him across country under the guise of being a charity worker.

Wristcutters: A Love Story
While most of these films involve travelling across the United States, Wristcutters moves beyond the world of the living and instead is set in an afterlife reserved for people who commit suicide. Shortly after his death Patrick Fugit hears that his old girlfriend, Leslie Bibb, has also killed herself and so takes his room-mate and tries to find her. Along the way he encounters some charmingly rustic supernatural elements and Tom Waits, who also provides the soundtrack.

Zombieland
While everyone in Wristcutters is dead, most of the people our travellers come across in this film are the undead. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson travel through the post-apocalyptic landscape in search of Twinkies and instead find Emma Stone (swoon), Abigail Breslin (road trip queen) and more zombies than you can shake a double barreled shotgun at. One of cinema’s greatest cameos is the icing on this zombie cake.

If there’s anything all these films have in common, it’s that the destination is not the important part, it’s the journey and characters that are key when the film has no other consistent element.

The Help and The Inbetweeners – Trailers

Because you’re about to get a heavy review for an independent cinema filled with social commentary, I’ve decided to lighten the mood with a few trailers. One for a period dramedy about social progression and the other almost certainly to include the word “clunge”.

The Help

Why is this exciting? Emma Stone and Allison Janney make any film watchable (ignoring Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) and from the looks of this trailer we have a good mix of comedy and an important historical issue being tackled. It’s the American version of Made in Dagenham but with more racial diversity. Released in the UK on 28th October.

The Inbetweeners

Why is this exciting? Because The Inbetweeners is amazing in a very bizarre way that I’m not proud of. This trailer reminds me of the teaser for The Hangover Part II but ten times more fun. My only concern is trying to see it in a cinema that isn’t filled with young rowdy types. Press screening please? Released in the UK on 19th August.