We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a late End-of-Year list ALERT.
My Five Favorite Female Characters in Film and on TV in 2015
Everyone’s done with their end of the year lists except for me because I couldn’t think of anything I hadn’t posted already. Or anything mildly interesting or even a little different.
So I decided to stick with a subject that I know something about: Women.
Okay that’s a joke. But 2015 has been the year of the woman in movies and on TV. So I’m surprised I didn’t think of this one sooner. Here are five lists of five women in my favorite films and TV shows from the year 2015.
And because I’m an habitual rule breaker (even my own rules), I included, at the end, a list of my five favorite real people. Some women who have kicked ass in 2015.
To the lists…
and speaking of kicking ass…
Top Five Female Leads in Action and Sci-fi Movies
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Daisy Ridley as Rey
I have to start with Rey. She was resourceful. She was tough. She was strong (with the force). She was independent. She was good-hearted (saving BB-8). And she was the best character in the best film of the year.
*Star Wars side note: Everybody’s got to knock The Force Awakens now that it’s the highest grossing and best film of all-time. It’s a sickness. “Everybody likes this thing, but I don’t, so I must be better than it and them.” Oh shut up. Or the idea of just hating something because it’s popular. My least favorite is the bad guys need to find a better way of terrorizing the galaxy besides destroying an entire planet or system. That doesn’t even make any sense. They can destroy a planet. There is no better way to terrorize the entire galaxy… except maybe destroying a star… oh wait.
I also like the way Rey knows that by removing the fuse on an electric door, it opens the door automatically. That every engineer in the galaxy would make the doors open by default when the power goes out. And to have it otherwise would be a fault in design. Because no engineer would ever make a death trap for themselves…
Alicia Vikander as Ava
I give this movie a hard time because of the ending but, make no mistake, Alicia Vikander deserves all the awards she will surely win for her performances in Ex-Machina and other films in 2015. She is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses (female actors). And my thoughts on the film change (slightly) when I realize that she’s the lead character. That she’s the main character. And it is essentially a movie about her. She’s the one being tested by her maker. However, I still think the ending is dumb.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Charlize Theron as Furiosa
This movie surprised me in so many ways. But the happiest surprise was Furiosa. The movie may be called Mad Max but the lead character is Furiosa; the one-armed, truck driving, sharp-shooting, bad-ass that rules the road and the wasteland. Charlize already has an Oscar, and with very little dialogue her performance in Fury Road might be over-looked by the academy, but in my opinion it was one of the best performances of the year… in an action film. Best performances in an action film.
Emily Blunt as Kate
I really liked this movie. It’s dark and it’s violent but it’s also tense and suspenseful. Emily Blunt makes a fine FBI agent and the realism in Sicario, as well as her performance, makes you fear for her life from the first frame. But our hero can take care of herself.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss
If I’m allowed to drop the “Part 2” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 then it is an excellent film. The story suffers from being split into two parts. It becomes disjointed and it ruins the pacing and the symmetry with the other two films. But what is consistent throughout the series is Katniss. The lead character in The Hunger Games played by Jennifer Lawrence is a symbol, within the movie and with out. She is pure-hearted and fearless. She is compassionate and emotional and a great leader. Showing how these traits aren’t necessarily a weakness in leadership. She should be at the top of this list. And if it were an all-time squad she would be. But Katniss comes in fifth on this list because the movie that came out this year was half a movie.
Top Five Female Leads in Comedies, Cartoons and Musicals
Amy Winehouse as Herself
I had to put Amy first because of how much respect I gained for her after watching this found footage biography. Amy is the star of the movie. We watch her grow up and we watch her ascend and we watch her fall. But I didn’t expect to like her as much I did. It is a cautionary tale. So she isn’t the strongest female character in any of these movies by a long shot. But we see her artistry. We see her stubbornness when it comes to her career. And we see her capacity for love. And her fearlessness when it comes to putting all of herself into her words and her music. And this also makes her the strongest female character in any of these movies by a long shot.
Amy Poehler as Joy
Speaking of movies that made me cry my eyes out. Inside/Out is a triumph of emotional honesty. A wonderful film and my pick for best animated feature. The lead character, the emotion of Joy, ironically, is one of the saddest characters in the film. While, Sadness is one of the most content. And it’s this emotional depth and maturity that makes Inside/Out one of the best films of the year… period.
Amy Schumer as Amy
What I like about the character of Amy, in the incredibly funny Trainwreck, is not only her sexual appetite, although it is a large part of who she is. And it’s not only her wit and sense of humor, even though Amy Schumer has written (and starred in) one the funniest movies of the year, portraying an amazingly witty magazine writer. But it’s how she’s such a mess otherwise. With the drugs and the alcohol and the fear of intimacy and lack of self-awareness or responsibility. But still somehow Amy makes us fall in love with her. (and by that I mean the character and the writer). 2015 was the year of Schumer.
The Little Prince
Mackenzie Foy as Young Girl
In the little prince we see a young girl with her life mapped out in front of her. She is already an adult at a young age. Already responsible and organized, with no room for fun or imagination. It reminds me of the little women around the world who never get to be children for… reasons. But here we have a young girl who, first chance she gets, grabs adventure by the short hairs and runs with it.
Pitch Perfect 2
Anna Kendrick as Beca
I put this here because I couldn’t think of a fifth one. And I liked this movie. I liked the songs and the singing and Elizabeth Banks does a great job directing. And I like Anna Kendrick. But to be pitch perfectly honest, it’s because I couldn’t think of anything else.
Next up… Television
Five Favorite Female Leads in Science Fiction/ Superhero TV
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Krysten Ritter as Jessica
There was no contest. Jessica Jones is the best. All five of these TV super heroines kick much ass, and take many names, but Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones is the sexiest, most kick-ass, most bad-mouthiest, most likable, most enjoyable hero on TV… man or woman.
Melissa Benoist as Kara
Am I the only one that loves this show? Because I love this show and I don’t see enough people raving about it. It reminds me, appropriately enough, of the show Smallville, and I loved that show too. In that one, the hero was trying to find his place in the world before becoming Superman. In Supergirl, she’s already… Supergirl, but she too is trying to find where she fits in the larger scheme.
She struggles to find a balance between being a sister, a daughter, a friend, a hero, a savior, an alien, a human… an administrative assistant? She struggles to find a balance between work and home and saving the day and saving the world. A balance between her emotional strength and her physical strength. Her emotional shortcomings and her physical ones. And I love it.
While Melissa Benoist plays the invulnerable pretending to be vulnerable, it’s quickly turned on its side when she puts the cape on. It’s the other way around when she’s Supergirl. It’s then when she pretends that nothing hurts her.
But maybe I’m the only one who loves this show.
Rose McIver as Liv
iZombie is fun and funny and cute and crazy. Our hero Liv takes on the personality of the person whose brain she eats. Oh yeah, she’s a zombie who’s also a medical examiner. And as long as she eats brains she doesn’t lose her own personality to the zombie inside her but she also inherits the personality traits of the dead person for a while.
But my favorite part of the show is when she cooks up the brains each week. I’ve always loved cooking, and they make the food look so good. It’s a different recipe every week and I don’t know if there’s any significance to how she prepares it. But it always looks incredible and makes me want to eat some brains.
Okay that last part is a joke but the food looks amazing. They make brains look so good.
Agent Carter (ABC)
Hayley Atwell as Peggy
Agent Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, is a little too efficient at times but what impresses me about the super agent is the sheer amount of sexism she has to overcome. And the way she does it. So it’s incredibly satisfying when she proves not only is she as good as the male agents but better. And then of course it’s frustrating because there’s always another way they marginalize her. In a weird way it reminds me of Mad Men. Early Mad Men reminded us of the sexist attitudes of the fifties. Allowed us to see how much things have changed and forced us to realize how much things haven’t changed… from Agent Carter’s time period to Mad Men… (in the seventies this entire TV list would be Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels and that’s it) until today where there are many more women superheroes to choose from.
The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)
Alexa Davalos as Juliana
I’m obsessed with this show. The story is so good. The lead character played by Alexa Davalos is an Aikido Instructor who gets caught up in an underground film smuggling ring. The films? Nothing too racy. Just old news reels about World War II. She gets caught up in this illegal trafficking years after the war ended. Years after Germany and Japan won the war against the allied forces and occupied the United States. Dividing the country into a German state in the east and a Japanese state in the west with a lawless zone somewhere between. But what makes these illegal films so special? Well, they don’t show the war quite right. They show the allied forces winning the second world war and America dropping bombs on Japan. And… well… that’s just not the way it happened.
Top Five Female Leads in a Drama on TV
Taraji P. Henson as Cookie
Has anyone else noticed that while Empire started off as one thing, it quickly became the Cookie Lyon show. Although they’ve softened her a bit (she’s been out of prison for a while now), she’s still a tough Cookie (and yes I did just type that). Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie Lyon tops my list for female leads in a Drama on TV because she not only stole the show but she stole the show. Long live the queen.
Kirsten Dunst as Peggy
People might argue that Kirsten Dunst isn’t the lead character on Fargo but I beg to differ. Peggy is the pivotal character. She is the reason for it all, and every thing runs through her. It would be a crime if she didn’t get the Emmy. But who knows about these things?
I do. I know about these things. She is amazing. In a show full of great performances, I would sit there week after week waiting for her to come back on the screen. She was just so enjoyable to watch. Truly an amazing performance. Give her an Emmy.
American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
Lady Gaga as The Countess Elizabeth
Speaking of truly amazing performances. Lady Gaga. Honestly, who knew she was this good. With one more episode to go, this season of American Horror Story has been my favorite, purely because of Lady Gaga. Like really, Jessica who? She has made me forget how great Jessica Lange was every year. The Countess is so many things at once and it shows on her face and it’s a sensational performance.
Kerry Washington as Olivia
Okay. I like Scandal. I never liked Olivia Pope. This season, however, my opinion is changing. Seeing her out of her element. In power but powerless. It’s made me feel sorry for her. Before I was always sorry for everyone around her. The people she used. The people she hurt. The little people she trampled upon. Kerry Washington is doing a great job bringing more depth to a character that frankly I considered to be a bit of an asshole… and kind of a spoiled brat. I’m still Team Mellie (#TeamMellie) all the way but now that Olivia has walked a while in Mellie’s shoes, she’s not so smug.
Scream Queens (FOX)
Emma Roberts as Chanel
The character is awful. She’s an awful person. Self-centered and vindictive. Not to mention homicidal and disloyal and… she’s just awful okay? But she’s so funny. Along with the other girls that she named after herself because why would she learn anyone else’s name, she made me laugh my ass off. And the nicknames she gives to other people are offensive and hysterical and because she has such a big personality, soon that becomes their name on the show. Scream Queens is very funny. I know I put it with the dramas but that’s because it’s an hour-long and people die. It’s pure madcap though because it’s silly as fuck. And the dialogue is so good.
And Billie Lourd (Carrie Fisher’s daughter) who plays Chanel #3 comes in a close second for funniest and best deadpan delivery. Great show.
*another Star Wars side note: I noticed while watching Force Awakens again (this time in IMAX) that nearly every time you see General Organa, almost every shot of her, there’s her daughter in the background.
In this shot we see General Organa’s back and her daughter in the background. When they show the general from the front, her daughter is still in the background. She’s in nearly every shot.
I don’t know if she plays her Administrative Assistant or something but it just struck me as funny. There’s always Leia and right behind her mini Leia. No matter the angle of the camera. Leia from the left side, there’s her daughter behind her. Leia from the right side, there’s her daughter again. Leia from the back, her daughters in front of her.
She’s always in the shot.
Top Five Trans Women on TV
I want to make a special case for the wonderful leaps forward we have made with trans characters on TV. Only the first two are played by trans actresses (female actors), however (they just happen to be my favorite two).
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Laverne Cox as Sophia
This season there was only one Sophia-centric episode because they spent more time this year fleshing-out the other characters. Telling the back story of other women in the prison. But there was still a lot of Sophia to go around. I like the character enough but Laverne Cox is one of my favorite people.
Sense 8 (Netflix)
Jamie Clayton as Nomi
Sense 8 is one of the best new shows from 2015. And Nomi was one of my favorite parts. The bad-ass hacker chick we know from all the shows. But with a gorgeous girlfriend and horrible relationship with her mother. Not to mention being a part of a cluster of unique people able to share their experiences and talents over great distances. And being a trans woman. She was very cool.
Impatiently waiting for Sense 8 to return.
Jeffrey Tambor as Maura
Amazon Prime is the new kid on the streaming block but comes into the market with a lot of cash and some talented writers. I already mentioned how much I love The Man in the High Castle. Transparent was their first major success. Award winning performances all around especially from Jeffrey Tambor who plays a trans woman who finds the courage to be her true self later in life. It is a very funny show with no shortage of LGBT representation but even as that’s what the show is about, it really isn’t what the show is about. It’s about family. Fantastic show.
American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)
Denis O’Hare as Liz
There are two bad-ass bitches on AHS: Hotel. We’ve already talked about The Countess but there’s also Liz Taylor who is such an amazing character. A bartender at the murder hotel, if this season had a protagonist, and it’s hard to find one each year, I’d say it was Liz. The sweetest, the kindest, the most identifiable character on the show. And yes she’s a trans bartender who works for a vampire in a hotel full of murderous ghosts but, that’s about as identifiable as this show will ever get.
Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Jonny Beauchamp as Angelique
Jonny Beauchamp’s Angelique is heartbreakingly innocent in a show full of monsters. Like Liz before her I suppose. I love a good monster mash. A bunch of my favorite shows are just a collection of monsters. From Hemlock Grove to True Blood to American Horror Story to Penny Dreadful. I love a good monsters team-up. But always there’s this flower that grows in the desolate wasteland of horrors. And always it’s heartbreaking. Penny Dreadful is a great show by the way.
and Lastly… Real People
My Top Five Female “Characters” in American Culture
Hillary Clinton: The Politician. The next president.
For taking the constant attacks from the Right and from the media and from Congress this year. (And the attacks from Bernie Sanders). And coming through it all looking presidential and clearly more qualified than anyone else for the job. #ImWithHer
Serena Williams: The Athlete. The greatest of all-time.
For being the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson (athlete) of the year and the best woman’s tennis player of all-time. And honestly they wanted them to give it to a horse. WTF
Misty Copeland: The Dancer. The trailblazing ballerina.
For becoming the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater and for being a fantastic athlete as well as an amazing artist.
Michelle Obama: The First Lady. (my boo)
For her continuous grace and strength under constant attacks from the right-wing media, even when they get personal and nasty and wholly disrespectful. And because she would be on this list every year for the last seven years.
And The Role Models:
The last entry is for the actresses who have changed the definition of Hollywood starlet to supreme bad-ass. Every generation has their young stars and up until now it’s been mostly a collection of boozers and party-ers and bad girls and really the worse of Hollywood’s spoiled brats.
Emma Watson (25) For already being a young feminist icon.
Jennifer Lawrence (24) For standing up for equal pay in an industry that some people think is already over-paid (but that’s not the fucking point).
Amandla Stenberg (17) writer, activist, all-around bad-ass. At 17. Good god slow down. You’re making the rest of us look bad.
For all three (and others.. Lena, Taylor, Kristen) for being a fearless and refreshing call to change and for actually being role models without really trying to be.
And that’s my year-end list… Women
I hope you enjoyed it.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.