Fred is a highly intimidating presence. Those hoping to follow in his footsteps aspire to be able to “Dame” a wine, i.e., to identify the variety, region and vintage accurately by spending only a few seconds nosing its bouquet. All in all, this is the most suspenseful film about the world of fine wine I’ve ever seen, giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the Court of Master Sommeliers, whose examination and certification processes had never before been filmed. Even though its focus is a group of “self absorbed egomaniacs,” in the words of one of their wives, one does find oneself rooting for all four to succeed. Wine, Women & Friends is a charming little film about two women winemakers — Jo and Carol — who make 10,000 bottles of wine annually under the name Domaine Les Cabotines in Collias, a small village in the Languedoc region in the south of France. These two women and their community of helpful friends and neighbors are the perfect antidote to the non-stop testosterone fest that is “Somm.” Jo, a forensic veterinarian by day, acts as viticulturist, while Carol, a nurse by trade, is the winemaker. The two are a lesbian couple that has been together for 19 years at the time of filming. They reclaimed a small vineyard, planted with Syrah and Grenache, and started making wine six years earlier. The film, produced and directed by Fiona Cunningham-Reid, is structured to follow one season of winemaking. It begins with September’s grape harvest, then moves through fermentation, separation of the mark from the wine in November, winter pruning, March flowering, and bottling of the previous year’s production in May. We learn this is all a lot of work, even for two strong and resourceful women. They accomplish a lot, however, with the help of their friends. This community assists them in pruning the vines, picking the grapes and with bottling. As the film evolves, we begin to learn that many of their friends are not only expats, but also lesbian and gay.
Girls on Film: Hollywood should embrace women — just as TV has
Television is where women get a chance to expand their resumes, and new talents get a chance to broaden their appeal. Diablo Cody followed up her Juno whirlwind with the cable drama The United States of Tara, and Lena Dunham became an overnight success when she followed her small indie Tiny Furniture with social media’s ongoing obsession Girls. SEE ALSO: Watch Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West feud on TV and Twitter Public recognition is matched with a willingness to take risks that’s just not present in contemporary Hollywood. “You can be more adventurous in TV than you can in film,” said Top of the Lake’s Jane Campion earlier this summer . “Viewers know the world’s a strange place and don’t mind seeing it.” Though TV may be padded with reality TV and cop shows, it has also offered the diversity of female-led series Enlightened, Veep, American Horror Story, Nurse Jackie, and The Big C. Unlike film, television’s riskier fare isn’t indie-relegated to a handful of screens for a week or two. Even better, gender openness has gone hand-in-hand with greater racial inclusion. Fox’s New Girl/The Mindy Project block is not only femme-centric, but also an unprecedented case of back-to-back network shows with Indian American characters one of which, Mindy Kaling, is the first South Asian American to headline her own network show ever. The tropes are often still rigid shows like Person of Interest, Sleepy Hollow, and Elementary all boast intrepid and skilled women of color to help the clever and white male leads but even when they’re not ideal, they seem downright heavenly in comparison much cinematic output. SEE ALSO: 10 things you need to know today: September 27, 2013 In a film system focused on standard remakes and reboots, where even a popular character like Wonder Woman seems to be a challenge that scares the living crap out of creatives , there is no real space for anyone other than white men to make progress. “It’s the contemporary woman that movies don’t know what to do with, other than bather her in a bridal glow in romantic comedies where both the romance and the comedy are artificial sweeteners,” wrote James Wolcott of television’s rise and film’s fall last year for Vanity Fair . “To trace the arc of Reese Witherspoon from Legally Blonde to This Means War is a depressing business.  it’s a famine zone, apart from a few indies and whatever screenwriter Diablo Cody (Young Adult) has brewing. If it’s complex, prickly women you find wanting the successors to the unlikely 1970s feministas played by Jane Fonda (Klute), Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman) then it’s TV that’ll hook you up.” Television also boasts a business model where super-popular, male-centric shows are continually infused with more and more female characters.