January 15, 2009

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December 23, 2008

Transitioning to New Site

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December 22, 2008

Sexism Watch: Fox to Create Show Called Bitches

This just came through and I couldn't resist putting it up. The Fox Network is developing a drama called Bitches, "about a quartet of female friends in New York who are werewolves." The show has received a script commitment and its from a guy names Michael Dougherty whose credits include the screenplay of X Men 2, Superman Returns, Trick r Treat and the upcoming I, Lucifer.

WTF? I find the show's title incredibly offensive. Why can they get away with this crap?

Update: To me there is a difference between Bitch Magazine, a magazine created by feminist women to talk back or bitch about how pop culture treats women, and a TV show called Bitches which to me comes off as anti-woman. It just doesn't pass my smell test.

Jackie Hoffman is One of the Funniest Women EVER

I'm a big fan of Jackie Hoffman. I've seen her holiday show that runs at Joe's Pub in NYC a couple of times and I literally peed in my pants. I know that's gross, but she is that funny. While she may not be the biggest star (and she should be) you may recognize her from Kissing Jessica Stein or have seen her on Broadway in Hairspray and Xanadu.

She's taken some of the material from her recent shows and put them on a hysterically funny CD which is out now. Purchase her CD here. She can be seen at Joe's Pub in NYC on December 22 and January 5. Info here.

She answered some questions for Women & Hollywood:

Women & Hollywood: You're back at Joe's Pub in NYC for another edition of your anti-holiday show. What is it about the holidays that brings out the worst in you?

Jackie Hoffman: The hypocritical obsession with all things warm and fluffy and children. The music that is shoved down my throat everywhere. If you've seen my show, I think you'd say that it brings out the best in me.
W&H: Your comedy is hysterical and bitter. Where does that come from?
JH: Right? My theory is all the taunting at the playground, and growing up the overweight girl with the big nose and crossed eyes.
W&H: You've been on Broadway in Hairspray and Xanadu. Any more shows on the horizon?
JH: Just mine as far as I know. That horizon is dying more by the minute
W&H: On your CD you make fun of your health issues. Tell us why you make fun of your fibroid and scare with cancer.
Because the irony is just too perfect. Someone who has the courage to speak out about not worshipping children, and then getting a gigantic tumor that resembled a pregnancy, and being rendered infertile. I couldn't not talk about it.
W&H: You love to make fun of the Jews without making Jews feel defensive (which is hard). Why are the Jews such fodder for your comedy?
JH: Thank you. I just do what writers do, go with what I know. I was raised by and with very funny Jews. And some of the attitudes and characters that I've come across in my life are too good to pass up.
W&H: What's next for you?
JH: I am taking my act on the road to different cities to promote this album. There is nothing like it out there, and I'm very proud of that.

DVD Watch: The Commander - Set One

I spent both Saturday and Sunday morning fixated on watching the English series The Commander (which was recommended by the Flickfilosopher several months ago.) The series totally rocks. The show debuted on ITV in Britain in 2003 starring Amanda Burton as Commander Clare Blake. Super awesome crime writer Lynda La Plante (who specializes in writing about women and also wrote the Prime Suspect series with Helen Mirren) gives us a strong female leader competing against the boys and holding her own. She just a tough and conniving as the guys and does quite a few shady and compromising things to keep her job. Some of her decisions are more than questionable -- like falling in love with a man she put in jail ten years before for murdering his girlfriend, or sleeping with the boyfriend of a woman who works for her-- but that's typical of La Plante's women.

Amanda Burton is fantastic. I also loved her in Silent Witness (a forensic CSI like show that ran on BBCA.) I guess I am a bit obsessed with British crime dramas that star women. They just seem to be so much better than ours.

If you have some downtown over the holidays and are looking for some good TV, check out The Commander. I got it on netflix. I can't wait until they release the next series here in the US.

December 19, 2008

Review: Nothing But the Truth

Rod Lurie is one of the few guys who cares about writing really strong female characters. I fell in love with his complicated women back when Joan Allen played a hopeful vice-presidential candidate in The Contender. It continued through the too short TV show Commander in Chief that starred Geena Davis as the first female president of the United States.

In his latest film, Nothing But the Truth, a drama very loosely based on the Judith Miller going to jail to protect her source saga, Lurie again brings to the fore some seriously complicated women. Kate Beckinsale who shows acting skills here far beyond what has been demanded or frankly expected of her before, plays Rachel Armstrong an ambitious reporter at a Washington DC newspaper who blows the cover of a Valerie Plame like CIA operative. Vera Farmiga (one of the most interesting and versatile actresses around) plays the subject of the bombshell piece, a suburban mom/covert agent whose daughter just happens to be in the same class as Beckinsale's son.

The outing of Erica Van Doren has devastating consequences for both women in the workplace and at home, illuminating the struggle of working moms everywhere albeit a bit more complicated than usual. Beckinsale's Rachel is pressed to reveal her source and with her paper's backing, she refuses and is jailed. Her ongoing battle to get out of jail and keep her source protected takes up the second half of the film as Rachel becomes a pawn in the legal battles between the government and the press. Lately it seems that the press has been losing these battles. The film shows the personal toll on Rachel and her family.

Farmiga shows the fear and terror with subtlety when she is outed and in that scene you can see her brain working trying to figure out how to make the oncoming avalanche stop knowing full well that she can't. She then gets pissed not only for the fact that her career is now irrevocable changed, but also thinks about protecting her young daughter and her already disintegrating marriage. It's a mess for everyone and that's also what I like about Lurie's women. They're not perfect by any means. I don't need women onscreen to be perfect or above reproach, I like to see them as complicated and realistic and that's what Lurie gives us.

Check out the trailer:

Film opens in Limited release this week and wider in January.
Nothing but the Truth

Could a Female Cinematographer Actually Get an Academy Award Nomination This Year?

A woman has NEVER been nominated for the best cinematography Oscar. While that sucks one of the reasons is that there are so few female cinematographers at the top. The percentage is actually worse than female directors.

According to Martha Lauzen's Celluloid Ceiling study, women make up only 2% of cinematographers on the top 250 grossing films (2007.)


But it looks like this year we might break the jinx at least for a nomination. Both Maryse Alberti for The Wrestler and Mandy Walker for Australia are getting noticed for their work.

From a recent LA Times piece:

Alberti and Walker agree that gender has not affected their success, and, while women are rare in their field, their work has been judged on merit. Walker says that while "absolutely there would be something special" about being the first woman to win an Oscar for cinematography, she doesn't dwell on being in a male-dominated profession. "I actually never think about it until someone asks me the question," she says. "I just feel that I'm employed because I'm good at my job. I never took it on as a gender issue."

While Alberti concurs, she admits at the beginning of her career there was sometimes the question of, "Can the little lady handle the big lights?" But she quickly formed a pragmatic comeback that proves success as a DP is more about brains than brawn. "I had to say, 'The little lady doesn't carry the big lights,' " she recalls with a laugh. "She points and the big guys carry the lights."
A female cinematographer may vie for Oscar (LA Times)

SWSX Goes to the Boys

Guess I shouldn't be surprised by this by the opening night of South by Southwest next March is the latest version of a Judd Apatow comedy, I Love You, Man where Paul Rudd (who I love) goes on man dates to find a best man for his wedding since he has no real guy friends. The trailer even has a fart joke -- that's how mature this is. Does a mainstream film like this really need a film festival to kick off its release?

SWSX has become a big deal in film festivals recently...but I would hope this is not an indication of the rest of the films to be screened.

Directing News

British actress Samantha Morton is making her TV directorial debut with "The Unloved," about a girl growing up in a children's home, for U.K. broadcaster Channel 4. (Variety)

Rinko Kikuchi and Sergi Lopez will star in Isabel Coixet's "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," the Spanish director's follow-up to Penelope Cruz starrer "Elegy." "Map" based on an original screenplay by Coixet is about a solitary young Japanese woman who works in a fish market at night and occasionally as a hired killer. She's contracted to assassinate a Spanish man, who's blamed for the suicide of a rich businessman's daughter. Meanwhile, a sound engineer, who's fascinated by the woman and the sounds of Tokyo, tracks the girl through the city. (Variety)

Betty Thomas has signed on to direct "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel," a follow-up to the surprise 2007 hit featuring the lovable CGI-animated singing rodents.

Helen Hunt will helm a 60-second snack food commercial for Frito-Lay, set to air during the Feb. 22 Oscar telecast. The actress will direct a short film of the most inspiring entry in a story contest for the company's True North snacks. Frito-Lay will also pay the winner $25,000. Stories will focus on how the author or someone the author knows is pursuing a life's passion. (Variety)

December 18, 2008

Female Critics Groups Weigh In on Awards

Both the Women's Film Critics Circle (of which I am a member) and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists gave out their awards and surprise, some are quite different from the other lists.

The Women Film Critics Circle is an association of 47 women film critics and scholars from around the country, who are involved in print, radio, online and TV broadcast media. They came together five years ago to form the first women critics organization ever in the country, in the belief that women’s perspectives and voices in film criticism need to be recognized fully. WFCC also prides itself on being the most culturally and racially diverse critics group in the country by far, and best reflecting the diversity of movie audiences.

The Women Film Critics Circle Awards 2008


Frozen River

BEST STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
Jennifer Lumet: Rachel Getting Married

Melissa Leo: Frozen River

Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler

Abigail Breslin: Kit Kittredge and Definitely Maybe

Sally Hawkins: Happy-Go-Lucky
Meryl Streep: Mamma Mia!

I've Loved You So Long

The Secret Life Of Bees

How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer

Nothing But The Truth

Cadillac Records



Meryl Streep


**ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women:

**JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America:

**KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity:
Battle In Seattle

Deidra Edwards in DisFigured: For redefining conventional standards of female physical beauty and pride on screen, and promoting positive images of big bodied women.


A Walk To Beautiful: Mary Olive Smith

Wings Of Defeat: Risa Morimoto

Traces Of The Trade: Katrina Browne

Aaron Eckhart: Towelhead
Sam Rockwell: Choke
Larry Bishop: Hell Ride
Paul Rudd, Sean William Scott: Role Models
Jason Mewes: Zack And Miri Make a Porno

Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired
House Of The Sleeping Beauties
The Women
The Life Before Her Eyes
The Hottie and the No ttie
Savage Grace
Made Of Honor
The Family That Preys
Zack And Miri Make A Porno

**ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: Adrienne Shelly was a promising actress and filmmaker who was brutally strangled in her apartment in 2006 at the age of forty by a construction worker in the building, after she complained about noise. Her killer tried to cover up his crime by hanging her from a shower20rack in her bathroom, to make it look like a suicide. He later confessed that he was having a “bad day.” Shelly, who left behind a baby daughter, had just completed her film Waitress, which she also starred in, and which was honored at Sundance after her death.

**JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD; The daughter of a laundress and a musician, Baker overcame being born black, female and poor, and marriage at age fifteen, to become an internationally acclaimed legendary performer, starring in the films Princess Tam Tam, Moulin Rouge and Zou Zou. She also survived the race riots in East St. Louis, Illinois as a child, and later expatriated to France to escape US racism. After participating heroically in the underground French Resistance during WWII, Baker returned to the US where she was a crusader for racial equality. Her activism led to attacks against her by reporter Walter Winchell who denounced her as a communist, leading her to wage a battle against him. Baker was instrumental in ending segregation in many theaters and clubs, where she refused to perform unless integration was implemented.

**KAREN MORLEY AWARD: Karen Morley was a promising Hollywood star in the 1930s, in such films as Mata Hari and Our Daily Bread. She was driven out of Hollywood for her leftist political convictions by the Blacklist and for refusing to testify against other actors, while Robert Taylor and Sterling Hayden were informants against her. And also for daring to have a child and become a mother, unacceptable for f emale stars in those days. Morley maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.

Alliance of Women Film Journalists


Best Film
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Direction
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Screenplay Original
Wall-E - Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon

Best Screenplay Adapted
Frost/Nixon - Peter Morgan

Best Documentary (Tie)
Man On Wire - James Marsh
Trouble The Water - Tia Lessen, Carl Deal

Best Actress (Tie)
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Kate Winslet - The Reader and Revolutionary Road

Best Actress In Supporting Role
Viola Davis - Doubt

Best Actor
Sean Penn - Milk

Best Actor in Supporting Role
Heath Ledger - Dark Knight

Best Ensemble Cast
Rachel Getting Married

Best Editing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

Best Foreign Film
Tell No One


Best Woman Director
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River

Best Woman Screenwriter
Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married

Best Breakthrough Performance
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky

Best Newcomer
Misty Upham - Frozen River

Women’s Image Award
Kristin Scott Thomas

Hanging in There Award for Persistence
Melissa Leo - Frozen River

Actress Defying Age and Ageism
Catherine Deneuve - A Christmas Tale

2008 Outstanding Achievement By A Woman In The Film Industry
Sheila Nevins, Producing/Programming at HBO

Lifetime Achievement Award
Catherine Deneuve

AWFJ Award For Humanitarian Activism
All of the Women in Pray The Devil Back To Hell


AWFJ Hall Of Shame Award
27 Dresses

Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent
Kate Hudson

Movie You Wanted To Love But Just Couldn‘t (Tie)
Mamma Mia!
The Women

Best Of The Fests

Unforgettable Moment Award (Tie)
Dark Knight: Joker’s first scene
Slumdog Millionaire: Young Jamal jumps into the poop

Best Depiction Of Nudity or Sexuality (Tie)
The Reader

Best Seduction
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Sequel That Shouldn’t Have Been Made Award (Tie)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Saw V

The Remake That Shouldn’t Have Been Made Award:
The Women

Cultural Crossover Award
Slumdog Millionaire

Bravest Performance Award
Mickey Rourke - The Wrester

Best Leap from Actress to Director Award
Helen Hunt - Then She Found Me

Most Egregious Age Difference Between Leading Man and Love Interest
The Wackness - Ben Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen


  • Kathleen Turner has joined the cast of the Off Broadway play “The Third Story” by Charles Busch, in which she will appear with Mr. Busch, who plays the show’s other female lead. Show will begin preview performances at the Lucille Lortel Theater on Jan. 14 and open on Feb. 2, continuing through Feb. 28. (NY Times)
  • Kristen Stewart is set to portray Joan Jett in "The Runaways," the rock 'n' roll biopic of the 1970s all-girl band. Video director Floria Sigismondi wrote the screenplay and is directing. Jett will serve as an executive producer.
  • Janet McTeer and Nathalie Press will star in “The Sea Change,” a $600,000 budgeted British family drama set on the remote Isle of Mull, Scotland. Pic will be co-directed by, Brek Taylor and Elizabeth Mitchell. Clare Tinsley produces. (Variety)
  • Twentieth Century Fox has acquired screen rights to Adena Halpern's novel "The Ten Best Days of My Life" and will develop it as a star vehicle for Amy Adams. Adams will play a woman who dies and goes to heaven but is in danger of being demoted to a lower level of paradise unless she can prove herself by recounting her 10 best days. (Variety)
  • Patricia Heaton is set for the lead role, in ABC's pilot about a middle-class Midwestern The Middle a family comedy as seen from the mother's perspective.(HR)

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Keira Knightley

For being the new face of an Amnesty International human rights campaign.

"I wanted to be part of this film for Amnesty to help raise awareness of the UDHR and to help them, in a small way, to campaign against the abuses of human rights that are still happening every day. It seems that ‘human rights’ has become a bit of a loaded term in this country, but if you look at the declaration that countries made 60 years ago, it just sets out a series of basic rules about how people should treat each other. The UDHR is something that everyone should be aware of and be proud of as a statement of our common humanity."
Keira Knightly is New Face of Amnesty International (Hollyscoop)
photo: People

December 17, 2008

Looking for Some Music Done by Women Over 45?

It seems that the music business like other forms of entertainment are dominated by the young ones.

Pop Matters takes a look at the best music released this year from women over 45. Support these artists.

America’s hyper-obsession with youth has taken over the music charts. This is especially true if you are female. The adage in the music industry now is that if a woman doesn’t have a hit by the time she’s 22 years old, she should probably look for another career.

That’s obviously a load of blarney. There are a multitude of great female artists making great music who are more than twice that age. These women are not on a comeback, have not matured or ripened, or whatever other cliché one might use. For the most part, they have had consistently strong careers full of wonderful recordings and have kept on making great records.
Here's the list:
Sam Phillips
Joan Baez
Bonnie Bramlett
Carlene Carter
Kathy Mattea
Aimee Mann
Phoebe Snow
Emmylou Harris
Patti Labelle
Juana Molina

Learn more about these women. In Praise of Older Women: The Best Records of 2008 by Women 45 Years Old and Over (Pop Matters)

Mamma Mia Sinks Titanic

The musical Mamma Mia! (dismissed by most critics but beloved by filmgoers) has shattered the long standing British box office record held by Titanic. It has become the "highest grossing release of all time at the British box office according to Variety."

It also opened at #1 in 15 countries. It has grossed over $143 million dollars in the US and $427 million worldwide. That's over half a billion dollars. Amazing.

Congrats to all the women behind Mamma Mia!.

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Liv Ullmann

For standing up for women and children in 20 years of work with the UN Commission on Refugee and Children (which she helped found).

Here's some quotes from recent op-ed Ullmann wrote in the Boston Globe:

AS THE global financial and economic crisis continues to throw countless numbers of people out of work, millions of refugee women and girls in developing countries continue to toil at a task that is not only arduous but extremely dangerous: collecting firewood to cook meals for their families.

For thousands of these impoverished women and girls, gathering firewood is more than a vital chore - it is often a matter of life and death. By doing what many of us achieve by simply turning on a stove, refugee women and girls regularly fall victim to rape, assault, theft, exploitation, and even murder.
Happy 70th birthday!

Making life safer for refugee women
(Boston Globe)

Hat Tip: Green Cine Daily

December 16, 2008

Equality Watch: Movie Script Contest

via the folks at Broad Humor

The 2008 Movie Script Contest announced its winners, and out of the 24 finalists, three were women. And of the winners - zip, nada, zero. Out of eight comedy screenplay finalists, the only woman was at the bottom with an honorable mention.

As someone who reads a ton of scripts every year, I can tell you women write great and funny films...In general (with all the pitfalls of generalizations) women structure their comedies differently, both in the relationship of the world to the characters and in the manner of the climactic payoff(s).
I wish it wasn't such a bad thing that women write and structure their work differently. It should be embraced. We are different and our experiences should not be construed as "less than", but different. So many stories are not not being told. Sigh.
Movie Script Contest Announces Winners

Equality Watch: Hollywood Report and Variety Hold Conversations and Leave Women Out

This stuff makes me so mad. I just don't understand how stories can be written in 2008 where all the people quoted and talked to are guys.

But both the Hollywood Reporter and Variety ran pieces last week that did just that.

Variety had a piece Vet Critics Adapt to Challenging Times where they talked to veteran film critics about the decimation of their ranks. So we have the opinions of worthy men like Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Joe Morgenstern and Kenneth Turan, but no women. It's true that women make up only 30% of the critics according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film but doesn't that make it even more important to have women's voices in these discussions?

The Hollywood Reporter did a round table with several directors whose films are getting notice this season and again ALL WERE MEN including: Darren Aronofsky, Danny Boyle, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant and Edward Zwick. Both Kelly Reichardt and Courtney Hunt could easily have been included in the conversation.

Shame on both publications!

Vet critics adapt to challenging times (Variety)
Hollywood directors weigh truths, risks (Hollywood Reporter via Yahoo)

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Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Patricia Cornwell

For 20 years of Kay Scarpetta one of the great female characters in crime fiction and for standing up for gay marriage.

"Maybe it is a function of getting older but I think it is important to stand up and be counted. When you're not in a relationship your sexual orientation is more theoretical but it becomes more real when you are with somebody and you are not going to hide that."
Author Patricia Cornwell speaks out for gay marriage (Reuters)

December 15, 2008

New Director Announced for Twilight Sequel -- Shocker -- It's a Guy

In order to begin pre-production on New Moon the Twilight sequel like this week, Summit has engaged Chris Weitz, the good friend of one its top executives to take on the New Moon directing gig. It's no matter that Weitz was box office poison less than a year ago with the release of The Golden Compass which tanked here in the US (but made a little over $300 million overseas.)

So again, Hollywood gives us an example of a man failing upwards.

I have nothing against Weitz, I liked About a Boy and The Golden Compass but we all know he got the gig because his buddy is the head of production at Summit and they had to close the deal fast. Oh and of course they don't have to worry about him being "irrational" and "difficult" because only women directors are difficult and irrational. What a joke.

They got Stephenie Meyer to put a statement of support for Weitz on her website, but to me it read like a love letter to Hardwicke. Weitz also sent a letter out to fans asking for their support. Guess this could be a moment where the fans could push back and say no, if this matters at all to them. It seems that it matters more to the people who follow film than the people who follow the Twilight series.

“Like you, I’m sad that Catherine is not continuing on with us for New Moon. I’m going to miss her, not just as a brilliant director, but also as a friend. She has such a distinct, authentic voice that did amazing things for Twilight. I’m looking forward to every movie she does in the future. And she didn’t leave us empty handed. We still get the benefits of her amazing casting and the beautiful visual world she created. This foundation puts us in a good place for New Moon.”
To me, this is just bad news for women directors. Here was a real opportunity to show that a woman could helm a lucrative franchise (which just went over the $150 million mark here) and it's gone.

Twilight Author Stephanie Meyer Speaks on Hardwicke’s Departure and New Moon Director Chris Weitz (/Film)
Chris Weitz to direct 'Twilight' sequel (Variety)

The New Adventures of Old Christine, Hysterical and Politically Relevant

I hope you've been watching The New Adventures of Old Christine on Wednesday nights on CBS. The show is incredibly funny and is on the cutting edge of political humor, especially dealing with gay rights. Last week's episode was so over the top funny and politically relevant with the passage of Prop 8. The episode co-starred Megan Mullally as a representative of the "Bloom" company which tried to shut down Christine's gym because she is in a gay marriage to Wanda Sykes. The ensuing hilarity was over the top funny.

So props go to Kari Lizer the creator and showrunner and to Julia Louis Dreyfus and Wanda Sykes and the rest of the awesome cast for being so funny, so smart and so relevant.

'The New Adventures of Old Christine': The new 'Will & Grace'? (EW)

Women Over 55 Are Invisible on British TV

So said broadcaster and writer Dame Joan Bakewell. She has been given a job by the British government to advocate for older people on TV and spoke out after the settlement of a lawsuit by Selina Scott who at 57 was passed over for covering the maternity leave for Five News host Natasha Kaplinsky. Clearly, there was age discrimination since they gave her a settlement of 250,000 pounds.

"[Older women] tell me they feel invisible and they literally are invisible on television.

"We need to do something about that because television represents such a picture of who we are as a community."
Women over 55 'invisible on TV' (BBC)
Thinking man's Dame: Joan Bakewell honoured by Queen for services to broadcasting Daily Mail

First Women to Chair Arts Council in England

I can't believe we are still in an era of firsts for women, but we are. According to the Guardian, Dame Liz Forgan will be named the first female chair of the Arts Council of Britain, one of the most powerful jobs in the arts.

"Forgan, an already influential figure, began as a journalist and was the Guardian's women's editor in the late 1970s before she went into broadcasting management. She became director of programmes at Channel 4 before joining the BBC in charge of radio, helping to set up Radio 5. She recently stepped down as chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. In 2003 she was named chairwoman of the Scott Trust, the sole shareholder of the Guardian."
Dame Liz Forgan will be first woman to chair Arts Council (The Guardian)

December 12, 2008

Review: Doubt

Sister Aloysius Beauvier likes order, clarity and keeping things just the way they are because that is how she controls the students and her fellow nuns at the St. Nicholas school in the Bronx. Problem is the world is changing around her in ways she has no control over. It's 1964 and the culture as well as the church are shedding the 50s much to Sister Aloysius' dismay. The parish priest (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is trying to make the church friendlier and more nurturing and that brings him in direct conflict with Sister Aloysius (played by Meryl Streep.)

Their conflict is emblematic of the changing culture not only in the church but, between men and women. Women in the church at that time (at least in the movie) wore habits that were restricting in many ways including not giving them the ability to see all that was happening around them -- literally and figuratively. They could only see straight ahead and with no peripheral vision you miss many of the nuances of life. Father Flynn wants to be loved by his flock because he is already respected as a priest. Sister Aloysius has no need to be loved, she wants to be respected, and demands that respect through discipline and order.

When young Sister James (played by Amy Adams) observes an overly friendly and potentially inappropriate relationship between Father Flynn and the school's first black student, Sister Aloysius immediately moves forward to confront the priest. His explanation is sketchy, yet there is no evidence. She only has the "certainty of my convictions."

But nothing is certain and that more than anything is what stands out in the film.

The question of the potential abuse of the boy sometimes gets lost in the power struggle between good and evil between right and wrong between the past and the future in the wordy battles of Hoffman and Streep. But the question, did Father Flynn abuse Donald is never answered leaving that up to the viewer which is a bold and necessary decision.

Viola Davis gives a breathtaking performance as the mother of the potentially abused boy. Class and race issues are thrown into the conflict as Davis' Mrs. Miller implores Streep's sister Aloyisus to help her son get through the school year so that he can have a future. She unhesitatingly chooses Father Flynn and what he might be doing to her son over the persistent beatings he receives from his father. In that one scene, Mrs. Miller leaves Sister Aloyisus shaken to her core.

The thing about Doubt as a film is that because it is so focused on the words you really need to concentrate to get everything. It is the type of movie that I enjoyed better on my second viewing because I was able to fill in some of the pieces that I missed the first time out. Streep is great as always as Sister Aloyisus, but I was disappointed with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Amy Adams again proves that she can hold her own, but her part, though pivotal, is small. It will leave you thinking, talking and questioning which is what I loved about it.

Check out the trailer:

What the Hell is a Co-Director Anyway?

Slumdog Millionaire is the feel good movie of the season. It's generating a lot of good reviews, great word of mouth, award nominations and award wins. Critic and blogger and all around expert on things women and film, Jan Lisa Huttner has raised a question about the directing credits on Slumdog Millionaire that is worthy of further conversation.

If you look at imdb (the film data bible), Danny Boyle is the director and right below his name it lists Loveleen Tanden as co-director (India- where the whole film was shot). So the question that Jan is rightly posing is, if you are a co-director should you also be nominated when the director is? And, what is a co-director and how does that credit come about?

If you look back to last year's Academy Awards nominations the Coen Brothers are both given a directed by credit (and won) for No Country for Old Men. And in 2006 Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are also both given directed by credits for Little Miss Sunshine. Both of those teams have worked together as teams for years. That's just how they do their work.

Jan pointed me to the film City of God which was directed by Fernando Meirelles and also has a co-director Katia Lund listed. The film did very well in the 2002-2003 cycle winning numerous awards at film festivals and in getting nominations from the major awards organizations. While Meirelles alone won numerous awards for his directing, there are two instances -- the AFI audience award and the Washington DC Area Film Critics association -- which gave the award to both Meirelles and Lund.

The point is that awards and nominations matter A LOT. Think of the the career that Meirelles has had since his nomination. He has directed The Constant Gardener and Blindness which won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Talent aside, think he would have gotten those gigs had he not been nominated for a foreign film like City of God? No way. What would it have meant to Katia Lund's career had she been acknowledged in some way as the co-director of City of God? We'll never know.

But, since I don't know how credits are negotiated and it looks like festivals and critics kudos all have different rules its hard to 100% say that Loveleen Tanden is not getting her due because she is a woman. Tanden is very supportive of the film and has been on the press tour with Boyle and others. And, Huttner spoke with Boyle about the issue and he was very complimentary of her work.

Since women have such a hard time breaking into the directing ranks at the top level -- only three women have ever been nominated for an Oscar for directing -- this is a really interesting conversation to be having this year when women's films have been so successful at the box office.

Yesterday, Slumdog scored Golden Globe directing nomination. Jan Lisa Huttner is requesting that people send a letter to the HFPA asking them to add Tandan's name as co-director to the nomination. Get the letter here. I'd love to understand what the hell is a co-director and if women get put into the co-director position more easily than men.

Meryl Streep Makes Golden Globe History

With her nominations for Doubt and Mamma Mia!, Streep becomes the most nominated actor with 23 nominations. She has six wins (which ties her with Jack Nicholson).

'Mamma Mia!' — No 'Doubt' Meryl Streep makes Golden Globe history (LA Times)
photo: Sylvain Gaboury/PR Photos

December 11, 2008

Women & Hollywood on ABC News.com

ABC News ran a story on the canning of Catherine Hardwicke which quoted me. Check it out:

"She's done exactly what Hollywood said we have to do as women -- delivered a successful box office movie," Melissa Silverstein, who runs the blog Women & Hollywood, told ABCNews.com. "It does not add up."

Silverstein wrote a blog about Hardwicke's departure under the headline: "What Does a $70 Million Opening Weekend Get Catherine Hardwicke? Fired."

But some industry watchers question whether Hardwicke was treated fairly. After one blog quoted a Summit insider as saying Hardwicke was "difficult" and at times "irrational," Silverstein shot back, "Why don't you just call her 'bitch?'"

"It's a boy's town," Silverstein said. "Directing is the ultimate job. You are the king, you tell people what to do and you're in charge. And there's a very small list of men who are on it. Here's a woman who made it on the list. She worked her butt off, achieved a big box office success and has been summarily kicked off the list."
Read the full piece: Why Was 'Twilight' Director Axed From Sequel?
Also check up this EW update piece about the situation. It just gets stranger.

The Life of a Female Theatre Director

Directing on Broadway is still a boys club just like it is in Hollywood. If you are doing a new play you need to have one of the guys in the club like Michael Mayer, Scott Ellis, Doug Hughes, or Joe Montello to direct your play. What I hear from a friend who is a playwright is that most theatres won't consider a woman to direct. Anna D. Shapiro broke into the club with her Tony win for August Osage County but she is happy at Steppenwolf in Chicago and don't think she will be working in NY regularly.

One female director who has gotten close to Broadway -- with Theresa Rebeck's play The Scene at Second Stage -- is Rebecca Taichman, a Yale educated director who works a lot outside of NY, especially in DC where she is spending two years as associate artistic director at the Wholly Mammouth Theatre. Her credits there include Sarah Ruhl's Pulitzer Prize winning play The Clean House before it made it to Lincoln Center (with a male director.)

The Washington Post just did a profile on her in conjunction with her new production of The Taming of the Shrew. There's no denying that she's busy but

Although she has been keeping a healthy presence in Washington, the freelance directing life is taking Taichman around the globe. "Twelfth Night" moves to New Jersey's McCarter Theatre after its run here (Taichman is working on a new musical there), then she heads to San Francisco for Edward Albee "At Home at the Zoo" (previously known as "Peter and Jerry"). After that it's off to East Africa under the auspices of the Sundance Institute; Taichman is collaborating with a Rwandan artist she met during a Sundance residency last summer.

Long-range, she rules out nothing, proclaiming an interest in everything from new plays to classical tragedies to Broadway larks. Especially Broadway larks.

Here's a woman with a ton of credits yet Broadway still eludes her. Is this common? Check out this three year old piece from the NY Times on the lack of women directors on Broadway:
OF the 39 plays and musicals that opened on Broadway this year, 3 were directed by women (a husband-and-wife team directed a fourth, the short-lived "Blonde in the Thunderbird"). Of the 34 new shows in 2004, women directed 2. These are not particularly encouraging figures for those looking for the new female directorial voices. Many women can be found directing shows off Broadway and running regional theaters, but the best-known and biggest-budget venue has not been all that welcoming.
photo: Dominic Braccoli/Washington Post

Remember This Name: Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan is a young woman with a unique pedigree. Her grandfather was Elia Kazan, the director. Her dad is the screenwriter, Nicholas Kazan and her mom is screenwriter/director Robin Swicord.

That's a lot to live up to. But she has. Seriously.

She made her Broadway debut last year in Come Back, Little Sheba and she blew me away as Masha in current Broadway production of The Seagull that stars Peter Saarsgard and Kristin Scott Thomas. She's also in the upcoming Revolutionary Road. But to top it off she has clearly inherited the writing talent of her parents. Her first play, Absalom has been accepted into the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays.

All this and she just turned 25.

December 10, 2008

The Girlywood Invasion

Nightline did a short piece on the successful female centric movies that came out this year asking if these films will finally get Hollywood focused on any other audience besides the 18-24 year old boys.

Readers of this blog won't learn anything new. The piece was fine (but too short and didn't get into any of the deeper issues as to why so few movies about women are made.) It laid out the successes all the way back to Titanic and The Princess Diaries. But I hate the title. The Girlywood Invasion. We are not invading anything. We just want some movies about women. Condescending.

Watch the piece through the link below (it's less than 4 minutes)
The Girlywood Invasion

Hat tip to Beverly Wettenstein for the heads up