December 5, 2007

December 5, 2007

Women in Entertainment - Hollywood Reporter/Lifetime Power Breakfast

The Hollywood Reporter publishes an annual issue about the status of women in the entertainment business to coincide with its annual power breakfast. While its great that women are celebrated and acknowledged once a year, what pisses me off is that there is no sense of history.

A USA Today story reports that women at the event were commenting on the lack of potential female Oscar nominees this year.

Last year, I felt there were so many phenomenal women's roles, like Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Penelope Cruz (Volver). That category was just overflowing," offered Grey's Anatomy's Elizabeth Reaser, a Spirit Award nominee for her role in Sweet Land. "I don't know about this year so much. Nothing's coming to mind, and that's just sad.
Strong roles for women in film is cyclical with an up year followed by a couple of down years. Last year was stronger than usual but even in a stronger than usual year, if you follow the prognosticators closely they had the same women on the list precisely because the list is always so short. This year potential nominees include: Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard, Helena Bnham Carter, Laura Linney, Ellen Page, Keira Knightley, Angeline Jolie, and Amy Adams.

There's no denying that this is a down year and it seems to be getting worse. So again I put forward the question- why is it so hard to make movies with female leads?

Here are a couple of my theories:

1- Women do not go to the theatres on opening night in big numbers, and since box office is the only thing that matters, why should a studios make movies that star, or are geared to women if they don't buy tickets on the opening weekend.

2- Movies with women leads are not easily transferable overseas. Films that do best overseas star men, are action films and have little dialogue. Also, Muslim countries won't see movies with women and those markets are growing.

For more theories, you'll have to wait for the book I am writing. (If you are interested in talking to me for my book drop me an email)

In case you're fuzzy last year the nominees were: Penelope Cruz; Judi Dench; Helen Mirren (winner); Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. The year before the nominees included: Judi Dench, Charlize Theron, Felicity Huffman, Keira Knightley and the winner was Reese Witherspoon.

The USA Today story tries to wrap a nice bow on the piece:
Future female roles may prove more promising. Tilda Swinton revealed that she and the just-attached Jude Law will be taking on a retelling of the Macbeth saga (Come Like Shadows), most likely to be shot this spring in Iceland. And (Jodie) Foster is looking forward to the 2008 release of Nim's Island, a family adventure.
WTF?? Neither one of those interests me and neither one gives me any confidence that future films roles may prove more promising. Really stupid observation.

At the breakfast Sherry Lansing presented Jodie Foster with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award. They both recalled the days when hardly any women worked in the business. Foster was as self-deprecating as usual denying her power (I'm starting to get tired of it- embrace it - you are the shit!)
For her part, Foster was modest about receiving the leadership award. "I'm not sure why I'm here today," she said. "I'm not powerful. I'm fragile, unsure, and I struggle to get there -- wherever there is. I've been in this business for 42 years; there's no way to do that and not be as nutty as a fruitcake," Foster quipped.
Queen Latifah and John Travolta (who played a woman this year) gave keynote addresses and the event's co-sponsor Lifetime put out a call to the women in the room to work more at the network.

Susanne Daniels, Lifetime's president of entertainment had a good quote:
Seeing how far we've come reminds us that we've got a way to go," she said, noting that there's "a celluloid ceiling," (thank you Martha Lauzen) not a glass ceiling. "The description is apt because it's not easy to see a dent.
Power Breakfast (Hollywood Reporter)

Building on the discussion above there is another interesting piece in the Hollywood Reporter package which takes a look at the lack of strong women in film and the growing strong women on TV.
Why women should be relegated to minor or cliched roles is puzzling, given that women are reaching new levels within society at large. As Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal points out, "We could soon have a woman president. And wouldn't that be awesome?"
OK, Amy you are one of the only women who can actually make a difference. Step Up! Will Hillary Clinton in the White House help women in film? Hardly, her husband's presidency coincides with the rise of the "chick flick."

Nikki Rocco, president of distribution at Universal is at least honest:
Like it or not, she says, it is the males who go out to the movies on a Friday night, when all too often young females stay in with their friends -- as Rocco says she did when she was younger. Because of that, she says, "we are targeting mostly males and hoping females come along. But the films that open the biggest are, without a doubt, films that are driven by the male audience.
Here is one of the most important points which people are in denial of:
With women in retreat onscreen, it was perhaps inevitable there would be a parallel retreat behind the scenes. And that has been remarkable in an industry where, until just a couple of years ago, one could safely say women were on the rise and indeed appeared poised to share studio leadership on an equal basis with men.
Women are disappearing in front of and behind the scenes.
If this were true throughout Hollywood, one might believe there has been a "backlash" against women in Hollywood, to use the title of an earlier Faludi book. But what complicates this argument is that the very opposite seems to be true in television. If strong women are disappearing from movie screens and are in retreat within the studios, they are doing better than ever in television.
I do believe there is a backlash in film. TV is much more forward thinking than films. They have to deal with advertisers who know that women are customers and viewers. (which film people can't deal with).

Read the full piece. It's one of the best written this year.
Power Shift

Tube Tonight

The American Cinematheque Tribute to Julia Roberts airs. Seems to me she's a bit young for a tribute of this kind. (8pm, AMC)