November 9, 2007

November 9, 2007

Movie of the Week- Steal a Pencil for Me
Being a nice Jewish girl from Long Island, I have seen my share of Holocaust documentaries. They are usually so disturbing that I tend to spend the next week incredibly depressed. That's what I expected when I watched the new documentary Steal a Pencil for Me, but that was not the case. Turns out Steal a Pencil for Me is an uplifting and hopeful love story told through the backdrop of the Holocaust.

In this compelling story by Academy Award nominee Michele Ohayon, the lovers Jack Polak and Ina Soep first meet at a party in Amsterdam in 1943. There are several big problems they must overcome to be together, the first is Jack's unhappy marriage, and the second is Hitler. Soon after meeting, they are both deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and it is under those brutal circumstances that their love blossoms shown through the letters they wrote to each other.

Amazingly, they both survived and just celebrated 60 years of marriage. An incredibly hopeful story born out of a time of deep despair.

Opens in NY and LA today.
More Info: Steal a Pencil for Me

Also opening: War Dance co-directed by Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine
War Dance

Katee Sackhoff is really the only thing working in the disappointingly bland Bionic Woman.
Woman of Steel (Backstage)

An all-black revival of Cat on a Hit Tin Roof directed by Debbie Allen will open on Broadway in March. (Variety)

Winona Ryder has been cast as Spock's mother in the new Star Trek movie directed by JJ Abrams. In another case of Hollywood fantasy casting, Ryder is only 6 years older than Zachary Quinto who was cast as Spock. Wouldn't it make sense to cast someone who could actually be his mother to play his mother?

The Color Purple has figure out how to get African Americans to the theatre.
Color Purple a Family Affair (Variety)

Piece on Nicole Kidman who has two films coming up, Margot at the Wedding and the Golden Compass.
Nicole Kidman (USA Today)

Tube Tonight
Citizen Ruth- one of the funniest abortion dramas. Stars Laura Dern. (FLIX, 8pm)

November 8, 2007

November 8, 2007

Nina's Heavenly Delights - a delightful film
Put this film on your list when it comes to your town- Nina's Heavenly Delights, directed by Pratibha Parmar, one of the most fun and uplifting films I've seen in a long time. It's the story of a Scottish woman of Indian descent who returns home after her father's sudden death and winds up taking his place in a nationally televised curry cooking competition. The film deals with so many important issues like assimilation, family, being true to yourself all wrapped up in a whole lot of Bollywood fun. It really reminded me of the wonderful tone that I loved in Bend it Like Beckham. Film also has a great soundtrack.

Look for it in LA on November 21, NY on November 30, Portland, OR on December 28. other cities will roll out in early 2008. More info: Nina's Heavenly Delights

This column from the LA Times's Oscar columnist Gold Derby pisses me off. The headline is: Can Being Pregnant Help Helena and Cate to win Oscars? The column then goes on to discuss pregnant nominees who have and haven't won Oscars when pregnant. I find this so retro. Let's keep our eye on the ball. The issue we should be discussing is the lack of opportunities and roles for all actresses.

Interview with Michele Ohayon,director of Steal a Pencil for Me a documentary opening tomorrow in NY & LA (review tomorrow)
Michele Ohayon

Scottish Actress Kelly McDonald stars in the upcoming No Country for Old Men
Kelly McDonald's Chameleon Ways (LA Times)

Another Q&A with Alison Eastwood
(AP via Yahoo)

November 7, 2007

November 7, 2007

Preview Review- Lions for Lambs
How psyched was I for a movie starring Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep? Tom Cruise and I go way back to the early 80s where he spent some time on my bedroom wall during high school when he was breaking through in Risky Business and the under appreciated All the Right Moves. Meryl is good in everything she does (I can't think of a single movie where she was bad); and Robert Redford is well, Robert Redford - savior of independent cinema.

I would love to tell you that Lions for Lambs is the important war movie this fall, but I can't. It's not even the second or third important war movie this fall. It's a preachy, boring polemic that is an utter disappointment on all levels.

The story is told from three different perspectives. The first is Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep. Cruise plays a Republican Senator hell bent on creating a new war strategy because we need to win this "so-called" war on terror. Streep plays a seasoned journalist called in to interview the Senator as the offensive is launched in order to report the facts on this brilliant new war strategy for Afghanistan. Much as I loved Tom Cruise when I was a teen, I think that he is virtually unwatchable nowadays. I had a really hard time separating his screen role from his off-screen role. I think that some of it was due to the fact that I kept thinking this smarmy Senator was going to jump on his office coach to try to convince the reporter that this new war strategy was the right thing to do.

The second story is about the soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) carrying out the Senator's offensive in Afghanistan with devastating results, and the third story is about a professor (Redford) trying to inspire a gifted student to give a shit about something more than getting drunk and getting laid.

Redford doesn't believe this is a war drama, he feels it's a human drama " which dares to ask the audience to question, wonder, and feel--and urges them to participate more fully in their own fates, as well as that of the country." Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan who also wrote this fall's The Kingdom this movie just makes me again realize how stupid and male focused war is, and how our world needs to figure out better ways to solve problems.

If you are looking for a film that asks provocative questions about war and what happens when soldiers come home see In the Valley of Elah. It's bleak and much stronger than Lion's for Lambs. (Opens Friday, November 9)

Glamour magazine gave out its annual women of the year awards this week. The awards went to Jennifer Garner, Shonda Rhimes, Elizabeth Edwards and Toni Morrison.
Glamour Women of the Year Like a Little Risky Business

Eleanor Ringel comments on the Alliance of Women Film Journalists site about the paucity of choices for women actresses. If these are the roles available for the A list, what's it like for everyone else?
2007 Roles for A List Actresses

New Line is banking on the girl driven franchise starting with the Golden Compass to take up the mantle of Lord of the Rings.
New Line Banking on Compass (Variety)

Interesting piece from The Guardian:

Director Josie Rourke has started off her new role as artistic director of London's Bush Theatre with some positive discrimination. When she arrived at the Bush in April, Rourke inherited four new plays, all written by men - David Watson's Flightpath, How to Curse by Ian McHugh, The Dysfunckshonalz by Mike Packer and Helter Skelter/Land of the Dead by Neil LaBute. Now, to balance things out, Rourke has appointed four female directors for them: Naomi Jones, Tamara Harvey, Patricia Benecke and Rourke herself. "It is essential to get the dynamic between male and female voices right," says Rourke. "It's a rare thing in this male-dominated world of theatre." (The Guardian)
Tube Tonight
Season Finale of the Sarah Silverman Show (10:30pm, Comedy Central)
Biography of Janis Joplin (11pm, Bio)
Joplin documentary recalls star's over-the-top lifestyle

November 6, 2007

November 6, 2007

Kasi Lemmons Talks to Women & Hollywood
Kasi Lemmons is one of the few female African American women directors working in Hollywood. Her most recent film Talk to Me is out now on DVD. Check out the review here: Talk to Me (Huffington Post)

Women & Hollywood: This film is a love story between two men, which is rarely seen on film. Why was it important for you to tell this story?

KL: One of the most important films for me growing up was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which was a movie about male friendship. It helped shape my feelings about film relationships and I realized I didn't see that. I wanted to get inside a relationship between two men where they could be vulnerable and need each other. I feel that it's real, and yet men are very afraid of showing emotion and being demonstrative. It helps us to understand men more when we realize they are capable of these friendships.

W&H: When did you know you wanted to make the switch to the directing chair? (One prominent role Lemmons played was Jodie Foster's roommate in Silence of the Lambs)

KL: It happened very organically. It was the late 80s and I was into politics. I went to film school thinking I would put a camera on my shoulders and make documentaries. The first film I made was about being homeless in NY. But, I had a tendency to dramatize. Bill Cosby then hired me to write a screenplay (which was never produced) and that's how I got into the Writer's Guild.

The storyteller part of me was always very alive. I wrote plays all the time. At a certain point I had a story I could tell from the beginning to end and I realized I had to write it down. I wrote a part that I could play when I was 40. It happened faster than that. I met an agent and he said we had to put it together and find a director. People passed on it. One day I woke up and realized that I had to direct it (Eve's Bayou). I didn't suddenly decide that I was a director, and even after I directed Eve's Bayou I thought I was done.

W&H: It's unacceptable how few women and African American women directors there are working in film today.

KL: In every other field there are women. There are women in high levels of politics. There are women in high levels of management at the World Bank. There are women in high levels everywhere. Why is it that there are not more women directors? It just doesn't make sense. It's a particular backwards industry in this country. I can't speak for other countries because they seem better.

Storytelling is not like running the World Bank. Storytelling has a masculine and feminine side. We're dealing with humanity. As artists, women are wonderful at telling men's stories, as men have been wonderful at telling women's stories. Yet at the same time you need the push and the pull. You need the other side of the coin.

W&H: Why does this continue to be such a problem?

KL: It doesn't make much sense that they wouldn't be interested in women's visions. Look at television. They are always looking for women's stories to tap. I think it might have something to do with the concept of what a director is -- a white man between 30-50 with the hat on backwards in sneakers with a little scruff.

W&H: You lobbied for this film. Did you have to work harder to get this film?

KL: I had to get the meeting. I had to wait until they had gone through meetings with the usual suspects. I made it known that I wanted to do the movie and then the only moment of self consciousness I had was before the first meeting and it wasn't just that I was a woman. I went in super prepared and super passionate and I got through that meeting. I was half way through my second meeting and Mark Gordon said ok.

W&H: Is this Mark Gordon who produces for TV?

KL: He believes in the power of women. It's something he believes in and enjoys doing it without thinking. It's not that he is making a political statement, its just the guy he is. Mark saw my passion, heard what I had to say and said ok.

W&H: How important is it to tell African American stories?

It's very important but there have been stories I have been attracted to that have not been African American stories. I've written all kinds of things, however I am attracted to characters. African American stories have such a dynamic history, and it's my people so it's special to me. I think we occupy an interesting place in American history - very violent, very strong and triumphant and so I am drawn to those characters. I am drawn to stories.

W&H: What advice would you give a young woman director?

KL: Find a way of telling a story that represents an aspect of you, so you can use it as a calling card to help shape your identity so someone else doesn't put you in a box. Create something or find a piece of material that is a love letter to yourself.

W&H: What are you working on next?

KL: I'm writing a pilot for Mark Gordon and CBS. I am also writing a piece for Picturehouse on the civil rights movement.

Talk to Me is available on DVD now.

Julia Roberts is basically the only female "star" today and she really hasn't toplined a movie in three years. In a new interview with Vanity Fair timed to come up with her new film Charlie Wilson's War, Roberts talks about her wish to stay at home to knit and compost. Here's a quote: "The highest high would be growing our food that I then make, and then composting and growing more -- that kind of circle." Wonder why they don't take us more seriously? (Vanity Fair via Miami Herald)

Day one of the writer's strike has already claimed a casualty - the premiere of Cashmere Mafia. Show was set to debut November 27. No new date has been announced.

Patrick Goldstein has an analysis of the failure of art-house films this fall. Could it be that TV is actually better than what's playing in theatres?
Art-House Depression

Interview with War/Dance co-directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine (IndieWIRE)

Angelina Jolie on her upcoming film Beowulf.
Beowulf Aroused Jolie's Maternal Feelings (ABC News GMA)

Profile on up-and-coming English actress Ruth Wilson
You Fight for Your Luck (The Guardian)

Brick Lane the films based on Monica Ali's novel and directed by Sarah Gavron has caused controversy in the Bangladeshi community in London. It opens there next week.
Controversial Brick Lane Film Hits Theatres (Reuters)

Jeanne Tripplehorn joins the cast of the HBO drama Grey Gardens as Jackie Onassis. Pic stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.

Turkish filmmakers have taken up the cause of honour killing.
Can Film Help Put an End to Honour Killings? (The Guardian)

Judith Ivey will direct a revival of the musical Vanities on Broadway. "Set in the 1960s and '70s, "Vanities" follows the lives of three women who were best friends as high school cheerleaders in Texas." (Variety)

DVDs releasing this week
Blame it on Fidel: "Nina Kervel-Bey stars as 9-year-old Anna, a privileged young girl living in Paris and comforted by a simple life filled with order and routine. But over the course of one year, Anna's structured life is thrown into turmoil when her parents are drawn into Paris's turbulent and radical 1970s political scene. Julie Gavras (daughter of famed French filmmaker Costa-Gavras) directs this 2007 Sundance Film Festival competition entry." (Netflix)

Run Granny Run: "At age 89, Doris "Granny D" Haddock walked across the country in protest of big-money influence on elections. Five years later in 2004, she got a chance to run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. Learn her unlikely story in this engaging documentary. Chronicling the charismatic activist hero in her colorful travels, director Marlo Poras took home the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival." (Netflix)

November 5, 2007

November 5, 2007

Thought of the day- a woman can win the NYC Marathon nine months after having a baby, yet a woman cannot be bonded to direct a movie while pregnant. WTF?

WGA on strike- how will this effect women writers who already don't have an equal share of the jobs? One outcome could liberate me from the TV since I hate reality shows and if the strike goes on too long all that will be airing are reality shows. Since many people in America love reality shows and if the ratings are good, maybe the networks will decide that they will stick with reality and fuck the writers. Doubtful, but you never know.

EW's annual holiday film issue is out this week and includes a list of potential Oscar contenders. Typically, there is not one woman on the best director list. If they didn't give out Oscars for best actress and supporting actress, women probably wouldn't get any awards at all.

The European Film Award nominees (the European equivalent of the Oscars) were announced and films about women dominate the best film category. (There will be very different nominees for the Oscars, I guarantee)
The Best Picture nominees include:
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; La Vie en Rose, Persepolis and The Queen

For best actress the nominees are:
Marion Cotillard in LA MÔME (La Vie en Rose)
Marianne Faithful in IRINA PALM
Carice van Houten in ZWARTBOEK (Black Book)
Anamaria Marinca in 4 LUNI, 3 SAPTAMINI SI 2 ZILE (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
Helen Mirren in THE QUEEN
Ksenia Rappoport in LA SCONOSCIUTA (The Unknown)

Awards will be handed out December 1 in Berlin.

Natalie Portman has signed a deal with Participant Productions to make socially relevant films for her newly formed company Handsomecharlie Films. First film for her company will be A Tale of Love and Darkness based on the Amos Oz novel which Portman will direct. Portman chose Participant because "we all have the same desire to make meaningful and artistically fulfilling films and are committed to the idea of stories leading to greater empathy and action for world issues." (Variety)

Missed this story last week by Anne Thompson about the fall being good for femme directed films. Gotta disagree with the assessment - five or six directed films (I have not counted, just guessing) by women out of 75 or so is not good in my book. When when will stop being happy with the crumbs?
Fall Proves Fruitful for Femmes (Variety)

Jennifer Lopez's film Bordertown about the murder of the women in Juarez directed by Gregory Nava is no longer slated for a theatrical release. Its going straight to video. Too bad, important topic. Variety said the film was booed at its premier last year. can it be that bad? Nava is a seasoned director? Anyone seen this film?

More of Tamara Jenkins from the NY Times' holiday movie issue.
An Unblinking Look at Death Without Nobility (NY Times)

Hilary Swank stars in the upcoming P.S., I Love You
Hilary Swank Finds Love at Last (LA Times)

Character actresses are few and far between these days. Here is one still kicking.
A Character of An Actress (New Zealand Herald)

Marjane Satrapi on Persepolis
Tales of an Iranian Bee Gees Fan (The Telegraph)

Brooke Shields has teamed with Tupperware to promote girls friendships and of course her new show Lipstick Jungle which is supposedly about female friendships.
In Life and in Lipstick Jungle, Brooke Shields Relies on Women

Showtime has renewed Weeds starring Mary Louise Parker for a fourth season. New episodes will air next summer.

Tube Tonight
American Masters honors Carol Burnett with a retrospective Carol Burnett: a Woman of Character (9pm, PBS)