February 4, 2008

February 4, 2008

Women's Weekend Box Office Results
Women (and by women I mean young women and girls) ruled the box office this weekend. The four top grossing films starred women. At the top of the list was Miley Cyrus as her alter ego Hannah Montana in a 3-D concert event that pulled in $29 million in just 683 theatres. That's over $42,000 per theatre -- more than Titanic made on Super Bowl weekend. Jessica Alba's The Eye came in second; 27 Dresses is still going strong and came in third; and the Juno juggernaut was 4th with a total box office haul of $110 million.

In the specialty market 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days grossed $122,400 on 17 screens, averaging $7,200 and Nadine Labaki's Caramel made $7,123 from 11 screens for a total of $78,355. (Indiewire)

The Juno Phenomenon
This is a must read. Christine Spines at Entertainment Weekly takes a look at the success of Juno and puts it in the context of all that is wrong for women in Hollywood. I love Christine's writing because she is one of the few people who writes about women and Hollywood with respect and thoughtfulness and presumes the fact that women and girls actually matter. She is spot on in her analysis of the lack of roles for young women as well as the problem with the roles that are available -- princess or mean girl.

Key quotes:

Juno has become a bona fide phenomenon — a rare cultural touchstone for millions of young female moviegoers. That's something that nobody anticipated.
I love how Hollywood is always shocked by the fact that women actually go to movies and want to see realistic characters like themselves - smart and complicated. I knew Juno was going to be big - the time was ripe.
After years of being served mostly bland good girls and ciphers — from Molly Ringwald in the '80s to Alicia Silverstone in the '90s to Lindsay Lohan in the '00s — teenage girls are clearly starving for a female antihero, as are their mothers, fathers, older sisters, and even some of their brothers. In Juno, the story of a pint-size badass who also happens to be a romantic idealist, Hollywood has finally delivered. ''It's a teenage female lead we've never seen before,'' says Page. ''She dresses like she wants, says what she wants, and doesn't apologize for it.... Girls haven't had that sort of character before. We don't have our Catcher in the Rye.'' In what may be the ultimate sign of success, there's even a cranky backlash bubbling up, much of it from adults who question whether teenage girls are really all that clever.
Diablo Cody knows the feeling. ''There was a lack of authentic teen girl characters.... I saw writing this screenplay as an opportunity to create an iconic female,'' says the 29-year-old former stripper and phone-sex operator who penned Juno's script (and who now has a gig as a columnist for EW). ''I think women are often positioned as a support structure for men, and that's certainly not been my experience. Some women want to be heroes!''
Sure, Hollywood has occasionally served up edgy female outcasts, such as Winona Ryder in Heathers or the forlorn geek girls in Ghost World played by Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch. But those characters were more weirdos than antiheroes. They were marginalized by their difference, whereas Juno is empowered by hers. For the most part, the options for young actresses have been limited to Princesses and Mean Girls.
Pre-Juno, the conventional wisdom in Hollywood was that women would go to see movies about guys, while the prototypical ''chick flick'' was a prison sentence for most young men. That's why even romantic comedies, once solidly female turf, have lately migrated to the guy's point of view (Knocked Up, The 40 Year-Old Virgin). Films for females have almost become a niche genre — fantasies about winning Prince Charming (Enchanted) or having a fabulous beach wedding (27 Dresses). The environment hasn't encouraged writers and directors to get creative with female characters. ''When I first started, everybody was looking for a female Animal House,'' says director Amy Heckerling, who took on the flora and fauna of high school in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High and 1995's Clueless. ''It never came to be because [studios] don't like to see women being sexual, being rowdy, being slovenly. That's all okay for boys. But I don't think a girl could smash a bottle against her head for your amusement.'' Cody agrees: ''I think it's easier to fall back on tired archetypes that [studios] know will bring people to the theater,'' she says. ''It helps that I had a very cynical attitude going into this. I didn't ever think this film would be produced. So that gave me the freedom to write the kind of movie I wanted to see.''
The most important question is, will Hollywood be smart enough to learn from Juno and give women and girls more films like this or will this be again dismissed as a fluke like The Devil Wears Prada was and will we go right back to the same old, same old?

Maybe there's hope?
''I think that when the strike ends we'll see a lot of scripts with smart, funny, and subversive teen girl characters,'' says a production executive at a rival studio.
Juno-Inside a Surprise Hit (Entertainment Weekly)

Romantic Comedies Today Basically Suck
Thank you A.O. Scott for that brilliant assessment in yesterday's Times acknowledging, that yes, the romantic comedies made today are crappy compared to the rom coms of the past.
But in general the trough of late winter and early spring is Hollywood’s designated season of mediocrity, a time for predictable, unchallenging genre movies. Horror and action for the teenagers, sappy family comedies for the kids, and, for grown women and their companions, stories of dating and mating decked out with tame Mars-and-Venus jokes and preordained happy endings.

But the dispiriting, uninspired sameness of romantic comedy strikes me as something of a scandal.
I think the scandal is the fact that Hollywood thinks that women (and men) want to see these mediocre films. (Scott is being generous when he calls them mediocre- most of them are really bad) The dumbing down of America that is going on at the multiplex is the true scandal here.
A Fine Romance, My Friend, This Is (NY Times)

Forever Hunky: Ageless Action Figures
Another NY Times piece from this weekend about rejuvenation of the aging male stars Sylvester Stallone as Rambo and Bruce Willis as John McClane in the latest Die Hard movie. Isn't it great to live in a world where a man can be an AARP member and an action star while we get so few movies starring women. I'm disgusted.

Leigh Silverman- an actual live blooded female director working and being successful in the theatre business
If you think it's bad in films its just as bad if not worse to be a theatre director. But some women are able to make successful careers and one that's doing quite well now is Leigh Silverman. She just finished directing David Henry Huang's Yellow Face at the Public and is now helming the world premiere of Brooke Berman's Hunting and Gathering, and will then segue into directing the spectacular Julie White in Liz Flahive's From Up Here at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Director Prefers Shock of the New (Variety)

Why is it that the Guardian always has much better interview pieces than the US papers do? Here is a piece with the amazing Kristin Scott Thomas who will soon be seen in The Other Boleyn Girl.
I'm 47. Unlike Most Other Actresses I Don't Lie About My Age (The Guardian)

Jaime Rosales' (not a woman) understated femme drama "La soledad" (Solitary Fragments) pulled a surprise double whammy at Sunday's 22nd Spanish Academy Goya Awards, taking both the film and director prizes. (Variety)