June 11, 2008

Hollywood Thinks About Thinking About Taking Women Seriously as a Market

Sometimes I wonder if being 3,000 miles away from Hollywood I can get enough of a sense of Hollywood's prickly relationship to women and why its so contentious.

So I kind of felt good when I read Rachel Abramowitz' LA Times piece Hollywood Rethinks Chick Flicks for confirmation that yes, I do get it. I get it 100%. I usually like Abramowitz but this story is a rehash of old news and really doesn't do anything to push the conversation any further.

I guess we should be happy that women are finally saying things out loud that have been whispered for a long time. But I'm not happy. I want more and better movies about women.

"Why does the fate of female audiences rest on one movie?" asks producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who produced the upcoming film "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," as well as such women-driven hits as "Maid in Manhattan." "There are many movies made for male audiences that work and don't work, but it doesn't seem that the fate of gender-based movies rested on them."
The NY Times reported yesterday that Goldsmith-Thomas is incredibly nervous that the folks at Picturehouse are rolling out her film on July 2 to 1800 theatres. I'd be nervous too because those geniuses at the NY Times did her and her films a complete disservice when they pushed it as the next "women's movie" of the summer. Nothing can live up to Sex and the City. We all knew that before it opened.

The deal is we need to have more than one movie to hang our hats on. If there are still so few in the pipeline every one that opens will be overly scrutinized and held to an unreachable standard just like some woman I know (well I don't know, but I wish I did know) who is off the campaign trail this week.

But she does get Alan Horn the head of Warner Brothers to go on the record about North Country.
"I love that movie," says Horn, referring to "North Country," the Charlize Theron drama based on a landmark sexual harassment case. "It did not perform well commercially. Does that say anything about a movie starring women? No, it doesn't. Sometimes there's a difference between quality and commerciality or marketability."
Bullshit. It absolutely said something about a movie starring a woman. Has there been another film like North Country since North Country? The only ones I can think of are Angelina Jolie in A Might Heart and Reese Witherspoon in Rendition. Both of those failed for a myriad of reasons other than the fact that they starred women.

I also found Horn's quote about the success of Sex and the City quite patronizing:
It seems pretty clear we ought to be talking about a sequel, though there's no immediate conclusion we draw regarding the women's audience. We at Warner Bros. do not wish to be set up as industry seers.
Any movie that was about a guy that opened the way Sex did would have a sequel deal signed this week and announced in the trades. Give me a break. And what the hell does he mean that Warner Brothers does not want to be set up as industry seers? Isn't that the fucking point of the business? To be ahead of your competitors? To make movies that others don't? Do you mean that you don't want to be the studio that actually gets behind the women's market because that would tarnish your reputation as being for boys only? Don't you want to make money? These guys just totally don't get that women are desperate for good movies.

Donna Langley the president of production at Universal which will release Mamma Mia! later this summer said:
"I hope the film's success encourages not only studios to make more films for women but more female writers and directors to step forward with their own unique voices,"
It's time for women like Langley and her female peers to stand up and hire those women that she is asking to step forward. That's the only way women will get a foot in the door. I will be shocked and happy if it happens.