August 1, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

Frozen River is an unexpected gem of a movie. I loved it as much as I've loved anything in a long, long time. I first heard about it after it won the best feature prize at Sundance, and was intrigued and excited to see it. It tells the story of two poor, desperate women (one white and one Mohawk) who smuggle illegal immigrants across a frozen river from Canada to the US in order to help their families survive.

A couple of days before Christmas, Ray Eddy's (Melissa Leo) gambler of a husband has run off with the money she was saving for a new double wide trailer. Her sense of defeat is palpable. What she wants is simple: to give her kids a safe place to live since the trailer they currently live in is falling apart. She is desperate to get cash and meets Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham) who introduces her to smuggling, a dangerous way to make some fast cash. Each journey across the ice is harrowing never knowing if the ice will hold them. Their last run goes bad and they are forced to rely on each other and this bizarre relationship they have formed.

Melissa Leo is an actress you have seen in many movies (21 Grams) and TV shows (Homicide: Life on the Streets) that she just blends into the background -- which is a good thing. She's been the perfect supporting character. Incredibly, this is the first time that she has carried a film, and her performance is outstanding and Oscar worthy. What I particularly love about her is that she is uses her face and age fearlessly to relay Ray's emotions and desperation.

Other films in Theatres
Falling for Grace- opens in Des Moines
Mamma Mia!
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Brick Lane
Sex and the City

Interview with Courtney Hunt, director of Frozen River.

44 year old Courtney Hunt makes her feature film debut this week with the spectacular Frozen River. The film debuted at the 2008 Sundance film festival where it was awarded the best feature.

Women & Hollywood: How did you get the idea for this film?

Courtney Hunt: This (smuggling) really goes on at the border 300 miles from here. It is a smuggling culture that has been around since prohibition. The commodity may change -- it has been booze and cigarettes -- now it's illegal immigrants, but it's also pantyhose sometimes. I learned that women were involved and I went and met some of them in the late 90s who were smuggling cigarettes at the time. They were really interesting. They happened to be Mohawk. That's how I came up with the idea.
W&H: You are able address race and class issues by putting a white woman with a native American woman. Did you know that you wanted to have this cross cultural conversation?
CH: I did. One reason was a function of the storytelling. For us to understand the situation we needed to see it through the eyes of someone who knew nothing about it. I did love this idea of a white woman and Mohawk woman stuck in a car together and just seeing what happens.
W&H: What compelled you to put pen to paper?
CH: I wrote the first draft based on cigarette smuggling and wasn't happy with the way it came out. Then 9-11 happened, I had a baby, I moved upstate, and one day I was writing in my journal and this whole monologue of Ray's (the Melissa Leo character) just poured out. I thought was a poem. (for more on the writing process pick up this month's issue of Script magazine - not available online). And so I took that and it became the short film. Once I saw the short film got into the NY Film Festival and it got attention I went back and said let's just show the whole thing.
W&H: Did anyone say to you why don't you make this into a feature?
CH: Nobody said they wanted to make it into a feature. Once I finished it nobody said they wanted to produce or fund it.
W&H: How did you find funders?
CH: In other areas. I looked in real estate. I looked at areas where people had lots of profits.
W&H: How much did it cost to make the film?
CH: Well under a million dollars.
W&H: It was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics after Sundance?
CH: It was purchased before we won the award at Sundance.
W&H: It is so hard nowadays for films from a female perspective to get made and released. Your film is resonating and its such a tough subject. Why do you think that is?
CH: I think the reason is that it's a good story. It's a story with some suspense which grows out of the true motivations of the characters. I tell it in a really suspenseful way because that was the one commercial aspect of the movie that I could deliver to pay back my investors. And suspense makes you stay in your seat until the last frame because they need to see what happens to this woman.
W&H: These two women don't like each other initially.
CH: When I went to write everyday it would scare me that I was writing about two characters who don't like each other. I'd think: where can I go with this? Are they even going to speak to each other in the car? I think that when we are around people from other cultures, especially when its uncomfortable, we just want to flee. But they are stuck in the car together so they have to sort of work it out. I like that the awkwardness that I was feeling writing shows in the movie because that was the truth.
W&H: How did you get Melissa Leo to be a part of this?
CH: James Schamus brought 21 Grams to the little town where I live and I met Melissa after I saw that movie. Her performance is really good in that film and I felt she had such a powerhouse persona and knew she could carry a feature. Most importantly, I thought she would be interested in the short based on the kind of character she played. Both Misty (Upham) and Melissa were in the short.
W&H: You spent a lot of time focusing on Melissa's face which might be unique to a female director. You helped us see her life on her face. Did you always know you were going to direct this piece?
CH: Yes.
W&H: Women directors find they have to write the scripts in order to get the directing gig. Has that been your experience?
CH: Yes.
W&H: I've also interviewed women directors on their post Sundance experience. Some talk about the expectations out of Sundance. What were your expectations and what has been your experience?
CH: I had high hopes and low expectations. I thought if I could sell this film I will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. That was my goal and I really didn't worry about anything else. I didn't have an agent going in and I didn't worry about it. I had a sales agent but not an agent for me.

I sold my film and then I was done, ready to go home. Then we won the prize. And we won it from Quentin Tarantino. And it was so weird and so great. We had no idea that was going to happen. I remember walking past him at the directors brunch thinking he is going to hate this movie. How wrong I was.

I had been working with this agent at William Morris through the week who was helping to sell the film and they had given me a pitch and I hired him as I walked off the stage.

Then we went home to our little town and there was nothing. Then we went out to dinner and people just started coming up to the table because everybody knew and that was sweet. Since then I've just been reading scripts. I've had a charmed experience, first that it's getting a release, and second that it's getting a wide release.
W&H: So you are reading other people's scripts now? Are you going to write another script?
CH: I have one already written in a fourth draft and I'm going to do that but I'd like to take a directing assignment first. I'm not particularly wed to my own work. I'm getting all these scripts to read and a book to adapt that they are going to pay me to do.
W&H: Are the scripts that you are getting mostly about women?
CH: No. I have one about a sherrif. They all have suspense. I feel that's really good, we are moving on.
W&H: Why do you think its still so hard for women directors?
CH: There is a bunch of different elements to it. One is that it's just the pattern. You know when you are on an airplane and there is turbulence and the pilot gets on and says hi this is captain Bonnie. And I think Bonnie, can she really do this?
W&H: Do you really think that?
CH: I get a little nervous because I have the same biases as everyone else. I think it's just the matter of people getting used to the idea and getting familiar with it. Like with my crew, I'm sure when I first showed up they were like oh my goodness can she do this? Then within 3 or 4 days we are all on the same team.

The worst of it was my parents who said do you really have to direct it? This is my mother who struggled her way through law school and I am like what? yes I do. We have to a) insist upon it b) support each other and c) willing to be commercially viable. If suspense keeps me viable then that's good. The next generation of men are totally comfortable seeing a woman protagonist as long as she's doing something. These relationship movies won't appeal to them. You look at Knocked Up and all the Apatow stuff. That's all about relationships. I find the characters more realistic. Everything doesn't have to be va va voom in order to keep the male viewer watching. A woman engaged in fascinating action is just as interesting as a guy, in fact more so since we've seen guys pretty much do everything.
W&H: The numbers are going backwards not forward.
CH: There is always going to be two steps forward, one step back. I feel that everything after 1979 has been going backwards.
W&H: Women I've interviewed bring up how Hillary Clinton was treated in the campaign in relation to their work as directors in Hollywood. Do you think that seeing that a woman has run for president could help propel more women into the director's chair?
CH: I think it's about getting used to it, getting familiar with it and realizing oh its different from guys. It's different but not less than. I come out of law so I have this optimism because law is dominated by women at this point. At my law school it was 60% women.
W&H: So you have law degree also?
CH: Yes.
W&H: Did you work as a lawyer?
CH: No, but I finished law school and then went to film school. I worked for my husband as a lawyer doing murder appeals to pay for film school. 30 or 40 years ago there were only a few women in law. Now it's not unusual to see a woman lawyer. I think that is one example of what was once a male dominated world that is not at all anymore. There's plenty of room for everyone in that world and I know its going to be that way for film too because good stories are universal.
W&H: Do you feel comfortable saying your age?
CH: Oh yeah, 44.
W&H: It's an awesome story that here you are at directing your first film at 44. It's heartening.
CH: I think in a way I have a little more credibility. It helps with the crew. It helps with the cast. It helps talking to the money dudes because they are not as scared and I am not as scared.

Are All Books By Women Chick Lit?

I've talked about how all movies about women seem to be relegated to chick flick status no matter what they are about. It's no surprise that it's happening for books too:

Having cottoned on to the fact that chick lit books sell like cupcakes, publishers are now adding chick lit-style covers to any book written by a woman whether it fits the genre definition or not.

...books aimed at women are becoming increasingly homogenised, girly and bland-looking.

But this affliction doesn't only blight women who write. Male authors who create sympathetic female characters are also at risk. Douglas Kennedy's work is frequently lauded for its intelligence and vision, yet his novels all feature non-descript pictures of wistful-looking women and the ubiquitous flowing script that denotes a female-friendly beach book.
The great chick lit cover-up (The Guardian)


  • North American rights to Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy and Lucy," from this year's Cannes Film Festival, have been acquired by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's upstart distribution company Oscilloscope Pictures. The film, starring Michele Williams, will have its theatrical debut in December at New York City's Film Forum. (Indirewire)
  • Fox Searchlight Pictures will distribute the romantic comedy MY LIFE IN RUINS starring Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Harland Williams and Rachel Dratch. Vardalos plays Georgia (Nia Vardalos) who is kind of lost and works as a tour guide showing of the beauty of her native Greece. While opening the eyes of the tourists, she too begins to see things in new ways.
  • Jennifer Lopez will topline Yari Film Group’s romantic comedy "The Governess,". Story centers on a professional thief who, in order to pull off a major bank heist, poses as a nanny to the three unruly children of a wealthy widower. When she starts to fall for the kids and their father, she must decide if she can give up her past for a chance to start over. (Variety)
  • HBO has picked up Liza Palmer's "Conversations With the Fat Girl," a novel about Maggie, who's dealing with the fact that former fellow fat girl Olivia is now less copious and getting hitched to a jerk. Optioned for series development, "Conversations" came to "Rome" exec producer Anne Thomopoulos and Anna Garduno when Garduno attended a panel on chick lit at the West Hollywood Books Fair moderated by Palmer. (Variety)

July 31, 2008

Emma Thompson Gets New Writing Gig

Fresh off the success of her stellar performance as Lady Marchmain in the remake of Brideshead Revisited (I predict a best supporting actress nomination), Thompson is going to pen a new adaptation of the beloved musical My Fair Lady. Columbia Pictures and CBS Films will produce along with Duncan Kenworthy and Cameron Mackintosh.

Academy Award Winner Thompson to Pen Screenplay for "My Fair Lady" Remake (Playbill)

Shame on Conan and Dave

I just noticed the list of writers for the Emmy nominated Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the Late Show with David Letterman.

Know what they have in common? NOT A SINGLE FEMALE WRITER. Shouldn't there be a rule against this? Or at least they at least be shamed publicly? I've done my duty.

Late Night With Conan O'Brien
Mike Sweeney, Head Writer
Chris Albers, Written By
Jose Arroyo, Written By
Dan Cronin, Written By
Kevin Dorff, Written By
Daniel J. Goor, Written By
Michael Gordon, Written By
Berkley Johnson, Written By
Brian Kiley, Written By
Michael Koman, Written By
Brian McCann, Written By
Guy Nicolucci, Written By
Conan O'Brien, Written By
Matt O'Brien, Written By
Brian Stack, Written By
Andrew Weinberg, Written By

Late Show With David Letterman
Eric Stangel, Head Writer
Justin Stangel, Head Writer
Jim Mulholland, Written By
Michael Barrie, Written By
Steve Young, Written By
Tom Ruprecht, Written By
Lee Ellenberg, Written By
Matt Roberts, Written By
Jeremy Weiner, Written By
Joe Grossman, Written By
Bill Scheft, Written By
Bob Borden, Written By
Frank Sebastiano, Written By
David Letterman, Written By

Women at Comic-Con Part 2

Karina Longworth of Spout blog actually attends Comic-Con and had a great post this week that people should check out.

Even though "girls" got a film of their own Twilight which they went wild over, Comic-Con just seems to perpetuate all that's wrong with women in Hollywood.

...panel after panel featured actresses, who should have better things to do, endlessly discussing their own physical attributes, as the young men in the audience continually made it clear that this was all they were interested in. When asked how playing the girlfriend role in the third Mummy film differed from her usual day at the office, Bello answered, “Well, I’m not naked in this film!” Cue the smirking slur from a young gentleman in the crowd: “Wow, that was the wrong thing to say. They just lost my ticket.”

Even as the changing nature of the action/sci-fi/nerdbait landscape may be opening up more opportunities for a Mila Kunis to take a tertiary role in a film like Max Payne (which allows her to “kick some ass in 5 inch heels,” as she crowed to auto-hoots on Day One), protagonist roles for women in such films have become virtually non-existent. There seem to be just enough to keep Angelina Jolie busy every three years or so in between her persistent stabs at a second Oscar.

What we’re seeing is the ghettoization of the female action star to below-the-title, near-disposable status. Even as eye candy, the sex appeal that many of these girls bring to a given film are just one element of an overall production design designed to keep aural erections intact for the duration. The idea of making a film where women actually look sexy, fight crime and are given the agency of real human beings isn’t even on the minds of those filmmakers who have done it before.
Comic-Con Diary: Where the Girls Are

July 30, 2008

Defending Katherine Heigl...Again

What is it about beautiful, opinionated women that makes all of Hollywood (especially the media) want to scream? I guess I shouldn't be surprised, it's not like berating women for speaking up is a new practice. If memory serves me correctly, both Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand got handed a very large can of whooping ass for expressing their personal and political opinions. In Hollywood, you can be a do good political persona ala Angelina Jolie, but having an opinion that might call Hollywood on the carpet, that's a no no.

The person in the center of the current "everyone in Hollywood hates me" storm is Katherine Heigl star of Grey's Anatomy and 27 Dresses. You might recall that earlier this year she had the gaul to say that Knocked Up was sexist (which it was), and for that honesty she was labeled as ungrateful and her film career was declared dead. It's a good thing her fans didn't get that message because the gross of 27 Dresses was $76 million in the US and almost $160 million worldwide.

Recently, she had the nerve to decline to submit herself for Emmy consideration and publicly mentioned that she felt her storyline this past season was unworthy of recognition (another truth.)

Everyone pounced calling her ungrateful (again) and adding that she wants out of her TV contract to make movies. Rumors surfaced (everywhere) that the writers and producers were upset and that the set was full of tension. Many a site began the Izzie death watch. The venom that was displayed was way over the top. People didn't just want her to get fired (for giving an opinion no less), but they wanted her character to die. That's the lesson a woman gets for speaking out about something that honestly is not really important at all -- an Emmy award nomination -- yet people want to punish her in such a profound way. Extrapolating this into real life, if a woman gets punished for speaking out about something as trivial as an award nomination, imagine the message the rest of us get about speaking out about issues like equal pay, choice, get the picture. The message is to shut up and take what you got and don't make waves cause you will be punished. Sound familiar?

It took a while but finally one of her co-stars Chandra Wilson (Dr. Bailey) found her voice and explained to us lay people about the Emmy nomination process. You really need have had a spectacular episode to submit. Some years you have one, some you don't, and if you don't you shouldn't bother submitting.

I didn't find another person in print defending Heigl until I read Mark Harris' column in EW. Harris is the author of the critically acclaimed Pictures at a Revolution. I meant to give him some props for his earlier column that took it to the Hollywood suits for their pathetic realization that women do go to the movies after the success of Sex and the City. Please check out the story: Hollywood 'Shocker': Women Go To Movies.

But his defense of Heigl and women in Hollywood is fantastic. I'm still shocked that there are so few people willing to stand up for this woman? Where are the other Hollywood actresses?

Could there be a worse career move for an actress than telling the truth?

Little has changed, except the coarseness with which celebrities can now be discussed — and the rules actresses must obey. Among them: Have a ''positive body image,'' but also a killer body. Stay within the two-pound weight range that will not reveal you as either anorexic or a pig. Age gracefully, but never get older. Don't have wrinkles, but don't use Botox. Be modest, but when you win an award, weep as if a gold statuette is a personalized gift from heaven. If you get pregnant, be prepared to let a dozen news outlets act as your ob-gyn. Express concern about your carbon footprint, but don't be ''political.'' Talk about how living a normal life is important to you, but smile while every aspect of it is scrutinized.

I like Heigl because there seems to be a person in there, one who occasionally says things that people can't stand. (And really, if she'd said, ''Actually, I do think my material should get me an Emmy nomination,'' would that sound better?) I like the fact that she busted Isaiah Washington for homophobia when everyone behind the scenes at Grey's Anatomy was busy staring into space. I like the fact that she gently tweaked Judd Apatow for the slight gender imbalance in Knocked Up. I like the fact that her first thought after winning an Emmy wasn't ''How can I get another one?'' And I like the fact that her mouth — which is not even slightly ugly — is connected to her brain. Katherine Heigl's 'Grey' Matter: What's the Problem? (EW)
The treatment of Katherine Heigl should be a lesson to all women, and not just in Hollywood. We need to stand up and support each other.

Update: Found this story written about the situation AFTER I posted my piece. Interesting.
What’s wrong with Heigl speaking out? (AP via MSNBC)

TV Likes Older Women

I was traveling so I didn't get to comment on the Emmy nominations. I am excited to see many of my favorites on the list, but I also think it's worthy to note that older women who have disappeared from our movie screens are thriving and being acknowledged for their work on TV.

When anyone asks me why women over 40 are doing better on TV, I give them my standard answer -- advertising. TV is driven by the ads, and anyone in that business knows that women make all the consumer buying decisions. So, they target the ads at women which in turn leads to content that could drive the desired audience to those shows for the ads. Not rocket science. On the other hand, film is driven by opening weekend box office and the 12-24 demo both boys and girls and the ones who come out en masse.

Here are some of the nominees:
Best Comedy Series
One women centric show - 30 Rock starring Tina Fey

Outstanding Drama Series
One women centric show- Damages starring Glenn Close

Where the Women are Missing
Best Directing of a Comedy Series
Best Directing for a Miniseries, Movie of Dramatic Special
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series
30 Rock - Carrie Fisher as Rosemary Howard; Edie Falco as Celeste 'C.C.' Cunningham; Elaine Stritch as Colleen Donaghy
Desperate Housewives- Polly Bergen as Stella Wingfield; Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey
Monk - Sarah Silverman as Marci Maven

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
Big Love - Ellen Burstyn as Nancy Dutton
Grey's Anatomy - Diahann Carroll as Jane Burke
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Cynthia Nixon as Janis Donovan
Medium - Anjelica Huston as Cynthia Keener
Nip/Tuck - Sharon Gless as Colleen Rose

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
30 Rock - Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Samantha Who? - Christina Applegate as Samantha Newly
The New Adventures Of Old Christine - Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Ugly Betty - America Ferrera as Betty Suarez
Weeds - Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Brothers & Sisters - Sally Field as Nora Holden-Walker
Damages - Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson
Saving Grace - Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko
The Closer - Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
A Raisin In The Sun - Phylicia Rashad as Lena Younger
An American Crime - Catherine Keener as Gertrude Baniszewski
Bernard And Doris - Susan Sarandon as Doris Duke
Cranford - Dame Judi Dench as Miss Matty Jenkyns
John Adams - Laura Linney as Abigail Adams

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Pushing Daisies - Kristin Chenoweth as Olive Snook
Samantha Who? - Jean Smart as Regina Newly
Saturday Night Live - Amy Poehler, Performer
Two And A Half Men - Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper
Ugly Betty - Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Boston Legal - Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt
Brothers & Sisters - Rachel Griffiths as Sarah Walker-Whedon
Grey's Anatomy - Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey; Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang
In Treatment - Dianne Wiest as Dr. Gina Toll

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
A Raisin In The Sun - Audra McDonald as Ruth Younger
Cranford (MASTERPIECE) - Dame Eileen Atkins as Miss Deborah Jenkyns
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale - Ashley Jensen as Maggie Jacobs
Pictures Of Hollis Woods (Hallmark Hall Of Fame Presentation) - Alfre Woodard as Edna Reilly
Recount - Laura Dern as Katherine Harris

Emmy nominated women show younger isn't always better (AP via Chicago Sun-Times)

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Mia Farrow

Should have done this a long time ago.

For standing up and speaking out about the genocide in Darfur. She's just been in Burma and Thailand with the Nobel Women's Initiative (a group of female Nobel peace laureates- bet that's a cool group.) Here's their platform:

The Nobel Women’s Initiative seeks:

  • To spotlight the massive violations of women and women’s rights – which are nothing less than human rights – that occur daily and not only have an impact on women individually but also on their families, their communities, and often the entire fabric of a society;
  • To spotlight the struggle for human rights which when recognized and accepted also reinforce efforts to bring about participatory governance in Burma and the Sudan (indeed throughout the world); and
  • To call upon citizens around the world to take individual and collective action to build sustainable peace as well as to insist that the international community implement existing commitments for peace, justice and equality in Burma and Sudan;
We have come to the area of the Thai/Burma border and will continue on to South Sudan and Darfuri refugee camps in Chad,
  • To build alliances with women and women’s organizations there by:
  • Listening to their unique stories, perspectives and experiences;
  • Learning from their work to build sustainable peace in their communities how they see the role of women in actively negotiating peace agreements in their countries and in rebuilding their communities and societies when the conflicts have ended;
  • Conveying their messages to other women’s organizations where we live and work and through our collective networks as well as to the media and to governments at national, regional and international levels; and by
  • Highlighting China’s influential role in these crises
Learn more: Mia Farrow's site and blog
Nobel Women's Initiative
Mia Farrow Pressure China on Burma Rights (AP via SF Chronicle)

July 29, 2008

The Evolution of the "Male" Hollywood Writer

If I was a woman writer in Hollywood I would be up in arms over this story Evolution of a Screenwriter that appeared in last week's Hollywood Reporter. The premise of the story is that people (i.e. - men) who were traditionally known just as screenwriters in the past now have to branch out into new mediums and platforms in order to have successful careers.

The first thing about the story that you can't help but notice is that EVERY SINGLE SCREENWRITER MENTIONED AND INTERVIEWED IS A GUY.

You can't tell me that there is not a single female screenwriter who couldn't be interviewed for this story. That's such bs.

The second thing is that it makes it seem that all anybody is working on is movies about comic books and I find that so pathetically sad.

I am throughly disgusted.

Thanks for the tip, Lee.

Barbra Streisand Talks Politics

A Hollywood woman with strong political opinions. Gotta love her. Here are emails answers she gave to The Politico. But when will we see you onscreen again?

The Politico: You strongly supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Was switching to Sen. Barack Obama difficult?

We had a very deep bench of Democratic Presidential candidates in the primary, and we were very lucky to finally have two capable, dynamic and intelligent candidates vying to be the nominee. Supporting Sen. Obama for President was an immediate decision for me after Sen. Clinton ended her bid for the Democratic nomination. Throughout this process, they challenged each other to be better. It was a historical race, with Hillary breaking through that glass ceiling for all women and Barack inspiring young kids that they can overcome their circumstances to reach greatness.
Will you be doing any concerts to support Obama and the Democrats before the election?
I would absolutely consider performing for Sen. Obama and for the Democratic Party.
What do you say to Hillary’s fans that might be moving to vote for McCain — a figure that’s been estimated to be as high as 15 percent of her supporters?
I would urge those voters to take a step back and realize that our country is at an extremely serious crossroad . . . . There is too much at stake right now to elect another George W. Bush to the White House. And John McCain is just that. He has stated that the issue of economics is not something he’s understood as well as he should. He does not support reproductive rights for women, increased veteran’s benefits and ending the war in Iraq. There is just no reason for Sen. Clinton’s supporters not to back Sen. Obama.
Read the full interview (The Politico)
photo credit: Glenn Harris/Photorazzi

Honoring a Theatrical Pioneer

Barbara Ann Teer the founder of the National Black Theatre which she ran for 40 years, and one of the strong forces in the black theatre, died last week. Her funeral in Harlem attracted 700 people including politicians like Charlie Rangel and former mayor David Dinkins.

From the NY Times: Ms. Teer, a Harlem fixture who served as nurturer, gadfly and inspirational mother superior, was a passionate, articulate advocate for black culture and black artists, speakers said. And her life was a celebration of being “free, open and black,” as she used to put it.
For Champion of Black Theater, a Salute in Harlem’s Streets (NY Times)

July 28, 2008

Women at Comic-Con

The geek fest better known as Comic-Con was held this last weekend in San Diego. It used to be that guys and guy films dominated, but no more. This year women made up 40% of attendees and the upcoming Catherine Hardwicke film Twilight based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer has the women present in a frenzy and the guy critics scratching their heads. Anne Thompson at Variety asks: Twilight: Will Male Critics Ever Understand Its Femme Appeal?

Here's what she writes when discussing the dismal stats released last week about female film critics:

And the coverage that movies with femme appeal do get from male critics is not the necessarily as positive or understanding as that from female critics. Mamma, Mia! and Sex in the City would be recent examples. Why would a guy particularly engage with a romantic comedy like 27 Dresses? Professional film critics will argue that it is their job to know how to review such a movie. Let's put it this way. Some men are better able to adopt the female POV, and tap into their femme side, than others. Many men are not trained to do see things from the perspective of the opposite sex. All women are.

That's one reason why today's movies are so geared toward men, while women starve for material aimed at them. Women are accustomed to going along and accepting slim pickings in pictures by and about men. Even at Comic-Con, there's a sense that female fans are yearning for romance. The screaming response to Twilight's Brit heartthrob Robert Pattinson was enormous. He could be the next Leo di Caprio after Titanic, if Twilight hits as big as I suspect it will.
I agree with Anne. One problem I find is that women critics don't necessarily want to be known as women critics, just like I've met many women directors who don't want to be known as women directors. News flash -- if things were equal it would be ok if you wanted to just be known as a critic or a director and it would be awesome. But in my world no matter what we want to believe women critics and women directors can't escape the "woman" label. We have to understand that we might be seeing a film from a different perspective and not think that it makes us less than, it just makes us different. And we need to support other women. I'm not saying that you should write a good review for a bad movie, but I am saying that we should try and review movies the guys might dismiss and not be interested in just because they come from a female perspective. That shouldn't be too hard.

Here's a report from USA Today on Comic-Con
Otter represents another shift in the comic-book movie universe: an influx of women. Over the years, female attendance at Comic-Con has grown, this year reaching a record of nearly 40%, perhaps reflecting increasing involvement of women in the filmmaking.

"It was getting depressing," says Rose McGowan, who will play the title comic-book vixen in Red Sonja, due in 2010. "I was getting scripts to play the straight man to the straight man. But lately, we're seeing more scripts that allow us to kick (butt). Comic books have always been good about it, and now movies seem to be catching on."

Deborah Del Prete, producer of Frank Miller's Spirit, has been coming to Comic-Con since she was 8 years old. Usually, she was asked if she was looking for Wonder Woman comics.

"Now they ask me what I'm working on," she says. "We're seeing a partnership in making these movies we never saw before. I say it's about time people recognize women enjoy comics and comic-book movies as much as any other fan."

Mila Kunis, who plays an assassin in the video game adaptation Max Payne, says Hollywood is finally mirroring the times.

"If you ask me, they're a little slow in catching up with the rest of the world," she says. "I'm really glad for movies like Wanted and Underworld, because it's casting us as mainstream heroes.

"But come on. It wasn't that long ago when we thought a woman was going to be the Democratic nominee for president. We should have been at this place a long time ago."

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Halle Berry

For standing up to the paparazzi.
Halle Berry pushes back against paparazzi (AP)

July 27, 2008

Mad Men Season Premiere Tonight!

When Mad Men aired last summer I wanted nothing to do with it. Why would I waste my time watching a show about guys treating women like objects, and women stuck in conventional pre-feminist roles. Yuck. Boring.

But then people started talking, buzz started building, critics started writing, Golden Globes were won, and me, not wanting to miss out on something cool, decided to check it out. I was addicted within five minutes. I loved every episode. It is so well written, so well acted, and so extremely scary to see a time really not that long ago, yet seems like another century. It is surreal and at moments feels like science fiction.

What is so interesting about the show is that it reveals how uncomfortable everyone is. The men act happy and hide behind their drinking and role playing, but their misery shines through. Elizabeth Moss (who played Zoe in The West Wing) is the female center of the show as Peggy Olson. She spent last season as secretary to Jon Hamm's character, Don Draper, but was a talented writer and worked her way to junior copywriter, and gave birth to slimy Pete's kid without realizing she was pregnant. (Far fetched even for the early 60s. And her fat suit was really bad.)

I am excited to see where they take Peggy this season and even more excited that lots of the press has been focused on the amazing women of Mad Men.
From today's NY Daily News:

"The women are the broken mirror the men look through," says the show's creator, Matthew Weiner. "They have levels to them, but less of a mask on. They know when to whisper, and when not to."

The return of "Mad Men," which was recently nominated for 16 Emmy Awards (it previously won Golden Globes for Best Drama and Best Actor for Hamm), provides an opportunity for its three pivotal females to address the slowly changing mores of the time.
From the LA Times
But while they are marginalized, the women of "Mad Men" are no mere archetypes. They are complicated, glamorous, ambitious and stifled in a way that women in 1960s television never were. With 48 years of hindsight behind their creation, they are marginalized in a particularly subtle way, so that viewers might not even realize they are riveted by their struggles.
Best comment that shows how far we still have to go:
On the other hand, they said people still say shockingly sexist and politically incorrect things in public. Jones, for instance, recently found life imitating a "Mad Men" scene. She said she was in an elevator with some men exactly as some characters were in a Season 2 scene, and the men were making the same sort of sexist remarks about women, as if there was no woman in the elevator.
Check it out tonight at 10pm on AMC. You will not be disappointed.
photo credit: Genaro Molina- LA Times

Have Judd Apatow and Company Lost Their Way?

Maybe. Finally. Hopefully.

Having less than no interest in seeing Step Brothers I was intrigued by Manohla Dargis' review in the NY Times which seems to ask the question, have we seen enough of this crap?

What’s distinct about the recent cycle of comic juvenilia are its contemporary contours — male camaraderie and self-actualization combined with raunchy guffaws and a preoccupation with women that doesn’t extend to giving them interesting roles — and the ease with which its prominent practitioners are willing to recycle their own laughs to increasingly diminished ends.

That few girls and fewer credible women are allowed in the Apatow boys’ club is old news. The only distaff comedy here is provided by the enthusiastic Kathryn Hahn, who as Derek’s pitifully desperate wife, Alice, makes dexterous use of a bathroom urinal.
These guys still have Pineapple Express coming out in the coming weeks so there will be more talk about them. Yuck.

Oh, and Mary Steenburgen plays Will Ferrell's mom even though she is just 13 years older than him. Double yuck. (thanks Liz Chesney)