October 31, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

I'm in LA this weekend to moderate a panel on women film bloggers at the Women in Film Entertainment forum so things are light today and there will be no weekly email.

No new women centric releases. Changeling goes wide.

NY and LA see - I've Loved You So Long.

Films Remaining in Theatres
The Secret Life of Bees
Rachel Getting Married
Nights at Rodanthe
The Duchess
Trouble the Water
Mamma Mia!
The Longshots

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Greta Scacchi

For her honesty and optimism

The lack of good roles for older women in film or on stage is an enduring problem.
"We're not seeing much of a change from that Jane Austen view that the important thing for a woman is getting the right partner and everything is interesting up until that point," she says. "Perhaps there was some truth in Jane Austen's days about your lot being predictable after you'd gone past marrying age. Nowadays, you see a whole new interpretation of life after 45 for women but it's not reflected in the writing."

Yet she remains optimistic, confident that the pressure is building for stories that relate to the lives of those ignored by the youth-oriented, dumbed-down market with its staple diet of coming-of-age tales and frothy romance.

"I'm glad to be this age at this time," she says. "When it comes to theatre and cinema audiences, our generation likes going to the theatre - we're not sitting at home knitting. We want to go out to the cinema … there's a market for more grown-up stories about these exciting women today."
Queen for day, woman for life (Brisbane Times)
photo: Insidefoto/PR Photos

Suzan Lori Parks is the First Public Theatre Master Writer

The Public Theatre in NY with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has named playwright Suzan-Lori Parks as the first recipient of the Master Writer Chair position.

From the press statement: the grant will "provide an artistic home and support for established playwrights whose work has set the standard for the highest level of achievement in theatre,"

Parks will also be a professor of dramatic writing at NYU.
Suzan-Lori Parks Named Public Theater Master Writer Chair (Playbill)

Equality Watch: Tribeca Institute Awards Filmmaker Grants

The Tribeca Institute announced the first recipients of its Sloan Awards for filmmaking. The Sloan awards focus on science topics.

Out of the five awards two are to women
Amy Redford for Face Value about actress Hedy Lamarr’s career as an inventor
Kathryn Maughan screenplay about Marie Curie A Noble Affair.

Looks like there are more women involved than the story indicated- here are the additional women involved

Face Value
Gretchen Somerfeld Screenwriter

Kitty Hawk
Lucy Barzun Donnelly

The Radioactive Boy Scout
Danielle Renfrew Producer
Tribeca awards 5 film grants (Variety)

October 30, 2008

Who Says Women are Not a Market?

Mamma Mia has just become the highest grossing British film in the UK. (It qualifies as a British film under their crazy rules.)

Total box office take so far -- $109.9 million. Ir recently surpassed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and they think it will knock off Titanic. (how these all qualify as British films I don't know)

'Mamma' top-grossing British film in the U.K.

Femme Castings

  • Amy Adams will star in the indie drama Daughter of the Queen of Sheba. Script is by Karen Croner based on the bio of NPR correspondent Jacki Lyden, centers on how a woman uses her mother's madness and delusions to empower herself. (Variety)

  • Anne Hathaway will star in the romantic comedy The Fiance playing a woman who cancels wedding plans and breaks up with her seemingly perfect fiance so she can try to figure out who she really is. Her meddling parents try to patch things up between the pair, making it impossible for her to move on. (Variety)
  • Naomi Watts is in negotiations to topline "My Name Is Jody Williams," that Audrey Wells wrote and will direct. Film is the true story of Jody Williams, a strong-willed teacher working for a temporary employment agency who left her life in Washington to pursue an unlikely career in global activism. Almost a decade and a half later, Williams was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for leading an international campaign to eradicate land mines. (HR)
  • Anna Paquin has been tapped to star in "The Irena Sendler Story," a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation for CBS. Paquin will play Sendler, a Polish woman credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jewish children during World War II. Sendler, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, died in May at age 98. (HR)
  • Amy Pietz has been tapped for the title role in Lifetime's drama pilot "The Amazing Mrs. Novak." Based on the six-part U.K. series "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," centers on Trish Novak (Pietz), a supermarket manager who unexpectedly becomes the governor of New Jersey. Vanessa Taylor is the project's writer-showrunner. She exec produces with Carolyn Bernstein, Jane Featherstone and Stephen Garrett. (HR)
  • Rachael Taylor, Amanda Walsh and "quarterlife" star Bitsie Tulloch have landed the female leads in Washingtonienne HBO's comedy pilot from "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker. Based on the semi-autobiographical book by Jessica Cutler about the sexploits of a low-level female congressional staffer with powerful men on Capitol Hill, it revolves around the professional and personal lives of three smart, sophisticated 28-year-old girls working on the Hill. Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz penned the script for "Washingtonienne" and are exec producing with Parker, Parker's producing partner Alison Benson, Sarah Condon and Stacy Traub. (HR)
  • Lifetime has lined up Cybill Shepherd and Faye Dunaway to play grandmothers in the first two of its four movie adaptations of Nora Roberts novels. Shepherd will star in "High Noon" along with Emilie de Ravin and Ivan Sergei, while Dunaway will be joined in "Midnight Bayou" by Jerry O'Connell and Lauren Stamile. (HR)

Equality Watch: NEA Funds 7 New Plays

From the Washington Post:

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced the selection of seven plays to be funded as part of its New Play Development Program. The pilot project, which is being administered by Arena Stage, is designed not only to underwrite new works already in progress but also to spot successful collaborations among artists, theaters, communities and other entities that might be used as models.
The largest grants - $90,000- went to male playwrights. Shocker. Of the five $20,000 development grants -- two-- went to women. Claudia Rankine and Aditi Brennan Kapil.

Percentage of women - 35%
NEA to Nurture 7 Varied New Plays

October 29, 2008

Equality Watch: International Documentary Association Nominations

I've been told by a variety of people for stories I've written that the documentary world is pretty much 50/50, and that at times women directors and women's stories dominate the festivals. I'm no documentary expert but looking at the list of the feature nominees for the International Documentary Association annual awards there is nary a women's story of a female director. My biggest question is: where is Trouble the Water one of the most popular docs of the year from a critical and public perspective.

I guess people will say that the short section is dominated by women (four out of the five) but I don't think that cuts it.
Short female nominees:
"Kicks Like a Girl," directed by Jenny Mackenzie
"La Corona," directed by Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
"Smile Pinki," directed by Megan Mylan
"Tongzhi in Love," directed by Ruby Yang

The three achievement awards will also be given to men.

Women documentarians - what do you think?
"Kassim," "Wire," "Stranded," "Waltz" and "Young" Compete for IDA Honors (Indiewire)

Roseanne -- 20 Years Later

Can you believe Roseanne premiered 20 years ago? Think we would see a woman like Roseanne on TV today? Fat and outspoken. Forget the outspoken part. Think about the fat part. She was fat, not just overweight. She was obese as was John Goodman. The kids were skinny which to me was always a bit unrealistic cause I don't really remember any shows where the girls dealt with how their mom's weight affected them.

Women on TV today are so skinny. Remember the show Less Than Perfect that ran a couple of years ago? That was supposedly a show about a "full-sized" young woman. Sara Rue was no full-sized woman -- she was like an 8 or a 10. I guess to TV, that's full-sized.

The issues that the show covered and dealt with are now just ignored or brushed under the rug. I find it amazing and pathetic that the show was NEVER nominated for an Emmy during its run.

EW gathered the cast as well as execs and creatives for a reunion (some going on the record for the first time.) The early part of the story focuses on the early controversy between Roseanne and Matt Williams who got the Writers Guild credit for creating the show much to Roseanne's disgust and wrath. She, of course, was deemed crazy and difficult (which she probably was) but she was also fighting for herself and her life. This was a depiction of her life. They threatened to fire her multiple times.

Roseanne: I was crying all the time. They said, ''Oh, we're going to fire you off the show.'' George Clooney put this sign on my door, where it said, ''Roseanne Barr.'' He took that name tag out and put ''Valerie Harper'' instead because she had just been fired off her own show [Valerie]. I will always love George for that. They were compiling this list of all the offensive things I had done to fire me.
Some issues that the show dealt with that we wouldn't see on TV today include: birth-control, PMS, getting your period, the lesbian kiss (ok- you'll see this one). I still remember what a big deal the lesbian kiss episode was. Everyone watched it.

Lecy Goranson (played Becky): I can't tell you how many women my age have said that they were watching [the birth-control episode] with their mom and then looked over at each other and were like, ''Okay, we should talk about it.''

Amy Sherman-Palladino (was a writer on the show for three seasons): They would not let you do that story today. I think that was the real amazing thing about it. Keeping true to those characters and true to life was everything. It was never about, Let's break ground! Because that's the kind of thought process that brings up bulls---, contrived stories.

Roseanne sums the legacy of the up best:
It's more relevant now than it was then. I'm very proud of its timelessness, and the fact that it has a political edge that is even more relevant now than it was then. I'm proud of the fact that it's never gone off the air for 20 years.
A Roseanne Family Reunion

Equality Watch: Variety's 10 Actors to Watch

6 are women? Am I dreaming. (Gotta say the women on the list are way more interesting that the guys.)

Melissa Leo- Frozen River
Viola Davis- Doubt
Kat Dennings- Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Rebecca Hall- vicky Cristina Barcelona
Taraji P. Henson- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mia Wasikowska- Defiance

October 28, 2008

Mira Nair Film Freaks Out the UN

Eight high profile film directors from Wim Wenders to Gus Van Sant to Jane Campion recently premiered their collaboration 8 in which each "director takes a different angle to show how poverty, climate change, lack of access to education and basic health facilities are affecting the world's needy but also those living in the rich West."

But Mira Nair's film about a Muslim woman who leaves her family for a married man caused the sponsoring UN organization UNDP to pull its support after producers refused to censor her portion on the film.

Nair reacting to the controversy

Nair, in Rome to promote "8," defended her choice, saying it was about a woman's right to express herself.

"It's a storm in a teacup frankly. It's not what the film deserved," she said.

"My film is inspired by a true story and was written by the person who lived that story. Freedom does not come neatly packaged. It comes with pain," she said.

"I also wanted to make the film because of the reaction in the West to any woman who lives under a hijab or a burqa. They are usually identified as women who have no rights and are submissive ... which is completely untrue."
Top film-makers focus on poverty, despite U.N. row (Reuters)
photo: Martin Schoeller

Movies I Want to See: Incendiary

Today marks the beginning of a new feature here at Women & Hollywood -- Movies I Want to See. This feature will cover films that have been seen at film festivals or other finished films that don't have release dates here in the US.

The first film is Incendiary which premiered at Sundance and recently played at the London Film Festival. It stars Michelle Williams as a woman who loses her son in a London terrorist attack and is directed by Sharon Maguire who directed the first Bridget Jones' Diary.

Check out the trailer:

Sharon Maguire turns her focus to Osama bin Laden in Incendiary (The Times)

What Do You Think About TV This Season?

Big disappointment to me. Haven't committed to many new shows. I watched one episode of the Ex-List -- which has just been canceled by CBS-- (now I can clear the other episodes out of my DVR without guilt) and I thought it sucked. Poor Elizabeth Reaser. Could they have made her wear any skimpier clothing and act more like an idiot. The woman is talented but needs a good vehicle.

Best show of the year: FRINGE- hands down. Love this show. Watch it every week right away (which I hardly do at all) Anna Torv is awesome and I love all the mysteries and am intrigued by the "pattern."

Happy surprise: Rita Rocks- I thought Lifetime was crazy to air five shows last week while rolling out the show but I have to say that I really enjoyed the show. I watched all the episodes this weekend and love the cast chemistry especially the chemistry between star Nicole Sullivan and her husband played by Richard Ruccolo.

Shows losing their luster for me include: Lipstick Jungle, House (I am so tired of his obnoxiousness); Entourage

Shows I still looove: Cold Case, Law & Order SVU; Bones; Grey's Anatomy

Don't forget: Season Premiere of 30 Rock this Thursday night.

photo credit Nicole Sullivan: Glenn Harris/Photorazzi

October 27, 2008

Women Playwrights Demand Equality

Big props to playwrights Julia Jordan and Sarah Schulman for organizing women playwrights in NY to discuss sexism in the NY theatre. This evening 150 women will be holding a discussion (which I will be attending) with some of the artistic directors of the NY off-Broadway theatres to discuss how to get more women's voices on the marquees.

Contending that their male counterparts in the 2008-9 season are being produced at 14 of the largest Off Broadway institutions at four times the rate that women are (40 plays by men; 10 by women)
And bigger props to my bud playwright Theresa Rebeck for having the guts to go on the record about the sexism:
I personally don’t think playwriting is a gene on a Y chromosome,...Many of our male peers find the debate intolerable. Men in the community seem to think that everything is fine.”...Ms. Rebeck said that male friends “in the system say to me I have to keep my mouth shut; don’t be part of the problem, don’t be a whiner.”
They clearly count on women being too afraid to speak out. It takes people who have clout (like Rebeck) to take a stand. And no, that's not easy. Other women need to stand with her and support her.

Some of the genius artistic directors really showed the glass houses they live in especially Lincoln Center's Andre Bishop who made the genius statement:
Most artistic directors are men, and they don’t relate to or connect with women as much as men,” “I try to think about these things all the time, but I don’t, because I’m a pathetic mortal.
I think he is just plain pathetic and condescending.

Carole Rothman, artistic director and founder of Second Stage, who in the past was known as a stalwart supporter of female artists said:
“Is there a cultural bias against women? I don’t know,” she said, but either way, “People don’t care.”
People. Don't. Care. Wow. I believe that people don't know and that they do care once they learn about the issues. Do we really want a theatre world dominates by males voices and visions? I'm shocked at the narrowmindedness of these so-called culture leaders. These people have influence over what we see in the theatre all across the country. If they produce a show at their theatre it has a much greater chance of being produced somewhere else.

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo also went on the record:
She had been told that her characters were unlikable. “I wonder if Neil LaBute hears this,” she said of a playwright known for his corrosive depictions of human nature. She also suggested that women’s plays often do not resolve as conclusively as those by men, and that they do not follow the Aristotelian model of drama, which makes directors uncomfortable.
I find this fascinating. Women filmmakers have some of the same issues. Women and men write differently because we are different and have different experiences. Is it maybe that all the models that we think work are male models? It's not rocket science. If we want a culture to reflect ALL the participants we need to figure out a way to have ALL women's voices (not just white women) heard.

Charging Bias by Theaters, Female Playwrights to Hold Meeting (NY Times)


What is Wrong With This Picture?

How can a conversation moderated by Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker Magazine that covers "indie film past, present and future" be convened without a single woman? The participants were: Josh Braun, Matt Dentler, Ira Deutchman, Ted Hope, Lars Knudsen, and Jay Van Hoy.


Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Ellen Degeneres

For using her show to denounce Sarah Palin's support of a federal ban on gay marriage.

Ellen has become increasingly political recently and the folks at After Ellen explain her effectiveness:

What makes Ellen's move from famously nonpolitical to outspoken advocate so extraordinary is that she has been able to do it without becoming polarizing. No one brings up Ellen's name when mentioning activist celebrities, nor does she get the derision sometimes heaped on stars like Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and even fellow out comedian Rosie O'Donnell. And I think the reason for this is simple: Ellen has spent all these years on her show being disarmingly likable. And now, quite simply, people trust her.

Hat tip- After Ellen