September 28, 2007

Friday, September 28

Film of the week

Feminist producer Roz Heller's latest film Trade, a cautionary tale of human trafficking, opens today. For more information including theatre locations: Trade

Trade is not an easy movie to watch -- which makes it all the more important to do so. The State Department estimates that 800,000 people -- 80% women and 50% children -- are trafficked across international borders each year. At last estimate, at least 10,000 are being smuggled into the US annually. These women and children are procured by a variety of means, some are stolen off the street, some are sold by family members, and some are duped with a promise of a better life.

Trade follows the story of Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), a happy 13-year old girl who is stolen off her bike while riding around her neighborhood in Mexico. The bike, which she received as a birthday gift from her brother, upset her mother because she knew the danger her daughter could be in while riding alone on the streets. But her brother, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), a petty criminal who shakes down tourists promising sex with minors, has no idea the danger he has put her in.

After Adriana's abduction Jorge sets out to get her back and relies on his street savvy to do so not realizing the global implications -- he just wants his sister back. On his journey he meets Ray (Kevin Kline) a Texas cop, on his own search and they become uneasy partners to recover Adriana in the short window they have before she disappears forever.

German director Marco Kreuzpainter using mostly handheld camera brings us on their journey from Mexico across the border all the way to the stash house in New Jersey where Adriana will be sold online to the highest bidder.

The most painful and harrowing scenes are the sex scenes because they are not about sex, but about rape. The scenes are extremely well done and because you know what happens you don't need to see anything -- the director leaves it to your imagination -- and retains the dignity of the victims. An example of this is when Adriana is sold for the first time you see pulled into a bed of reeds, which serves as a kind of hidden sex shanty town. The toilet paper hanging, and the scared faces of the kids is enough for you to know what goes on the cardboard planks between the reeds.

Because the film world is lately so fixated on escapist entertainment, it might be difficult to engage audiences in this film. Hopefully, it will have a long life as an educational tool, because the most important message is that this is happening right under our noses and we look the other way and don't do anything about it. It's time we woke up as a culture and decided that we are not going to tolerate the selling women and children for others sexual pleasure. It's sick and wrong and governments across the world need to take this much more seriously.

Bionic Woman and Private Practice got off to good starts in their premiere outings on Wednesday. Bionic Woman Kicks in for NBC (Hollywood Reporter via Reuters)

Bonnie Hunt eyes TV talk show for '08 (Reuters via Washington Post)

Producer Lynda Obst along with Marc Rosen have signed a first look TV deal with CBS Paramount Network Television.

Interview with Julie Taymor on Across the Universe (playing now in theatres.)
Julie Taymor (Huffington Post)

In what promises to be the first of many kudos for her performance in La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard will win the breakthrough award at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January.

A preview of the new 2.5 hour documentary on abortion by American X director, Tony Kaye which will be released in NY next Friday. (full review next week) Hot Head Plays it Cool with Lake of Fire (Hollywood Reporter via Reuters)

Oprah is the highest paid TV celebrity. It's official, she has more money than God. Oprah earns four times more than other TV stars

September 23, 2007

Thursday, September 27

What the F#@k?

NY Magazine puts four male directors on the cover with the headline "The New York Wave, The Return of the New York Auteur"

Why is it that auteur so freely used only to describe male directors?

Interesting, that the story about Noah Baumbach is about the creative marriage between Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

It's Jenna Elfman day - Elfman will again collaborate with her Dharma and Greg co-creator Dottie Dartland Zicklin on Literary Superstar where Elfman will play a literary publicist. Elfman has also signed on to co-star with Tim Allen in The Six Wives of Henry Lefay. Other actresses in the film are Andie MacDowell, Paz Vega, Kelli Garner and S. Epatha Merkerson.

I know these actresses need jobs but the premise of former wives fighting over the will of their husband who they think is dead sounds dreadful.

Universal has bought Replacing the Nanny a comedy pitch from Marcy Kaplan which Scott Stuber and Mary Parent will produce from a script by Kaplan. (Variety)

The 15th Hampton's Fest takes place oct 17-21. Some notable screenings include: the Doris Duke biopic Bernard and Doris starring Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes, August Rush directed by Kirsten Sheridan, Alison Eastwood's Rails & Ties and Tamra Jenkins' Savages. Vanessa Redgrave will receive a lifetime achievement award.

Pat Kingsley the super-publicist to the stars is stepping down as chairperson and CEO of PMK/HBH after thirty years.

Interview with Jamie Babbit- director of But I'm a Cheerleader and Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Jamie Babbit (After Ellen)

TV Tonight
Season premieres: Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty.

Interesting Quote

"I think there probably remains an underlying discomfort in this country with women in power." Katie Couric at the National Press Club this week


TV Tonight
Series Premieres- Shonda Rhimes continues her domination of ABC with the launch of Private Practice. Buzz is that the first show is so-so but will improve dramatically in the coming weeks. Also launching is the Bionic Woman remake (see yesterday's review). Neither show has been well reviewed but I wouldn't count out either especially Private Practice.

From today's NY Times review on both shows:

NBC’s show, which is more about fembot martial arts and slick Matrix-ish special effects than about character development, is oriented toward young male viewers. There is no such excuse for ABC’s Private Practice, a spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy, which is also on tonight and supposedly offers a postfeminist sensibility that is more playful and palatable than the overearnest women’s lib of the Lindsay Wagner generation.

Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery (Kate Walsh), a top-notch surgeon, has left Seattle to heal her broken heart in Los Angeles, where her best friend has founded a private wellness clinic. She is no longer surrounded by the kind of strong, tough, ambitious surgeons played by Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson. Instead her new colleagues collectively offer one of the most depressing portrayals of the female condition since The Bell Jar.


3rd La Femme International Film Festival which focuses on women filmmakers highlighting their commerical releases for a worldwide audience. Fest runs from Oct 11-14 in LA. Gala on Oct 14 will celebrate the work of Martha Coolidge, Rosanna Arquette and Lea Thompson and Sara Risher. La Femme

The FX cable channel has handed out a series commitment to Queen B, a female workplace drama from the creator of Nip/Tuck Queen B (Hollywood Reporter via Reuters)

The gala royal performance of Sarah Gavron's Brick Lane based on the book by Monica Ali has been canceled for the first time since 1958. The filming was protested last year and it looks like Prince Charles wants to stay away from controversy (except of his own making) Film will show at London Film Fest. Royal Pulls Out of Gala

"Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren and Robin Wright Penn have joined the cast of State of Play also starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Jason Bateman (he has had an amazing career revitalization over the last two years).

McAdams will play a reporter in the middle of a career-making story, as her newspaper investigates the death of the mistress of a fast-rising congressman. Mirren will play the newspaper's steely editor. Wright Penn will play the congressman's estranged wife. She becomes romantically involved with the pol's former campaign manager (Pitt), who leads the newspaper's investigative team. Norton plays the congressman and Bateman plays the other lead reporter." (Variety)

"Universal Pictures has set Jennifer Aniston to star with Aaron Eckhart in Traveling, a drama that marks the directing debut of Brandon Camp. Aniston will play a floral designer who works in a Seattle hotel where a charismatic self-help guru is conducting a weekend seminar on coping with grief. As they get to know each other, she factors heavily into the guru's realization that he practices none of the principles he teaches." (Variety)


Preview Review - The Bionic Woman
Tomorrow night is the premiere of one of the few new fall shows with a female lead. I'm a big fan of David Eick, Executive Producer of Battlestar Galactica, who is brains behind this show too. The premise is the pretty much the same as the original Bionic Woman, Jamie Sommers here played by English actress Michelle Ryan is injured in a devastating car crash and several of her body parts are replaced with bionics. Mind you these are not 1970s bionics, but 2007 bionics -- so the action scenes are quicker and way cooler than the version with Lindsay Wagner.

The show is great from an action perspective especially all the scenes with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar), as rebel bionic woman Sarah Corvus in them, but the biggest problem (and I don't know how they are going to solve it) is with Michelle Ryan. She is just terrible and stiff. Hopefully, she will relax as the season progresses. I was also pissed off that the first major action sequence is a fight between the two Bionic women. I guess a Bionic girlfight will make the guys happy.


The Madcat Women's International Festival is happening this week in SF. We is an interview with curator Ariella Ben-Dov. Madcat

I love and respect Dr. Martha Lauzen, the professor at San Diego State University who tracks women working in the film and TV industries. Here is a profile of her. Love the first paragraph.

"Martha Lauzen won't divulge her age, her marital or familial status, even her history on the faculty at San Diego State University. They are inquiries, she says, on which women for too long have been judged."
Full article from the Bend Weekly: Lauzen is Keeping an Eye on Hollywood

Jessica Biel is in talks to play Wonder Woman in the new Justice League movie.

Sally Field has supposedly signed to play Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Liam Neeson in Steven Spielbery's adaptation
of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

TV Tonight

Series Premiere
Cane about a Cuban American family in South Florida starring Jimmy Smits and a predominantly Latino cast including Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno. It was created by Cynthia Cidre the screenwriter of the Mambo Kings. Jimmy Smits said this about the show and its creator: "Cynthia is somebody I respect, whose voice is authentic." (EW)

Season Premieres

Law & Order SVU- Cynthia Nixon guest stars as a woman suspected of abandoning her child.

DVD Releases
Black Book- Paul Verhoeven goes back to his native Netherlands to tell the story of a jewish singer in hiding from the Nazis who fall in love with a Nazi officer. Very good movie. (subtitled)
Evening- read my earlier review on the Huffington Post: Evening

Anti-woman confirmation of the week
Diet confessions of the stars from US Magazine

"I basically stuck with fruit, vegetables and fish [to slim down doe The Devil Wears Prada]. I wouldn't reccomed that. Emily Blunt and I would clutch at each other and cry because we were so hungry." Anne Hathaway

"I have often felt there was a lot of pressure on me to look good...It's like they pay me not to eat. It's living hell." Marcia Cross

Monday, September 24

Box Office Roundup
Milla Jovovich topped the weekend box office at 24 million with her zombie romp Resident Evil: Extinction; number two was the Jessica Alba romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck. Jodie Foster was third with The Brave One. Amanda Bynes' Sydney White debuted at #6. The Jane Austen Book Club opened on 25 screens for a total of $160,520 with a per screen average of $6,421. It goes to 40 on Friday and 1,000 on October 5.

I'm not too keen on many of the new shows this season, but I do like Heroes which starts its sophmore season tonight. The show has just hired its first female writer - J.J. Philbin (yes, she is Regis' daughter) I want to know how it is allowed that a major TV show where half the characters are women had no women in the writers room. If anyone has an answer other than that's the way things go in Hollywood, email me at

Annette Bening has dropped out of the Broadway bound production of Joanne Murray Smith's The Female of the Species. She was to play a feminist (yes, that word is actually in the description) literary giant with writers bloack whose life unravels when a fan knocks on her door. (Variety) A plum role for someone like Frances McDormand? Sigourney Weaver? Glenn Close?

Whoopi Ratings: The View has not suffered under Whoopi. According to Variety: "After two weeks, "The View" under Goldberg is averaging 3.5 million total viewers, a 7% increase from 3.3 million under O'Donnell last season."

Cindy Chupack late of Sex and the City will create a new Romantic Comedy anthology series for NBC with producer JoAnn Alfano.

Look for Marlo Thomas to guest star on an upcoming episode of Ugly Betty.

Robin Swicord and Women Directors at Toronto

Robin Swicord on The Jane Austen Book Club: Robin Swicord is the writer and director of the new film The Jane Austen Book Club. She talks about being one of a relatively few female directors in Hollywood — and what it's like to make the transition from screenwriter to director.

"Anytime a woman makes a movie with a female protagonist you run the risk of having people call it a chick flick. it's a way of marginalizing women."
Listen: Filming the Jane Austen Book Club

Missed this article on the directing gender gap published during the Toronto Film Festival. For those who follow this issue closely, the arguments here are familiar and are written at least once a year by some reporter somewhere. The more important question to ask is when will someone actually do something about it?

Some choice quotes:

"Screenwriter, producer and director Robin Swicord has been a player in the movie business a lot longer than her list of credits would suggest. "I can't really believe it really happened," she says of The Jane Austen Book Club, the first film to bear her name as director, "especially considering that there have been so many films I've tried to get made for a long time."

"Now in her 50s, Swicord has written many more screenplays than those that got made (including Little Women, The Perez Family, Memoirs of a Geisha and Matilda). She was paid for them, but that's not the point. "You're writing in order to make a film."

"She likens the usual course for a screen project to "pushing a rock up the hill, pushing it up the hill and (the movie) either never gets made, or 20 years later someone else makes it."


"Further analysis uncovered a complex set of obstacles for women: as writers and directors, they don't tend to get agents easily, possibly because agents tend to pick those candidates with the best career options.


"What will finally change things for women in the big studios, suggests television and film professor Martha Lauzen, who conducts the annual survey of women directors and writers at San Diego State University, is a different view in the marketing departments where green-lighting decisions are made.

"I don't think the female audience in film or television has been valued by the powers that be. The assumption is that women will watch male-driven stories as well as men, but men will only watch male-driven stories. I think that's a bit of wishful thinking, but I think that's why there haven't been as many female-driven stories."

Women on Top of Film World