October 5, 2007

October 5, 2007

David Denby - A Fine Romance

My New Yorker's are usually the last magazine in the pile (aside from the NY Times magazine), so I am very late to this past summer's (July 23rd issue) piece by David Denby on how Knocked Up has shifted the whole genre of the romantic comedy. (I would link to it, but for some stupid reason The New Yorker only makes limited archives available.)

The overall thrust of the piece is that in today's romantic comedy ala Judd Apatow, the woman and the man are not working from a place of equality like they were in earlier versions of the genre from the screwball comedies of the 1930s all the way through the Woody Allen comedies of the 1970s.

I couldn't agree more. While I did find Knocked Up to be quite funny, I also found it very disturbing because the comedy was so guy-centric without caring at all about the female character aside from showing that there is no way these two should be together because she was competent and ambitious and he was a stoner an his job (unpaid) was to create a porn site.

But this reality has become quite typical 21st century Hollywood - stories about guys, told by guys and the woman is thrown in because they need to get laid.

Here are some interesting quotes:

Knocked Up, written and directed by Judd Apatow, is the culminating version of this story, and it feels like one of the key movies of the era- a raw, discordant equivalent of The Graduate forty years ago. I've seen it with audiences in their twenties and thirties, and the excitement in the theatres is palpable- the audience is with the movie all the way, and, afterward, many of the young men (though not always the young women) say that it's not only funny but true.
The louts in the slacker-striver comedies should probably lose the girl, too, but most of them don't. Yet what, exactly, are they getting, and why should the women want them? That is not a question that romantic comedy has posed before.
What's striking about Knocked Up is the way the romance is placed within the relations between the sexes.
All the movies in this genre have been written and directed by men, and it's as if the filmmakers were saying, 'Yes, young men are children now, and women bring home the bacon, but men bring home the soul.'
The perilous new direction of the slacker-striver genre reduced the role of women to vehicles. Their only real function is to make the men grow up.
The society that produced the Katherine Hepburn and Carole Lombard movie has vanished; manner, in the sense of elegance, have disappeared. But manners as spiritual style are more important than ever, and Apatow has demonstrated that he knows this as well as anyone. So how can he not know that the key to making a great romantic comedy is to create heroines equal in wit to men? They don't have to dress for dinner, but they should challenge the men intellectually and spiritually, rather than simply offering their bodies as a way of dragging the clods out of their adolescent stupor.
Doesn't it seem that the men are the ones who don't challenge the women intellectually rather than the reverse? And why is it women's fault that they want to be successful and have a career? Get with it Judd Apatow, you have two daughters and I know you wouldn't want either of them dating any of the dudes who populate your movies.

Any comments?

Continuing in Theatres This Weekend

Jane Austen Book Club

Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray) wil receive the Rising Star award at the 2008 Palm Springs International Film Festival on Jan 3 and 4. (Hollywood Reporter)

Women in Film's Entertainment Forum is this weekend. More details:
Women in Film Entertainment Forum

Some of the most interesting panels include:
Cynthia Littleton, Deputy Editor, Variety
Morgan Murphy, Comic/Writer/Actress
Jane Lynch, Comic/Actress, 40 Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Jennifer Coolidge, Comic/Actress, For Your Consideration, Legally Blonde

Bonnie Abaunza, VP, Campaign Development & Operations, Participant Productions
Ted Braun, Writer/Director, Darfur Now
Cathy Schulman, President, Mandalay Pictures/Mandalay Independent Pictures
Colin Thomas-Jenson, Policy Advisor, ENOUGH Project
Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Co-Founder & President, Jewish World Watch

Ugly Betty's America Ferrara has been named the U.S. Hispanic Woman of the Year
America Ferrara (AP via US Today)

Story of DC's first female police chief to be made into film.
Cathy Lanier (Hollywood Reporter)

Tube Tonight
I plead with you to watch Friday Night Lights. Most people are not watching this show because they think its about football, I can assure you it's not. Last season they had a show the dealt with race relations that was so fantastic and non-preachy that I can't believe it didn't win an Emmy.

October 4, 2007

Thursday, October 4

Quick Sneak
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett returns to the screen as Elizabeth I in this sequel to her 1998 breakout film, Elizabeth. She has come quite far since that performance, and its always a risk to go back in and play the same character after almost a decade. Whereas the first Elizabeth was magnificent and exciting because we were all in on the discovery of a new movie star, this film is over the top and takes itself way too seriously. The costumes and wigs are exquisite. (Full review next week)

Actress Rita Moreno on Latina Longevity in the Arts (NPR)

Jill Carroll is back in the mideast and today reports on Tunisian women filmmakers whose work is not seen in their own country.
Scarce at home, the movies of Tunisia's female filmmakers draw world acclaim (Christian Science Monitor)

Kathleen Kennedy along with Frank Marshall will receive the David O. Selznick Achievement Award at the Producers Guild awards in LA on February 2, 2008.

HBO has renewed Tell Me You Love Me for a second season. Show is created and Executive produced by Cynthia Mort.

Jill Soloway, currently writing for Grey's Anatomy, will team up with J.J. Abrams on a new drama for ABC.

A take on Private Practice.
Is ‘Private Practice’ a bit too ‘Grey’? (MSNBC)

Tube Tonight
Tina Fey fresh off her Best Comedy Emmy win premieres the sophomore season of 30 Rock, with guest star Jerry Seinfeld (who is doing a lot of press to push his animated film Bee Story)

Alicia Witt joins Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Mr. Big's partner (Chris Noth) which now airs on USA (9pm)

October 3, 2007

Wednesday, October 3

Review - Lake of Fire
Abortion is one of the hottest political issues in our culture, with both sides very emotional and very committed to their convictions. Into this controversial subject steps British director Tony Kaye (American History X) with his brutal black-and-white documentary, tracing the issue over the last 15 years. The film starts at the beginning of the Clinton administration with the annual March for Life in Washington DC, but it really begins when he takes us to the clinics, the frontline of the war.

Kaye definitely wants to push the envelope, showing an abortion of a 20-week fetus, and he interviews lots of thinkers on the topic, including Noam Chomsky, Alan M. Dershowitz, and Nat Hentoff, but the film is very lacking on female experts, and for an issue that is about women, this is a big problem. He does interview Francis Kissling, who, until this year, was the head of Catholics for a Free Choice and whose knowledge of the church’s role on abortion is vast, and Kate Michelman, the former head of National Abortion Rights Action League (whose name the film spells incorrectly).

Memory is short and fleeting even for people who care about this issue (disclaimer: I participated in protests and rallies in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s), so this film is an important reminder of a series of horrible events, the murders of abortion providers. Kaye interviews many of anti-abortion activists (almost all men) who were on the forefront when the murders occurred. Most of the men, at first, come off as normal, but you quickly realize (through their own words and actions) that they are extreme zealots. They commonly talk about wanting to create a jihad and how most of the rabid “feminazis” are lesbians. Paul Hill, who murdered Dr. John Bayard Britton and was executed for that crime, called Michael Griffin, the murderer of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn, a “hero” and declared that “all abortionists should be executed.”

Kaye also shows how the anti’s got organized in the late 1980s, from volunteers to full-paid leaders of the growing non-profit organizations that bought houses around clinics to lure women away and to get them to change their minds about having an abortion. His 15-year devotion to the topic is commendable, but it is not until the last third of a too-long movie that the film brings women into focus with Jane Roe, Norma McCorvey. She has always been a woman of controversy and initially took pride in her role as Jane Roe, but of late she has become the poster woman for the anti-abortion movement and is working to get Roe v. Wade overturned. Kaye also takes us on the journey of a woman who has made the decision to have an abortion (even filming it), with all the surrounding emotional issues. It’s a behind-the-scenes close-up into this issue that you seldom see.

Some of the most moving moments of the film are from Emily Lyons, the nurse who was maimed by a 1998 clinic bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. She relays what many women who are passionate about the issue believe: this is “not just about abortion, it’s about choice.” I just wish the film had more of the women’s passion in it. (written for Film Forward)

Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) will direct Twilight from Stephanie Meyer's young adult series. "Twilight tells the story of 17-year-old Bella, who moves to a small town to live with her father, and is drawn to a pale mysterious classmate who comes from a family of vampires." (Variety)

Emma Thompson helped organize an exhibition in London that exposes the inhumanity of human trafficking.
Acts of Compassion (The Guardian)

Universal has bought Girly Style a pitch from writer and former stripper Diablo Cody. Film will be a girl centric college comedy. Cody's first film Juno was runner up for the audience award at Toronto. Film will open before the end of the year. (Hollywood Reporter)

The American Film Market kicks off in LA Oct 31-Nov 7. One of the films to be shown is Mad Money written and directed by Callie Khouri starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes in her post Tom Cruise marriage comeback role. (Hollywood Reporter)

Cate Blanchett will receive the Modern Master Award at the 2008 Santa Barbara Film Festival on January 26, 2008. (Hollywood Reporter) Check out this story from W on Blanchett
Queen Cate

Actress Michelle Yeoh, received France's highest civilian honor on Wednesday.
Actress Michelle Yeoh gets top French award (Reuters via Yahoo)

Molly Shannon will play Kath in the pilot Kath and Kim for NBC. The series is about a disfuction mother-daughter relationship and is based on the Australian series of the same name. (Hollywood Reporter)

Natalie Portman joins Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire in Brothers an American reworking of Susanne Bier's 2004 film. (Variety)

Former ER vet Alex Kingston will star in a modern day version of Jane Austen's pride and Prejudice for British TV.
Kingston to Star in Austen Drama

Tube Tonight
Season premiere of the Sarah Silverman show on Comedy Central at 10:30pm. You can also now get season 1 on DVD.

September 30, 2007

Tuesday, October 2

Early Sneak
Things We Lost in the Fire- this film marks the English language directing debut of the extremely talented Danish director Susanne Bier. A full review will be available when the film is released on October 19, but put it in your calendar now. Bier is able to elicit amazing performances from Halle Berry and especially Benicio del Toro as two people struggling to cope with the loss of Berry's husband who was del Toro's best friend.

If you have not seen Biers' other films you need to rent Brothers (which Hollywood is remaking) and After the Wedding (which was nominated for the foreign film Oscar.) Both are fantastic.

Early look at the Best Actress Category from the LA Times

Strong roles for women are often in short supply, and this year's race for best actress is no exception. While men in the running for best actor could fill out three football teams, with an alternate or two to spare, the women in contention for best leading lady barely make up two loaves of bread. That's not to say the best actress race isn't filled with major league players and a few rookies of the year. But when it comes to great performances by women the list is woefully short.
Actresses on the list include: Keira Knightley, Atonement; Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart; Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding; Julie Christie, Away From Her; Charlize Theron, In the Valley of Elah; Halle Berry, Things We Lost in the Fire; Ellen Page, Juno; Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd; Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose; Amy Adams, Enchanted; Jodie Foster, The Brave One; Marketa Irglova, Once; Laura Linney, The Savages; Renee Zellweger, Leatherheads; Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Love in the Time of Cholera; Parker Posey, Broken English; Keri Russell, Waitress; Naomi Watts, Eastern Promises (LA Times)
Most of the films listed above have yet to be released, but of those released (and others I've seen) the contenders to me are: Julie Christie, Angelina Jolie, Marion Cotillard, Halle Berry and Jodie Foster.

I don't know about you but I gave up on Desperate Housewives a long time ago. Seems like the bloom has fallen off the rose because the season premiere was down 23% from last year. it still had enough viewers to win the night for ABC.

The writer of The Queen is working on a sequel this time without "the queen" in the lead. (would it still then be a sequel?) This film will focus on the transition of power from Clinton to George W. Bush and Tony Blair's reaction to the whole mess.

Wish I could get paid to drive around Spain like Gwyneth Paltrow and three others are. Life is just not fair. Paltrow on Spanish Roadtrip for PBS

Tube Tonight
If you haven't been watching Damages on FX you have missed out. Tonight Glenn Close asks the questions of Ted Danson as Arthur Frobisher (remember when they co-starred in the incest drama Something About Amelia?) in his deposition.

Five Days, a joint HBO/BBC production takes place over five Tuesdays. The premise is the search for a woman who went missing leaving her two small children wandering on the side of the road on their way to visit their grandparents. Script is written by Gwyneth Hughes.

Dakota Blue Richards who will make her film debut as the lead in the upcoming potential franchise film The Golden Compass (isn't it great that there is finally a girl in the lead of a franchise type film) has been cast as the lead in The Secret of Moonacre. The film is based on the classic children's novel The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. (Variety)

Nancy Bardawil makes her feature film directing debut at the helm of Greta an interracial teen romance starring Hillary Duff. (Hollywood Reporter)

Monday, October 1

In Praise of Julie Taymor
Last week I took issue with NY Magazine putting four white guys on the cover heralding the re-ascendency of the American auteur. The film press is very free with calling male directors auteurs, yet very seldom do they describe women directors that way. Here is an official definition from dictionary.com

A filmmaker whose individual style and complete control over all elements of production give a film its personal and unique stamp.

Well, it is clear to me that Julie Taymor qualifies for that title and having just seen Across the Universe, I firmly believe she is one of the most interesting and artistic directors working today -- male or female.

Across the Universe
tells the story of the political upheaval in the late 60s through the music of the Beatles. That in itself makes it interesting. Whereas Hairspray was a very traditional musical, Across the Universe is very untraditional. They are moments of brilliance (the army induction sequence) and moments of self indulgence. The film is too long by about 20 minutes, yet it is one of the most original and visually interesting films I have seen in a long, long time.

The cast of mostly unknowns (except for Evan Rachel Wood) who has come a long way since My So Called Life, is given such rich material and choreography that I can only imagine how fun the shoot was. There are beautifully choreographed sequences, specifically the juxtaposition of the funeral of a young white soldier killed in Vietnam and the funeral of a young black boy killed in the Detroit riots to the lyrics of Let it Be (sung by the young boy) is amazing. There are also fun cameos by Eddie Izzard, Bono and Salma Hayek.

Go see this film, I guarantee you won't be bored. Stephen Holden of the NY Times agrees. Here is a great quote:
Somewhere around its midpoint, Across the Universe captured my heart, and I realized that falling in love with a movie is like falling in love with another person. Imperfections, however glaring, become endearing quirks once you’ve tumbled.
Backstage has an interview with Jane Fleming head of Women in Film who discusses their second annual entertainment forum which will take place in LA Oct 6-7. (via HerHollywood) Some interesting quotes from the piece:
"Thirty-five years ago, when [WIF] was started, there were very few executives, and now that landscape looks enormously different. I feel like the tide is shifting for women behind the camera," she said. "Hopefully, in 30 years from now, we'll be looking at a whole different landscape."
"You have a variety of [female] showrunners," she said, referring to writer-producers such as Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy), Jenji Kohan (Weeds), and Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, The Game). "The great part of a woman running a show is that they inevitably employ many women, and then those women get trained to be able to run their own shows. So there's a real domino effect that can happen quite quickly in television.
Women in Film Honors Behind-the-Scenes Femmes (Backstage)

Sarah Polley won best director honors at the annual Directors Guild of Canada awards for her feature debut Away from Her. (available now on DVD) (Variety)

A woman directing men is not as common as one might think. Mimi Leder is set direct Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas in The Code. This is her first feature since Pay it Forward in 2000. "Freeman will portray a veteran thief who recruits a younger crook, played by Banderas, to help him pull off one final job in order to repay his debt to the Russian mob." (Variety)

Anne Thompson on how Stacey Snider's doing at Dreamworks. Hint...really well.
Stacey Snider makes Dream work (Variety)

Marsha Mason has been out of the limelight for some time growing herbs on her organic farm in New Mexico. On the eve of her return in a new off-Broadway play, Mason puts her ranch on the market.
Actress Marsha Mason selling `a little piece of heaven' (AP via Miami Herald)

Tilda Swinton is an actress with the ability to be in the biggest films (Narnia) and the smallest films (Stephanie Daley- rent this if you haven't seen it). This Friday she opens opposite George Clooney in the legal thriller Michael Clayton.
Tilda Swinton Faces Off Against George Clooney (NY Daily News)

Helen Mirren blames women for body image problems. What's up with that?
Helen Mirren attacks stick-thin waif ideal (New Zealand Herald)

Angelina Jolie talks to the Australian Press about playing Marianne Pearl in A Mighty Heart. Wonder if the film will do better overseas?
Hollywood's Super Woman (Sydney Morning Herald)

Catherine Keener has joined the cast of the Soloist. "Story centers on Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless musician with schizophrenia who dreams of playing at L.A.’s Disney Hall." Script is by Susannah Grant. (Variety)

This one sounds good
Kathy Baker and James Brolin have joined Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in the indie romantic drama Last Chance Harvey.

Baker plays the ex-wife of Hoffman, a down-on-his-luck New York jingle writer with a tough boss (Richard Schiff). He becomes romantically involved with a lonely bureaucrat (Thompson) with an overbearing mother (Eileen Atkins) on a trip to London.
(Hollywood Reporter)

Tube Tonight
Season premiere of Girlfriends at 9pm on the CW