October 12, 2007

October 12, 2007

Opening Today - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses, and I firmly believe she is one of the best of her generation. She hesitated for several years to climb on board the sequel to her star making and Oscar nominated performance in Elizabeth, and based on the outcome of the sequel she should have stuck to her guns more firmly. I don't know about you, but I kind of feel "Elizabethed" out with the recent Helen Mirren HBO miniseries (and The Queen, even though itwas a different Elizabeth) and the Showtime series, The Tudors. Guess others are feeling the same way since The Other Boleyn Sister starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson was moved to early spring 2008.

It's not that Elizabeth: The Golden Age is bad, it's just not good. The problem is that it's over the top and takes itself way too seriously. Blanchett spends the whole movie bellowing over music that is so loud, it overwhelms everything. (The music is really annoying, I'm not understating it) The film might look spectacular, the sets are enormous and Blanchett's costumes are amazing, but it feels hollow.

The film takes place in Elizabeth's middle years when she has gained confidence as a woman and ruler. But, the realm is threatened by the mighty Spain which is still smarting about England's denunciation of Catholicism. Because all wars, then and now, seem to be based on religion, Spain is amassing a force to take over England and install Elizabeth's cousin, Mary (played by Samantha Morton) on the throne. Elizabeth lived in fear of assassination for many years, yet refused to execute Mary who was behind many of the attempts for almost two decades. The scene where Elizabeth is almost killed, and when Mary is executed are the strongest in the film.

Joining the cast this time around are Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, the commoner who Elizabeth loves but cannot love, and Abbie Cornish as her favorite lady in waiting Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton who she pushes towards Raleigh. Elizabeth becomes enraged when she finds out they are together, jails Raleigh and banishes Bess. Geoffrey Rush is a big disappointment as Walsingham, her adviser, he just has no energy about him at all.

If you love Blanchett you should see this film because even though the film fails her, she is still a special performer.

The International Documentary Association's nomination are out
Women nominees include:
Feature: A WALK TO BEAUTIFUL- Mary Olive Smith, director
Short: BODY & SOUL: DIANA & KATHY- Alice Elliott, director/producer; THE FIGHTING CHOLITAS- Mariam Jobrani, director/producer; FREEHELD- Cynthia Wade, director
Limited Series: ADDICTION- Kate Davis, Susan Froemke, Liz Garbus, Chris Hegedus, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Barbara Kopple, Susan Raymond, Jessica Yu, directors (among others); COMING OUT STORIES- Karen Goodman, director/producer; THE HILL- Ivy Meeropol, director/producer

Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator of the Gilmore Girls and the upcoming the Return of Jezebel James) has signed on to adapt and direct The Late Bloomer's Revolution to star Sarah Jessica Parker.
Parker and Sherman-Palladino Team Up (Variety)

Lifetime and Starz are teaming up to produce original movies. Films include:
Queen Sized, starring Nikki Blonsky ("Hairspray") as an overweight teen who overcomes the vicious insults of her schoolmates, ending up as homecoming queen. (Variety)

Around the Web
Can Across the Universe become a hit? It will if teenage girls have anything to say about it. (I liked this film a lot)
Is This the Next Cult Sensation? (LA Times)

I didn't think Stardust was that bad, but it sank this pastsummer. It's opening in England and Michelle Pfeiffer was on hand. I'm still waiting for the Amy Heckerling directed drama with Pfeiffer I Could Never be Your Woman which is supposedly opening next month.
Michelle Pfeiffer on Turning 50 (The Guardian)

Tube Today
Friday TV used to suck but no more. Tonight is the Season Premiere of the quirky Men in Trees (10pm, ABC) and the Series Premiere: Women's Murder Club (9pm, ABC). Also, don't forget Friday Night Lights.
Classic Alert: Sissy Spacek in the Altman classic 3 Women at 5:30pm on FMC

October 11, 2007

October 11

Women Continue as the Topic of Conversation in Hollywood

In an industry that pays scant attention to women, this week seems to be girls week in Hollywood thanks to Jeff Robinov and his alleged and pretty much confirmed (see Nikki Finke follow-up below) comments that Warner Brothers is out of the business of women leads onscreen. The story has legs not because it has resonance with women in Hollywood (not that this is anything new to them), but because it has resonance outside of Hollywood. My mother even commented that she saw it on the local news. Big question: is there any momentum for change other than the typical grumbling?

Rebecca Traister continues that conversation over at Salon with a roundtable discussion conducted (for an issue of Elle) a couple of months ago with 10 Hollywood female bigwigs to discuss the state of Hollywood and women.

Producer Lynda Obst moderated and the other included: Nora Ephron (writer and director, "This is My Life), Laura Ziskin (producer, "Spider-Man"), Callie Khouri (writer and director, "Thelma & Louise,"), Patty Jenkins (writer, director, "Monster"), Cathy Konrad (producer, "Walk the Line,"), Kimberly Peirce (writer, director, producer, "Boys Don't Cry"), Andrea Berloff (writer, producer, "World Trade Center"), Margaret Nagle (writer, producer, "Warm Springs"), and Universal president of production Donna Langley.

First off, big problem, I'm pretty sure that none of these women are women of color. How can anyone convene a roundtable to discuss women's issues about anything, anywhere and not have some women of color. Not Cool.

Here are some excerpts of note:

From Traister's overview

It's not, as Finke's source suggests, that the women are going to be kicked out of their studio offices, but it's no secret that Hollywood has always been a dicey industry for women, and that recent years have seen it grow increasingly inhospitable.
More women than ever write, direct and produce movies. But we're in a period in which their on-screen stock is falling.
But if Hollywood isn't doing much for female moviegoers, it's in part because female moviegoers have not, of late, been doing much for Hollywood. They haven't been showing up to multiplexes, at least not on the first weekend, which is all that counts. And in Hollywood, money has always been a bigger motivator than visions of equality.
Amen sister. Women, nothing is going to change until we demand change with our pocketbooks. If we go to certain movies they will make more. It's not rocket science in Hollywood. If one movie hits, five more will be in the pipeline in a week. We need a movement to make this happen. Anyone want to join me?

Comments from the panel:
Kimberly Peirce: I think the indie world is actually great for women, and for gay people. Because if you have a story, you're going to be able to [tell it]. That's where a lot of women get their start. But you get into your second, your third movie, and you're building a career, and it's hitting smack up against those years when you want to have a child. I mean, you can't get bonded if you're pregnant.
For those who don't know what getting bonded is- it's insurance for movies. So pregnant women are now in the category of repeat drug offenders (I remember when Robert Downey, Jr, couldn't get bonded.) Can this be legal?
Ziskin: But the truth of the matter is those teen boys are less reliable because they have way more choices, and in fact the most reliable moviegoing audience -- and also the dirty word in the movie business -- is "women over 35." Because we have the moviegoing habit. I would go to the movies every weekend if there was something for me to see. The studios, if they were smart, would have a geriatric division.
I have been saying this all along. If you make good movies, we will go. The thing nobody mentioned in this piece is that most of the movies made in Hollywood are crap.
Ziskin: But there are movies in general, and then there are women's movies. We're still the other -- we're still a secondary audience. When they made "Little Women," my daughter was 11, she went five times in one week. That was because as a young woman, she never got to see herself and her experience on the screen. We know so much about the male experience because it's been fed to us through the literature that the men wrote and the world that the men created; it's a relatively new phenomenon in the modern world that we have power to say what we think and to express ourselves and our sensibility. But we're still considered an alternative class.
Laura Ziskin, you are so right on and are my new best friend (has someone slipped you my book proposal?)
Khouri: It's more in the business than in the relationships. You're more likely to feel less-than in your business relationships. What we were talking about a little while ago, the fact that we still are defined as women directors or women producers, it still feels that as long as the studios see the female audience as a secondary audience or not as easy to get into the theater on the first weekend, then there's going to be a lid on us.
Ziskin: I want to say one thing. What is extraordinary is that the movies are arguably the most powerful medium ever in history so far. And there are so many of us that you could get a quorum at this table. You don't have to have the intention of influencing your work by your gender, but you're going to. That's a really good thing. It's really good for the culture that women are a real voice more and more, even though we're not the final say, like those guys who really control all the media in the world. We're still influencing.
Ziskin clearly gets it, good thing she's one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. She produced the Oscars and Spiderman in the same year.

Nikki Finke continues her story about Jeff Robinov
The Reality Behind the Robinov Denial

Nikki also gets interviewed in the Elle issue
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Around the Web
Lifetime is gobbling up all the chick flicks for the first network run. Recent purchases include: Jane Austen Book Club, No Reservations and the Nanny Diaries.
Lifetime Makes Theatrical Impression

2 Elizabeths, Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench, chat about smelly old England

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80s alert: Jennifer Beals in Flashdance at 10pm on CMT

October 10, 2007

October 10, 2007

Warner Production President Says He Is Still Committed to Women
Anne Thompson reports in today's Variety that Jeff Robinov, who was accused over the weekend of having said he is not interested in making films with female leads, is still committed to making films with women in them.

"Citing such Warners hit chick flicks as Cinderella Story and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (a sequel is in the works), Robinov said he is still in the business of making pics with women."

Well, good for him. But I am not convinced.

To me, both the films cited above are what I call "tween chick flicks" - where the stars are young women -- like Hillary Duff in Cinderella Story and the quartet from Sisterhood which includes America Ferrera (it seems that her rise in stature due to Ugly Betty star is what pushed this sequel into production), Blake Lively (now on the CW's vile Gossip Girl), Alexis Bledel (late of Gilmore Girls), and Amber Tamblyn (Stephanie Daley - have you rented that yet?) And, Sisterhood was adapted from the famous teen novel by Ann Brashares.

While lovely, the actresses cited above are young, most not even in their mid 20s, so Robinov actually confirms my theory that in Hollywood you can make films with strong, female leads on the condition that those leads be young women and targeted towards a younger demographic. I can't believe that he would even think that those two films cited above would show that he is committed to women.

The other films he cites as "women's films" (my italics) co-star men except for Spring Breakdown a bout 20s somethings on spring break (sounds really stupid to me) The other are an adaptation of Nights in Rodanthe from a Nicholas Sparks novel starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere; Fool's Gold staring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. Women will also be thrilled to learn that there will be a female character included in the The Justice League and Watchmen (gee, that sounds like a movie about women)

I think he really believe that the slate above is representative of women and that women should feel satisfied that Warner Brothers is still pro-woman. I think he just dug a deeper hole for himself.

Full story here: Warner Bros Still Committed to Women

Other big news is the sale of Oxygen to NBC Universal for a very impressive $925 million. I wish I could say that I've ever watched any of the original programming on the station (I have watched some of the reruns.) It just seems to me to be the station for college girls gone wild and reality tv shows about women who beat each other up. The NY Times story says that NBC seems to have gotten a good deal paying just $12 per subscriber for Oxygen when it paid $22 per subscriber for Bravo in 2002. Guess the artsy people who watch Bravo are worth $10 more than the young women who watch Oxygen.
NBC Buys Oxygen

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Classic Alert: Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection at 1pm on Sundance
Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice at 8pm on Flix

October 9, 2007

Tuesday, October 9

Film Review: Golda's Balcony
Golda Meir was always one of my great heroes; she saved a nice Jewish girl from Long Island from believing the world was only full of men who make decisions. Several years ago William Gibson wrote a one-woman play about Meir, her history and the dilemma surrounding the potential use of nuclear weapons during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The play which starred Tovah Feldshuh was very moving, and now Gibson has rejiggered his script for film. Starring Valerie Harper and directed by Jeremy Kagan, the film opens in limited released in NY on Wednesday.

Talking about Israel today is not an easy topic, tempers flare up quickly on all sides. This film is interesting because it is a history lesson from the perspective of a woman leader and those are very few. This is the unlikely story of a how midwestern, American woman wound up as Prime Minister of the young state of Israel. She escaped the US in her late teens (pulling her husband with her) to go to Palestine to work on a kibbutz needing to be free from the American restrictions on young women. She became excited by politics and worked her way up to a seat at the table at the founding of the state of Israel. Right before the British were going to pull out in 1948 she made the pilgrimage to America to raise the money necessary to buy arms to fight off the Arab neighbors who were poised to attack the second the British departed. She wound up raising $50 million dollars, much more than expected.

Her family suffered for her political ambitions and she felt guilty, but staying home and not working was not something she could endure.

The decisions about the constant need to fight and defend the country weighed heavily on her, probably because she was a woman and her other peers in leadership were all military men. No decision was more difficult than the potential dropping of a nuclear bomb on Arab military sites during the dire days of the 73 war when Israel was on the brink of extinction. She debates the global implications with her cabinet and fortunately, the issue was never forced.

The film is still a one-woman show, Harper is a tour de force, but it does get trying seeing her play all the other characters too. But Meir, is a worthy topic, especially now that we could be potentially on the verge of a female president in the US.

More info on screenings and openings:
Golda's Balcony


The Princess Diaries producer Debra Martin Chase and producer-writer Nely Galan are teaming up to bring Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's novel The Dirty Girls Social Club to the big screen.
It's Girls Night Out at the Movies (Hollywood Reporter)
IFC Entertainment has announced its acquisition two French films screening at the New York Film Festival, Claude Chabrol's A Girl Cut in Two and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's Actresses. Already a box office hit in France, Chabrol's thriller opened there this summer and also screened at the Toronto and Venice festivals. Bruni Tedeschi's comedy Actresses was an award-winner at the Cannes Film Festival. Both films will be released theatrically and via cable V.O.D. next year (Indiewire)

Around the Web
Catherine Deneuve and Laura Linney to be Honored at AFI Fest next month
Fest Honors Deneuve and Linney

Films in competition at AFI with a woman focus or women directors include: (still trying to check out all the titles)

International Documentary:
"Operation Filmmaker" Featuring: Liev Schreiber, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson DIR: Nina Davenport PROD: Nina Davenport, David Schisgall. USA
"The Unforseen"
DIR: Laura Dunn PROD: Laura Dunn, Douglas Sewell, Jef Sewell, William Warren. USA

American Showcase:
Cast: Samantha Morton, Jason Patric, Teri Garr, Illeana Douglas DIR: Cecilia Miniucchi PROD: Jeffrey Coulter, Fred Roos EXEC PROD: Alex Shing, Antoni Stutz, Lawrence Wang USA

Documentary Showcase:
"Body of War"
DIR: Ellen Spiro, Phil Donahue EXEC PROD: Phil Donahue CO-PROD: Karen Bernstein USA

Meryl Street Talks Politics and Passion

Lisa Kudrow joins Hotel for Dogs with Don Cheadle and Emma Roberts.
Kudrow Checks Into Hotel for Dogs (Hollywood Reporter via Reuters)

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Classic Alert: Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl @5:15pm (Turner Classic Movies)

October 8, 2007

October 8, 2007

Do Women Matter to Hollywood?
The shit hit the fan this weekend when Nikki Finke posted on her Deadline Hollywood blog that Warner Brothers President of Production Jeff Robinov verbalized a sentiment that has been unofficial in Hollywood for some time -- studios don't believe that making movies with women as the lead are viable vehicles any longer.

Based on all my research this is not news, this has been going on for some time, it's just that someone had the gaul to say it out loud that seems to shock people.

So Mr. Rabinov, since Ben Stiller underperformed this weekend in the Heartbreak Kid, should he not be given another leading role? Jodie Foster did practically the same money as Stiller yet she is deemed a failure, but the thought that Ben Stiller - OR ANY MAN- shouldn't be given another lead in films is never discussed.

Read Nikki's piece: No Women Leads at Warners

Reese Witherspoon opens in Rendition on October 19th. Reese plays the very pregnant wife of an Egyptian-American man who is whisked off a return flight from a business trip and taken to an African country under the absurd US policy of "extraordinary rendition."

This is quite a political film for Reese who has mostly been known for her lighter roles. Meryl Streep plays the CIA villain who makes the deicsion to have this man removed from the plane. (Full review to come nearer to opening) Reese has a lot of pressure being the highest paid female actress.

From the Times in London

According to the most recent survey by the film-trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, Witherspoon, who is 31, is now America’s highest-paid actress, outstripping Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie. She has been able to command a salary of $15m a movie for the past four years, since the twin successes of the first Legally Blonde film and the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama. Her status was cemented when she won a best-actress Oscar in March 2006 for her spirited performance as June Carter Cash, singer and long-suffering wife of the country legend Johnny, in Walk the Line.
A Testing Time for Reese Witherspoon

TV is much more welcoming to women because the people who work in the TV business rather than the film business understand that women do watch TV and that there should be programming for women on TV. ABC (is the best network for women in my opinion) will launch the Women's Murder Club this Friday based on the James Patterson novels. I haven't seen any of the shows, but I am always interested in a show that has four female leads. ABC is banking that women and men will watch the show because they can get the women with the female characters and the men with the procedural aspects.

I'm a bit apprehensive because the creators of the the are Brett Ratner (director of the Rush Hour franchise) who prides himself on his womanizing, and Joe Simpson, father to singers Jessica and and Ashlee. But they did hire a female executive producer Sarah Fain and writer Liz Craft so...

Here are some quotes from an LA Times piece.
The female detectives on "WMC" are trying to have it all -- career and a personal life too. But will modern audiences find their balancing act a touching reflection of career women's plight today? Or will a group of crime-solvers who fret over guy troubles at the scene of a horrific murder just seem like pop culture's latest setback for feminism?
ABC Likes Its Chances in Murder Club

Around the Web
Cate Blanchett's Golden Touch (LA Times)

Margaret Cho Bares it All for a Good Laugh (NPR)