October 19, 2007

October 19, 2007

Movie of the Week - Things We Lost in the Fire
Things We Lost in the Fire is the American debut of the acclaimed Danish director, Susanne Bier (After the Wedding). It is a brutal and intense depiction of grief and recovery.

Halle Berry plays Audrey Burke a woman living a privileged life in the Seattle area with her two children and husband Brian (David Duchovny). On a typical ice cream run on an ordinary evening, Brian is shot to death trying to intercede between a man beating his wife on the street. Berry is understandably devestated as is Brian's best friend since childhood Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), a drug-addict whom Audrey resents because Brian refused to give up on him. But fate brings them together because they both loved Brian the most. Audrey brings Jerry into their home giving them both a second chance.

Bier spends a lot time focusing on her characters and their raw emotions. There are multiple close-ups of Berry's eyes and face, and these close-ups enhance the rawness of their emotions.

Both Berry and Del Toro are terrific, especially Del Toro. His scenes of a drug relapse and then detox are brutally real and hard to watch.

Even though Berry won the Oscar for Monster's Ball and is one of the top film actresses, she still has to fight for this role. "I think most actors have to fight for the good parts...they're so few and far between, especially for women. Audrey wasn't written as a black character, so I wasn't the first thought on anyone's mind."

Bier was nervous that in coming to America worried that she wouldn't have the same artistic freedom she enjoyed in Denmark. But she was proved wrong: "coming to American, I was expecting that I would experience certain restraints, like being asked to make the movie more mainstream, but in fact it was quite the opposite," she says. "I received comments like, 'be more courageous, be more daring...make it more dangerous.'" (Since these quotes come from the press materials I think they are probably a bit generous.)

Bier is a top-tier artist and we should all welcome her with open arms into American theatres. The film opens in 1,142 theatres today.

Some words for Shonda Rhimes
Private Practice the new show from Shonda Rhimes just got a full-season pick-up at ABC. Here's what I want to say to Shonda: either get Amy Brenneman some meds or shut her up. I am so angry that she is constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown (and she's the shrink!) cause she got dumped by her boyfriend who then quickly married a younger woman. Yes, it sucks, but enough already. Also, Audra McDonald is constantly bitterly angry all the time. What I like about Grey's Anatomy (the flaws within each character), I hate on Private Practice. Give those girls some backbone.

USA Today talks to the Oscar prognosticators
Here's what they say about the actresses who have a chance at the nomination

Female contenders from the past nine months have a strong chance this year because pundits see few flashy roles for women in the as-yet-unreleased films. That bodes well for Jodie Foster's vigilante in The Brave One, as well as Angelina Jolie's take on Mariane Pearl in the docudrama A Mighty Heart.
Julie Christie stands a strong chance for her role as a woman slowly forgetting her husband as she enters the early stages of Alzheimer's disease in the heartbreaking Away From Her. "She's one of those actresses, like Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, who is so iconic that she can't be ignored," Stone says.
Another likely actress contender is Keri Russell for her cynical, pregnant piemaker in Waitress. "It's from Fox Searchlight, and they are incredibly good at pushing their movies," Stone says of the studio behind last year's Little Miss Sunshine and The Last King of Scotland. "They're pushing hard on Waitress."
O'Neil adds La Vie en Rose, starring Marion Cotillard as singer Edith Piaf. It's a tiny film, but he believes voters make room for non-commercial films. "They hold on to the box office week after week after week," he says. "And they find their audience."
Pre-Fall Premieres Shift Oscar Race (USA Today)

Joanna Langfield of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists gives her take on the recent Warner Brother controversy.
As I've been saying all along, it's up to us women to support these movies.
Some of these femme made and/or oriented movies will be good. Some will not. But they are being made and released–along with a lot more male-oriented pictures. Whether they make money (and therefore, encourage the funding of similar projects in the future) or not is, ultimately, not only up to the studios, the critics and media, it’s also very much up to the ticket buying public.
The Femme Flick Flap (Alliance of Women Film Journalists)

Paula S. Apsell, Senior Executive Producer at Nova will be awarded the 2007 pioneer award on December 7 by the International Documentary Association.

Toni Collette to star in Showtime series The United State of Tara from Steven Spielberg. Collette will play the mother of two teenagers who have some sort of dissociative identity disorder. Diablo Cody the new "it" girl writer is executive producing and writing. (Variety)

Screen star Deborah Kerr dies at 86 (Reuters)

Naomi Watts who is set to star in a remake of The Birds talk about her career and why she is drawn to dark roles.
Naomi Watts Talks about Hollywood the Hard Way (The Guardian)

Laura Dern and Diane Ladd will star in Bruce Dern's directorial debut Hart's Landing making it a family affair. Picture is written by Ashley Reed. Story "centers on a daughter attempting to regain custody of her son and seeking out her father -- who left her when she was 3 years old." (Variety)

Leslie Bibb will headline Miss Nobody. Also cast Missy Pyle and Kathy Baker. (Variety)

Weekend Tube
Damages Marathon- if you've missed this FX show starring Glenn Close today is your day to stay in bed and watch the whole thing. (FX)
The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard- Masterpiece Theatre presents how an average woman gets sucked into politics and winds up as Prime Minister in England. (Sunday, 9pm- PBS)

October 18, 2007

October 18, 2007

Review: Rendition
Opens Friday, October 19

What would you do if your loved one went on a business trip and never returned? That is the hell of Isabella El-Ibrahimi (Reese Witherspoon), in the new movie Rendition directed by South African Gavin Hood (Tsotsi). The film begins as a bomb explodes in a north African country killing a CIA operative which sets off a series of decision and events that cause the "extraordinary rendition" of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, Isabella's husband.

Rendition is something that very few of us had heard of a couple of years ago and now weighs heavily on our country's psyche. This films asks us to confront how this country gets information about potential terrorist threats and whether the end justifies the means.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays an inexperienced CIA analyst thrust into a leadership position when his colleague is killed in the bombing. He is clearly in over his head. In his new role, he observes the torture of El-Ibrahimi who is flown to his posting after he was taken from a Washington DC airport and erased from the flight manifest. The torture shakes Gyllenhaal and makes him question his job and his country. In a light moment in an otherwise intense film, Gyllenhaal escapes into a drug haze after observing a torture session when he receives a call from Corrinne Whitman (Meryl Street) the self-righteous CIA agent who ordered the rendition. She asks him how its going and he bumblingly responds that this is his first torture. She immediately cuts him off by saying that the US does not torture. You have to laugh cause you know she is full of shit.

Isabella is told that her husband was not on the plane and when she gets evidence that he was she takes it to a college pal (Peter Saarsgard) who works for a Senator (Alan Arkin) to try and get answers. Suffice it to say that she doesn't get her answers.

In a parallel plot line (which was at times very confusing), a young woman in the unnamed North African country is challenging her father (the man who runs the prison and tortures Anwar El-Ibrahimi) about her life and her boyfriend. When she makes a terrible discovery about her boyfriend the plots converge in an unexpected and jarring way.

Women Playwrights on Broadway
My friend Theresa Rebeck had her first Broadway play Mauritius open earlier this month. Theresa is not a novice, she has written a dozen or so other plays that have been performed off-Broadway and around the country. Also, she is the only female playwright with a new play being produced on Broadway this fall. The NY Times theatre critic in his infinite wisdom (or lack thereof) decided that the way he would review Theresa's play would be to put it in the context of a male playwright and a misogynistic one at that (David Mamet). Not cool.

This perspective was sent to Theresa from her friend Janet Neipris, Director, Graduate Studies, Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University

"Do they say Horton Foote is just like Thornton Wilder?
Or Pete Gurney is a blueprint of Philip Barry?
Is John Shanley Lanford Wilson?
Maybe August Wilson is Loraine Hansberry.
And who will they say is Lillian Hellman?"

Rock on Janet, and rock on Theresa.

The LA Times is a little late on this- Katherine Heigl's (Izzie on Grey's Anatomy) deal for Lost & Found
Katherine Heigl Becomes Producer (LA Times)

Damages, the FX Drama starring Glenn Close is on the renewal bubble for next season. This season's season finale airs next Tuesday. If you missed any episodes this season a marathon begins on FX this Saturday at 8am. It's worth a look just to see Glenn Close in action.
Damages: It's Future is Still Uncertain

Finally somebody is questioning a male star's box office draw
Is George Clooney Really a box Office Draw? (Slate)

Susanne Bier Leaves Behind Dogma for First American Film (SF Chronicle - review to come tomorrow)

Jorja Fox: Why I Quit CSI (EW)

"Kim Basinger has signed on to star alongside Charlize Theron in Guillermo Arriaga's (writer of Babel) directorial debut, The Burning Plain, for 2929 Prods." Film weaves together two storylines taking place in the past and present. Basinger will play Gina, the mother of Charlize Theron's character as seen in childhood. Theron will play Sylvia, who tries to find common ground with her parents after a turbulent childhood."(Variety)

Kathleen Turner will direct Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley at the Roundabout in NY this spring. Cast will include the same women -- Jennifer Dundas, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe -- who appeared in Truner's production in Williamstown last summer. (Variety)

Angelina Jolie will be honored with the outstanding performer of the year award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 2, 2008.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles starring Lena Headey will premiere on Fox on January 24, 2008 and will lead into the season premiere of 24.

Debi Mazar, Aida Turturro and Karen Duffy are shopping a Jersey Girls version of the View (Hollywood Reporter)

Tube Tonight
Run Granny Run- Doris Haddock who came to celebrity for walking across the country to raise attention for campaign finance reform is profiled in this documentary about her effort to unseat New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg. (HBO)

October 17, 2007

October 17, 2007

Mark your calendars!
Hollywood scion, Alison Eastwood makes her featured film directing debut next week with Rails & Ties an intense, exquisitely acted film starring Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden above love, loss and family. (I don't want to make it sound too simplistic) Film opens October 26. (Interview with director to come.)

Since last week I bashed Warner Brother president Jeff Robinov for his stupid ass comments about not looking for scripts with women in the lead, I have to give him (or others at WB who deserve the credit) for having two films by female directors coming out in the next month. Both are daughters of directors (Alison Eastwood mentioned above, daughter of Clint; and August Rush, opening November 21 directed by Kirsten Sheridan, daughter of Jim Sheridan.)

Ricki Lake and Holly Robinson Peete star in the Lifetime movie on Monday night, October 22- Matters of Life and Dating which tells the stroy of a cancer survivors return to the world of dating. (advance review to come)

Grace is Back!
Debra Messing's hit mini series The Starter Wife will be a weekly series come spring 2008. USA has greenlit 10 episodes. "Starter Wife joins a USA slate heavy on skeins with male leads, including Monk, Psych, Burn Notice and The Dead Zone. Cabler is attempting to add more female-centered series, previously announcing plans for the Mary McCormack starrer In Plain Sight (working title)." (Variety)

The Hollywood Film Festival opens today. Here is a story on a documentary bring screened directed by Karen Gehres about her friend Elise Hill, a homeless woman living in NYC.
Her Friend Through Thick and Thin (LA Times)

Karen Arikian has been named new head of the Hamptons Film Festival. She is currently director of the European Film Market based in Berlin. She starts in March. (Variety)

Eleanor Ringel Gillespie the former movie critic of the Atlanta Journal Constitution will be honored on October 19 by Women in Film and Television's Atlanta chapter.
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie Honored for Creative Excellence (Alliance of Women Film Journalists)

Jorja Fox is officially leaving CSI (we already knew, but this is final confirmation) I read a while ago that she refused to sign the standard one year agreement that the rest of the cast did because the salary bump that they offered was too low. It's rare that someone stands up in this way since they get paid such crazy amounts of money anyway.
Jorja Fox quitting CSI (AP via USA Today)

Sarah Roemer and Elisabeth Shue have been cat the indie thriller Waking Madison written and to be directed by Katherine Brooks. (Variety)

Around the Web
Reese Witherspoon gets political for Rendition opening Friday (review to come)
Witherspoon Takes Dramatic Step in Rendition (AP via MSNBC)

Another take on the women are being pushed out of Hollywood stroy, this time from Australia
Say Goodbye to Hollywood, Baby (Sydney Morning Herald)

Yeardley Smith - The Voice of Lisa SimpsonMy Life as Lisa (The Telegraph)

October 16, 2007

October 16, 2007

Video Game to Blame for Failure of Ben Stiller movie?
The young male audience that the studios rely upon to open their big budget boy movies each weekend has other things on its agenda, namely video games. It seems that the studios have begun to realize that they can't assume the boys will be there on opening weekend when there are other entertainments competing for their time.

The failure of the Ben Stiller's Heartbreak Kid remake (which looked to be a no-brainer since it reteamed Stiller with the Farrelly brothers who made There's Something About Mary, which made Stiller a star) is being blamed on the release of Halo 3.

What will the studios do if this keeps up? Maybe look towards women and girls? No, that would be too easy.
Bad Box Office? Blame Halo

Relationship Films Now Starring Boys
Newsweek has a web exclusive piece that talks about how buddy movies nowadays are chick flicks made by guys for guys. I don't necessarily agree with that (and the piece is all over the place talking about the women's movie and the fact that there are few women directors), but there are several good points in the piece.

As women moved behind the camera, they began telling women's stories and not just melodramas. The revival of "women's pictures," (now rechristened "chick flicks") coincided with the rise of independent film in the '80s and '90s, and featured protagonists who were allowed to live, and even laugh a little.
But lately it seems if two characters are sharing their feelings and valuing each other's company, they're more likely to be men than women.
Hollywood can be hostile territory for female directors in general, and may be becoming even less welcoming. As Meyers said recently, "the pendulum is swinging in the wrong direction," from the time a decade ago when women were able to get small, relationship-driven films produced.
I've never heard Meyers say anything even remotely negative as she is basically the only female commercial director so that quote is interesting but it is undated so who knows when she said it.

Where the Boys Are (and Girls Aren't) (Newsweek)

The annual event honoring "Women in Hollywood" hosted by Elle magazine (taken over from the now defunct Premiere) was held last night in LA. The honorees were director Julie Taymor, actors Lauren Bacall, Diane Lane, Kate Bosworth, Jennifer Connelly, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson. Aside from Taymor, Bacall and Lane the rest don't seem to have had done enough to seem worthy of an honor of this sort. Since all the women are featured in the new issue of Elle, seems they just want to sell magazines and not honor the real women in Hollywood.
Elle Magazine Honors Women in Hollywood (AP via Yahoo)

"Woman In Film and General Motors have announced the five winners of their Acceleration Grant for Emerging Filmmakers. The winners are Jamie Taucher from Sedona, AZ; Julia Kots from New York; Connie M. Florez from Honolulu, and Joyce Lee and Mabel Valdiviezo, both from San Francisco. The five winners will receive a six-day broad-based immersion program on the movie industry as part of the grant. Grant is a program of the WIF/GM Alliance, whose goal is to support filmmakers from underrepresented communities." (Variety)

Sherri Shepherd, the new View co-host, has set up a sitcom at CW loosely based on her life.
View Host Plots Show (Variety)

Around the Web
Nia Vardalos is filming her follow-up to My Big Fat Greek Wedding in Greece.
Nia Vardalos Filming at Acropolis (AP via Backstage)

Actress Marsha Hunt who was blacklisted in the 50s is still working at 90 (isn't it interesting that we don't really here much about women who were effected by the blacklist?)
Actress Marsha Hunt Still Spry at 90 (AP via Yahoo)

Amy Ryan slips into the skin of another anguished character in Gone Baby Gone.
Disappearing Act (Backstage)

Jane Austen: The FanVid Mania (EW)

DVDs Out Today
A Mighty Heart - Most people missed this terrific movie in the theatres this past summer. It's not easy to watch but has a great performance from Angelina Jolie.

Roseanne - Season 9

I just put this on my netflix queue
Girl 27
"Author-screenwriter David Stenn investigates a notorious Hollywood scandal more than 65 years after it occurred, a rape case involving Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio execs and an underage dancer who refused to stay silent. Hired along with 120 other young girls to entertain MGM salesmen at a stag party in 1937, Patricia Douglas was violently raped and brought a landmark lawsuit against her attackers -- then mysteriously disappeared." (Netflix)

October 15, 2007

October 15, 2007

the animated film written and directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud closed last night's New York Film Festival. The film is based on Satrapi's graphic novels of her life growing up in Iran under a repressive regime. This film (which is France's submission to the Academy Awards) opens in US on December 25. It is a fantastic film. I was skeptical at first because I am not a big fan of animated films, and the fact that the film is in French...but it is one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. Original and about something important, funny and dramatic. Mark your calendars now.

The voices in the film include Catherine Deneuve and her daughter Chiara Mastroianni playing Marjane's mother and Marjane respectively, and last week I had the opportunity to put some questions to both of them. Here are some noteworthy quotes from the conversation with Deneuve and Mastroianni (yes, they are both gorgeous and smoked way too many cigarettes in a 20 minute period)

Q: It's a very political piece without being overtly political.

Catherine Deneuve: That's why I like it. It's a great opportunity for her (Marjane) to make a film of this book because it is a political story, the story of a little girl trying to grow up and her parents trying to raise her. (The film) is a stronger statement than the book because you have the images and you sympathize with the little girl. For people living in America who have no idea how people live in Iran, I think it's a great opportunity to learn about that part of the world.

Chiara Martroianni: I think it's also interesting in the way she shows politics, some moments in the film are very dramatic and some moments are very funny despite the situation she is describing. She tries to give you a vision through laughter which is a very subversive thing to do.

CD: That's why the Iranian government was so upset that the film was going to be shown in Cannes and they tried to forbid it.

Q: What do you think about the lack of opportunities for actresses?
CD: I don't think I would have the same opportunities in America that I have in France.

CM: Often you read a script and you think wow, the male character is really good.

CD: In America there are less parts for women especially for women above 35- that's the biggest problem for American actresses. For a long time I've heard from actresses saying its so difficult here. (in the US) People are so obsessed with youth in America, especially in Hollywood.
More to come closer to opening

Jeff Robinov, the Warner President of Production who caused a stir last week by saying that he wasn't making any more films starring women looks to be in line for a promotion. This guy should be in the woodshed rather than in line for a promotion. Typical Hollywood.
Is Jeff Robinov Ready for WB Moguldom? (Deadline Hollywood)

The Tyler Perry juggernaut is finally being acknowledged by mainstream media. His new film Why Did I Get Married? brought out black women in droves and was number 1 at the box office (with $21 million) beating George Clooney in Michael Clayton and Mark Wahlberg is We Own the Night.
A New Movie Brings Out Throngs of Black Women (NY Times)

Julia Roberts was awarded the 22nd American Cinematheque award this weekend in LA. AMC will air the show on December 5.
Film Biz Comes Out to Salute Roberts (Hollywood Reporter)

Meryl Streep will be honored by the Film Society at Lincoln Center next April.
Film Society Ceremony to Laud Streep (Hollywood Reporter)

Fox has cut the order to 7 for the mid-season series The Return of Jezebel James created by Amy Sherman-Palladino starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose.

Helen Mirren will be directed by husband Taylor Hackford in the drama Love Ranch co-starring Joe Pesci (Joe Pesci and Helen Mirren? Can't really see it). Film is about a couple that starts a legal brothel. (Variety)

Around the Web
Juliette Binoche's American Adventure (LA Times)

Tube Today
Series Premiere: Samantha Who- Christina Applegate stars as an amnesiac who wakes up to learn that she was a horrible person. (ABC)
Samantha Who (LA Times)