January 11, 2008

January 11, 2008

Movies This Weekend

Holiday holdovers will dominate again this weekend. With two new female centric films opening wide next weekend -- Mad Money and 27 Dresses-- this is your chance to see one of the holiday movies you missed because next weekend you will need to take yourself to one of new ones.

I saw Mad Money yesterday and thought it was quite funny and fun and way better than I expected. I am seeing 27 Dresses today. Next week I will be interviewing Callie Khouri writer of Thelma and Louise who is the director of Mad Money. Mad Money stars Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes.

Also opening next weekend is Teeth a hit at last year's Sundance Film Festival. Teeth is a female revenge comedy about a young woman who discovers she has a toothed vagina. I know it sounds strange but the film was quite funny. More to come next week.

Opened this week
The Business of Being Born (NY)

In Theaters
The Orphanage
P.S. I Love You
The Golden Compass
August Rush
The Savages
Margot at the Wedding

WGA Awards
Not only do the writers know that women exist, women dominated the original screenplay category. There will be no ceremony this year in light of the continuing strike.
Nominees for the original screenplay awards include:
Diablo Cody for "Juno,"
Tamara Jenkins for "The Savages,"
Nancy Oliver for "Lars and the Real Girl."
Documentary screenplay category:
"Nanking" - Screenplay by Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman & Elisabeth Bentley, Story by Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman
"The Rape Of Europa" - Written by Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bonni Cohen, Menemsha Films

Anne Thompson at Variety noted the inclusion of three women. "It is highly unusual for three women to be nominated, all for original screenplay. So kudos to Nancy Oliver (Lars and the real Girl), Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) and Diablo Cody (Juno)." (Variety)

Interesting Move
The new female road comedy Bonneville starring Jessica Lange,Kathy Bates and Joan Allen will get a sneak preview on Princess Cruises in mid-February a couple of weeks before it rolls out across the states. I imagine that they think the cruises would play to the older demographic that can help build word of mouth.

TV This Weekend
Queen Sized (Saturday, January 12, 9pm, Lifetime)
Queen Sized is a typical Lifetime movie- great premise, mediocre execution. Hairspray star Nikki Blonsky stars as an overweight high school senior who gets nominated to be prom queen as a cruel joke by the popular girls. This is one unhappy young woman struggling with her weight, the loss of her father (who also had a weight problem) and her mom (Annie Potts) who as a thin person just thinks if she gets her daughter to exercise and eat better that she will lose weight. Skinny people are so sadly pathetic when it comes to dealing with weight issues. It's not such a great movie, but at least she doesn't lose weight at the end. If you watch it with your daughters talk to her about bullying and eating. At least you can get a lesson out of it.

Sarah Connor Chronicles (Sunday, January 13, 8pm, FOX)
We all know the biggest bad ass character from the Terminator movies is Sarah Connor the woman who gives birth to the man who saves the world played by Linda Hamilton. Fox has smartly turned Sarah Connor into her own franchise with Lena Headey taking over for Hamilton. There is enough kick ass action to make guys and girls really happy.

The Complete Jane Austen (Sunday, January 13, 9pm, PBS)
For all you Jane Austen fans should be happy because over the next several months PBS will present the full Jane Austen cannon for your watching pleasure. Since there will be no new shows to watch due to the writer's strike, this Jane Austenathon sounds quite promising. There are repeats of classics like Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as well as a new productions including the season premiere of Persuasion airing this Sunday.

Interview with Ellen Kuras, director of Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) which will screen at Sundance.
Ellen Kuras (Indiewire)

Interview with Courtney Hunt, director of Frozen River which will screen at Sundance
Courtney Hunt (Indiewire)

January 10, 2008

January 10, 2008

Men Writers Dominate Hollywood
That's the title of an AP story that reflects the reality that women are underemployed as writers in Hollywood and that the strike has only made this even more pronounced with picket lines being dominated by men.

I wrote about the lack of women writers in Hollywood way back on May 31 in a piece for the The Women's Media Center

From my piece:

The news is bad for women writing for TV, and worse for women writing in film. According to Darnell Hunt, the lead author of the 2007 Hollywood Writers Report and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, “women are still under-represented about 2 to 1 in the industry and that’s pretty much across the board. In some places you see signs of progress, but overall it’s pretty stagnant and quite distressing considering this has been a story we have been telling for a couple of decades.”
In film, the percentage of women writers of features has hovered between 17% and 19% since 1999. Why are there so few? Kimberly Myers, newly appointed director of diversity at the guild, believes that some of the problems stem from the Hollywood blockbuster obsession. “Executives increasingly are looking for blockbuster movies that are going to appeal to a youth audience that they think of as more male than female,” says Myers. “Therefore, they are likely to be more interested in what male writers are pitching.” When they do get a job, women tend to make less money: the median women's earnings decreased 6.1% while male earnings increased 16.1%. In a single year, between 2004 and 2005, the gender pay gap doubled from $20,000 to $40,000. While neither Myers nor Hunt has a complete explanation for the gigantic jump, Myers attributes it to the continued consolidation of the industry: “all it takes is one studio to change their policy about the number and type of films they are making and it can impact the whole industry, which is not that large to being with.
White male writers still make up 72% of guild membership.
Full story: Guild Finds no Progress for Hollywood Women Writers (Women's Media Center)

I also did an interview with Sarah Fain, Executive Producer of the Women's Murder Club where she discussed being a female writer in the context of the strike and many other interesting things about making a living as a writer.
Interview with Sarah Fain

Some quotes from the AP piece
As Hollywood's striking scribes ventured out to their picket lines over the last two months, it's been plain to see -- female writers are outnumbered by their male colleagues.
"I'm surprised when I see a woman on the picket line and I always wonder, 'Hmm, do I know her?' " said Sarah McLaughlin, who wrote for "That 70s Show." "If I don't know a woman writer personally, I know of them."
"I've worked with male writers who say, flat out, women aren't funny," said McLaughlin, who says it's easier for women to get a foot in the door on dramatic shows.
Sitcoms typically draw their writing talent from stand-up clubs, where women are scarce, but that doesn't mean that witty women aren't plentiful, she said.

Some shows have only one or two female writers on staff, said McLaughlin, because managers and staff think they've met an unspoken quota.

"The industry is still primarily driven by men," said Elaine Aronson, who added she has been the "token woman" for many shows in her 19 years as a writer. "This was true way back in the days of 'Golden Girls' (which ran in prime time from 1985 to '92). Men who create shows -- even when they're about women -- think that one woman is enough to have on a staff."

"In order to be accepted in the writers room, you have to go to your male side in an extreme way," said Aronson. "Sometimes it's fine, and other times I wish I could have said, 'You filthy pig, I can't believe you said that.' "

Other women, many who are younger, say they're perfectly comfortable yucking it up with the boys.

"I've never felt at a disadvantage because of my gender," said Hilary Winston who writes for "My Name is Earl" where five out of the 18 staff writers are women. Winston, 31, credits the generation of experienced women producers for opening up the writers room to all ages and genders, and mentoring young writers such as herself.

"I think it's a non-issue," she said. "Those battles were fought and I'm reaping the benefits."

The need for female voices also can work to the advantage of women writers, said Stacy Traub, executive producer of "Notes From the Underbelly."

When Traub hires new writers she looks for diverse voices, raw talent and someone she wouldn't mind spending long hours with at work. Traub is one of the few female showrunners who have landed that prestige position and created their own show.
Men Writers Still Dominate Hollywood (AP via Seattle PI)
Glad AP finally got on the story

Even Successful Women in Hollywood Get the Axe
Dawn Taubin, head of marketing at Warner Brothers has been ousted in a studio shakeup as sexist studio chief Jeff Robinov (check out my earlier post- Do Women Matter to Hollywood?) completes his takeover. It's not like she hasn't been a success - 3 of the top 10 movies are Warner Brothers. She leaves after 20 years at the studio.

Research Help Needed
I am writing a story on the experiences of women directors whose films have been at Sundance. I specifically want to talk with women who have had dramatic films. I am trying to figure out if women directors coming out of Sundance are benefiting in their careers the same way male directors are. Please email me (email is at top of site) if you are a woman who has been at Sundance or if you know of any woman director from Sundance.

Another request comes from reader Stephanie Vann:
I am conducting research for a film class. I would like to find out the names of any movies that deal with women and their relationships with their fathers. Email her at: stephanie_vann@yahoo.com with any thoughts.

Isabel Coixet's Elegy an adaptation of Philip Roth's the Dying Animal starring Tilda Swinton has been added to the lineup of the Berlin Film Festival.

I'm not surprised that Juno is doing well. Not even surprised that people outside of the coasts like it. I'm surprised that Hollywood is so surprised. It just goes to show the lack of trust Hollywood has that real film viewers can spot a good movie.
Juno is a Surprise Hit in Middle America

The Awesome Annie Lennox talks about her album Song of Mass Destruction
Annie Lennox is Unafraid to Sing About Global Crises (Spinner)

January 9, 2008

January 9, 2008

The Business of Being Born- Opens Today in NY

A couple of months ago my incredibly healthy sister went in to have her baby after an uneventful pregnancy, and her carefully planned birth plan turned into a total disaster leaving her and her husband frightened and anxious for weeks after the birth. As a person who has not given birth I just didn't understand how things could go so bad, until I saw The Business of Being Born the new documentary directed by Abby Epstein. Now I understand exactly what happened.

The medical establishment has taken the most natural thing and made medicalized it basically for their own convenience and for insurance purposes. The process has become not about the woman and her baby, but about how to get it out as fast as possible -- especially if you go into labor in the late afternoon. No doctor wants to be at the hospital all night so there is a good chance if you go into labor after 4pm that you will get drugs to be induced and then those drugs will cause fetal distress and then you will need a c-section so the doctor can be home by dinner.

Epstein boldly also includes her own pregnancy as part of the film, and the film also takes us behind the scenes of several other births including water births and home births to give all of us the sense that there is a better way that this can be done.

Film opens in NY today and in SF and LA next week. It will be available on netflix in February.

The Business of Being Born

(Disclaimer: I am employed by the distributor as an on-line marketer to build word of mouth for the film.)

DGA Nominees
Sasha Stone over at Awards Daily calls this is the year of the visionary auteur which in Hollywood is the equivalent of male. I want to put in a mention for Julie Taymor whose Across the Universe was clearly visionary and she could be called an auteur more than any other female director. Why isn't she in any of these conversations about visionary auteurs? This does not bode well for a woman being nominated for a directing Oscar this year. What else is new?

NAACP Image Award Nominees
These awards are always more female friendly.

Motion Picture
"Talk To Me" (Focus Features)

Independent or Foreign Film
"A Mighty Heart" (Paramount Vantage)
"Persepolis" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Actress in a Motion Picture
Angelina Jolie - "A Mighty Heart" (Paramount Vantage)
Halle Berry - "Things We Lost In the Fire" (Dreamworks)
Jill Scott - "Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?" (Lionsgate Films)
Jurnee Smollett - "The Great Debaters" (The Weinstein Co.)
Taraji P. Henson - "Talk To Me" (Focus Features)

Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Janet Jackson - "Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?" (Lionsgate Films)
Loretta Devine - "This Christmas" (Screen Gems)
Meagan Good - "Stomp The Yard" (Screen Gems)
Queen Latifah - "Hairspray" (New Line)
Ruby Dee - "American Gangster" (Universal)

Comedy Series
"30 Rock" (NBC)
"Girlfriends" (CW)
"Ugly Betty" (ABC)

Actress in a Comedy Series
America Ferrera - "Ugly Betty" (ABC)
Golden Brooks - "Girlfriends" (CW)
Tia Mowry - "The Game" (CW)
Tichina Arnold - "Everybody Hates Chris" (CW)
Tracee Ellis Ross - "Girlfriends" (CW)

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Keesha Sharp - "Girlfriends" (CW)
Tonye Patano - "Weeds" (Showtime)
Vanessa L. Williams - "Ugly Betty" (ABC)
Vivica A. Fox - "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)
Wendy Raquel Robinson - "The Game" (CW)

Drama Series
"Grey’s Anatomy" (ABC)

Actress in a Drama Series
CCH Pounder - "The Shield" (FX)
Jennifer Beals - "The L Word" (Showtime)
Nicki Micheaux - "Lincoln Heights" (ABC Family)
Regina Taylor - "The Unit" (CBS)
Wendy Davis - "Army Wives" (Lifetime)

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Audra McDonald - "Private Practice" (ABC)
Chandra Wilson - "Grey’s Anatomy" (ABC)
Marianne Jean-Baptiste - "Without A Trace"(CBS)
Pam Grier - "The L Word" (Showtime)
S. Epatha Merkerson - "Law & Order" (NBC)

Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
"Life Support" (HBO)

Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Anika Noni Rose - "The Starter Wife" (USA Network)
Holly Robinson Peete - "Matters of Life & Dating" (Lifetime)
Queen Latifah - "Life Support" (HBO)
S. Epatha Merkerson - "Girl, Positive" (Lifetime)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier - "The List" (ABC Family)

Directing in a Comedy Series
Millicent Shelton - "Everybody Hates Chris: Everybody Hates the Substitute" (CW)

Directing in a Dramatic Series
Darnell Martin - "Law & Order: CI: Bombshell" (NBC)
Roxanne Dawson - "Heroes: Run" (NBC)

Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)
Kasi Lemmons - "Talk To Me" (Focus Features)

Writing in a Comedy Series
Karen Gist - "Girlfriends: Spree To Be Free" (CW)
Mindy Kaling - "The Office: Branch Wars" (NBC)
Sara Finney-Johnson - "The Game: The Big Chill" (CW)

Writing in a Dramatic Series
Janine Sherman Barrois - "ER: Breach of Trust" (NBC)
Kathleen McGhee-Anderson and Anthony Sparks - "Lincoln Heights: The Vision" (ABC Family)
Natalie Chaidez - "Heroes: The Fix" (NBC)
Shonda Rhimes - "Private Practice: In Which We Meet Addison, A Nice Girl From Somewhere Else" (ABC)
Shonda Rhimes and Krista Vernoff - "Grey’s Anatomy: A Change is Gonna Come" (ABC)

Angelina Jolie was friends with Marianne Pearl before portraying her. The actress took the role for Pearl's young son. (LA Times)

Scarlett Johansson will go period again as Mary Queen of Scots in Phillip Noyce's new drama to start shooting shortly. Next month she opens opposite Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl.

Interview with Amy Redford (daughter of Robert) as she prepares to debut her film The Guitar at Sundance later this month
Amy Redford (Indiewire)

EW's take on why the Writer's Strike is still dragging on
Why is it Dragging on? (EW)

She got her big break in a Hollywood flop and hasn't looked back since. Olivia Williams tells Maddy Costa about movies, motherhood - and her talent for annoying people I Feel Like an Immoral Success Story (The Guardian)

January 8, 2008

January 8, 2008

Hollywood Doesn't Want Women Directors (duh)
I let this piece pass when I first read it because it was written on Tom Long's Detroit News blog before the holidays, but now I'm going to comment. (I am guessing this piece got picked up because there are so few stories on women, especially women directors)

When it comes to a woman's touch, Hollywood apparently doesn't want it behind the camera.
But in 2007, with five of the most critically lauded movies of the year written by women, and three of those writers also directing their films, there has been at least a slight indication that that may be changing.
It's about time. During the past decade, out of 50 Oscar nominations for best director, only one has gone to a woman: Sofia Coppola for 2003's "Lost in Translation."
During the same period, out of 100 nominations for adapted or original screenplay Oscars, only four have gone to women writing on their own: Coppola for "Translation"; Nia Vardalos for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" in 2002; Susannah Grant for "Erin Brockovich" in 2000; and Elaine May for "Primary Colors" in 1998.
I want to thank Tom for bringing up issues that women have been talking about for so long. Seems when a guy does it, it gets more play.

But.. DOES FIVE FILMS INDICATE CHANGE? According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences there are 306 films eligible for an Oscar. Five is pathetic. I am tired of all these stories that try to paint a happy face on despair. The lack of women writers, directors and stars is despair worthy.
Female Directors Progressed in 2007 (SF Chronicle)

Susie Bright Weighs in on Hollywood's rash of pregnancies
I'm perplexed by the newest baby-happy trend in movies with female leads.
I can't recall a single friend who PLANNED to have a baby, who ever had as great a gestation period as these heroines.
But the overall effect was disquieting. The movies are farces, masquerading as romantic comedies. In a couple cases, it alarmed me that they couldn't utter the word "abortion" aloud, no matter how many naked boobs, swear words, or bong jokes were included.
She manages to talk about her own abortions to give some context which has been missing in all of these discussions.
The Reality Behind Hollywood Pregnancies (Alternet)

Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) is in negotiations to direct Jennifer's Body the next script from Diablo Cody (Juno).
Film will star Megan Fox (Transformers). If she signs on it would be another female trifecta film- director, writer and star. Keep em coming.
Kusama May Pick up Body (Hollywood Reporter)

Pissed off Doc Community to Launch Own Awards
Documentary filmmakers and programmers are fighting back against the Oscar by creating their own doc awards which will be given out March 18th at the IFC Center in NY. Community vets like Phoebe Brush (Full Frame), Cara Mertes (Sundance), Rachel Rosen (Los Angeles), Sky Sitney (SilverDocs), and Brit Withey (Denver) are on the committee.

The 15 films vying for honors include:
"Billy the Kid," directed by Jennifer Venditti
"Deep Water," directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell
"The Devil Came on Horseback," directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg
"Manufactured Landscapes," directed by Jennifer Baichwal
"The Monastery - Mr. Vig and the Nun," directed by Pernille Rose Gronkj√ɦr
"The Unforeseen," directed by Laura Dunn

Biopic of Benazir Bhutto Already in the Work (Variety)

Sundance jurors include a bunch of women. Mary Harron, Marcia Gay Harden and Sandra Oh have been selected as members of the dramatic competition. The documentary competition jury includes Heidi Ewing, Annie Sundberg and IFP exec director Michelle Byrd.
Lucrecia Martel and Jan Schuette are part of the world dramatic competition jury. On the World docu competition jury is Leena Pasanen, and Ilda Santiago and Melonie Diaz will sit on the short-film jury (Variety)

AfterEllen visits the L Word set
Interview with Leisha Hailey and Kate Moennig (AfterEllen)

Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise's partner in UA (who recently signed a side agreement with the Writer's Guild incuring the wrath of the AMPTP, will be honored with the President's Award from the Costume Designers Guild. (I didn't even know they gave out awards) Ceremony will be hosted by Anjelica Huston on Feb. 19. (Variety)

Joanna Gleason will star off-Broadway in Willy Holtzman's play "Something You Did to be directed by Carolyn Cantor. Performances start in March. (Variety)

January 7, 2008

January 7, 2008

Weekend Box Office
Juno continues to soar. Now playing in almost 2,000 theatres that film made over 16 million this weekend for a total of $52 million putting it on pace for the biggest specialty film (made for $2.5 million but released by the in-house specialty until at Fox, Fox Searchlight) at the box office released in 2007.

PS I Love You is still hanging around and has made almost $40 million in total and Atonment cracked the top 10 with $5.1 million or the week for a total of $19.2 million.

The Golden Compass keeps soaring overseas reaping $29 million this weekend for an international total of $232 million.

In Defense of Katherine Heigl
Hollywood has a tendency to excoriate its women for speaking up ala Jane Fonda, and Katherine Heigl is getting her share of crap for being honest about Knocked Up. We'll see who will be in the driver's seat on January 19 the day after her film 27 Dresses opens.

I haven't seen it yet (I am trying really hard to get into a screening this week) but this film has the female trifecta - a female star (Heigl), a female director (Anne Fletcher) and a female writer (Aline Brosh McKenna). I'm not too sold on the premise (it sounds a little regressive) -- it's about a woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times and how she takes take of everyone else except herself.

From an LA Times story this weekend:

"Outspoken," people call her, although it could also just be said that she speaks. Jane Fonda in Vietnam was outspoken; Heigl in Hollywood, calling the character she played in "Knocked Up" a shrew, is merely being forthright.
"The press or the media has decided that I'm outspoken, and I guess that's my angle or something?" she asks. "I have been this way for the last five to seven years when I started saying, 'You know, screw it, I'm not going to pussyfoot around issues anymore.' I kind of say what I think. And if I feel passionately about something I will be honest about it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
She clearly is backtracking on her comments about Knocked Up after getting a talking to by someone.
"I wouldn't have said anything at all, except that it was getting so much attention," she said. "It would have just gone away had I said nothing at all. Because it wasn't that interesting, and it wasn't that outrageous."
Katherine Heigl Outspoken (LA Times)

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there are right wing blogs about Hollywood and equally shouldn't be surprised that Heigl is getting her ass kicked by them. I won't give them the satisfaction of linking to their comments or posts, but it makes me feel even stronger that we need to support Heigl. The comments I read were very inflammatory and anti-woman (ie keep the women in the house and in their places), so we, as people who believe women have the right to say whatever we please have to support women in Hollywood that stand up for themselves.

Katha Pollitt on Juno
There hasn't been a movie in years that has all the feminist columnists weighing in. What's very interesting is to look at the different comments from feminists of different generations. (I'll try and do that at a later date)
I couldn't get over my sense that, hard as the movie worked to be a story about particular individuals, not a sermon, it was basically saying that for a high school junior to go through pregnancy and childbirth to give a baby to an infertile couple is both noble and cool, of a piece with loving indie rock and scorning cheerleaders;
To its credit, the film doesn't demonize teen sex; still, a teen who saw this movie would definitely feel like a moral failure for choosing abortion. Do we really want young girls to feel like they have to play babysanta?
The Media Makes Pregnant Teens Have Babies (The Nation via Alternet)

NY Times Special Oscar insert- Lame on the Women Front.
The only article on a woman was on Keira Knightley.
Commanding Attention in and Out of Costume (NY Times)

Do Violent Movies Drive Down Violence on the Streets?
File this under stuuupid economic survey. The NY Times has a report today on a study that shows that watching violent movies actually decreases violence on the streets.
Instead of fueling up at bars and then roaming around looking for trouble, potential criminals pass the prime hours for mayhem eating popcorn and watching celluloid villains slay in their stead.
“You’re taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theaters,” said the lead author of the study, Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego. “In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime.”
Young men are the most likely to commit violent crimes. In opting to see a movie — even one featuring, say, gang rape or chain-saw amputation — they forgo activities that have a greater tendency to encourage mayhem, like drinking and drug use.
So girls- for the two hours that guys are in the theatre watching women get maimed and killed onscreen you're safe! Give me a break.
Economists Says Movie Violence May Temper Real Thing (NY Times)

National Society of Film Critics

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” IFC
ACTRESS: Julie Christie, “Away From Her”
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”
SCREENPLAY:Tamara Jenkins, “The Savages”

Persepolis and another new film Caramel about women working in a beauty shop in Lebanon are both directed by women. Marjane Satrapi co-directed Persepolis and Nadine Labaki directs Caramel. They will both represent their countries France and Lebanon respectively in the foreign film oscar category. Persepolis is in limited release now and Caramel comes out later this month.
Femmes Find Mideast Funnybone (Variety)

An interesting look at lessons from 2007 and a look to 2008 for the specialty and doc market.
The Glut Resolutions Festivals and More (Indiewire)