January 18, 2008

January 18, 2008

Movies This Weekend
Competing against the mysterious and monstrous Cloverfield are 27 Dresses and Mad Money. Check out my interview with Mad Money director: Callie Khouri

Honestly, I enjoyed both films. Mad Money is different because, well, it's about money and how a group of women steal from the government. I love seeing Diane Keaton acting funny rather than clingy as she was in last year's Because I Said So, and Queen Latifah has become an actress with great range. The weakest link is Katie Holmes whose acting chops are a bit stiff. She needs to get back to acting since she had promise in her earlier roles like Pieces of April.

27 Dresses is a much more typical chick flick. Katherine Heigl (who they tried to make look less pretty than she is for some bizarre reason) plays Jane, always the bridesmaid, never the bride for 27 friends. (Does anyone have 27 people that they could be in a bridal party for?) She works as an assistant to Ed Burns' George, an environmentally correct mogul and has pined for him for years. Judy Greer plays her best friend and has the best lines in the film. (Will someone please write this woman a movie?)

Then in a whirlwind comes Jane's gorgeous, blonde sister Tess, who Jane helped raise (of course her mom is dead -- hasn't there been a spate of dead mom movies recently) and took care of and she proceeds to seduce George much to Jane's chagrin. On a night when she is literally flying between weddings in two boroughs Jane meets a cynical wedding columnist (James Marsden) who wants desperately off the wedding beat. They meet, fight, get stuck in a rainstorm, get drunk and perform Benny and the Jets (the classic song sing-along has become a standard of late) in front of a bar of strangers, and fall in love. There are some cute lines, but if you're not the wedding type (there are lots of weddings), it might make you angry.

If I had to tell you which one to go see I would say Mad Money because it needs our help more than 27 Dresses. Mad Money will be on 2400 hundred screen vs the 3,000 for 27 Dresses. It's released by a smaller studio, it's in less theatres and it puts women in less typical roles which we need to support. The LA Times and other media are pitting it as a battle of the sexes at the box office this weekend. Beauty vs. Beast at the Box Office (LA Times)

Other releases this week
Teeth - limited release

Still in Theatres
The Business of Being Born

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

Opening January 25
How She Move
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

Charlize Theron on Celebrity and the Roles She Plays
In the Valley of Elah is opening in England and Theron was interviewed about the lack of glamorous roles ie pretty roles she's played. Her response:

It's not like I've been [offered] any great glamorous roles that had great conflict and great story-telling," Theron retorted, clearly irked. "But I'm not going to be picky, because they're hard to come by. If I sit around waiting for a good, glamorous story to come around, I'm probably never going to work"
"So if you don't consider my character [in In the Valley of Elah] beautiful, I'm sorry, but that's really me. That's my natural hair colour. That's me with very little make-up. There's no prosthetics. That's what I look like."
My Looks Are the Last Thing I Think About The Telegraph

Variety Picks 10 Directors to Watch -- 2 Are Women, none are American
Nadine Labaki- her first feature Caramel about 5 women who work in a beauty parlor in Beirut opens later this month.
Nadine Labaki
Anna Melikyan- her film Mermaids is playing at this year's Sundance.
Anna Melikyan

AARP Awards
Tamara Jenkins “The Savages,” has won best movie and Julie Christie (“Away From Her”) won best actress. (Hollywood Reporter)

Jess Weixler the star of Teeth has developed a cult following of women on campuses (the men are scared to talk to her). Read about the film: Teeth Review
Jess Weixler

January 17, 2008

January 17, 2008

Sundance kicks off tonight
The Hollywood news is quite lacking today as everyone decamps for Sundance. I'll be covering things from here in NY. I'm working on some interviews with women directors which will run on a site I am partnering with - Zoom In Online. I am also working on a story called The Sundance Glow about the experiences of women directors post Sundance. That will be ready next week.

Teeth- Review
I've been sitting here for 20 minutes trying to figure out how to write about this film. It is one of the most bizarre films I have seen in a long time. I saw it several weeks ago and I still am thinking about it. That hardly ever happens.

Teeth takes on the myth of the vagina dentata -- toothed vagina. The story revolves around Dawn (Jess Weixler) a bright young woman so out of touch with herself and her body, as the most vocal member of the local chastity club. She won't go see movies with any sexuality in them, and she preaches to other kids to save themselves for marriage. We all know that abstinence only doesn't work (now even state governments are even starting to agree) and Dawn, like most teenagers today, gives in to her feelings. Suffice it to say things don't go as planned and Dawn's first loses his penis to her toothed vagina.

Dawn understandably freaks out and tries to learn what's going on with her body. She looks in her health textbook but the picture of the vulva is covered by a sticker (the penis is not); and she goes to a gynecologist for the first time and well, that doesn't turn out well either (Headline, touchy feely gyno loses fingers). Her mother is dying of cancer and she has no one to talk to. Then, when Dawn has sex on her own terms she realizes that she can control when and how her vaginal teeth are exposed, and she is empowered by this discovery. She uses her mutation (the images of a nuclear power plant hovering in the background helps hit home this concept) on her own terms and at the end of the film we see she clearly has gained the upper hand.

Writer and Director Mitchell Lichtenstein answers a couple of questions about the film.

Women & Hollywood: Why do you call you film a female revenge fantasy?

Mitchell Lichtenstein: Did I call it that? (Yes, you did - it's in the press notes.) It's partly that, but also a coming of age story, a horror movie and mostly a dark comedy. But a lot of women have come up to me and said "There were times when I wish I had that!" So the movie seems to work on that level.
W&H: What do you think the film says about masculinity and femininity?
ML: Well, for one thing, it says that neither are well-served by current sex education or the abstinence movement.
W&H: Do you think the film is a feminist film? If yes, why?
ML: As a man, I don't feel I'm in a position to say whether something is feminist or not.
W&H: There are a lot of political messages in the film -- the disaster of abstinence only programs, the lack of education in sex education, violence against women -- that have the potential to be preachy but they are not. Was that your intention?
ML: Absolutely. But all of that emerged naturally as I created the character and her journey.
W&H: At the screening I went to the men left were terrified and the women were feeling quite giddy. Has that been your experience in other screenings and if yes, what does that say about the relationship between men and women?
ML: Well, given what happens to most of the guys in the movie, it's understandable that men would experience it differently -- more viscerally -- than women. And the vagina dentata myth is more likely to resonate threateningly with men (who invented it) than with women. Women -- thankfully -- have not internalized the myth.
W&H: What do you want people to walk out of the film thinking about?
ML: What the hell lead men -- in so many cultures across the globe -- to ascribe this ludicrous feature to women? What are we afraid of?
Film opens in NY tomorrow, January 18.

The Good Witch - Saturday, January 19, Hallmark Channel
I don't think that I have ever watched anything on the Hallmark channel, but their new film The Good Witch looked interesting so I decided to give it a go. It's a very typical made for TV movie, similar to Lifetime films. Film stars Catherine Bell (JAG, Army Wives) as Cassandra Nightingale a mysterious woman who comes to a town somewhere in middle America and throws the whole community into a tizzy. She's different, carefree, doesn't judge and she makes people nervous. She inherits a supposedly haunted house so everyone thinks she's a witch, which we all know that means burn her at the stake. Film doesn't go that far, and it's got a good message of tolerance with a little romance with the town sheriff thrown in. Bell is great, she seems to be getting more and more interesting in her roles.

UN to create $100 million fund to fight stereotypes in films.
Queen Noor of Jordan announced the fund yesterday: "For a lifetime, it seems, I have agonized over the way stereotypes, reinforced by popular culture and the media, can set the emotional and political stage for policies that result in chronic misunderstanding. Yet the media has the power to humanize as well as polarize."
UN to Create $100 M Film Fund (Variety)

January 16, 2008

January 16, 2008

Interview with Callie Khouri, director of Mad Money

Mad Money, a new comedy starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes opens on Friday. The film is about three women who conspire to steal money about to be shredded from the Federal Reserve in order to get their lives on track. Keaton is about to lose her home and her upper middle class dream, single-mom Latifah wants to get out of her bad neighborhood and get her sons into a better school, and Holmes, well she just wants a better trailer to live in. Keaton is the mastermind who comes up with the plan after being forced to get a job as a cleaner in the local Fed because that's the only things she's qualified for after being out of the workforce for decades. She convinces the other ladies to go along with the plan and they are on the road (with lots of bumps along the way) to salvation.

Callie Khouri, best known as the screenwriter of the now classic Thelma and Louise takes on her second directing assignment with this film. She answered some questions about this film and also touched on Thelma & Louise.

Women & Hollywood: It's strange to say this in 2008 but your film is different because you have women as the leads and you are a female director. Why do you think this is still such a rare occurrence?

Callie Khouri: I ask that same question all time. It's really inconceivable to me that the numbers are as low as they are. When I hear the statistics I am shocked because to me it is not that women are less suited to the job. There certainly isn't a lack of audience. If the same energy went into marketing movies to women as they do on the other demographics we might see more of a spike [in attendance.]

The one thing that makes it so difficult is getting the women's audience out on that first weekend which seems to be the measure of success. It is more difficult to get the female audience into the theatre in a reliable way the way they can get young guys and people with less responsibilities.
W&H: Women don't know about the importance of the first weekend.
CK: Every time I go and speak I'm always asked why don't they make more movies for women, and I say it's because you don’t go on the first weekend and that's what they [the movie studios] are interested in.
W&H: What made you want to direct this movie?
CK: I always thought it would be fun. It's pure entertainment. I don't think its possible to do a movie about money without some social commentary but it's not the overriding theme of the film. There are class issues addressed in a comedic way -- the idea that you could lose everything or not having enough -- that anybody can relate to. I wanted to direct it because Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah were attached early on.
W&H: How long did it take to get made?
CK: A Little over five years. We were never able to find a studio that wanted to do it. No major studio wanted to make it even with that cast attached.
W&H: But they make movies with Queen Latifah as the lead?
CK: It's inexplicable to me that the studio didn't look at this and say oh yeah we know how to do this.
W&H: After Thelma & Louise what kind of scripts did you get?
CK: I was offered women's type of things and a lot of them weren't my cup of tea. As much as I believe the women's audience is under served, I want to make a film with broad appeal in whatever genre it is.
W&H: I've noticed that people are revisiting Thelma and Louise and putting the chick flick label on it now because it seems that every movie starring a woman, even ones made years ago, are now chick flicks.
CK: I wouldn't mind if I didn't feel it was a diminutive. If it’s a movie primarily directed at women you can call it that, but it wasn't. It does belie a certain type of prejudice. Chick flick is not a term used to praise a movie. Nobody says "it’s a great chick flick." It’s a way of being derisive. I'm not clear why it's ok to do it.
Mad Money has tested extremely well with men and they [the studio] feel strongly that it is a date movie and broad audience movie and they are not marketing it as a chick flick. It's strange anything that has women in it is tarred with this brush.
W&H: Do you call yourself a feminist filmmaker?
CK: I call myself a feminist, not a feminist filmmaker. If somebody asked me if I had a feminist sensibility it would be pretty hard to deny, but is it the theme of my work? Not necessarily. I'm interested in a lot of things. I tried to get a baseball movie made a couple of years ago and I don't think it didn't happen because I was a woman, but because sports movie don't sell internationally.
W&H: I remember that my grandmother used the term mad money. It seems to be something that women are more familiar with.
CK: Mad Money is like your own personal insurance policy. I don't know if you hear guys mention mad money but all women know what it is. I think it originally came from the days when women were given money by their husbands because they weren't earning it. You were given the money and you'd skim a little off for yourself.
W&H: This is a rare crime move because there is no violence.

CK: When Thelma and Louise came out people perceived it as far more violent than it was. What people wrote was completely out of proportion to what happened in the movie. In the movie the whole point was to make the killing wrong. I wasn't trying to justify it, I was trying to set up a way that they would have to run for their lives, forever. But, people remember it as being super violent and I am always surprised by that. They blow up one truck, hold up a liquor store -- nobody gets hurt. At the same time Reservoir Dogs and other movies [with lots of violence] were getting praised, and I realized that there was a real double standard for women especially with women committing acts of violence. For whatever reason people seem to have a hard time with it.

On another note, Mad Money star Diane Keaton was yucking it up about looks and personality yesterday on GMA and she did the ultimate TV no-no, she cursed. Check it out: Diane Keaton on GMA Hope it will help the movie.

The Foreign Film Oscar Committee Should be Ashamed of Themselves
The short list of films to qualify for the for the best foreign film Oscar was unveiled yesterday and two films which received a lot of critical attention this season -- 4 Months,3 Weeks, and Two Days and Persepolis were both snubbed. Interesting to note that these two films are both about women. Both films are excellent.

Shootout Goes to Palm Springs and Ignores Women Filmmakers
On Sunday mornings at 11am on AMC, Peter Bart the editor of Variety, and Peter Guber the uber-producer sit around and talk about the state of the movie business. They usually have some guests, and like most of the rest of the industry their guests are usually male.

This past weekend they took the show on the road to the Palm Springs International Film Festival and had a panel of directors join them on stage. They had Joe Wright, director of Atonement; Adam Shankman, director of Hairspray; Jason Reitman, director of Juno and John Sayles, director of Honeydripper.

6 white guys sitting on the stage talking about the business. And we wonder what's wrong.

I have been very high on Juno but Jason Reitman came off as a snide, obnoxious privileged twit, and I enjoyed Joe Wright's uncomfortableness with the fact that the conversation was about money and films and not about films. He was mortified. In an ironic twist, the films that were actually awarded at the Festival as reported here on Monday include Helen Hunt for Then She Found Me and Tricia Regan for Autism: the Musical. Memo to the Peters: Have some more women on your show!

BAFTA Nominations. The Brits weigh in.
“Atonement” — Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Paul Webster
“Atonement” — Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Joe Wright, Christopher Hampton
Mia Bays (producer) — “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man”
Sarah Gavron (director) — “Brick Lane”
“Juno” — Diablo Cody
(nominations announced on Jan. 4)
“La Vie en rose” — Alain Goldman, Olivier Dahan
Cate Blanchett — “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie — “Away From Her”
Marion Cotillard — “La Vie en rose”
Keira Knightley — “Atonement”
Ellen Page — “Juno”
Cate Blanchett — “I’m Not There”
Kelly Macdonald — “No Country for Old Men”
Samantha Morton — “Control”
Saoirse Ronan — “Atonement”
Tilda Swinton — “Michael Clayton”
THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public) — nominees announced on Jan. 8
Sienna Miller
Ellen Page

Women's Promotions: Warner Brothers has promoted Sue Kroll to the new position of President of World wide Marketing and 20th Century Fox has upped Jennifer Nicholson Salke to oversee both comedy and drama development.

Anne Fletcher, director of 27 Dresses opening Friday has signed on to direct The Proposal starring Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock.

Annette Bening will be honored with the Governor's award at the American Society of Cinematographers award ceremony on January 26th.

Ugly Betty Joins Hillary Clinton's Campaign to Help Reach Latino Voters

Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page team up for Whip It. This film actually sounds promising. Page plays a young women pushed into beauty pageants and winds up in the roller derby. Film is written by Shauna Cross. Another female trifecta film!

Oprah Continues Her Bid for World Domination by Creating the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) with Discovery.
Oprah Gets Her Own Network (Reuters)

Deneuve's Enduring Legend

January 15, 2008

January 15, 2008

The Dilemma
Tomorrow, I will have my very interesting interview with Callie Khouri, writer of Thelma and Louise and director of Mad Money arriving in theaters Friday. Also arriving on Friday 27 Dresses starring Katherine Heigl directed by Anne Fletcher. I've seen both movies and they are very different and both deserve a chance to play.

But, I'm worried.

We get so few films starring women that two on one weekend might make it hard for both of them to be a success. Women really, really need to see something this weekend (preferably on Friday night) Can we do it? Can we show that we support movies with female leads?

Washington Post Writer Needs to Put His Tongue Back in His Mouth
All the press about 27 Dresses and Katherine Heigl has been about how she has the "it" quality to be our next female movie star. Lots of pressure. WP writer William Booth writes an article that is so blatantly sexist, if I was Heigl I'd be nervous that we would stalk me. Totally condescending piece.

Choice quotes:

She enters the room in a knit that fits, the kind of dress with a place for everything. Lipstick the color of a valentine. The doors to the balcony are thrown open and she exhales, "Great, I can smoke," and pulls one from the pack and you think, carbon monoxide might not be so bad.
Yuck. Where are his editors? He even manages to put down all women actresses in Hollywood
Hollywood is still searching for someone to call America's sweetheart, a fresh peach to replace the beloved but semi-retired Julia Roberts, the cold and calculating Reese Witherspoon, someone like Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz, but shiny and new -- and not ground down to a nub by time and the tabloids.
Heigl still manages to be in some of her now common quotes about how women are treated in Hollywood.
Most of my friends are funny, witty, intelligent and beautiful women, so it's not that unusual, a pretty girl being funny, is it? But for some reason in this town, they really like to compartmentalize, so you're either the character actor who is funny or you're the pretty girl in the movie."
And honesty about 27 Dresses
"But it's a romantic comedy. It's a real chick flick. It's the kind of movie I love and try to go see every chance I can get. But you know," she says, and you've got to like this part, "there's not a ton of profoundness about it."
A Puff of Fresh Air (WP)

Eleanor Ringel on Women and Oscar
Over at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Eleanor Ringel takes a look at the types of roles for women that win Oscars. Have we progressed or regressed since the days of Katherine Hepburn?

Want to win an Oscar? If you’re an actress, you’ve got a better chance on your back than behind a desk. When it comes to the Academy Awards, working girls have it all over working women.

Consider this: in almost 80 years of handing out those coveted little golden men, only a handful have gone to so-called career women: Mercedes McCambridge as a political campaign manager in “All the King’s Men;” Olivia De Havilland’s cosmetics queen in “To Each His Own;” Celeste Holm as a fashion magazine editor in “Gentleman’s Agreement;” Joan Crawford’s restaurateur in “Mildred Pierce;” Glenda Jackson as a fashion designer in “A Touch of Class;” and, of course, the mother of all business women ball-busters, Faye Dunaway’s ruthless TV executive in “Network.”

By contrast, almost twice as many Oscars have gone to hookers (even more, if you count variations such as promiscuous wives and bad-girl socialites). In fact, the very first Oscar went to Janet Gaynor for her street urchin/streetwalker in “Seventh Heaven“ (full disclosure: she actually won for three films, as was the custom initially, the others being “Sunrise” and “Street Angel”).

Moms, wives and girlfriends of every shape, size and temperament naturally dominate the list. After all, movies rarely shape society; they reflect it. As two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster once said in an interview with Time Magazine, “Women’s roles are rarely written as human beings. Instead, they’re written as plot adjuncts: sister of, daughter of.”
Eleanor Ringel on Women and Oscar (Alliance of Women Film Journalists)

Diablo Cody on Looking Good While Being Strong
I really hope that Diablo got a good deal on Juno cause its raking in the bucks and she should definitely get some of it. It's the biggest grosser in Fox Searchlight's history and on its way to $100, which we all know is the holy grail in Hollywood and no movies about women make that much. (Recently you get the Devil Wear Prada and...)

Cody just filed her second EW column and it's really a breathe of fresh air to have a smart biting female voice on the back page that lately seems to has become a column for Stephen King.
...as a writer, I hope to craft female characters who are tough, gutsy, and cocksure. Women with brio and spunk. In other words, women who probably wouldn't care if their column illustration resembled Victorian corpse portraiture. And yet, some of the strongest ladies in the pop-cult canon have endeared themselves to us because of their vulnerability and, yes, even their vanity.

In fact, there are plenty of killer onscreen heroines who weren't too cool to care about their hair, complexion, or wardrobe. I mean, why not reapply the ol' lip gloss before busting that villain or solving that theorem? Since when is a dab of beeswax a concession to the patriarchy?
When was the last time the rod patriarchy was in Entertainment Weekly? Read her list here: Diablo Cody on Heroine Chic (EW)

Film on Aung San Suu Kyi in Development
Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore will make his English language film debut on this $30 million financed by US based Crystal Sky Pictures. Japanese producer Naofumi Okamoto secured the rights from Kyi.

He asked Tornatore to direct because of the Italian helmer's empathy with female characters. Okamoto said, "We want to use the politics as the background to a story about a woman who chose to be the mother to a nation rather than the mother of a family."

What? This is the perfect movie for a woman to direct. How about asking a woman director, maybe even a woman who is a mother? These guys who don't speak English keep getting these opportunities to direct films while women keep getting shut out.
Tornatore Courts a Nobel Lady (Variety)

January 14, 2008

January 14, 2008

Women & Hollywood is featured in More Magazine
The February issue is on newsstands now (Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty is on the cover) Women & Hollywood is one of five bloggers that have the editors at More's attention. So psyched that I am included.

Golden Globe Winners
I was sad to not be able to watch the Golden Globes, the most entertaining of the award shows. I'll miss looking at all the dresses in next week's rag sheets. Here are the winners.


Women Dominate Palm Spring International Film Festival Winners
Helen Hunt's directorial debut "Then She Found Me," won the audience award for narrative feature and Tricia Regan's "Autism: The Musical," won the documentary award. Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu shared the best actress for "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days."

Diane Keaton on Mad Money
SF Chronicle interviewed Diane Keaton on the eve of her new film directed by Callie Khouri (screenwriter, Thelma & Louise)

While the movie's first aim is to entertain, it has a decided feminist undertone and lots of sympathy for the low-paid workers portrayed by the trio. That should be no surprise, because the director is Callie Khouri, writer and co-producer of "Thelma & Louise."
When you've been around for a long time, you have ups and downs. I've definitely had some downs, where it was hard for me to be cast in roles. (For instance), "The Good Mother" (1988), that was a huge bomb, and it was with Disney, and that made it almost impossible for me to be cast in "Father of the Bride" (1991). So the studio didn't want me at all. It was only through the persistence of (director) Charles Shyer and (writer) Nancy Meyers that I got that job. Those (down) periods also give you the opportunity to explore other venues, which has made life more interesting, for sure.
Diane Keaton Stars in Mad Money (SF Chronicle)

2008 Film Preview
LAT has a preview of the 2008 slate of films. Suffice it to say that women won't dominate the box office. Things to look forward to:
  • My Blueberry Nights- starring the singer Nora Jones and Natalie Portman and Jude Law (February)
  • A big year for Diane Lane- she appears in four films and not all of them are romances. She reunited with Richard Gere is Nights in Rodanthe and then appears in "Killshot," "Untraceable" and "Jumper." Go Diane!
  • "The Other Boleyn Girl," with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson (Feb. 29).
  • "Confessions of a Shopaholic," based on the book by Sophie Kinsella starring Isla Fisher
  • Helen Hunt's directorial debut, "Then She Found Me," based on Elinor Lipman's novel (May 23)
  • Penelope- starring Christina Ricci and produced by Reese Witherspoon It's a Confident Christina Ricci, Onscreen and Off (LA Times)

The Sherry Lansing Era is Long Gone at Paramount Now the men rule the lot!
Brad Grey promoted John Lesher to President of Paramount Pictures, and Rob Moore was also promoted to Vice Chairman. Brad Weston will add MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies to his responsibilities and Nick Meyer will become president of Par Vantage.

Lena Headey and Fox are getting crap for the fact that she is too skinny and not buff enough and, oh yeah, only 14 years older than the actor who plays her son. She's 34,
New Sarah Connor Needs a Thick Skin