February 1, 2008

February 1, 2008

At the Theatres This Weekend
Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria Parker star in two films opening this weekend. These openings give me a perfect chance to explain the types of movies that Women & Hollywood cares about people seeing vs. the movies we don't care about at all. I could give a crap about the Jessica and Eva's flicks. Not worth my time, or yours.

Caramel- directed by Nadine Labaki
What is worth your time is the film Caramel a love story to Beirut by the filmmaker Nadine Labaki. Labaki tells the story of five women trying to negotiate living modern lives in an environment where women are still not treated as full citizens. Labaki plays Layla the owner of the salon who being unmarried, still lives at home at 30, and is in the midst of humiliating affair with a married man. The other characters were all played by non-professionals so Labaki could get the real feel of Beirut which is known as Paris of the middle east. Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri) is a Muslim young woman who undergoes a hymenoplasty so her husband to be won't find out she is not a virgin; Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) is a sexually confused young woman drawn to a customer; Jamale (Gisele Aovad) is struggling with growing older and Rose (Siham Haddad) is a seamstress who works across the street from the salon and spends her days sewing and taking care of her mentally ill older sister. Rose's story is the most heartbreaking because she meets someone and has a chance for love yet does not pursue it because of her obligations and her age. Seeing her wipe the makeup off her face when deciding not to go on her date is a beautiful moment from an acting and directing standpoint.

This is a small movie in Lebanese and French so make sure to you pay close attention, but it is worth the trip.
Here is an IndieWire profile of director Labaki. (I hope to have an interview with her next week) Film opens in 11 locations today.
Caramel Director Nadine Labaki

Another phenomenon to watch this weekend is the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert film which plays in theatres for one week in 683 venues. It is the biggest seller on Fandango and because of a lot of sell-outs it could do very well this weekend.

Remaining in Theatres
The Savages
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Untraceable - stars Diane Lane as an FBI agent (haven't seen it)
27 Dresses
Mad Money
How She Move
The Business of Being Born
P.S. I Love You
The Golden Compass
August Rush
The Orphanage

Celluloid Ceiling Study (update)
Dr. Martha Lauzen and her team at San Diego State have released the numbers of women working in the film business. Things suck. Women have just 15% of the jobs. Scary.
No Growth in Film Jobs for Women (Hollywood Reporter via Yahoo)

Film Feminist of the Day
More reasons to love Ellen Page. She played right-wing on two soccer teams in her native Halifax. While I am still in Julie Christie's camp for the best actress Oscar, Page is so smart in this interview with the Guardian that I faltered for a brief moment. The Juno juggernaut is on the offensive in England in advance of its impending release next week.

"I hate how box-office failures are blamed on an actress, yet I don't see a box-office failure blamed on men," she says. Such as? "Like when The Golden Compass came out. Daniel Craig was in it, and Nicole Kidman was in it, and people were just ragging on Nicole Kidman the whole time." She also bemoans the lack of meaty leading roles for women. "I think a lot of the time in films, men get roles where they create their own destiny and women are just tools, supporters for that," she says. "I guess it's because we live in a patriarchal society, where feminism is a dirty word."
Ellen are you reading Women & Hollywood? We said the same thing about the Golden Compass.
Page, naturally, is happy to be described as a feminist, and is gobsmacked to have recently discovered that "40% of women in America or less" consider themselves feminists. "If it's about equality for the sexes, then who wouldn't be?" she asks. It is no surprise coming from the woman who, musing on how gender roles are imposed on children by society, says: "As a girl, you're supposed to love Sleeping Beauty. I mean who wants to love Sleeping Beauty when you can be Aladdin?
I Don't Want to Sound Like a Piece of Poop, But... (The Guardian)

Crimes of the Heart Theatrical Revival
If you're anywhere near NY in February get thee to the Roundabout Theatre for the revival of Crimes of the Heart directed by Kathleen Turner. Show boasts a fantastic cast including Sarah Paulson (god I miss watching her of Studio 360). They spoke with NY Magazine this week.
Highlight quote:

Here you’ve got a female author, a female director—
K.T.: Almost all female designers—

Plus three female leads. This is quite the chick-power production.
K.T.: I’m a little worried… S.P.: When we all get our period! It hasn’t happened yet, but, boy. Everyone’s gonna sync up, and it’s gonna be a nightmare in here. K.T.: The other day, Beth, the playwright, started to write something in her script, and up to that point she hadn’t done anything but watch. And you should’ve seen the faces on the actors. S.P.: “She hates it, she hates it, she hates everything!”

Full piece: Heart-to-Heart

A wrap up on women at Sundance: "2008 was a great year both for films helmed by women and films about women at the Sundance film festival."
Women at Sundance (Alliance of Women Film Journalists)

"Celluloid Dreams will represent the director Irena Salina's Sundance '08 entry, "FLOW: For Love of Water" internationally. Additionally, it was announced that the film will be the first theatrical film to collaborate with the global environmental initiative 1% For The Planet for its eventual commercial release. 1% is a growing global movement of 782 companies worldwide who have committed to donate 1% of their profit to a network of more than 1,500 global environmental organizations." (IndieWire)

Persepolis was voted best film of young people (16-19) at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. (IndieWire)

January 31, 2008

January 31, 2008

Is There Any Such Thing as the Thinking Woman's Chick Flick?
An article in today's Times of London talks about a new romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe, which is being released next week, that according to writer Wendy Ide "pushes all the right romantic buttons but is smart, well-observed and immensely satisfying. It's that rarest of things - a film about affairs of the heart that doesn't require you to check your brain in at the door. It's a film that we can take our husbands and boyfriends to without embarrassment or having to resort to bribery."

We all know that women like romantic comedies and men don't. That is one of the premises that fuels Hollywood. A script with words in it = women's film; a film with action or sci-fi and limited words = men's films. So as I'm reading this piece I can't help but think that we are now moving back into a climate like the late 80s (remember the films of John Cusack and Kevin Costner at that time) where the romantic comedies (before the term chick flicks was coined) will again be starring men. Definitely, Maybe might be romantic comedy but it looks to me that its Ryan Reynolds story that he is the star and the women (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz) are the supporting characters.

Does that bother anyone else aside from me?

Here's one good quote from the piece that is spot on: "What's particularly galling is that it's only when the film is targeted at the female audience that it loses its wits so dramatically."
Definitely, Maybe (Times of London)

Thelma Adams Asks "What's Wrong With This Picture?"
Us magazine film critic circulated an email about an all male critics panel that was held at this year's Sundance film festival.

Sorry, but the above picture says it all. Every year when I host a panel about amazing women in film at the Woodstock Film Festival, we discuss male critics being the final gatekeepers for women's features entering the marketplace. As someone who has attended Sundance since 1986, and a working critic since 1989, who knows and enjoys the company of Mark, Owen and Eugene, and proudly saw the female-led Frozen River win the Grand Jury Award for Dramatic Feature, I've got to ask you with both respect and passion: how does this all-male image of a Sundance critics' panel strike you?

NY Times Magazine's Problem With Women Authors
Galley Cat is reporting that the Times magazine has not run a profile of a female author since 2005. Pathetic.
Resolving That Women Authors in the Times Magazine Question

What Women Want
Theatre critic Alexis Greene has written a new piece for American Theatre Magazine
Here are some excerpts. Contact Alexis at: xalexisg@nyc.rr.com for a copy.
Google “women theater companies” these days, or go to the website of the Fund for Women Artists, and you find the names of numerous non-for-profit groups across the country dedicated to women making theater, or to stories dramatized from women’s perspectives. Some, like Venus Theatre in Washington, D.C., or Voice & Vision, New Georges, and Hourglass Group in New York, began life during the 1990s. But many others have emerged since 2000: 3Graces Theater Company, viBe Theater Experience, and Flying Fig Theater Company in New York; The 20% Theatre Company in the Twin Cities (so-called for alarming statistics about the underrepresentation of women in the professional American theatre); Rosalind Productions in Los Angeles; and The Women’s Theatre Project in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.—to cite only a handful….
Indeed, Martha Richards, founder and executive director of the Fund for Women Artists (which is coordinating an international event called SWAN Day—Support Women Artists Now Day—on March 29) reports that the Fund “is getting responses from all over the world,” suggesting that “there are more women making art than we realize.” But, as she has discovered running the Fund, the thousands of women making art in the United States usually cannot raise the money to do the projects they envision or, in most cases, simply exist on what they do raise….
But the presence of these groups also testifies to a situation that has changed only modestly since the 1970s: In the professional American theater, the numbers of produced plays written by women do not equal the numbers of produced plays written by men--and the numbers of directors, producers and designers who are women do not match the numbers of men who perform those same artistic activities. The last account of any standing--Report on the Status of Women: A Limited Engagement? (edited by Suzanne Bennett and Susan Jonas and released by the New York State Council on the Arts in 2002) stated that, of the plays slated to be produced by more than 400 TCG theatres during the 2001-2002 season, 17 percent were written by women and 16 percent were scheduled to be staged by women.
Translation: If the status quo is not providing women with the artistic opportunities they need, or telling the stories that women want to tell, then women might as well start their own theatres…..
Read my earlier piece on the lack of women's voices in theatre:
Women's Voices Missing from the Theatre—Does Anyone Care?

January 29, 2008

January 30, 2008

The Complete Jane Austen
Masterpiece Theater on PBS is in the midst of a several months long presentation of the complete works of Jane Austen. The series also includes a new film Miss Austen Regrets, an imagined look at Jane Austen's life as she approaches 40. The film stars Olivia Williams and Greta Scacchi and airs this Sunday at 9pm on PBS.

If you like Jane Austen at all you will enjoy this film which is very well done with an excellent portrayal of Jane Austen by Olivia Williams. I know that I have asked myself the question about Jane Austen's life and this film gives you a glimpse (using the limited correspondence she had with her sister Cassandra) into the life Jane may have led as a published, successful author who was never a complete success since she did not marry.

Rebecca Eaton, Executive Producer of Masterpiece Theater took some questions from Women & Hollywood about the series.

Women & Hollywood: Why did you want to air the complete Jane Austen?

Rebecca Eaton: It was an unmissable opportunity because you rarely get a chance to do the complete works of any author on TV. She wrote 6 books, all of which are film friendly and it just seemed like a perfect opportunity.
W&H: I see there is a new host (Gillian Anderson) for the series. Why was now the right time to update?
RE: This is a part of a whole rebranding of Masterpiece Theater. We did a lot of
research and realized that there were some perceptions that we could improve on. One of the things we have done is to organize the programming into three different genres: Masterpiece Classics, Masterpiece Mystery, and Masterpiece Contemporary. We always had those kinds of programs anyway but they were all mixed together. So we put all our classic programming together and in this case its Jane Austen and then we will do mysteries in the summer and contemporaries next fall.

We realized that each of these groups has an opportunity to have its own identity and hosts are ambassadors to the program. That's the signature of the series. And we thought that Gillian Anderson would be the perfect ambassador because she's lived in this country as well as England, because she's done classics like Bleak House as well as the X-Files.
W&H: Have you announced the hosts of the other genres yet?
RE: No, not yet.
W&H: Why do you think that Jane Austen still resonates so much with people?
RE: I think she always has. Her books have never been out of print and I think its a combination of elegant writing and satisfying story. There is depth to them, they are social commentaries, comedies and love stories all rolled into one. Her voice is so elegant and clear and you are sort of swept along. I think that in some ways she only wrote one story, the story of a marriageable woman who faces the possibility of either not marrying or marrying the wrong person or not recognizing the right person when she sees him. And I think choosing a mate, for men or women, is one of life's great adventures and that's what this is about.

In Jane's day, choosing a mate was more than an emotional experience it was also economic because sometimes your whole family's economic future depended on whether you could find someone to support you.
W&H: How does the Miss Austen Regrets fit into the series?
RE: I just thought it was very plausible. Whether it was true or not we'll never know as Gillian Anderson says in her introduction because there are so few diaries and letters left that we can only imagine. I think it's a very respectful imagining of what might have happened, and it does ask the question - if this woman understood men and women so well and was fascinated by love, why didn't she have it in her own life? I think with the fragments of fact that the writer had they put this together in a very plausible way and you can see that she made a choice and her choice was probably made in order to preserve her own sense of self. It put her family at great economic disadvantage, yet she did have a love of her life who was arguably her sister Cassandra. They had a very deep and wonderful relationship.
What we are hoping that people who have come to Masterpiece Theater for the first time because of Jane Austen will stay because coming up in April is A Room with a View (new production) and My Boy Jack with Daniel Radcliffe and Kim Cattrall. Then comes Cranford with Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton.
W&H: You were inducted into the Paley Center's She Made it Hall of Fame this year. Any comment?
RE: I was very proud and surprised. There should be more of us.
Schedule for Masterpiece Theater:
Feb 3 - Miss Austen Regrets
Feb 10, 17 and 24 -Pride and Prejudice (The really good one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett
Mar 23 -Emma (with Kate Beckinsale)
Mar 30, Apr 6 - Sense and Sensibility
Apr 13 - A Room with A View
Apr 20 - My Boy Jack
May 4, 11 and 18 - Cranford

Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalists
This is one of the most prestigious prizes given to a female playwright. The 2008 finalists include: Jenny Schwartz (God's Ear), Bryony Lavery (Stockholm), Lydia Diamond (Stick Fly)and Victoria Stewart (Hardball), Linda Brogan (“Black Crows”), Lisa McGee (“Girls and Dolls”), Linda McLean (“Strangers, Babies”), Julie Marie Myatt (“Boats on a River”), Polly Stenham (“That Face”) and Judith Thompson (“Palace of the End”).

Marie Osmond whose career has been resurrected after Dancing with the Stars will get her own talk show in the fall of 2009.

Katherine Heigl's got a co-star for her next film, The Ugly Truth -- P.S. I Love You's Gerard Butler. Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic reteams with his scribes Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith for a spring start.

Diane Kruger and director Susanne Bier have joined the jury of the Berlin Film Festival. They join the already announced Sandrine Bonnaire and Shu Qi (and a couple of guys)

January 29, 2008

Celluloid Ceiling Study of Films Released in 2007
Every year Dr. Martha Lauzen at San Diego State, who has become the leading expert on the status of women in the film and TV industries, releases a study analyzing the what's up with women in the biz. (This study analyzed behind-the-scenes employment of 2,883 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films (foreign films omitted) of 2007 with combined domestic box office grosses of approximately $9.3 billion.)

As you can imagine the news is grim and has been getting worse over the last few years. My question is, what can we do about this? Got any answers? Comments are welcomed.

Here are some of the statistics:

In 2007, women comprised 15% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from 1998 and represents no change from 2006.

Women accounted for 6% of directors in 2007, a decline of one percentage point since 2006. This figure is almost half the percentage of women directors working in 2000 when women accounted for 11% of all directors.

The following summary provides employment figures for 2007 and compares the most recent statistics with those from the last 10 years.

• Twenty one percent (21%) of the films released in 2007 employed no women directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors. No films failed to employ a man in at least one of these roles.
A historical comparison of women’s employment on the top 250 films in 2007 and 1998 reveals that the percentage of women in every role considered has declined.
• Women accounted for 10% of writers working on the top 250 films of 2007. Eighty two percent (82%) of the films had no female writers.
• Women comprised 14% of all executive producers working on the top 250 films of 2007 (see Figure 3). Sixty seven percent (67%) of the films had no female executive producers.
• Women accounted for 22% of all producers working on the top 250 films of 2007. Thirty seven percent (37%) of the films had no female producers.
• Women accounted for 17% of all editors working on the top 250 films of 2007. Seventy nine percent (79%) of the films had no female editors.
• Women comprised 2% of all cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2007. Ninety eight percent (98%) of the films had no female cinematographers.
By genre, women were most likely to work on romantic comedies, romantic dramas, and documentaries and least likely to work on science fiction, action-adventure, and horror features.
I am fucking depressed. We have to do something about this.

Report compiled by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182, 619.594.6301

No Country for Old Men- what's the big deal?
I resisted for a long time seeing No Country for Old Men. I really had no desire to see what everyone (the film critics- not regular people) said was the best film of the year but was also the most violent movie of the year. I'm really not interested in seeing movies about violence for the sake of violence. But I went. I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. So now I've seen it and my questions remains, what's all the hoopla about? It's fine, the violence is over the top (but no more than the scene from Fargo where a person gets fed into a woodchipper), Javier Bardem has the most horrific bowl haircut from the 80s and he kills lots of people for no reason other than the fact he can get away with it. So what? So did Jeffrey Dahmer. The Coen brothers clearly have a great feel for their material and are very good filmmakers, but I am still left wanting...

I feel that people who write about films really like to jump on a bandwagon with the rest of the club. Once films get momentum its much easier to stay on the wagon that to challenge conventional wisdom.

Brendan Fraser to be honored at ShoWest with Distinguished Decade Award. Come on. His career is about distinguished as mine.

B. Ruby Rich's take on Sundance and its return to its roots.
Back into the Light (The Guardian)

January 28, 2008

January 28, 2008

Women at the Box Office
Films targeted at women held their own this weekend while Cloverfield dropped a whopping 68% in its second weekend (whoops). 27 Dresses in its second weekend dropped only 40% making $13.6 million for a cume of $45.3 million, and Mad Money also dropped 40% making $4.6 million for a total cume of $15.3 million. Both films are successes since the costs were low and 27 Dresses has now made Katherine Heigl a movie star. It's all about perspective. If you make a movie for $30 and it grosses $45 you will wind up making money even though it does not have the monster opening weekend gross of $100. Everything in Hollywood is about the sprint on opening weekend. I don't know about you but I can't run that fast.

Juno continues to astound now having crossed over the holy grail- $100 million. Who would have thunk that a movie about a sarcastic, pregnant girl would gross this amount. I can guarantee that not a single person in Hollywood thought that. So, are there more sarcastic, smart girl (let's leave the pregnancy out this time) scripts in the pipeline?

Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days did monster numbers of $48,176 on just two screens (it expands into the top 15 markets over the next two weeks), and How She Move made a modest $4.2 million. Untraceable starring Diane Lane also opened to $11.2 million with an audience skewing 51% female and evenly divided between under 25s and over 25s.

SAG Awards
The first big awards show of this strike addled season aired last night.
Winners include:
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series: Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Queen Latifah, "Life Support"

You gotta love Julie Christie who doesn't give a shit about the Hollywood crap. Here's some brilliance from her.

Julie Christie,who won for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role, proved herself a tough-minded and independent backstage. Wearing a pantsuit, the actress was asked at one point, “Whose pants are you wearing?” Christie said, “My own pants.” When pressed to name the label, she responded with, “I don’t buy into the whole walking-advertisement thing.”

She talked tough about the lack of female directors, saying she hoped that Sarah Polley’s success with “Away From Her” would open more doors. “We hope that more women will find their way into the business. Or be allowed into the business,” she said. She also placed herself firmly in the pro-union camp. “All unions are important, I think. Think of the fight to form unions. An incredible historical fight. … Without them, we wouldn’t have anyone to represent our injustices.” (Hollywood Reporter)

Women Take Big Awards at Sundance
Writer/Director Courtney Hunt's The Frozen took the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. The film is a look at how two desperate women who smuggle illegal immigrants sold last week to Sony Pictures Classics for under $1 million. That is $9 million less than Hamlet 2 by Steve Coogan.

On the documentary front, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal's look at the Katrina aftermath Trouble the Water won the Grand Jury Prize. Other awards: Irena Dol won for editing The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins. (I interviewed the director Pietra Brettkelly and she said that Dol worked for no money for months as they were trying to raise funds for the film.) Lisa F. Jackson (whom I also interviewed) won a special jury prize for her film about the systematic rape of women and girls in the Congo, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. Anna Melikyan won the world cinema directing award for Mermaid out of Russia, and Nanette Burstein won the documentary directing award for American Teen.

Here are my interviews:
Interview with Pietra Brettkelly
Interview with Lisa F. Jackson

DGA Awards
While women have jobs on the teams of the men who won the best directing honors over the weekend, all the honors went to the guys. The two women who won awards, Liz Ryan and Barbara Roche won lifetime achievement awards. Liz Ryan won a career achievement award for her work as an Assistant Director/Unit Production Manager and Roche won for Associate Director and Stage Management. Congrats to those women, but this guild should be ashamed of themselves for the lack of opportunities given to women.

Great Interview in the Guardian with Allison Janney who is one of my favorites. Can someone please write her a TV show? I've missed her since the West Wing went off the air. She's starring in the stage version of 9 to 5 in the Lily Tomlin role. Can't wait.

Choice quotes
For the first time in her life, Janney is single. "I was in an eight-year relationship, a 10-year relationship and then a four-year relationship that ended last year." This was with the actor, Richard Jenik. "And now I'm single and don't see how I'm ever going to be able to date anybody, because..." she tapers off, in despair. "Because it's Hollywood and I'm a woman over 40 and it seems impossible. I think I'm done. That's the way I feel. I'm kind of depressed about that. A little bit."

She's thinking, this year, of starting her own production company. "Katharine Hepburn did that. That's how she got parts."
How About That (The Guardian)

La Vie en Rose- got 11 Cesar (France's version of the Academy Awards) nominations including best picture and best actress. Awards will be given out in Paris on February 22nd.

Marjane Satrapi in the Boston Globe: On topic of fanatics, she gets animated