April 18, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

It's a good thing that its Passover tomorrow night and Sunday (for us Jews) because it is a depressing weekend for women at the box office. The new Judd Apatow misogynistic dick film (there is supposedly 37 frames of full frontal male nudity, and Judd Apatow said on the Daily Show this week that his goal is to get a penis in each of his films. Such an important goal in life, don't you think?)

But hold tight, next week with the release of the Helen Hunt film Then She Found Me (starting in NY and LA and rolling out across the country throughout May) and Tina Fey's Baby Mama (which I haven't seen yet) will make it a much brighter weekend.

So this weekend its time to catch up on what's been playing so that next week you are ready for the new films.
Remaining in Theatres:
Nim's Island
Under the Same Moon
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
My Blueberry Nights
and Kimberly Peirce's excellent Iraq war movie- Stop-Loss

Molly Haskell on Feminism and Film

Karina Longworth of Spot Blog (one of the very few interesting female film bloggers) participated in a critics discussion (how come I didn't get an invite?) at the Moving Image Institute last weekend. Here is her take on the conversation with legendary film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris. In my opinion, Haskell has written the best book on women, film and feminism: From Reverence to Rape. That book rocked my film loving self.

Here's a great line from Haskell, worthy of further conversation:

Although both Molly and Andrew were fans of Juno, Haskell says she’s “distressed” by the fact that conversations about women have, over the past twenty years, fallen out of mainstream film discourse. “Now it’s like Feminism is a dirty word,” she said. “I think Hollywood has just gone over to the adolescent male, in terms of both behind and in front of the camera. I think a lot of the violence in the world now is about the threat to male supremacy. And this leads to the Apatow thing…it’s a retreat.”
As someone who has tried to create a larger conversation about this Judd Apatow mania (who by the way was on the Daily Show this week and Jon Stewart completely regressed to his adolescent dick humor) there are few takers.

Longworth wrote:
Forgetting Sarah Marshall as smokescreen for a male regression fantasy knee-jerked into motion by endless war? It’s the exact sort of critical thinking about mainstream culture that isn’t happening on any kind of wide scale, much to our chagrin.
We need to have more conversations on why films have become so obsessed with these types of comedies. This summer there will be three or four Apatow films (he almost has his own genre) opening. Will it finally be too much? We can only hope.

Andrew Sarris & Molly Haskell

New Briefs

  • V-Day turned 10 this week and celebrated at the New Orleans Superdome. Rebecca Traister at Salon has her account of the event. Beyond Vagina-Dome (Salon)
  • Chick Lit superstar Jennifer Weiner has signed a two year 7 figure development pact with ABC. (Variety)
  • Salma Hayek, Diane English, Ginnifer Goodwin and Sherry Lansing will be honored with the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards. Event will be held in LA on June 17.
  • Bea Arthur will be inducted into the Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.

April 16, 2008

Yes, Virginia We Live in a Sexist World

I've been a Hillary girl all along. I have no problem telling anyone at anytime that I am proudly voting for the girl. Then again, I don't work in an office with the boys breathing down my neck with this so-called Obama-mania. Rebecca Traister, one of my favorite writers who focuses on women's issues in Salon, this week takes on the overzealous boycentric Obama mania here: Hey, Obama boys: Back off already!

Traister writes: I began reporting this story in part because, as a 32-year-old woman who is more liberal than either candidate, and who was quite torn until Super Tuesday, I had found myself increasingly defensive of Clinton in the face of the Obama worship that rules the mostly white, liberal, well-educated circles in which I work and travel.

I am a loud feminist and a longtime Clinton skeptic who was suddenly feeling that I needed to rationalize, apologize for, or even just stay quiet about my increasing unease with the way Clinton was being discussed. Meanwhile, I was getting e-mails from men I didn't know well who approached me as a go-to feminist to whom they could express their hatred of Hillary and their anger at her staying in the race -- an anger that seemed to build with every one of her victories. One of my closest girlfriends, an Obama voter, told me of a drink she'd had with a politically progressive man who made a series of legitimate complaints about Clinton's policies before adding that when he hears the senator's voice, he's overcome by an urge to punch her in the face.
Writing about women, Hollywood and feminism, I spend my time talking with women who work in the entertainment business. Many of them are struggling to get movies made and released that are about women and ALL are having a hard time. I have not talked to a single woman who has had someone, anyone say that they would looove to make her movie about a woman over 40 who... What they hear is there is no audience for these movies and women can't be counted on to come and and see movies...yada yada yada.

During this long political season every single one of the women I have spoken to has brought up what is happening to Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in comparison to what is happening for women in the entertainment business. While Hillary is clearly alone in doing what she's doing, these women also feel alone in doing what they are doing.

As a Gen-X feminist, I've been upset at the internecine warfare between my feminist mothers and the third wavers. I've never seen the attraction to Obama, but understand the younger women's desire to believe that we live in a world where voting beyond gender was a feminist act in itself in this supposedly post-feminist world.

But we don't live in a post-feminist world. We live in a sexist world.

So this week I was happy to see that young women are FINALLY starting to realize that gender is an issue. Amanda Fortini who according to my google search has been a fashion writer at Slate and who recently wrote the Lindsay Lohan piece in NY Magazine where she appeared naked as Marilyn Monroe, takes a big step forward for herself with a terrific piece in this week's NY Magazine entitled The Feminist Reawakening. She spoke to many young women who were sadly too fearful to use their names to discuss how gender in the presidential contest is playing out in workplaces and in conversations across the country.

Here are some really good quotes:
Many women, whatever their particular feelings about Hillary Clinton (love her, loathe her, voting for her regardless), began to feel a general sense of unease at what they were witnessing. The mask had been pulled off—or, perhaps more apt, the makeup wiped off—and the old gender wounds and scars and blemishes, rather than having healed in the past three decades, had, to the surprise of many of us, been festering all along.

A few women told me that when they raised this issue with men, the discussion broke down, with the men arguing that racism was far more pernicious than sexism. “If you say anything about the specificity of Hillary being a woman, you’re just doing the knee-jerk feminist stuff, that’s the reaction,” said one woman who asked not to be identified in any way. “Thinking about race is a serious issue, whereas sexism is just something for dumb feminists to think about.”
I am proud to be one of those dumb feminists!

And some of the quotes that relate to Hollywood:
...many women were clued in to the numerous gender-related issues that lay, untouched and unexamined, at some subterranean level of our culture: to the way women disproportionately bear the ills of our society, like poverty and lack of health care; to the relentlessly sexist fixation on the bodies of Hollywood starlets—on the vicissitudes of their weight, on the appearance and speedy disappearance of their pregnant bellies—and the deleterious influence this obsession has on teenage girls.
A high-powered film executive for a company based in New York and Los Angeles recounted a heated debate she engaged in with two of her closest male friends; she finally capitulated when they teamed up and began to shout her down.

It’s just a vibe when you’re a woman and you walk into a room and you’re in a position of power and you have to convince them of something,” a movie producer told me. “You’re constantly juggling: When you’re soft, you’re too soft; when you’re strong, you’re too strong. It’s a struggle in business and a struggle in relationships. It’s always a struggle.”
What these pieces, the campaign, and my work shows is that we really, really don't want to talk about or address gender issues. It's easier just to ignore them. If nothing else comes from this feminist reawakening maybe, just maybe, those of us who think and write about gender won't be called "dumb feminists" anymore. Maybe we'll be called what we know we are already "kick-ass smart feminists."

(BTW Traister's article has garnered over 1100 comments in the two days since it was posted and Fortini's only has 33. Guess most people read NY Magazine in print.)

Women and Botox

A couple of weeks ago I saw Lara Flynn Boyle on Law & Order and she was virtually unrecognizable. I was very disturbed by her puffy face and lips and itty bitty body. But, I didn't write anything about it because, well, I hate writing about women who get botox cause I don't want to bring more attention to the issue.

An article in Sunday's LA Times which talks about women on TV and botox made me change my mind. We need to talk about this a lot more. I remember that first time I became aware of botox was when I saw Beaches and Barbara Hershey's lips look like mine did when I was stung by a bee. But that was 1988 before we had public conversations about plastic surgery.

I can understand (but disagree) when a woman hits a certain age (in my book I think its over 50 or 60) and decides to have a face lift or something else done. But, I don't see why Lara Flynn Boyle at 38 feels the need to get botox. This is out of control. Women in Hollywood are under increasing pressure to look younger and younger and younger while the guys seem to be concerned about how to get a penis in every movie he makes (yes, you Judd Apatow.)

The scary thing about botox is that is doesn't make these women look better, it makes them look scary and fake. Is this what we want young women and girls to think real women look like?

On TV: Botox. Face-lifts. Reconstructive surgery.

Spain- A Picture of Gender Equality

Couldn't resist
Spain's new cabinet: 9 women, 8 men.

New defense minister reviewing the troops 7 months pregnant.

April 15, 2008

Lifetime's New Slate for 2008-2009

Lifetime is trying to get younger. That is, they are trying to get younger women to watch the network. They announced their slate for the upcoming season and some shows are worth noting. Now that they stole Project Runway from Bravo they are on a mission.

Their big coup is that Patricia Cornwell, author of the Kay Scarpetta novels, has sold her novels for adaptation for the first time. Adaptations will begin with At Risk and its upcoming sequel The Front which will be released shortly. Have to say that I am disappointed. I've been waiting years for Scarpetta to come to the screen. (I dreamed that Kate Mulgrew would play Scarpetta).

Other shows include:

  • Mistresses, based on a BBC series that follows a group of friends from college through their adult years.
  • Drop Dead Diva, a light fantasy revolving around a demanding young actress who dies and returns to Earth in the body of a brilliant but "unpolished" attorney.
  • Rita Rocks, with Nicole Sullivan as a besieged wife and mother who forms a garage band
  • Libertyville, with Christine Ebersole as a divorced mother who's dating again while having to put up with zingers from her 24-year-old daughter and retired father.
Best news - they are adapting the fantastic British miniseries The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, about a former supermarket manager who becomes prime minister. Loved that mini-series. Can't wait.

Bride Wars- Yuck

This is the state of women's comedies. Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson are starring in the film shooting right now about two best friends who become rivals when their weddings are scheduled on the same day and in the same location. Is this the best we can do? Sounds dreadful.

I Could Never Be Your Woman Starring a Guy

I read this description in one of the trades of a new movie that starts shooting this month:

Justin Bartha (National Treasure) will star opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones in Bart Freundlich’s romantic comedy “The Rebound.” about the relationship between a younger man and older woman. “Rebound” centers on a 25-year-old man (Bartha) who starts an unlikely romance with his single-mother neighbor (Zeta-Jones).
This is exactly the same premise as the Amy Heckerling film starring Michelle Pfeiffer that couldn't get released in the theatres. Please tell me why they would make the exact same film again if the previous one couldn't get into theatres. Is it because it centers on a guy and is directed by a guy?

April 14, 2008

The NY Times Sunday Arts and Leisure Section Illuminates the Sexist Nature of Hollywood

I used to looove reading the Sunday Arts & Leisure section. But the last couple of years the section has been boring me and most of the pieces have been skipable. To my surprise this past Sunday there were several very interesting pieces worthy of a read. However, I noticed that there was a common theme to the pieces that covered women in the section...It's hard to be a woman in the biz.

And then to make matters worse there's the "guy becomes a star" story on Jason Segel the co-writer and star of the new Judd Apatow produced comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall that is opening this coming weekend with one of the most misogynistic stealth ad campaigns I have ever seen (read: Marketing Judd Apatow's New Movie). Life for Jason is great and getting even better (he just bought a new house so close to the Chateau Marmont that he can get room service delivered), while Helen Hunt, an experienced actress who had directed episodes of Mad About You had to toil for ten years to get her script made for Then She Found Me which opens April 25. The two articles appeared on the same page and I just had to laugh when looking at the different trajectories of men and women working in the film business.

From a Young Actor With Nothing to Hide

advice from Judd Apatow: "As Mr. Segel recalled, “He said to me: ‘You’re kind of a weird dude. The only way you’re going to make it is if you start writing your own material.’ ”
And despite his regular appearances on prime-time television, it is only in the prelude to the release of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” that he has found he can now take meetings with the studios, production companies and casting directors who previously shunned him.

In one such meeting, with Disney, he offhandedly mentioned that he would like to write a new movie for his childhood idols, the Muppets; within days the studio had signed Mr. Segel and Mr. Stoller to write the script.
A Young Actor With Nothing to Hide (NY Times)

Compare with these quotes from What She Wants To Do...
It was every version of no I’ve ever imagined. “No, we’re not going to make it because we can’t sell it.” “No, we’re not going to make it because it’s about a woman who is 40.”

I lived my whole life wanting to have a baby — and I got to have a baby. I suddenly
wasn’t offered parts that were worth walking away from the most compelling thing I’d ever been involved with, which was my family. It was nervous-making along the way to not be drowning in offers for big movies. But maybe running off and pretending to be this one’s girlfriend or that one’s wife isn’t what I want to do with my life. Maybe my dirty little secret is this is the life I’d been wanting.
What She Really Wants to Do Is ... (NY Times)

It's so nice to be a young guy in Hollywood and to know Judd Apatow. How about we all agree to skip Forgetting Sarah Marshall and go see Then She Found Me which opens on April 25.

Two other great stories were on Faith Prince's return to Broadway: Broadway’s Cookie, Un-Sugarcoated and A First Timer Makes Rhett and Scarlett Sing about how Margaret Martin went from being homeless with two kids to writing a musical. What a fantastic story. A woman with no theatrical experience getting the permission from the Margaret Mitchell estate to take a shot at the musical. Amazing.

Key quote about Faith Prince:
Only a few women at any one time have the name recognition, the vocal placement and the deep confidence in their own stage-worthiness to shoulder a Broadway musical. Because viable roles for even so small a number are rare, each member of the diva guild tends to develop a brand. In recent years there have been perhaps six: call them the sweetheart, the steamroller, the ditz, the doll, the thrush and the cookie — that last one Ms. Prince.
Broadway’s Cookie, Un-Sugarcoated (NY Times)

Key Quotes from the Margaret Martin piece:
When her marriage collapsed after the birth of her second child, Ms. Martin said, she was homeless with two children in Los Angeles for a year, sleeping on the floor of an office. “For me the feminization of poverty is not a theoretical construct,” she said.

“Most people stop themselves more than anything in the world stops them,” she said. “Imagination depends on the capacity to give yourself permission.”
A First-Timer Makes Rhett and Scarlett Sing (NY Times)