June 28, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

Everybody's been talking about Wall-E and I have to say that I might be the only one in the country no interest in seeing this film. I remember seeing a preview and ignoring it thinking that it was a commercial.

I am kind of interested in seeing the Angelina Jolie flick Wanted since we don't see women kick ass often, but the previews are really violent with tons of gun action. Speaking of guns, Jolie now wears a gun charm around her neck which was a gift from her partner Brad Pitt which he had made for her after their son Maddox drew it. Yuck. Angelina, aren't you a peace activist? Do you wear the gun to your UN humanitarian missions in countries where you meet with women who have been raped by men and their guns? Take it off. It sends a really bad message.

Also on tap this weekend is French director Catherine Breillat's new period piece The Last Mistress in limited release. Having missed the screening I can't give any assessment and I am embarrassed to admit that I have never seen one of her films. I have added her to my netflix list and will be hopefully catching up on her work.

Brick Lane expands into the SF, Chicago, and Boston areas. Read my review and some comments from director Sarah Gavron
Kit Kittredge (review and quotes from the producer and director next week) stays in limited release in cities with American Girl doll stores before it expands to 1800 theatres on July 2.

This weekend on my list are Trumbo the documentary about the blacklisted writer (because I am obsessed with the blacklist) and Mongol about Genghis Kahn cause every single review has been spectacular.

Remaining in Theatres
My Blueberry Nights
Sex and the City
Baby Mama
Under the Same Moon

June 27, 2008

Is the Academy Sexist?

We know that very few movies starring women are made by Hollywood. Now it seems that the stories Academy of Motion Picture Art sand Sciences the organization that runs the Academy Awards continues the industry marginalization of women by inviting only 32 women to join its ranks out of the 105 invitations. That means they invited 73 men.


I also noticed that Ruby Dee who has been working for ages just got her invitation this year. Shameful.

Here are the list of women.

Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose, A Good Year
Ruby Dee – American Gangster, Just Cause
Allison Janney – Hairspray, Juno

Caroline Leaf – Two Sisters, The Street
Suzie Templeton – Peter & The Wolf, Dog

Sheila Nevins

Casting Directors
Ronna Kress – Beowulf, No Reservations

Costume Designers
Isis Mussenden – 10 Items or Less, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Kimberly Peirce – Stop-Loss, Boys Don’t Cry

Nanette Burstein – The Kid Stays in the Picture, On the Ropes
Heidi Ewing – Jesus Camp, The Boys of Baraka
Liz Garbus – Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, The Farm: Angola, USA
Deborah Shaffer – From the Ashes: 10 Artists, Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements

Dana Goldberg

Film Editors
Juliette Welfling – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Science of Sleep

Jan Archibald – La Vie en Rose, The Illusionist
Kate Biscoe – Memoirs of a Geisha, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Jennifer Fox – Michael Clayton, Syriana
Lianne Halfon – June, Ghost World
Karen Murphy – For Your Consideration, Best in Show
JoAnne Sellar – There Will be Blood, Boogie Nights

Public Relations
Stephanie Allen
Suzanne Fritz
Stephanie Kluft

Set Decorators
Katie Spencer – Atonement, Pride & Prejudice
Sandy Reynolds Wasco – Rushmore, Jackie Brown

Alyson Dee Moore – American Gangster, Blood Diamond

Stunt Coordinators
Melissa R. Stubbs – Fido, Along Came a Spider

Visual Effects
Helena Packer – Charlie Wilson’s War, X2

Diablo Cody – Juno
Tamara Jenkins – The Savages, Slums of Beverly Hills
Nancy Oliver – Lars and the Real Girl

via Anne Thompson at Variety

Rod Lurie Loses All Feminist Credibility

Rod Lurie used to be the feminist guy in Hollywood. No more. He had good credentials. He was the guy who brought us the first potential female Vice President on film in The Contender (which I recently saw again and still love), and did bring us the first female President on TV in Commander in Chief and has an upcoming film Nothing but the Truth based on the Judith Miller saga. BUT now he goes ahead and creates a show for Showtime Hilary Jones about a LA vice cop who moonlights on the weekend as a legal prostitute in Nevada. Double yuck.

He knows he's in trouble with the women when he gave this quote:

"I hope it doesn't obliterate my credentials with women," he quipped about "Hilary Jones." "I imagine feminists will have us in their cross hairs, but once they see it, they will realize it is very warm and humanizing." (Hollywood Reporter)
Note to Rod: Credentials officially obliterated.

June 26, 2008

Zeitgeist Films Celebrates 20 Years

Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo are anomaly in the film business. Their company, Zeitgeist Films is the only woman run distribution company and they have been working successfully together for 20 years. This week the Museum of Modern Art kicks off a retrospective of their cutting edge and exciting work ZEITGEIST: THE FILMS OF OUR TIME that they have been involved with over the last two decades.

Gerstman and Russo talked with Women & Hollywood about their work and some of the keys to success.

Women & Hollywood: What made you start your company?

We didn't know what we were getting into. We had a very strong desire to work for ourselves and to work with each other and to be able to select the films we wanted to work on and to be able to handle them in the way we thought they should be done.
W&H: You've stayed true to your vision throughout the years.
We have grown a lot. For three years it was just the two of us sitting across from each other at a tiny desk. Now we sit across from each other at a slightly bigger desk and have 8 staff members. We have grown organically and gradually.
W&H: Which filmmakers careers are you most proud to have been a part of?
First of all Bruce Weber. He was our first filmmaker. Broken Noses and Let's Get Lost were big films for us. We had Bruce's films for 18 years and he now distributes them himself. We really launched his career. Todd Haynes was also very important to our company because he brought Poison to us. It was an extremely important film in the history of cinema, and that we made almost a million dollars theatrically was extraordinary.
W&H: How do you pick the films?
It's a very personal process. We really have to love a film to take it on. We also need to believe we can find an audience for the film as well. Generally, if we love it we feel that other people will love it. But it really comes from the heart, the emotions of whether we connect with the movie.
W&H: What women's films are you most proud of?
One of our first filmmakers was Yvonne Rainer and we released Privilege. We also distributed her last feature MURDER and Murder. She is a world renowned filmmaker and we have done well with handling her films on a worldwide basis. Her following is enormous and is still growing.

We also worked with Caroline Link who directed Nowhere in Africa which was our highest grossing film and an Academy Award winner. We worked with Laura Poitras on My Country, My Country which was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. We also distributed both Fire and Earth by Deepa Mehta.
W&H: There has been a lot of turmoil in the indie film world lately yet you are thriving. What lessons can people learn from you?
We've never overextended ourselves. We do the same thing that we did 20 years ago. We take on 5 or 6 films for theatrical release per year. We're very picky about what we take and we work extremely hard on those films. We now have ancillaries to back us up which has helped us over bumpy roads. This is not the only time that companies have gone out of business. Over the 20 years we've probably seen a hundred go out of business -- sometimes it happens in clusters, sometimes they flame out dramatically and sometimes one big company can bring down a bunch of small companies. But that isn't us.
We've always been a tightly run company, a fiscally conservative company that takes its risks with the films but not in the way we manage the business. That's been the key to our survival. We've been around for 20 years and I can tell you a lot of money has been floating around and Nancy and I have never benefited from that. Sometimes we looked at each other and said gosh everybody's getting rich but it wasn't about that for us and now that the tide is turning and things aren't so good - I won't say that we are not feeling it because the business is tough all around - but we're not feeling it as much. We have a sustainable business and that's what we are able to celebrate on this anniversary.
W&H: What are your hopes for the next 20 years?
We just expect to have a wonderful business identifying some great talent, distributing better films, seeing what new technologies will be out there, and finding out what this wonderful world of distribution will be.
W&H: What advice would you give to women who want to get into the business?
Most of the small businesses in the country are started by women but we have not seen any other distribution companies run by women. I want to encourage women to follow their dreams and while distribution may not be on the top of the list its an interesting area to be in. We would love to see more women in the business.
Check out Zeitgeist's site for information on the films they have released. Most are available for rental and purchase.

Jon Stewart -- Where are the Women?

I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart's Daily Show. I try to watch it as much as I can. But when I saw the new correspondent Wyatt Cenac it made me realize that hardly any women are on the air (except a couple of guests) on The Daily Show. What's up with that?

The show was started by Lizz Winstead and Madeline Smithberg way back in the day before Jon Stewart got involved, but I haven't been feeling the love lately. Samantha Bee hasn't been on in ages (did she have another kid?) and I've seen Kristin Schaal once or twice in the last six months mostly acting like a complete idiot.

Does anyone know how many of the writers are women? Please don't tell me they can't find any funny women to be correspondents on the show.

Has anyone else noticed?

June 25, 2008

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan was given a tribute (by William H. Macy) at the Nantucket Film Festival this past weekend. She's excited about her upcoming film The Women which she has been involved with for 13 years.

Here are some quotes from the Boston Herald:

Meg said English and the cast are hopeful that the big box-office numbers put up by the “Sex and the City” flick will help boost their all-gal flick this fall.
“We were all excited and calling each other,” she laughed. “We hope it opens doors. Especially for the 40-plus set in Hollywood,” said the 46-year-old mother of two.
“Turning 40 in Hollywood was definitely something,” she groused. “But it doesn’t feel like an ending to me. My interests have expanded and I haven’t felt more creative than I do right now.
(photo Mark Garfinkel)

News Briefs

  • A very interesting story about actress Greta Scacchi who incidentally turned down the Sharon Stone role in Basic Instinct.
A determination to make her own choices has defined Scacchi's career, as well as a desire to be taken seriously as an actress. Her relationship with her looks is fractious - they got her some roles, but they also meant she was often typecast as eye candy. Acting her own age (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • The 61st Locarno International Film Festival has announced it will give its Excellence Award 2008 to actress Anjelica Huston.
  • Mary Tyler Moore will join NBC's Lipstick Jungle playing Brooke Shields mother
  • Penny Marshall will return from directing oblivion to direct episodes According to Jim the Jim, the Jim Belushi show that for some bizarre reason will return for its 8th season. (How is this possible?)
  • Courtney Hunt's Frozen River and Irena Salina's Flow: For the Love of Water won the audience awards at the Provincetown Film Festival.
  • Living Proof the Lifetime film on the doctor who developed Herceptin is currently shooting in New Orleans. Awesome cast includes: Angie Harmon, Amanda Bynes, Bernadette Peters, Swoosie Kurtz, Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge, Trudie Styler, Tammy Blanchard, John Benjamin Hickey Paula Cale and Harry Connick Jr.. Movie is executive produced by Renee Zellweger, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. (Hollywood Reporter)
  • Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, starring India.Arie and produced by Whoopi Goldberg, will begin previews Aug. 19 for a Sept. 8 opening at the Circle in the Square Theater. Show will be the Broadway debut for director Shirley Jo Finney. (Variety)

June 24, 2008

What's the Problem with Female Ensembles?

Jeanine Basinger one of the few women who writes about women and film from an accessible academic perspective (have you read A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women? It's a great look at women in film from the 30-60s) takes a look at the lack of female ensemble films over the years for Variety.

It's significant that a film starring a female, no matter what other genre it might be (comedy, romance, musical, crime, Western, film noir, melodrama), was always known as "a woman's film." There was no equivalent "man's film" category.

Films with men didn't need to worry about genre status, but the female ensemble gave the woman's film a chance to grab some.

The female ensemble movie spins off from the woman's film, which was usually about a single woman, using her as an individual role model. The ensemble makes women important, and "The Women" is a perfect example. In it, men are simply eliminated. The women become the heroes. Audiences can't ignore them.

Today female ensemble movies are hard to cast since there's a shortage of top-ranked box office stars. It's easier in television, where actresses can be introduced into a series when they are unknowns and made famous as the characters they play. Television's ability to assemble successful female foursomes is a foundation of the sitcom: "Designing Women," "The Golden Girls," "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex and the City" -- all of which are female ensembles.
It seems to me that nowadays whether it is on screen or off anytime more than one woman is discussed in the context of another the whole premise is to try and create a cat fight. Think about the conversation over the last week about Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain. Who did better on The View? Who will make a better first lady? Just wants to make me barf.

I guess the more important point is -- what is so scary about women working together on film or off?
Few female ensemble films (Variety)

Italian Vogue to Feature All Black Models Issue

Via the folks at Hip Candy -- In response to the lack of diversity on the runways, Italy's Vogue is scheduled to release its July issue that will almost exclusively feature black models.
Very interesting (wish I could read Italian)

Italian VOGUE's Trailblazing Issue On Newsstands This Week. (Hip Candy)
Black is finally in fashion at Vogue (The Independent)

June 23, 2008

Blaming Hollywood for Girls Getting Pregnant

Have you read about this supposed teen pregnancy pact in Gloucester, MA? In several articles I've read about this craziness people are blaming Knocked Up, Juno and the newest teenage mom herself Jamie Lynn Spears for giving these girls ideas about having babies.

Blaming Hollywood is easy, but there is something way deeper going on here. Note 1: A researcher at the Guttmacher Institute clarifies that teen pregnancy was on the rise before these films were released. Note 2: Gloucester HS prohibits the distribution of condoms contraceptions without parental consent.

Where are these girls parents?

Expired- directed by Cecilia Miniucchi

When I started writing this site I decided that I would try and get information out about as many films by and about women that I could. I also decided that I would not write about films I didn't like that were directed by women because I'm not interested in writing about things that I can't support. I made that decision because I'm not a paid daily reviewer and don't feel that obligation to see and review everything.

I'm still sticking with my position but I will make sure to give information on other women's films opening even if I don't review it or write about it.

Here's a NY Times piece on Cecilia Miniucchi thw writer/director of Expired which opened in limited release last weekend. Miniucchi has been influenced by one of pioneering female directors, Lina Wertmuller.

Low-Cost Film With Friends in High Places (NY Times)

Variety's Screenwriters to Watch

For the last ten years Variety has assembled a list of 10 screenwriters to watch. Suffice it to say that most of them have been men.

This year's list has two women Ann Cherkis and Shauna Cross. Meet them.

Ann Cherkis

"For every Diablo Cody, there are hundreds who are writing and can't get their scripts seen," she says. "Even if you get discovered quick, you've got to stick at it and keep up the quality."

Shauna Cross
Shauna Cross is inspired by all the "girl writers" working these days: "It's completely badass," she says. "I root for the girls. I'm a total girl's girl."