August 8, 2008

Women & Hollywood Featured in USA TODAY

USA Today has several great stories featuring women's power in film. The first, Hollywood's power women shed light on movies this summer, talks about the successes of Sex and the City and Mamma Mia and what that could mean for the future.

For these two pictures, having female talent calling at least some of the shots made all the difference.

"It absolutely matters who's behind the scenes," says Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. "When you have at least one woman in a position of power, such as an executive producer or director, you not only get more female characters, but more dimensional and powerful female characters."

If Sex and the City and Mamma Mia! have proved anything, it's that it makes no difference to the bottom line if most men decide to steer clear. Women did it all by themselves.

And if female moviegoers want more of the same, they will have to continue to take a break from their busy routines and buy a ticket again.

"Go see a movie about women on the opening weekend, that is what matters to Hollywood," says Melissa Silverstein, who blogs on the Women & Hollywood site and contributes to the Huffington Post. "We need to build our economic power and prove we're a market."

Cash, at least, doesn't have a gender bias.

"The only thing that makes anyone pay attention is money," says Diane English, the creator of TV's Murphy Brown whose update of the 1939 Joan Crawford-Norma Shear classic The Women arrives Sept. 12.

"Anyone who thinks otherwise shouldn't be in this business. Young men under 25 keep seeing comic-book and slasher films, and that's why Hollywood makes them. If women want to change things, they can't wait for the DVD."
Ok, how cool is it that they have my quote and then Diane English's quote. Could I be any more psyched? It's true that we have to build a market but the only way we can build the market is that if there are quality movies out there for us to see.

Women won't go see a piece a shit movie like a 25-year-old boy, its just not going to happen, so the quality of films and the marketing of these films is key. Hollywood really needs to figure out how to market to women. They spend so much money on research but can't figure out how to get our butts in the seats except for the biggest, most high profile films. I think that even the smaller films could find an audience if Hollywood cared enough to market to us properly. Their marketing kind of reminds me of not too long ago when all medical testing was done on men and then all the findings were extrapolated to include women. Women are not just smaller men, we are different. Why is that so hard to understand?

Fashioning a future for women in Hollywood
These ladies got the moves at the box office

Interview with Allison and Tiffany Anders co-creators of Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival

Indie film director Allison Anders (Gas, Food, Lodging) and her daughter musician Tiffany Anders co-created and co-curate the Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival in LA. The festival continues through this month.

Women & Hollywood: Why did you start the Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival and how long has it been in existence?

Allison Anders: This is our 4th year! I had created a class at UCSB where I teach one quarter a year called "Don't Knock The Rock" which was a history of rock n roll told through movies. I enjoyed teaching it so much, that I wanted to create a festival. I had also been inspired by a short-lived festival like this in Sheffield England back in 1999, when I was an honored guest there. They screened several of my music based movies and I had the best time, cause I was surrounded by music films, which – when they're good, for me there's nothing better!

But I wanted to add a live music element to our festival, so I asked Tiffany who was about to move back to LA from living in New York, if she'd be into curating the music for the festival. So we have been doing it that way ever since – I curate the films, she puts together the music line-ups. The very first year her LINE-UPS were reviewed, beautifully I might add – I had never seen line-ups reviewed!

Tiffany always has her ear to the ground for new music, and she is a master at predicting who will take off. She also has great love and rich knowledge of often more obscure artists who are on the verge of re-discovery.

We work together pairing the movies with live music (and DJs!). We have very similar sensibilities, and we don't shy away from stuff that may seem too marginal – cause somehow between the two of us we know how to reach the people who are avid fans of some obscure artist and get them out to see a movie about them!

We moved this year to our new home The Silent Movie Theater and it's a partnership made in movie and music nerd heaven!
W&H: What films and bands are you most proud of from this year?
AA: Well of course, we are thrilled with ALL of our films and bands! But we have been pretty stunned by how many films this year were directed or co-directed by women! Over HALF – that's quite a record! Last month we screened an incredible film by Ava DuVernay, our very first hip hop movie called "This Is The Life", and the week before that a film by Pamela Valente called Rock 'N' Tokyo about the punk and rockabilly scene in Japan.
Tiffany Anders: I have been very pleased with every performance we've had this year.One of my happy moments was 2 years ago when I received an email from Gary Wilson who said he had read about DKTR and was interested in it and that he currently had a film being made about him and that he would love to be involved. I didn't miss a beat and asked if he would like to "cover" (and I certainly knew Gary Wilson would not deliver a straight version) of a Daniel Johnston song to play after the dvd release party of " The Devil and Daniel Johnston". He agreed and since then we kept in touch. It was great to have him come back with the completed film and play live, and needless to say the audience was just as ecstatic as I was.
W&H: What's coming up that you want people to know about?
AA: Yesterday, we had 2 Punk Rock Premieres – one about the Chicago punk scene (You Weren't There) and one about the Dallas Fort Worth scene (DFW PUNK) – one directed by a woman and one co-directed by a woman. These are both fabulous looks at regional punk scenes during the same block of years.

August 14 we have a BBC documentary on Stiff Records, with an amazing Stiff Tribute Concert by the cream of the local crop of music talent after the movie with some special treats for Stiff fans!

TA: August 14th is going to be amazing fun. I have put together a Stiff tribute band that includes myself on guitar, Jessica Espeleta (ESPS) on guitar, Chet Bently on Bass and Terry Graham ( Gun Club, The Bags) on drums.

We also have amazing guest vocalists Dante ( Starlight Desperation), Jade Gordon (from art performance troop "My Barbarian", and Ian Marshall.

We have been rehearsing for that and it has been SO fun. It really makes you appreciate Stiff Records, they just had so many great artists who wrote such fun songs!

AA: On August 16 we have a Sonic Youth Concert film shot entirely by high school students called "Sleeping Nights Awake". We also have a BMI sponsored roundtable chat on getting your music into Films, TV And New Media and on clearing music for your work.

On August 21 we have a film called "Under The Covers" a fascinating look at the collaboration between photographer Henry Diltz and artist Gary Burden who created some of the most iconic album covers of the classic rock era. And after that a look at the eccentric world and music of one man bands!

On August 28, a beautiful film by New Zealand director Briget Sutherland on musician David Kilgour.

TA: David Kilgour was also in one of my favorite bands The Clean. Also we screened Steve Hanfts film "Return of the Rub a Dub style" and there was a scene where someone was being interviewed in a club and there was a flyer for a David Kilgour show in the background. I got a real kick out of that!

And we come back on Sept 6 for the DVD release party for riot girl favorite "Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains" starring a young Diane Lane and Laura Dern from 1982.
W&H: What makes this festival unique?
AA: We show music movies that are for the informed and music savvy. We don't try to get the huge music films because they are really better served by the big festivals. Consequently, we cooperate with other festivals rather than compete. It's so great having that kind of support, cause these bigger festivals can sometimes alert us to films they can't take, but that would be better served by us.

And because we're an intimate, niche hand-made festival, we can take the time to find the obsessive fans and music nerds. And I think we do things in a personal way that is hard for larger festivals to do. And no one programs music line-ups the way Tiffany can – she just KNOWS!

TA: I feel strongly that both underground film and music does not get the support it needs to flourish and clearly from the success of DKTR it is obvious that people are very much interested in these films and these bands.

I think since my mother and I are both non- commercial, non corporate artists we are very sensitive to this. I have a lot of friends who are visual artists and it always blows my mind how much support there is for the arts, people get flown to different countries, get residencies, get grants.....and yet film and music is still sorta looked down upon, even if it is not exploring commercial avenues, so I'm happy that we are creating a place for these films and musicians to get their voices heard and people are listening.
W&H: Tiffany, what are you working on?
TA: I just finished an album that will be released in the UK through Poppydisc, which is run by the great Joe Foster who also does the AMAZING re-issue label Rev- Ola, so I'm very happy that I will be in such great company. As for the U.S., I am still searching for someone to release it.
W&H: Allison, we haven't seen a film from you in a while. What are you working on?
AA: I've been developing a western with my partner Terry Graham and we're also about to embark on a documentary film on 60s garage music with another filmmaker Ian Marshall.
W&H: You've been at the forefront of the movement to raise awareness of the lack of opportunities for women directors. The situation has not been improving in fact its getting worse. Do you have any theories? Do you have any advice for women who want to be directors?
AA: Well I think there was more room for everyone when the economy was better, and the indie world wasn't over-saturated and dead. Movies are hard for everyone right now. And in lean times, women will always be the first sent back home and out of the work force.

But now more than ever it's possible to make your films and get them seen without waiting for permission from the movie studio gods. Keep writing, keep focused and don't for a second lose the faith. We're here to stay.
More Info: Don't Knock the Rock Festival

August 7, 2008

Would a Young Woman Be Able to Say This?

Seth Rogen on The Daily Show promoting his new stoner action movie Pineapple Express

He actually said that kids should drop out of high school smoke a lot of pot and write a movie about it. Aside from that being the stupidest advice EVER, I don't think if a young female actress said this it would be looked at as funny. I think she would get her ass kicked. Me thinks I smell the "double standard."

Heaven: Meryl Streep Teaming up with Nancy Meyers

Variety is reporting that Meryl Streep is in advanced negotiations to star in the next Nancy Meyers film as a professor caught in a romantic triangle. Meyers has written the script and will direct. Scott Rudin will produce. Filming starts in February. This pairing is so exciting. Meyers is the best female wirter/director and Meryl, well, is Meryl.

Streep in deep with Meyers (Variety)
photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury/PR Photos

Guest Post: Feminist Mom Approved by Rachel Feldman

A few days before my 12-year-old son left for sleep-away camp, we wanted to do something special so we treated ourselves to a double feature of Journey To The Center Of The Earth and The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

As a professional filmmaker, I absorb a film with a complex set of eyes, but when I watch with my son, the feminist mom in me dominates, and I can’t help but evaluate the experience as a woman raising a boy who will become a man.

There is a lot of talk in our culture about the impact of sex and violence in the media on our children. For me, issues of vulgarity and misogyny are far more important. The way a woman is depicted in a story and how men treat her are more relevant to me than the wielding of guns or the expression of desire. I want my son to grow up with an image of women as powerful creatures who are equals, not side-kicks, enablers or fluff girls.

I didn’t have high expectations for either film, so I was surprised to see that both films depicted women in extraordinary ways, without nary a bimbo in sight.

In Journey, the character of Hannah, played by Anita Briem, is smart and tough. She is the physically adept one; the powerful one who guides the journey. She rows the boat, she runs the train, she knows the way, and the guys trust her confidence absolutely. She wears little make-up has un-enhanced body parts and is beautiful in a completely organic, natural way.

Of course, my son’s pleasure of the film focused on the action and adventure, but I was delighted to see a woman depicted in a mainstream Hollywood film characterized in such an enlightened fashion. I would imagine that having a writer like Jennifer Flackett would have helpful in creating such a progressive character, but however she got there, I was happy.

Overall, I didn’t think The Mummy was as good as Journey but I was thrilled to see three solid female characters who play characters pivotal to the plot in the genre where women traditionally play secondary roles.

Maria Bello plays Brendan Fraser’s wife. There are a few moments where she used her feminine whiles in a clich├ęd manner, but by in large, this talented woman is multifaceted with a successful career, marriage and family life. She is the model of a woman I approve of. I very much enjoyed my son seeing a marriage that was full of fun and fire.

Michelle Yeoh plays an ancient wise-woman whose power ultimately vanquished the evil force of the Dragon Emperor. She sacrifices her immortality for supreme good, and is another example of an older woman full of grace, dignity and strength.

Isabella Leong plays her dutiful, warrior daughter. She is a great fighter who can wield a sword while falling in love. She does not suffer fools gladly, and fights demons fearlessly.

All in all for an afternoon of popcorn fluff, these two films surprisingly, showed my son some strong female characters. My son enjoyed them, and so did his feminist mom.

Rachel Feldman is a screenwriter and film director who lives and works in Hollywood. She has lived with her college boyfriend for 30 years and is the mother of a 20 year old daughter and a 12 year old son.

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Connie Neilsen

Neilsen is a woman who could probably play any part she wants cause she's so tall and gorgeous. But that doesn't interest her. (Could this be something about women who grow up outside the US?) She rejects fame and money. Her films choices remind me a bit of Nicole Kidman - brave and not always commercial.

It's much harder for women to be brave and outside the box in their film choices because they have shorter careers than their male peers because of ageism and sexism. Two films of Neilsen's the I recommend checking out are The Situation where she plays a reporter in Iraq, and Brothers a Danish film directed by Susanne Bier. She co-stars in the upcoming Battle in Seattle.

"I absolutely refuse the fame part of my business," she says. "I refuse even the money side of my business. I try to do as good work as I can do, I try to grow in my art and reach for truth," she says.

Nielsen has in the past been critical of Hollywood for its lack of female roles, saying "you think once you've shown what you can do, and your movies have been successful, that snap, you work. So to discover the difference between guys' roles and girls' roles made me plain mad. It's unjust."
Neilsen proves she's no Hollywood eye candy (CNN)
photo credit: Glenn Harris/Photorazzi

Keke Palmer Stars in New Nickelodeon Show

Keke Palmer starred in the the under seen Akeelah and the Bee and now will have her own show on Nickelodeon where she plays a high schooler running the youth division of a major fashion label. This young woman clearly has her head on straight knowing that young girls look up to her. Impressive.

She's always wanted to do inspirational projects and be a beacon for other kids.

Her priority now is being a role model.
Look for the show later in 2008.
Keke Palmer stars in True Jackson, VP (NY Daily News)
photo credit: Nickelodeon

August 6, 2008

Why Batman Sucked

I might be the only one in the universe not to have LOVED Batman. Hollywood wanted and needed a big, big hit, but had Heath Ledger (who was really good and creepy) not unexpectedly passed away would it really be knocking on Titanic's door for the highest grossing film ever?

Here are my reasons why I thought it sucked:

1- Way too long- could have cut the last hour and it would have been way more enjoyable.

2- Christina Bale's voice. Is he a cyborg? That voice creeped me out.

3- That a talented actress like Maggie Gyllenhaal had to slum it in a very underwritten and basically unessential role. That sounds familiar.

4- The whole Aaron Eckhart becoming Harvey Two Face would have been better in the next installment. It felt forced and stupid.

5- Gary Oldman who play baddies better than most was the most sympathetic character in the film.

Oh, and did I say too long!

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

What I liked best about the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was the great relationship between four different and not typically Hollywood looking actresses, America Ferrara, Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively and Alexis Bledel. These young women came across as really truly loving and supporting one another. But, sadly, what was so evident in the first film was missing in the second as the young women departed their home town for college and the sisterhood was tested by distance.

I applaud the women power from director Sanaa Hamri to screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler to producers Debra Martin Chase and Denise Di Novi, I just wished there were more scenes with the young women together. What I did love is that each of the young women is undeniably a unique spirit. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is a filmmaker, Lena (Alexis Bledel) is an artist, Bridget (Blake Lively) is a soccer player and Carmen (America Ferrara) works in the theatre. Not very typical for young women in the movies today.

Since the film is targeted at young women and tweens, I felt it could have better handled the condom "malfunction" situation when Tibby has sex for the first time with her boyfriend. This young woman who moments before had self-identified as a feminist completely loses it and goes to a deep dark place assuming the worst. Now I know she's young and emotional but this was an opportunity to educate young women, so instead of availing herself of all her options, this strong smart, self-confident woman spends half the movie in a state when every time she sees a baby she looks like she wants to die. This storyline made me quite angry. It could have been handled in a more responsible manner without even having to utter the word abortion or heaven forbid having her get a morning after pill. Now I know I live in progressive "Melissaland" but they could have done something, anything but they decided to have her pout and freak out for much of the movie.

Other than that lapse which most people probably won't care about as much as me, the strong female friendships that survive and thrive even through long distance is still a big plus and what makes this film worthy for young women and girls.

photo credit: Phil Caruso

Anne Bancroft Films on TCM Tonight

The House Next Door brings a Anne Bancroft Film Festival on Turner Classic Movies to my attention and I am psyched. I haven't seen hardly any of them. I miss her.

Airing today are:
The Miracle Worker
The Pumpkin Eater

7 Women
The Graduate

84 Charing Cross Road

Here's their write up. Thanks for the tip.
Photo credit: BH Impact

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Greta Scacchi

For speaking out about the lack of opportunities for older actresses.

I just wish there could be a little more movement towards encompassing the older woman."

Maggie Smith and Eileen Atkins, she argues, look like energetic Bohemian girls in real life, "vibrant, passionate, expressive and fun". But in character they have to conform to the stereotype of the old lady.
Greta Scacchi is currently co-starring in Brideshead Revisited
Greta Scacchi: 'I'm done with taking off my clothes on screen' (The Telegraph)
Photo: InsideFoto/PR Photos

August 5, 2008

Joan Allen - What Were You Thinking?

I couldn't believe my eyes when last week at the X-Files (don't see it, it's so bad and homophobic) I saw the preview for Death Race a very violent looking prison drag racing movie. The reason why my eyes were popping out of my head was that Joan Allen (who won my devotion years ago when I saw her on Broadway in a Wendy Wasserstein play) plays the prison warden who makes inmates drive cars in a "death race" which is broadcast around the world on some type of pay per view channel. (Forgive me for not understanding WTF was going on in the preview since there were very few words used.) She is eeevil. The movie looks so bad and unbelievably violent.

I hope they paid her a lot of cash for this because it makes me so sad that an actress of her caliber who was robbed of an Oscar nomination three years ago for The Upside of Anger (if you haven't seen it rent it), is stuck making these crappy boy centric films to pay the rent because there are no good roles for women.

Will someone please write this woman a part and not another crappy part like she had in Bonneville. I am beyond disgusted.

Top Female Screewriter to Pen Sarah Jessica Parker Movie

Aline Brosh McKenna is the hottest female screenwriter having written The Devil Wears Prada adaptation as well as her original screenplay of 27 Dresses that starred Katherine Heigl and has grossed over $150 million worldwide.

She was recently signed to adapt The Ivy Chronicles based on the novel by Karen Quinn which will star Sarah Jessica Parker. Here's the plot according to the Hollywood Reporter: "The plot centers on an upper-middle-class New York mother is forced to start over after getting divorced and losing her high-powered job in one fell swoop."

Devil writer to pen The Ivy Chronicles
(Hollywood Reporter)

August 4, 2008

Success - The First Women & Hollywood Film Club

Thanks to everyone who showed up at the launch of the Women & Hollywood Film Club. We had about 30 people in the theatre and about 20 or so of us went for a drink afterwards.

Next time I'll get some pictures to post. Frozen River did well at the box office this weekend with an average of $10,475 on each of the seven screens for a total of $73,322.

Keep telling people about this great film.

Trailer for Rachel Getting Married

Another dysfunctional family wedding drama starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt and Debra Winger (yeah!) written by Jenny Lumet. Directed by Jonathan Demme

Opens October 3

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Annie Lennox

I know that she's not technically a Hollywood person...

This week in Mexico City 25,000 people are attending the International AIDS conference. Lennox has been raising attention to HIV and AIDS issues especially related to women in Africa. She organized other women singers and put together a single SING to raise money for drug treatments for women to prevent maternal transmission of HIV.

Check out this site for more information and ways to get involved: SING