August 15, 2008

Brain Needs Some Rest

Taking a break. Sporadic blogging for the next couple of weeks.

Hope you understand.


August 14, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Paula Wagner partial co-owner (with Tom Cruise) and CEO of UA is leaving the studio. She will reportedly be returning to producing and will no longer be partnered with Tom Cruise who also recently left his long time agent Rick Nicita who happens to be Paula's husband.

Here's Wagner's statement.

"I’ve truly relished working with my longtime partner Tom Cruise to revitalize United Artists, and I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished in the past two years, reinvigorating the brand and developing such a strong slate of films," she said. "But I always tell my sons, ‘Follow your passion’ — and I’ve got to follow that advice myself. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time as an executive, I have longed to return to my true love, which is making movies, so that’s what I’ve decided to do. I still believe in our vision for UA, and I am confident that Harry Sloan and our colleagues at MGM will see that vision through to reality."
Here's the reporting on the issue

Paula Wagner leaves UA (Variety)
Paula Wagner departs United Artists studio (Hollywood Reporter via Reuters)

Judd Apatow's Enabler -- Shauna Robertson

Am I surprised that there is a woman on Judd Apatow's team who has produced most of his successful comedies? No. Those guys clearly need someone who can get shit done cause they seem totally stoned the whole time. She's a "guys girl", cute and seeming non-confrontational. (We all know those women and girls)

Shauna Robertson seems to be the perfect enabler for Judd Apatow's juvenile comedy team. She takes care of all the details as illuminated in Rachel Abramowitz' recent LA Times piece. (BTW Abramowitz doesn't do her any favors with her condescending tone describing her as "tiny and looking 12.")

Here's how Judd describes her value:

"She is the rare woman who always wants to take the joke farther than any man wants to go. All nudity in my films is a result of Shauna pushing me and calling me a wimp. If it wasn't for her I would be making 'Bratz 2.'"
I think that Judd would do great making Bratz 2.

Her thoughts on whether Knocked Up was sexist. (Why bother asking her the question, she works with Apatow.)
"I don't share that opinion. I feel like we have very strong women in our movies."
Has she seen any of these movies?

But it's this last quote that troubles me the most and illustrates why we need to continue to push for more women directors. (If I were a female producer I would give her smack down about she has completely demeaned the role of the producer.)
Robertson appears relatively ego-free about what she does except to say that it's essentially an extension of how she started out, as a director's assistant. The title has changed; the function has not. "I always do the same job. I don't always remember what the credit is."
It's great, now every director's assistant can dream of being a producer of misogynistic comedies.

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson has criticised Hollywood's treatment of older women.

The 23-year-old actress and singer said that the movie industry was harder on women than men.

Johansson told Hello! magazine: "Women kind of wilt as men sort of achieve as they get older, like wine or whatever. It's like, 'Oh, she's past her prime and she can't play a sex symbol'."

The Girl With A Pearl Earring star, who is engaged to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, 31, added: "It's just a preconceived notion about women in general and particularly in this industry. It's a very vain, vain industry."

via The Press Association

August 13, 2008

Penelope Cruz and the Old White Jewish Guys

Penelope Cruz is a dynamic, exciting young actress. She's got fire in her, probably because she is not a cookie cutter American actress. But I must note with disdain that her two most recent films are written or based on material by narcissistic old white Jewish guys.

The first, Elegy, intrigued me because it is directed by the Spanish director Isabelle Coixet. It stars Ben Kingsley as a professor who loses it when he meets a young woman played by Cruz. But, as I read more about the film, I discovered that it was based on The Dying Animal a novel by Phillip Roth, and if I saw the film I would have to break one of my basic tenents -- I don't do Phillip Roth. I tried years ago but just couldn't do it. My ban on Roth was further confirmed when I read actress Claire Bloom's account of her marriage to him and it made me sick.

Penelope also stars in the new Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona which is about two women obsessed with the same man (not Allen, thank goodness) and then to make it more titilating to the guys Woody throws a third woman into the mix. Sounds like a guy's fantasy -- not that I would expect any less from Woody Allen. Since Allen is basically a has been he threw in a girl on girl kiss between Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz which is enough to get the film some buzz.

Woody is another one on my banned list since way back when he screwed Mia (and her daughter). I'm too young to revere Allen for his 1970s movies. I like Annie Hall (and I still can't believe WTF Diane Keaton saw in him) and Hannah and Her Sisters, but the fact that Woody Allen gets the money to make his narcissistic films each year makes my blood boil. Aren't they are all about the same thing?

Give me a break.

Even the Young Guys Get it

Why Can't the Hollywood Suits?

Quote from filmmaker Benh Zeitlin (via Spout Blog) who was named on of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Indie Film.

Female characters in general have to be the most gaping disparity between life and cinema. Women are amazing, how come not in movies? I’m mean, look around you, women are friends with each other, I can count the number of believable female friendships I’ve seen on screen on one hand, and I’m not talking about that hackneyed faux-feminist Thelma and Louise shit. Minnie and Moskowitz has a great friendship, Days of Heaven has one, Rosie and Madonna in A League of their Own totally make it happen, Fucking Amal by Moodyson has one, and then I draw a blank.

I think the easiest way to make a good film is just to write three dimensional women, you’ll already be way ahead of 98% of movies these days. And it’s not just talking about art films, 10 or 15 years ago, in big movies you had great women, Die Hard, great, Point Break, Aliens, and its not like these ladies are such brilliantly rounded figures, but they at least have some spunk, some personality, a sense of humor, and a degree of humanity to them, unlike the cardboard cut outs they’re serving up today. Even in the better blockbusters, Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, these women are total nonsense, even if you’re just going to write a damsel in distress to motivate your dude hero, you got to give him something to fight for with a little personality.

Love the quote but totally disagree with his thoughts on Thelma and Louise.

August 12, 2008

Peter Bart - Misogynist in Chief

I guess I should be thanking Peter Bart for his short-sighted, sexist, petty, pathetic editorial exposing a supposedly dirty secret about women in Hollywood - that they are competitive for jobs and recognition.

So thank you Peter Bart for illuminating the misogyny in Hollywood that women feel and sense but isn't always laid out in such clear fashion. I'm sure he thought it was cute making fun of the women who have fought their way to power, but what he has succeeded in doing is pissing women off. It might have taken a week (this is August after all) but in the last two days Bart's editorial has been ping ponging around town and hopefully the anger will create a call to action.

Here are some of his "brilliant" thoughts (my thoughts not indented):

Publications love to publish lists of power women, to be sure, not because publishers necessarily admire women but because women's lists spout money -- big money.

And here's the other dirty little secret about them: There is more competition -- ferocious competition -- among women to gain placement on these power lists than for any other feature in Variety. I'm talking petulant phone calls, veiled pleas (and threats) from male bosses, bottles of expensive wine -- and yes, yelling and screaming.
So it's not the men not the women making the threats -- shocker!
Sure, there's also some nudging and elbowing for placement on male power lists, but it's nothing compared to the women's issues.

Why do these women's lists generate so much "heat"? Here's one theory:

The "glass ceiling" preventing women from attaining top jobs has all but vanished -- especially in the media and entertainment business.
Can the editor in chief of Variety really believe that the glass ceiling has all but vanished when all the top decision makers except Amy Pascal at Sony are men? Doesn't he know who runs the studios?
As a result, the competitiveness of women has now surpassed that of their masculine counterparts. The guys these days have suddenly awakened to their "sensitive," huggy side. The women are keenly aware that they can compete with the guys, and win. And, by god, they're going for it.

The upshot: It's rough out there. And the prepping of the lists reflects it.

"You've got to include X on your power list," the esteemed chief of one top talent agency told me. "She's deserving. And if she's not included, she'll cut my balls off."

How can you ignore that urgent a request?

"I'm the one who made this network tick," urged one woman programmer. "What criteria are you using if I'm not on that list?"

Of course, lists are always dicey in the criteria department. Variety's list is intended to recognize women who have had a significant impact on the business during the past year. Forbes, to be sure, has it easier: They just add up the bucks. (J.K. Rowling had the biggest stash thanks to the "Potter" factory.)

Madelyn Hammond, Variety's chief marketing officer, who has presided over myriad women's events, both agrees and disagrees with these theories.

"Women are attaining more power these days, but the achievements of women over 40 still tend to be taken for granted. They become invisible. That's why a little recognition goes a long way."

Maybe she's right. We all suffer our moments of invisibility, male or female. Come to think of it, I haven't been on a power list lately.
It's hysterical that Bart is put in his place by his own own chief marketing officer clarifying for him the realities of women. I think he should be embarrassed. Here's my advice to Peter -- shut up and write about something you know, cause clearly you have no clue what's going on with women.

Dr. Martha Lauzen (the one who started the chain of sending this around) wrote a response that says it so much better than I ever could.
Letter to the Editor:

In last week's column (Variety, Aug 4-10) , Peter Bart described the "ferocious competition" among women seeking to gain a place on Variety's annual list of female power players. The column included a quotation from an unnamed talent agency chief who claimed that if his female client were not included on the list, she'd "cut (his) balls off." Hmmm, powerful women as cat fighting, castrating shrews. Not an original stereotype but certainly one with staying power.

Mr. Bart's characterization belies a worldview that categorizes ambitious women as overly competitive and puts women in a classic double bind. These observations smack of sexism just as those who criticize Barack Obama for his confidence and arrogance reek of racism. ... A woman willing and able to compete in a highly competitive business is a ballbuster, whereas a man exhibiting similar behavior is simply playing the game. It's a double standard, clear and simple. If women don't express an interest in being on the list, they don't gain the recognition they likely deserve. If they do lobby for a position as one of the most powerful women, they're ballbusters. Luckily, the women who occupy powerful positions aren't naïve enough to be cowed by this type of name-calling.

In addition, Mr. Bart surmised that the reason women have become more competitive is that the glass ceiling that once prevented them from attaining top positions has "vanished -- especially in the media and entertainment business." Sadly, this reasoning is simply inconsistent with reality. Do women hold high-profile positions in television and film? Absolutely. Is there any evidence that women have shattered the glass ceiling by achieving employment parity with their male counterparts? Not a shred.

Let's consider the facts. Only one woman, Amy Pascal, currently serves as chairman of a major film studio. Two women hold the position of president of entertainment at the broadcast networks, Dawn Ostroff at the CW and Nina Tassler at CBS. ...According to the latest Boxed In study, women comprised only 22% of executive producers working on primetime television programs airing on the broadcast networks during the 2007-08 season. According to the latest Celluloid Ceiling study, women comprised a scant 6% of directors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2007.

Perhaps a more accurate explanation for women's competitiveness regarding inclusion on the power list is that they know the glass ceiling remains firmly in place -- especially in the media and entertainment industries. I suspect that the women Mr. Bart hears from recognize that the Hollywood myth-making machinery continues to lionize the careers of men who direct and produce films or reside in executive suites at the studios and networks. Positive press helps enable men who perform at even average levels to get booted up the corporate ladder or get their next directing deal. In contrast, when women perform well they are considered somewhat unattractive exceptions in a world still dominated by men.

In the business of show, the visibility-creating apparatus of power lists -- and even talkshows focusing on the film industry ("Shootout," for example) --can be integral to one's success. If women contact Variety regarding inclusion on the power list, they simply recognize the importance of being seen in a business that rewards such recognition.

-- Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, School of Theatre, Television and Film, San Diego State U.

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Jessica Alba

This comes off of a Jessica Alba fan site, the Jessica Alba Story but looks real. Can't tell where the quotes are from though.

“I’m not competitive with them (actresses). I root for all of them because we definitely don’t have equality with men in this business,” Jessica said. “There are a lot more men making a lot more money and headlining movies than women, and the more of us who can come up and do that the better. I want my friends to produce, direct, act, write, all of it. I think being competitive defeats the whole female movement. I want to be encouraging to my girlfriends. Totally,” she added.

photo: Chris Hatcher/ PR Photos

August 11, 2008

Interview with Gina Ravera of The Closer and ER

Gina Ravera is an anomaly in Hollywood today, a woman of color who stars in not one, but two hit TV series -- ER and The Closer. Her film credits, among many others, include The Great Debators opposite Denzel Washington, director George Tillman’s award-winning Soul Food, Kiss The Girls with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, Spike Lee’s Get On The Bus and Paul Verhoeven’s cult classic Showgirls. She also is the founder of Project Reina, which educates young African American and Latina girls about HIV/AIDS prevention.

Women & Hollywood: Most actresses have trouble getting one job on a TV series and you have two. How is that possible?

Gina Ravera: Both shows are done by Warner Brothers. It's a real blessing to have two jobs. The character I play on ER (Bettina DeJesus) is a lot closer to me. She's a lot of fun. The development of Detective Daniels on The Closer has been fascinating. Her character didn't really exist in the pilot. She's been evolving as the years go on.
W&H: I think it's fascinating that Daniels is the only other woman on the squad except for Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson (played by Kyra Sedgwick).
GR: People wonder why there isn't more solidarity between Daniels and Brenda and the truth from the writer's perspective is that it is difficult for a woman in any industry, especially something as male dominated as the LAPD to be seen as an equal to men. The women have to prove that they are not going to come together just because they are women. It's not that the women aren't threatened, but if you align yourself with a woman in a male dominated profession, the men are suspicious. They want to be perceived as a legitimate cops, as tough and as strong as their male counterparts.
W&H: The first couple of seasons of The Closer were spent trying to get the men of the squad to trust Brenda as their leader. Now that trust has been established the show is moving into a whole new area where personal lives are revealed, especially with your character who happens to be dating a person on the squad.
GR: Having a relationship at work is sticky. If it doesn't work out how do you come back and not have that color how effective you are. That was Brenda's main concern about Daniels and Sgt. Gabriel (Corey Reynolds). The relationship has been pretty quiet onscreen but in the episode that aired last week all of Brenda's fears came to pass. This season is about power, the loss of power, the acquisition of power and also about finding out how little power one has.
W&H: One of the things I've noticed is how few women of color we see in positions of power and as characters on TV shows and here you are you playing a detective and a doctor.
GR: I was talking to a friend of mine and said (whatever your politics are) I look forward to seeing the Condoleeza Rices on TV. I hope that she exists in Hollywood. I want to see the Michelle Obamas in Hollywood because until this day we have yet to see her. I think those images are important because not every young kid reads the paper, but seeing that it is a possibility is of the utmost importance. I think that it is from fiction that we learn to dream, and if we don't have images in fiction that we aspire to be then we're robbed. It's sad when fiction fails to embrace reality. I too look forward to seeing those images of women in power. I feel so fortunate to be able to play a doctor and a detective - there are so many powerful women of color. I hope to see Hollywood embrace real women and characters.
W&H: Can you give a hint about what's going to happen to Betttina this season on ER?
GR: The power of love is mighty. Bettina rejected Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) through so much for their relationship because he didn't stand up. He didn't come to her in the way that she needed which was to really cherish and adore her. She demanded that because she felt she deserved nothing less and she gets that.
W&H: Any last thoughts?
GR: It is absolutely our responsibility to create more opportunities for ourselves and we only get that by tuning in and by speaking up.
The Closer airs Monday nights on TNT. ER returns for its final season this fall on NBC.