August 22, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

Happy almost Labor Day. While Hollywood is dumping films these last two weekends before everyone gets back on track for fall (one, The House Bunny, is about a woman getting kicked out of the Playboy mansion because she is too old, please!), some of the rest of us are focused on the upcoming political conventions and the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

To commemorate that anniversary, opening this weekend in NY and LA, is Trouble the Water, a documentary that won the best documentary feature award at Sundance this year. I haven't seen it, but I am desperate to, and will be there this weekend. Anyone want to join me? Email me.

Here's the description: This astonishingly powerful documentary takes you inside Hurricane Katrina in a way never before seen on screen. Incorporating remarkable home video footage shot by Kimberly Rivers Roberts-an aspiring rap artist trapped with her husband in the 9th Ward-Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine producers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal weave this insider's view of Katrina with a devastating portrait of the hurricane's aftermath. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, TROUBLE THE WATER is a redemptive tale of self-described street hustlers who become heroes-two unforgettable people who survive the storm and then seize a chance for a new beginning.

Check out the trailer here: Trouble the Water. The film will be rolling out across the country in the coming weeks.

On a completely different note, for those of you with kids stuck between camp and school, The Longshots might be a good way to spend some time. Don't get me wrong, this is not a great sports movie, or even a great girls sports movie (my favorite is still Bend it Like Beckham), but it's the interesting true story about the first girl to play quarterback in the Pop Warner football league. Keke Palmer is adorable as Jasmine a shy, sad girl more into reading than socializing. Her single mom works long hours, and she winds up hanging out with her down on his luck uncle Curtis played by Ice Cube, a former football star. Turns out Jasmine is like her uncle and has a knack for football. She tries out for the town football team and winds up the starting quarterback and takes the team, and the depressed former mill town, on a great ride all the way to the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

I'm a sucker for feel good sports movies so I enjoyed it. It's pretty sappy and corny. But I have to say that I thought it showed just how far we have come for girls in sports because it didn't dwell too long on whether a girl could play. That was almost an afterthought. The guys on her team gave her some hazing but I liked the fact that the film didn't get stuck on that issue.

Other Women-Centric Films in Theatres
Frozen River is rolling out across the country. Find out where it is playing in your neighborhood here
American Teen
Mamma Mia!
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Sex and the City
The Last Mistress (limited)
A Girl Cut in Two (limited)

Must Read of the Day

Ellen Goodman's column. Her annual Equal Rites awards. The woman is so fuckin' brilliant I needed to publish the whole column here. It appears in today's Boston Globe.

One small step for women, one giant leap for sexism

ONCE MORE we prepare to honor our foremothers by celebrating the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage. Each year, in advance of Aug. 26, our one-woman committee gathers to hand out the Equal Rites Awards to those stalwarts who have done the most in the past year to set back the cause of women.

What to say of the last 12 months? This is the year girls finally caught up with boys in math achievement. And the year women finally achieved equality with men in job losses. This year we had the first serious female contender for the White House. And all she will end up with at the convention is a roll call vote.

But enough of all that. The envelopes please.

We begin with the highly competitive Blind Justice Award. This usually goes to some worthy American, but a Russian judge swept ahead of the pack when he ruled against a woman's charge of sexual harassment. "If we had no sexual harassment," he said, "we would have no children." We send this judge the blindfold to use as a gag.

Can he lend it to a French colleague? In Lille, a judge granted an annulment to a Muslim groom because his bride was not a virgin, "single and chaste." For this, he wins the Taliban Wannabe Prix, with a side order of freedom fries and our hope that he will not permit stoning on the Champs-Élysées.

Back on this side of the Atlantic, the Fashion Victim Award goes to Wrangler Jeans for ads that display women as half-dressed corpses. Ah, yes, homicide is so chic! Dead is the new black! Our prize is a sword thrust through their profit margin.

Sex and violence sell in the virtual world as well. The makers of "Grand Theft Auto IV" win the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Trophy for training men how to have interactive intimacy with prostitutes and then murder them. They call this a game.

Meanwhile, in the online girlworld, the Post-Feminist Booby Prize goes to those wondrous creators of "Miss Bimbo." This game encourages bimbos-in-training to buy their avatars everything from sexy lingerie to face lifts and breast implants, thereby producing "the hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world." You go, bimbo!

Do I hear the sound of a backlash? The Backlash Award goes to Washington University, which gave an honorary degree to Phyllis Schlafly for leading the charge against women's rights. What's next, honoraries for segregationists?

Alas, we hoped to retire the Tammy Wynette Stand by Your Man Award. But there was Silda standing by Eliot Spitzer when New York's then-governor had his taste in prostitutes revealed. And what to say about the admired Elizabeth Edwards? She didn't do the perp's wife's walk, but didn't she enable John to think he could still be president? We send these wives our disappointment.

This leads us to the Dubious Equality Award for the person who wins the most suspect equal right. Our winner is Thomas Beatie, nee Tracy, who gave birth after a sex-change operation, thereby dubbing himself the first man to have a baby. This is not what we mean by shared parenting.

What's next on the baby front? Tarted-up tots? The Our Bodies, Our Daughters Citation goes to those fetishists selling stilettos for baby girls. Hey guys, they're babies, not babes. Get thee to the foot binder.

Or the football field. Our Superstars of Sexism Prize goes to those Jets fans - you know who you are - who spend halftime lined up, whistling and demanding that women display their breasts. For this brain malfunction you get a chauvinist pigskin.

Which reminds us of the Media Ms.-Adventure Award. With Hillary-misogyny all around, we picked our winners from opposite ends of the radio dial. The right-wing Rush Limbaugh insisted that Americans wouldn't want to watch a woman aging in the White House. The left-wing Randi Rhodes called the senator a "big [expletive] whore." Their prize is spending the rest of the election locked together in one studio.

Finally, dishonorable mention to all those with bumper stickers reading "Life's a Bitch, Don't Elect One." We cover them with the final words of Susan B. Anthony: "Failure Is Impossible."

Ellen- I love you!

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Mike Leigh

The man has always gotten it. Many of his movies have starred women in interesting and substantive roles. His newest and most upbeat, Happy Go Lucky opens in October.

"I'm a feminist, though that's not where I came from,"

"As a film-maker, I feel I have to make good parts for women because there aren't many in the world, parts that are not just male fantasies."

Wouldn't it be great if other male filmmakers thought the same way?
Mike Leigh: portraying women as "not just male fantasies" (AFP)
photo: Simon Mein courtesy of Miramax Films

August 21, 2008

Enough of the David Mamet Revivals

I am so sick of how often David Mamet's misogynistic plays get revived. Most women can't even get a single production, but his shit keeps getting revived over and over. According to today's the NY Times two productions of Mamet's shows are coming to Broadway this season: American Buffalo and Speed-the-Plow.

How is a woman playwright supposed to get a production mounted when she has to compete with this?

Enough of the David Mamet revivals!

Actress Detained from Leaving Iran

Crazy stuff. Golshifteh Farahani was recently prevented from leaving Iran for meetings in LA with Hollywood agents after she had previously taken a part in an upcoming Hollywood film Body of Lies (starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio and opening on October 10) without permission.

Permission to act? Detained? Scary.
Actress banned from leaving Iran (BBC)

More thoughts on the Peter Bart Comments

This whole post comes from reader Carol Morrison-

"Although this relates to areas other than the film industry, the point is valid -- until the ranks of leadership in every industry reflect the diversity of the country (and especially the diversity of college and professional grads), there is something other than meritocracy defining who gets the top jobs.

The question is, are the underprivileged unconsciously colluding with the privileged in buying into their formulas for success? Big house, fancy car, etc., in other words, employing the same toys to designate power? Do powerful women need to create their own power symbols and offer a different perspective on how power can express itself?"

This is from the Columbia Journal on Gender and Law (2007)

The statistics are sobering. In the United States, women are a majority of the electorate but hold only a quarter of upper-level state governmental positions and sixteen percent of congressional seats. (2) More than half of college graduates but less than a quarter of full professors and a fifth of college presidents are female. (3) In management, women account for about a third of M.B.A. classes, but only two percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, six percent of top earners, eight percent of top leadership positions, and sixteen percent of board directors and corporate officers. (4) In law, women constitute about half of new entrants to the profession, but less than a fifth of law firm partners and Fortune 500 general counsels, and less than a third of federal judges and law school deans. (5) The gap widens for women of color, who account for only about four percent of congressional legislators, three percent of full professors, and one to two percent of corporate officers, top earners, law firm partners, and general counsels. (6) The leadership pipeline plainly leaks; women are lost at every stage.
"Change begins with protest but expands by taking initiatives to create change.

Another point to add -- Why don't women create their own list of the top women in Hollywood and put up their own list of criteria for being at the top. Maybe begin by holding a debate among women leaders themselves as to what criteria should be used?

As long as women surrender to men the power to anoint them with recognition, they reinforce men's stature as the judges of, and power-givers to, women."

Awesome piece Carol- how about it- should we create our own list?

Deals and News

  • Artistic License Films has acquired theatrical rights to director Pamela Tanner Boll's documentary "Who Does She Think She Is?" The film looks at the "mothering-versus-working choice" faced particularly by American women artists. (IndieWire)
  • Balcony Releasing has announced its acquisition of the U.S. distribution of Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker's doc "Pray The Devil Back To Hell." The film, which was awarded Best Documentary Feature at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, tells the story of a small band of Liberian women who came together in the midst of a horrific civil war and successfully (and peacefully) took on the Charles Taylor regime. This Fork Films produced the film in association with Wide Angle 13/WNET. Balcony will release the film this fall. (Indiewire)
  • Kimberly Johnson, writer of Benderspink's upcoming woman-in-peril screenplay "Curve," is set to pen another female-led thriller for Capacity Pictures. (HR)
  • Hilary Swank's production company has picked up the rights to the best-seller "French Women Don't Get Fat," and the actress is eyeing the project as a potential starring vehicle. (HR)
  • Natalie Portman's directorial debut will open the Venice International Film Festival's short-film sidebar. Portman's 17-minute "Eve," which Venice organizers called "a civilized comedy," stars Lauren Bacall and Ben Gazzara. It will screen in an out-of-competition slot. (HR)
  • Mimi Leder will direct "Remember Their Names," a film about a young merchant marine's tour of duty in WWII alongside Woody Guthrie. (Variety)
  • Sarah Jessica Parker's art competition reality show has found a home at Bravo. The show is a "Project Runway"-style competition series that takes on the art world. Aspiring artists compete to produce various styles of artwork (painting, sculpting, etc.), which is then judged by a panel of experts. (HR)

August 20, 2008

US Magazine is Crack

My subscription to US magazine just ran out and I am not renewing it. I made that decision for a variety of reasons but mostly because I don't want to encourage the paparazzi fueled world we live in where stars are made based on your underwear (or lack of underwear).

But I miss it. Oh boy do I miss it. I know it will get easier after I go through the withdrawal and stop thinking of having it. But this is tough. Tougher than I thought it would be.

Today I caught myself swiping a magazine from my local muffin joint (I will return it) just so I could get a fix. A couple of days ago at the gym I saw an issue lying on the ground and almost pounced on it (glad no one else went for it before me cause they would have been hurt.)

Wanting to read this crap so badly makes me feel like an idiot. Why am I so addicted? And why is it women that are more into it than guys?

Well, I guess I just answered my own question. Crap is the stuff we covet that's bad for us. So US magazine has joined yodels on the growing list of crap I have given up.

One point for me.

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Christina Applegate

I know that breast cancer is all the rage, but for all the talk and races and charities it is still rare for people -- especially those in Hollywood -- to talk about the disease and how it effects them personally. It's even rarer to see a young woman's face on this disease.

Christina Applegate has put a face to this disease in a very powerful way. She has been so brave in talking about her double mastectomy (at 36) and her positive test for the breast cancer gene and her family's struggle with this disease since her mother's diagnosis.

While many women get fake boobs in Hollywood this is one woman who got fake boobs to save her life instead of trying to get a job. She's impressed me.

Christina Applegate cancer free after double mastectomy (Reuters)
photo: Chris Hatcher/ PR Photos

A Woman Breaks Into the Boys Club

Rachel Maddow is awesome. She is not the typical female TV commentator. Firstly, she's not blonde, secondly she's a dyke, and thirdly she's a lefty. She's also so frickin smart (a Rhodes scholar), interesting, and most important of all doesn't sound exactly like every other TV pundit.

She filled in for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC this summer and was great. Now they are recognizing her talent and popularity and she's getting her own show on MSNBC starting on September 8.

It's a whole new world now. Rachel Maddow at 9 and the AC 360 at 10. What a great political season it will be.

Check out Rebecca Traister's profile of Maddow from earlier this summer.