August 30, 2008

This is the Kind of Female Leader I am Looking For

Too bad she was only on TV and lasted only one season. Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton (or even Mackenzie Allen)! Remember Commander in Chief?

August 29, 2008

Trouble the Water- The Third Anniversary of Katrina

With another storm bearing down on New Orleans, the amazing and very disturbing documentary Trouble the Water is beginning its roll out across the country. I hope that many people see this because it is tangible evidence of mismanagement and lack of leadership that George W. Bush has wrought upon this country.

I saw it last weekend in NY and the response was tremendous. Lots of the showings were sold out, and following the screening the filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal answered questions about the film (which is becoming more and more common here in NY especially for smaller films.)

One of the things that is so remarkable about the film is that this was not the film that Deal and Lessin set out to make. They were in the area two weeks after Katrina working on a story about the Louisiana National Guard troops, and into their camera frame walked this amazing force of energy Kimberly Rivers Roberts who told them she had a story to tell. And boy did she. She and her husband Scott lived in the 9th ward just barely getting by surviving by any means necessary. As the storm approached she took out her new video camera that she had used only once before, and this amateur filmmaker with only a single tape and battery was able to record images of Katrina right from the storm's center.

The footage of Kim and the people they took in is so hard to watch. It's shakey and brutal. I actually felt nauseous while watching it which just goes to show how well I'd fare in a hurricane.

Lessin and Deal also procured hours of 911 tapes of people (the phones still worked) stuck in their homes with no way to get out. The operators in Baton Rouge took calls from trapped folks and had to break the news that there was no assistance coming until the storm ended. One woman actually realized and said that she was going to die - and there was silence on the other end of the line from the operator. What can you say to that?

Kim and her husband Scott got themselves and others they assisted out of the devastated area in a truck driving by the convention center making us recall the images of people stranded in the heat with no water and no facilities which dominated the major news coverage of Katrina.

They made it to relatives in Memphis and spent six months there before heading back to New Orleans and trying to rebuild their lives. Kim is a rapper and her music is throughout the film and one song "I am Amazing" is an anthem to a young girl's survival against all the odds.

I sometimes can't believe that this actually happened, and this morning brought it home again with the announcement of a memorial service for 80 bodies still unclaimed. 80 bodies still unclaimed. How can that be? All other remembrances have been canceled due to the impending storm. One positive note is that for people without transportation, the state is providing buses for people to get out before Gustav hits. While the folks in New Orleans are evacuating again, go and see Trouble the Water (find out where it is playing here) and think about how lucky you are on this solemn anniversary.

August 28, 2008

Why Movies Matter

Cause a-holes like Alex Castellanos (why does this dick have a job on CNN?) compares Hillary Clinton to a fictional character in a 20 year old movie made at the height of the backlash against women.

Just wondering- do you think Glenn Close would take on this part now? I know that fiction is not reality, but these films have a serious shelf life and affect the culture.

I'm also throwing in another video about Hillary Clinton and misogyny cause it made me cry.

Thanks to Joan Carr-Wiggin for the heads up.

Where are the Women Critics?

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists president, Jennifer Merin put together a piece for the Women's Media Center expanding on the research by Dr. Martha Lauzen of San Diego State U on how few female film critics there are.

Here's the point I found most relevant:

The deeply entrenched disparity between the number of women who go to movies and the number of women who write about them rankles female film critics. But the issues extend far beyond a relatively small group of media professionals to directly affect moviegoers—especially women. Many, if not most, women look to mainstream media outlets for information, and it stands to reason that they'd find the perspective of perceptive, well-informed professional female critics useful. The relative paucity of female voices in film criticism is a manifestation of an industry that favors male-made, male-oriented movies despite the fact that women are avid moviegoers.
Everyone recognizes that for better or for worse, the blogosophere is the place where these conversations will be taking place in the future. It is imperative that we get more female film bloggers writing about films. Just like there are very few female film critics at papers, women film bloggers are still a minority, especially if you dedicate yourself to writing about women.

Alliance of Women Film Journalists

August 27, 2008

This is a Movie I'd Like to See

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits!!!

"To my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you because you never gave in and you never gave up,"

Did you know that Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women) did the introductory video?

photo: Ron Edmonds/AP

Anne Hathaway Smart, Young, Political Hollywood Woman

Anne Hathaway gave a great interview with the AP and showed how smart and articulate she is. Rock on.

AP: What issues are you most passionate about?

Hathaway: "That's a good question, and it should be a simple one. But right now I feel like there's so many aspects of our great nation which could use a little bit of help, or a lotta bit of help, that it's hard to pick just one. I think the most important thing is the economy. We need to figure out the housing crisis. We need to build up our middle class again. Right now, the disparity between the uber-rich and the uber-poor, it's worrying and it's not getting better. We need to focus on a way to just get our economy back, to get it back on track.

"Obviously the war is a very important issue to me. We need to get our troops home, and we need to get them home now. My own personal feelings about it is when the world is kind of perfect, and we have those two things — when we're at peace and everybody has a good job — although we should be working on these at the same time, I don't mean to imply otherwise, I'm really a big advocate for health care and of course my heart lies with education."

AP: What inspires you about Obama?

"I was kind of afraid of Obama the first time I saw him. I thought, I've been burned by guys like you before. I've been burned by politicians before that I wanted to believe in and just didn't live up to it. And I was afraid to trust him and I was afraid to have hope when I first kind of became aware of him. It was around the time that he gave his speech on race that I just said 'I can't deny how I feel about you, Barack Obama. I want you to be the president. I want you in the White House.'

"I think that not only can Barack cause change — because that's where his heart lies — as a true American success story, he understands how hard it is. And when he says that he will, when people come to him with problems, he's been there. I just heard the other day, he just paid off his student loans two years ago. And so when people talk about financial issues and the higher cost of education, he really gets it. So not only do I think he has the power, the temperment and the tremendous character that can cause change in the government, I think he's the sort of person that inspires us all to be our best selves.

"He inspires us to be the best Americans we can be. And I think if he's president — when he's president, I should say — we're going to find people changing on the inside. And once we all have hope for the future, I think you're going to find everyone's going to wake up and take control of this amazing moment where there's so many things that need help, and people will all be inspired to help."

AP: Do you think that the entertainment industry has a positive or negative effect on politics?

"I think the entertainment industry has all good intentions when we try to come out. The thing that is unfortunate is that some of us who are maybe a little recognizable, we've got to come out as private citizens and support our country in any way that we can ... .

"There's a media spin on it that we're all out of touch. How could we possibly have an awareness of what real Americans feel and think and need because we just ride around in limos and — I don't know — buy diamonds all day long? That's kind of the perception. But I don't know anyone like that. I'm certainly not like that. I'm a passionate American, and that's what I am first and foremost."

photo: Matt Sayles/AP

August 26, 2008

Smoking in Movies Influences Teens

This report on why teens start smoking is interesting because it shows that films do have influence on people, especially young people.

The report found that even brief exposure to advertising influences adolescent attitudes. Three-quarters or more of hit movies depict cigarette smoking, and specific brands can be identified in about one third.

Last month, six major movie studios -- Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, News Corp's Twentieth Century Fox, General Electric Co's Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros -- said they would place anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs of all movies with youth ratings that depict smoking.
So if movies influence kids to start smoking cause it looks so cool, could it be that movies also influence young people in other areas? Like how they treat women? This might be something interesting to study.

Cigarettes in movies seen to cause teen smoking (Reuters)

Even the Olympics Figured Out How to Reach Women

Why can't films? It seems that women watched the Olympics more than men -- 49% to 41%. I watched the Olympics mostly the first week because of the swimming and Dara Torres, but I also watched every women's soccer game. NBC for all their stupidity in embracing the Chinese government to an ass kissing degree was able to lure women viewers to the TV sets in large, large numbers. Michael Phelp's mom is even about to get an endorsement deal with Chico's whose clothes she wore through all his races. Can we take any lessons from the success of the Olympics in reaching women?

The large female viewership for the Olympics and the spate of spots intended for women are anomalies in TV sports.

Although women do not generally watch as much sports on TV as men do, they do watch a lot of other programs that draw fewer male viewers, among them daytime soap operas and nighttime serialized dramas.

But the Olympics differs from more prosaic shows watched by women because it is “also the perfect family programming,” said Steve Sternberg, executive vice president for audience analysis at Magna, an Interpublic media agency in New York.

“The Olympics is a great educational venue for children,” said James Lou, managing director for strategy at the Chicago office of DDB Worldwide, part of the Omnicom Group, “which gives it such an appeal to especially moms.”

Olympics Draw High Percentage of Women Viewers, and Ads Intended for Them (NY Times)

Happy Women's Equality Day

Today is the 88th anniversary of women getting the vote, and it's chick day at the Democratic National Convention. In honor of women in politics, here are some thoughts on a film I came across a film on Netflix accidentally -- The Politician's Wife.

The Politician's Wife is a 12-year-old British miniseries (3 parts) that eerily feels like it could have been written last week. While we all know the image of the deceived political spouse is not new, the image feels more relevant in these last few years -- especially this year -- with the idiocies of Elliot Spitzer and John Edwards in the headlines.

The film tells the story of Flora Matlock (played by the awesome Juliet Stevenson) as the wife of the conservative Minister of the Family. I'm sure you can already guess the premise -- he gets caught sleeping with a younger woman, promises his wife that it was nothing and that it was over before it really started. Liar. As the story unfolds it is discovered that the affair lasted a year and that there are tapes of erotic phone calls that get into Flora's hands.

At first, Flora is the good girl and stands up for the party and her husband like a good wife is supposed to do. It made me sick how all the advisers and her husband spoke down to her, while they all knew that should she waver in her support all their lives would be destroyed. The tapes fuel Flora's anger and even though outwardly it seems like she is standing by her man, she secretly puts together a plot to exact revenge on her lyin' cheatin' no good husband.

While watching this film I couldn't help but think of the conversations that Elliot Spitzer and John Edwards must have had with their wives. The sense of impunity that Trevor Eve (as Duncan Matlock) shows is so unbecoming and familiar. Why do these guys think they can constantly gets away with it?

The mini-series was written by Paula Milne during the height of all the scandals in the conservative government in Britain in the 90s. Sadly, it seems like things have not changed much today.

Other political movies that I like are The Contender and Iron Jawed Angels. What are your favorites?

August 25, 2008

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Debra Martin Chase

She's the producer of some great girl power flicks -- The Princess Diaries 1 and 2, and the Sistehood of the Traveling Pants 1 and 2. She is also the first African American woman to have a solo producing deal at a studio.

Here's a quote she gave to Gannett News Service:

"There are fewer studios and fewer movies being made...People are reluctant to make movies geared toward women. When I made 'The Princess Diaries' (in 2001), that was a breakthrough movie. What worries me now is that we're not providing opportunities for filmmakers with different voices and different backgrounds to be heard."
Producer connects with women's diversity

What's Your Point, Honey?

It's the week of the Democratic convention and in that spirit we are going to cover some political topics this week on Women & Hollywood. While I may still be smarting that Hillary Clinton's 18 million voters are relegated to just a roll call vote, I know that it's important to get excited about Obama and Biden. I 'm just having a hard time getting it up. Are you?

One of the reasons I think I'm feeling so bereft is that I just don't see who's coming next. The pipeline for future female political leaders seems so damn short. I mean, really, what other women is going to be able to get 18 million primary voters?

what's your point, honey? is an attempt to change that paradigm. It tells the story of several young women who participated in a program with The White House Project and CosmoGirl to start them on the road to the presidency so that we have will have a pipeline so that many women will be ready to run for the highest office in the land.

Check out the trailer:

Girl power fuels what's your point, honey?. It's co-directed by Amy Sewell (who also did the awesome Mad, Hot Ballroom) and Susan Toffler. Sewell took some time to answer some questions about the film.

Women & Hollywood: What made you decide to make this film?

Amy Sewell: My filmmaking partner, Susan Toffler, wanted to really start a conversation about gender inequalities. And at the very most, we wanted our movie to serve as a marker in time, during a year when a first for history was within our reach. In 20 years, if the statistics at the end of our movie do not change, we will have a much bigger problem than anyone thinks. We have a big problem now but getting young women to realize this is quite the feat! No one wants to talk about it – hence starting the conversation to give it a push.
We felt that young women do not know they are not equal. We felt it was time for younger women to realize where they will end up if they don’t wake up and take a stand. We are 69th in the world in women’s representation in government. I mean, you read these stats and you have to be embarrassed that we don’t demand equality now! It’s illogical that we are not equal. Completely ridiculous.
W&H: What do you want young women to get out of the film?
AS: In September of 2005, right after my first film, Mad Hot Ballroom, had its run, Toffler and I decided it was time to address this tough topic (one that Hollywood won’t touch with a 10-foot pole) – feminism – and wrap it up somehow, making it entertaining and heartfelt, to make it palatable to not only younger women but the masses. And so we wrapped it around the metaphor of a woman running for president. We got lucky when Senator Clinton ran, luckier when the press crucified her in ways they wouldn’t have a man, and luckiest (bittersweet luck) when she dropped out of the race, helping us drive our point (“honey”) home. The one top slot never even gotten close to by a woman until this year – and now we don’t know when we’ll ever see that again! It might take until 2024!
W&H: Now that Hillary Clinton has run for president do you think that girls and young women will see things differently?
AS: Well, that one is a tough question because while they saw a woman run for president and get pretty far, she still didn’t get the prize AND was subjected to extreme hate for it. Only time will tell whether women will have the guts to keep taking it on. I think we do. I hope we do.
W&H: You are distributing this film in a non traditional way? How are you getting the word out about the film?
AS: The first word out of a powerful female decision-maker in Hollywood about our film was “You have to understand….I’m one woman in a room with 10 men.” That said it all. We just decided to do it ourselves. Sell direct. We took cues from Radiohead in the music industry.

But this baby was different. We didn’t want it in theaters for a week up against Hulk, Hellboy, Iron Man and Batman and then put on a shelf. We are hand-holding it. It’s bigger than just the concept of a movie. This is a mission. Add to that, I can only say that we also tried to approach Michael Moore (he had given me a quote for my book two years ago and we are both Michigan “kids”) to put this feminism movie out under his name as a joke on the industry. We thought for sure if he would do it, he would be hailed a genius -- “bold and brave” -- to take on the topic of feminism in such an entertaining and subtly poignant way.

Regardless, we have a good movie about an important topic that all mothers and fathers, grandparents, young people – all ages, should see. We have the ages 8-80 crowd-pleasing social justice cause film of the year and you can order it right off our website. You can also download a crossword puzzle we had Will Shortz’ #2 person do for and about the film. Each DVD comes with a HONEY Viewers Guide (think Readers Guides for book clubs) to help start the conversation. We also have two Study Guides – one for College and one geared to middle and high school students; both written by kick-ass professors/teachers.

And, in order to pay it forward, 30% of our net DVD profits are split up equally among The White House Project, Ms. Foundation, and Girls Inc.

We’ve also partnered up with Women Count, anyone who signs up with them (it’s free) get a promo code to get 20% off our DVD.
W&H: Why does the title - what's your point, honey? work so well and make me want to beat someone up?
AS: It’s funny. Good! It should! That is the collective way all of us women should feel, the way our souls should really feel, after 6,000 years, of being treated as less. I’m advocating the use of our minds and souls to finally stand up and demand what is rightfully ours – respect -- along equal pay, ownership of our bodies, and corporate or government consideration for child and elder care.

The title is actually from a Jim Borgman cartoon from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hillary (Clinton) is pointing to a world chart where the names of the numerous other countries have had women leaders and Uncle Sam is saying “What’s your point, honey?” It kind of summed it all up for us for our film. Our logline is “It’s not about one…..” – which we think drives it all home – in many, many ways – both literal and figuratively.
W&H: Do you think we're going to have a woman president before 2024?
AS: No. Sorry. I wish I could say yes. I’d like to say yes, but I don’t think we’ve seen the beginning of this backlash yet from Senator Clinton running (it’s strong, invisible and deadly). But I do think we are on our way. I think more and more women will go into local, state and federal government to start feeding the pipeline of the choice we need to get there.
I don’t think we’ve seen even the tip of the next wave of feminism. It is coming and come hell or high water, I’m fighting all the way to my grave to see a day of equality. I used to say it was for my daughters – this fight in me – but you know what? It’s for me. They are learning (they are 10) but they will have to fight for what they think is right. Right now, I’m in it, I’m in it deep, and in it to win. I don’t know of any other way.
We’ve got to build the army. Women who have the time and privilege need to fight for our sisters who don’t have the time or maybe have to first fight racism and/or religious persecution. Look, I’m happy to hold at 77 cents to get my sisters of color caught up to that pay level – then we can all march on for the equal buck together. This is not a fight to get fragmented about – we are ALL women.

And overall, the goal is NOT just to have a woman president – what does that matter if she is not going to bring our issues to the table? The goal is to someday have just as many women as men run for president so we can PAST gender to agenda. That’s when the issues will be a given at the table. We are looking for equal representation at all levels.
W&H: Where can people see this film?
AS: We continue to have benefit screenings for women’s groups around the country and you can find out where by checking out the “now playing” section on our website.

But we emphasize buying the DVD and getting the Viewers Guide. Host a screening party – start the conversation! Pass it around! Show 100 people! Approach your local art house theater cut a deal and invite the community! Show it as a fundraiser a local women’s nonprofit you support! We own the rights and therefore, we advocate having everyone and anyone serve as screening “ambassadors.”
W&H: Women directors seem to do much better in the documentary world. Why do you think that is the case and why are there so few fictional female film directors?
AS: We don’t have to depend on Hollywood to help us with the money. I just read your column today – look, we have to take responsibility of where we are – not blame anyone. If that means giving box office to women directors, let’s do it. If that means “girlcotting” companies that don’t speak to us, let’s do it (god forbid, here comes the “she’s not a true-blue American capitalist” – know that I am – more than anyone knows!). If it means only doing business with other women or men who are pro-women, then so be it. There are ways we can show our power. We are 80% of the purchasing power in this wonderful democratic country of ours! But a true democracy means equality for all – so let’s get to that!

I’d love to see all the female directors get the key fiction films. I think we haven’t seen enough of they way we can deliver a movie to an audience. I’ll tell you another thing, I think our margin for error to fail is too great. Men seem to be allowed to fail in this industry with nine or more lives attached to them to come back and make more money. Women directors get one chance. That’s crazy. We get boxed into being the perfect girl, much like looking for the first female president – I fear we are only given room to look for the perfect girl. That perfection is killing us. Toffler and I joke that the day we are truly equal is the day when women can be gross-gut-bustin’, TV-watching, scratchy, “I’ll deal with the garbage later,” beer-drinking, crotch-itching, slacker guys and be revered for it! We are looking forward to that day!

This is So Damn Good I Had to Share

Thanks to Salon and reader Lis Riba