October 3, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

Rachel Getting Married has a great script by Jenny Lumet, a wonderful leading actress -- Anne Hathaway as Kym -- a great supporting actress -- Rosemarie DeWitt as Rachel -- but the bad news is they are all stuck in a self indulgent loooong drawn out film by Jonathan Demme.

Demme has spent the last couple of years making documentaries and he pushed his realistic camera techniques onto this film making it at times very hard to watch. I felt that I had to fight to focus to what was happening onscreen. I'm guessing that was part of Demme's technique to show us Kym's jarred and dysfunctional world, but by the end it was self-defeating. I was angry and had a whopping bad headache.

The premise is, as you can probably surmise is the wedding gathering of Rachel where the dark secrets of a seemingly normal looking suburban family are exposed for all to see. This family is wrecked by drugs, lies and most especially by guilt. Kym, played by Hathaway, is a recovering drug addict let out of rehab for the wedding and she returns to reeks havoc, but also to confront deeply buried wounds.

The best scenes in the film were when Demme let the camera be still, especially at the AA meetings. The emotions of the actors at those meetings was extraordinary. There is also an amazing confrontation scene with Debra Winger who plays her mother that was very strong.

Anne Hathaway's self loathing is palpable in her most mature performance to date. This is clearly the mark of an actress on the rise. She allows herself to be raw and exposed in ways she has never done before. I was very impressed. She pretty is much guaranteed a best actress nomination, and I really wished the film had lived up to her performance and to Jenny Lumet's script.

Film opens today in NY and LA and will roll out throughout the country in the coming weeks.

Other Women-Centric Films in Theatres
Hounddog: Concerned Women for America is working to boycott Hounddog. It's important not to let the right-wing efforts shut down giving people the ability to judge the film for themselves. To counteract the right, the distributor is offering free tickets for the NY engagement this weekend. Director Deborah Kampmeier will be doing a Q&A following the 5:15pm show Saturday at the Cinema Village. The film is also still playing at the Roxy in Philadelphia. Please check out my piece on Hounddog (disclaimer, I am consultant to the film) Keeping Hold of Your Vision

Nights at Rodanthe
The Duchess
The Women

Frozen River
Trouble the Water
The Family That Preys
The Longshots
Mamma Mia!

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Leighton Meester

For standing up against domestic violence.

“I think it’s an issue that everyone can take part in because it applies to everyone...You can be a victim or someone you love can be a victim. The more people are aware, the more it can be prevented.” Meester said as a woman, she has a special interest in the issue. “No matter who is affected by domestic violence, I take it personally, so I think it’s partly my responsibility to talk about it.”
Leighton Meester Walks the Runway to Battle Domestic Violence (People)
photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury/ PR Photos

Casting Notes

  • Hilary Swank to star in Betty Anne Waters, about a single mother who worked her way through law school in order to free her brother, who was wrongfully convicted of murder. Script by Pamela Gray, and Swank will be executive producer.
  • Helen Mirren will play Mossad agent, Rachel Singer, who lied about killing a Nazi in The Debt (BBC)
  • Keira Knightley is in negotiations to play Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in The Beautiful and the Damned. from a script by Hanna Weg.
  • Anne Hathaway has been cast as a commitment-phobic attorney who finds her well-constructed life coming apart in The Opposite of Love. Film is based on the bestselling debut novel by Julie Buxbaum and will be adapted by Kara Holden. (Variety)
  • Claire Danes is in negotiations to star in HBO's biopic of Temple Grandin, a leading speaker on autism, animal expert and author.

October 2, 2008

Box Office Notes - The Women's Market

Here's some notes from last weekend:

Nights in Rodanthe
did better than expectation with a gross of $13.4 million. 75% of the audience was women, and 78% of the was over 30.

Studio said that movie did better in big cities in the West and Northeast didn't do so much business in the middle of the country.

Overseas, Mamma Mia! continues to kick ass with another $15.1 million last weekend. International gross is now $356.6 million. US gross is $142.2. Film will hit $500 million this week. Holy crap.

Why Do I Have to Wait Until January?

To see the pairing of Glenn Close and Marcia Gay Harden on Damages. This is one thing that will make the cold more bearable.
(photo EW)

Going to the Woodstock Film Festival This Weekend?

Make sure to check out this panel Amazing Women in Film moderated by Thelma Adams. Panelists include: Maggie Renzi, Rita Taggart and Barbara Kopple.

Here are the details:

Women in the film industry continue to carve a strong and meaningful path in a world that used to be traditionally dominated by men. With more women sitting in the Director's Chair and holding top positions as executives, producers and administrators, has the balance finally shifted to a point of equality? Join us as a diverse group of powerful women discuss their work and the state of the film industry, from the woman's perspective.
I for one do not think the balance of power has shifted but am interested in hearing what these women have to say. Anyone want to blog about it?

Buy tickets

October 1, 2008

Women's Films on DVD

A bunch of really great movies have come out on DVD in the last couple of weeks and I've been remiss in not giving you an update.

Sex and the City- got some numbers from the UK DVD release from last week and the film sold 920,000 units making it the BIGGEST seller of the year. Waiting for US numbers.

Finn's Girl- The folks at Wolfe video are the pre-eminent distributors of gay & lesbian films. I've seen two of their very different recent releases - Finn's Girl and Itty Bitty titty Committee and am happy to report liked them both. Here's my review of Itty Bitty titty Committee. I'm sure you haven't heard of Finn's Girl, I hadn't before it was sent to me. It's a film that I can pretty much say would never get made here in the US. It's about a female abortion provider in Canada who is struggling to keep her head above the water after the death of her partner from breast cancer. She is also struggling to raise their daughter on the brink of adolescence. I thought the film was a bit slow at times, but it was so brave and political. It dealt with the realities that abortion providers face (i.e. violence). Watch the trailer here: You can also purchase the film here, or get it on netflix.

Baby Mama- It sucks that we have to wait until the end of this month for the new season of 30 Rock to see some more Tina Fey (unless she shows up at SNL again), so this film can help tide you over.

14 Women- Documentary by Mary Lambert about the women serving in the Senate (there are 16 now)

The She Found Me- It took Helen Hunt 10 years to make her directorial debut with Then She Found Me, but boy was it worth the wait. A beautiful and moving film, it tells the story of April Epner a 39-year-old schoolteacher who longs to have have her own child, but time is running out. Read my full review

Water Lilies- check out my interview with director Celine Sciamma

Mill Valley Film Festival Features Women

The 31st annual Mill Valley Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night with Dakota Fanning and The Secret Life of Bees.

Other women and women's films on the agenda include:
Sally Hawkins in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky
A tribute to Swedish actress Harriet Andersson who starred in Ingmar Bergman films
Wendy and Lucy starring Michelle Williams directed by Kelly Reichardt
Lemon Tree- "Two women face off in a conflict over a lemon grove bordering the West Bank and Israel."
Taking Root- the doc about the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Mathai
A salute to Alfre Woodard and a screening of her new film American Violet, where she plays a mom fighting racism in Texas.

More info: Mill Valley Film Fest

This Woman is Not a Feminist

Katie Couric continues to kick butt. She may believe she is a feminist, but her answers disagree. Think about these answers when you go and vote. Can't wait for Thursday's debate.

"I'm a feminist who, uh, believes in equal rights and I believe that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed, and to try to do it all, anyway.

Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?

Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion, and when it should be allowed. Do I respect people's opinions on this. Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would also like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to take it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country, but I want them, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported, and adoptions made easier.

Couric: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning-after pill?

Palin: Well, I am all for contraception. And I am all for preventative measures that are legal and save, and should be taken, but Katie, again, I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see …

Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill?

Palin: ... I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.

Couric: I'm sorry, I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning-after pill.

Palin: Personally, and this isn't McCain-Palin policy …

Couric: No, that's OK, I'm just asking you.

Palin: But personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception.
It's great that she believe in contraception. Do you think she passed that on to her pregnant daughter?

This is What Makes Me Crazy

The LA Times put together its first Oscar predictions of 2008 and out of the seven people asked for their opinion exactly NONE were women.

Give me a fu--ing break. How can a newspaper in 2008 get away with this crap?

Like I need more things to piss me off. Post some comments on the site and let them know how unacceptable this is.

The Envelope's first Oscars predictions of the 2008 derby

50 Most Powerful Women in Business

Fortune Magazine's annual list. A couple in the entertainment field

8- Oprah- queen of the world
12- Anne Sweeney- Disney
18- Judy McGrath- Viacom

Full list

September 30, 2008

The Always Fascinating and Never Boring Diablo Cody

I admire Diablo Cody. She just does her thing without giving a crap what other people think and tells them so. Not surprisingly for a woman who calls herself a radical feminist she's got a lot of haters out there, and thanks to the web and blogosphere she gets a lot of nastiness hurled at her. She and Katherine Heigl seem to be the center of the wrath against women in Hollywood. Not surprising, they are two young women who actually speak out.

In a post entitled Hello Again! (Starring Shelly Long) on her myspace page she addressed some of the crap being thrown at her. (BTW where is Shelly Long? Ted Danson is still working, Woody Harrelson is still working, I occasionally see Kirstie Alley, but Shelly Long...gone.)

I am not Charlie Kaufman or Sofia Coppola (much as I supplicate at their Cannes-weary feet.) I'm not Paul Thomas Anderson. I'm not even Paul W.S. Anderson. I am middle-class trash from the Midwest. I'm a competent nonfiction writer, an admittedly green screenwriter, and a product of Hollywood, USA. I am "Diablo Cody" and if you're not a fan, go rent Prospero's Books again and leave me the fuck alone.
I may have won 19 awards that you don't feel I earned, but it's neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you're not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved Arrested Development! Aren't we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks? Hey, let's go bitch about how Black Kids are overrated!)
I'm sorry that while you were shooting your failed opus at Tisch, I was jamming toxic silicon toys up my ass for money. I get why you're bitter. I took exactly one film class in college and-- with the curious exception of the Douglas Sirk unit—it bored the shit out of me. I also once got busted for loudly crinkling a bag of Jujubes during a classroom screening of Vivre Sa Vie. I don't deserve to be here. We've established that. But I'm here. Five million 12-year-olds think I'm Buck Henry. Accept it.

That said, I'm a 30-year-old woman with a dwindling interest in blog culture, and I don't have time to address this bullshit every time one of my projects comes out. I'm in love, I just bought a house, and my boss made E.T. I kind of have to focus on reality.
She also spoke to the LA Times on the set of her next film the horror flick Jennifer's Body which is directed by Karyn Kusama.
"I am directly influenced by girls I have known," Cody said. "Girls who treated life as a race, and if there was someone or something they wanted, they would stab you in the back. It's a movie about hunger. A lot of teenage girls are starving themselves and a lot of them are psychologically hungry, because they are so misunderstood."

Kusama and Cody face an unusual challenge with "Jennifer's Body": While the film is populated with gorgeous women, they want to make sure the movie isn't lecherous. "That's something you have to grapple with when you are making a monster movie -- the girls have to look hot," said Cody, who describes herself as a radical feminist. "We didn't have to worry as much about ["Juno" star] Ellen Page's lip gloss" as how Seyfried and Fox look in this film.
"But horror is a surprisingly feminist genre," Cody said. "The last person standing is usually a woman. And most of the guys in this movie are vain and insecure. You'll notice there are no fathers in this movie. I didn't want there to be any male role models -- I didn't feel these were girls who were loved by their fathers."
And lastly, she just penned a love note to Judy Blume in this week's EW. I, too, love Judy Blume and read all her books religiously.
You have to wonder why no one's made a big-screen adaptation of Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself — a bracingly vivid story of a Jewish girl in postwar Florida — or Forever, an oft-banned tale of love and (virginity) loss. I imagine it's because these stories belong to young women. Real young women, not singing Disney cheerleaders, hair-flipping pop stars, or cartoonish socialites. ''Judy's girls'' are imperfect and unsure; they tend to vacillate maddeningly between outspokenness and passivity. Even physically beautiful characters (like the protagonist in Deenie) are outcasts somehow, stymied by the expectations of others. It's definitely not the stuff of Hollywood. But Judy Blume's bildungsromans are as sweeping and intense as anything we see on screen these days. They'd make great disaster movies, and anyone who's been a teenager knows that's not an overstatement.
I say keep talking Diablo. I usually never go to horror flicks but I'll see your film so you already made an extra $10 bucks.

Diablo Cody addresses teenage cannibalism in 'Jennifer's Body' (LA Times)
Diablo Cody: In Praise of Judy Blume (EW)
photo: Chris Hatcher/ PR Photos

Can a Film Effect an Election?

I've seen the trailer for Oliver Stone's W a couple of times now and while I think that it is so hysterical I worry that people who are still on the fence will be very offended by this and it might push them towards McCain.

Do you think that Stone's film could adversely affect the Democrats? The people working press on this movie better be smart in how they roll out Oliver Stone cause he can set people off. That this film is coming out before the election makes me very nervous.

Women Disappear from Hip-Hop Awards

How can it be that in 2008 two major music shows can get away with not nominating women. EW reports that the Hip-Hop Honors and the BET Hip-Hop Awards have not nominated a single female rapper. It also goes on to report that the Grammy's might not include female rappers since the 2005 removal of the Best Female Rap Solo category. Seems that very few women were submitted for consideration?

How is this possible? Here's one reason given:

''Hair and makeup is killing female hip-hop,'' says a source. ''The grooming cost to break a female rapper versus a male rapper is 10 times as much per appearance. That tends to have an adverse effect on a record company's willingness to even entertain a female rapper.''
So unbelievably pathetic.
BET and VH1 Present…Awards Shows Without Women (EW)

September 29, 2008

The Rise (Again) of Katie Couric

Most people wrote her off a year ago but she kicked ass this week with her Sarah Palin interviews that hopefully will be a turning point in people's assessment of her capacity (or incapacity) to lead. Then she scored McCain when he ran away from David Letterman to clean up Sarah's mess. Katie actually looked sorry for Sarah as she had to give her clues to complete sentences. I bet the campaign thought that Katie would be an easier interview for Palin, since she's a woman who's been given a hard time by the media herself.

Lesson of the week: don't underestimate Katie.

Tina Fey Rocks Part 2

I just can't get enough of Tina Fey. Loved her on SNL on Saturday night this week doing Sarah Palin again. Just in case you missed it. (as of Sunday at 5pm over 569,000 had viewed this- awesome.)

I couldn't embed it so you have to click through: Tina Fey Does Sarah Palin

Also check out this great piece on her career from the NY Daily News. Interesting tidbit that I learned- she's been a member of Weight Watchers. Now I love her even more.
The rise of Tina Fey: From 'SNL' to sitcom phenom and box office draw (NY Daily News)
photo credit: Djansezian/AP

Hollywood Feminist of the Day: Sheryl Lee Ralph

For standing up for women with HIV/AIDS. The original Deena from Dreamgirls on Broadway tours nationally and internationally with her one woman show Sometimes I Cry, The Loves, Lives and Losses of Women Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS.

A Diva Speaks for HIV's Silent Victims (Washington Post)
Sheryl Lee Ralph Site