December 28, 2007

December 28, 2007

Weekend Box Office
New additions:
The Orphanage - Spanish thriller starring Belen Rueda
Persepolis- (scroll down to read my story from yesterday)

Holdovers include:
P.S. I Love You
Golden Compass

Best Actress Thoughts from David Thomson at The Guardian
I appreciate his comments because he acknowledges the lack of real roles for women.

This is not a crowded category this year - so yet again the fear needs to be voiced that creative young minds in America have opted for a world view in which women seldom figure.
Who Will Claim Best Actress? (The Guardian)

Women's Voices from the Writers Strike
Carol Mendelsohn, showrunner and Executive Producer of CSI and Executive Producer of the other 2 CSIs on "why we write."
Why We Write (Deadline Hollywood)

25 Films Added to National Registry at the Library of Congress - only two directed by women (one woman I had never heard of)
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Although there were numerous women filmmakers in the early decades of silent cinema, by the 1930s
directing in Hollywood had become a male bastion with one exception. Dorothy Arzner graduated from
editing to directing in the late 1920s, often exploring the conflicted roles of women in contemporary
society. In Dance, Girl, Dance, her most intriguing film, two women (Lucille Ball and Maureen O'Hara)
pursue life in show business from opposite ends of the spectrum: burlesque and ballet. The film is a
meditation on the disparity between art and commerce. The dancers strive to preserve their own feminist
integrity, while fighting for their place in the spotlight and for the love of male lead Louis Hayward.

Glimpse of the Garden (1957)
Though Marie Menken's volatile marriage to Willard Mass served as the inspiration for playwright Edward
Albee in his 1962 play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, her surprisingly joyful and simple films rate among
the more accessible works of avant-garde filmmakers. The beautifully lyrical Glimpse of the Garden is a
serendipitous visual tour of a flower garden set to a soundtrack of bird calls.
Other women's film include: Now, Voyager; The Women (a remake will be released in the fall of 2008); and Wuthering Heights.

Liz Ryan and Barbara J. Roche will be given lifetime achievement awards by the Directors Guild. Ryan has been a part of 60 films and TV shows and will get the Frank Capra award which goes to an assistant director or production manager, Roche will receive the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award, which recognizes an associate director or stage manager. Lovely awards, but doesn't make up for the fact that women still direct under 10% (if even that many) of the films made today. (Variety)

Helena Bonham Carter had to convince her partner, director Tim Burton that she was the right person for her role in the new flick Sweeney Todd.
Helena Bonham Carter's Pie-in-the-Sky Dream (LA Times)

Madonna as Director?
Looks like Madonna's film will debut at the Berlin Film Festival in February. Hope she's a better director than actor.
Madonna's Directorial Debut to Take Its Bow in Berlin (The Guardian)

10-time Academy Award nominee and two-time winner Bette Davis will be honored on a postage stamp on the anniversary of her 100th birthday next year.

December 27, 2007

December 27, 2007

Persepolis—Iranian Feminist as Subversive by Melissa Silverstein (written for the Women's Media Center)

It's been a very difficult fall at the box office for political films, especially for those about the Iraq war. But the most interesting political film this fall comes from the most unlikely source—French-Iranian autobiographical novelist Marjane Satrapi. Her film, which has won numerous awards since it debuted at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, has been chosen to represent France at the Academy Awards (nominations come out on January 22, 2008).

This is a rare film on many levels. First, it is about a girl. Second it's animated, but not like Shrek or other cartoons. It’s animated like a graphic novel, a genre Satrapi and her co-director Vincent Paronnaud had to invent. Third it's a story about fighting back against political repression. Any one of these characteristics would be enough to doom the enterprise, and add to all that, the movie is in French. But here’s what Persepolis has going for it: it’s one of the most original, feminist, and subversive films to come along in years.

Persepolis starts and ends with the resilient Marjane Satrapi, whose story was initially put out by the comic book publisher, L'Association, in France, where it became a sensation. It was then published as a full graphic memoir.

The book and the film tell the story of a smart, independent girl growing up in a secular Iran in the late 1970s, and what happened to her world in the wake of the Islamic revolution and years of war in her homeland. She grew up an only child in a progressive family under the heavy influence of strong mother and grandmother. After the revolution, a repressive Islamic regime took over, forcing women to wear veils in public. Marjane refused to give up her sense of self, which included mouthing off to teachers when forced to recite religious doctrines. She wore nail polish and a denim jacket with a Michael Jackson button.

When Marjane reached 14 her parents became acutely worried about her and sent her abroad to protect her from herself and her independent mind. She returned home to Iran after four homesick years in Austria and attended art school at the university. But no matter what, she could not stop speaking up and out. One day the students were called to a lecture entitled "moral and religious conduct" where girls were told to wear even longer scarves, less wide trousers and no makeup so as not to tempt men. Marjane had enough. She alone stood up to question the administration: "You don't hesitate to comment on us, but our brothers present here have all shapes and sizes of haircuts and clothes. Why is it that I, as a woman, am expected to feel nothing when watching these men with their clothes sculpted on, but they, as men, can get excited by two inches less of my head-scarf." She was summoned by the Islamic Commission for her outburst, but instead of being expelled as she expected, she was asked to create a type of "uniform" that would satisfy the women as well as the authorities, which she did.

Persepolis opened in NY and LA over Christmas. The version that will hopefully play in the rest of the country in 2008 will be different from the original. The filmmakers, to their credit, know that "there are places in America where they will never go to see a movie with subtitles," so they already have a dubbed version in the can with the voices of Gena Rowlands and Sean Penn to compliment Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni, who both also appear in the French version. Satrapi wants mainstream America to see the film because "this movie is a universal movie. The people who will not go to see a movie with subtitles are the most important because they need a different point of view."

Check out the: Women's Media Center

Summer 2008
2007 is not yet over and the jockeying has already begun for 2008 summer dates. It looks like there will be a Cameron Diaz comedy on May 16- What Happens in Vegas and Meryl Streep's Mamma Mia on July 18. Have to say that I loved the trailer.

Check it out here: Mamma Mia Trailer

December 26, 2007

December 26, 2007

P.S. I Love You
I saw P.S. I Love You the new film starring Hillary Swank before I read the NY Times' incredibly kind review of this sad sad testament to what Hollywood thinks of women. It must be that Manhola Dargis must have gotten so tired of seeing all the boy-centric films, that anything with a drop of estrogen seemed like a relief. I know how she feels.

I actually feel bad for Hillary Swank who started out the year with the decent Freedom Writers (that got no notice) and then appeared in the horror flick The Reaping (which I didn't see) and now tops off the year a shrill widow in this tearjerker. But I gotta say I feel even worse for Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon who play Swank's best friends. Their lines are so trite and retro that I literally cringed. Kudrow plays the typical female character on a man hunt, and as she meets a man (every one is a potential mate cause you know she's getting old already) she asks: are you single? are you gay? do you have a job? before even introducing herself. After finding her man instead of saying she's getting married she shrieks I'm not going to be a spinster! (I just can't believe that word is still used today.) Gina Gershon plays the supportive best friend married to Swank's husband's business partner. I can't remember anything about her except that I think she has too much botox in her lips and it made be want to watch Bound again.

Hillary Swank is one of our most talented young actresses today. She probably gets to look at some of the best scripts since she has won two Oscars so the thing that troubles me most is that these are the best scripts out there for female actresses. I am also pissed off at Wendy Finerman the film's producer who brought us The Devil Wears Prada. I expect more from her.

Speaking of the scripts available to Swank. She showed up with Richard LaGravenese the film's writer and director on the Hollywood insider show Shootout with Peter Bart and Peter Guber. (Note to the 2 Peters- Swank was the first female guest in a long time, not counting Anne Thompson of Variety who has appeared several times this fall.)

Here's what Swank said:

It's very challenging finding good roles. I would say that 1 in 20 scripts are good, 1 in 50 may be great and when you do find them and there is a role for a woman in it that has any substance you do everything in your power to be a part of it.
I can't believe I am even saying this out loud two Academy Awards later it's still very strange to me but nothing is handed to me and I don't think it's handed to anyone.
It makes me angry is that the studio new the film was a dud (on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood it was referred to by an executive as PU) but the result will be that women didn't come out to support a female-centric film which will be used by the studios as another reason why not to make films starring women.

Katherine Heigl Continued
The January issue of Vanity Fair has several interesting stories including a very honest interview with Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy who hopefully will become a big star when she opens in her first starring role mid-January in 27 Dresses. I wrote earlier about her comments on how she thought Knocked Up was sexist.

Anne Fletcher her director on 27 Dresses describes Heigl:
She has the it factor. You can't buy it; you can't learn it; you can't create it; it just is. We haven't had one of her in many years. Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan- those have been our go-to girls for romantic comedy for a very long time, but we haven't had a new one.
PS- Her film price has risen from $300,000 to $6 million.

Jurnee Smollett Deserves Better
In the same issue is a very offensive image of a young African American actress Jurnee Smollett who stars in Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters opening this week. The character she plays in the film is the only woman on the debate team, and this picture is all that's wrong with Hollywood. Don't like it at all.

Here's a good piece on Jurnee that can give you a sense of who she is.
A Proud Graduate of the School of Janet (LA Times)

John Sayles & Maggie Renzi are still making small, artistic films, thank goodness.
Their new film The Honeydrippers about rock n roll in 50s Alabama and opens this week. Maggie had some interesting things to say about the difficulties with distribution.
My thing is, they gave up on the audience over 50. We're the ones who run the film clubs. And we can handle things that are at a slower pace. And I think they stopped inviting us to movies. They want a home run hit? The second-largest group is people over 50. We have money -- and time now. And there's nothing for us to see, and there hasn't been for a while.

John Sayles Talks About the Honeydrippers and the Future of Filmmaking (LA Times)

I Like Amy Adams
Always have, now I like her even more after this Newsweek article. She's had a big year with Enchanted and now Charlie Wilson's War. Next year is even bigger with Doubt opposite Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and then Julie and Julia again opposite Streep. A she has Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with Frances McDormand opening in March.
When You Wish Upon a Movie Star (Newsweek)

December 21, 2007

December 21, 2007

Frances Marion Awards

Women & Hollywood honors the hard women working of Hollywood in both TV and film who have to endure the tabloids, the sexist culture and the paucity of meaty roles with its first annual Frances Marion** Awards. These awards are for films and TV by and/or about women that show women for who we all are: flawed, fat, thin, messed up, leaders, hot, sexy...real. We're not looking for perfect women, just real ones.

Best of the Year
Away from Her
Julie Christie is majestic in her depiction of a woman's descent into Alzheimer's and how it effects her husband who is left behind with just their memories.

Stephanie Daley
A teenage girl's knowledge of lack there of of her pregnancy is at the heart of this drama with has amazing performances from Tilda Swinton, and Amber Tamblyn. Writer and director Hilary Brougher challenges the audience to think about this very complicated issue. Film still resonates months later.

Building on the theme of teenage pregnancy, this original, funny script deals with the subject without talking down to girls or the audience. Breakout performance of the year by Ellen Page and the birth of a new female "it" writer in Diablo Cody.

Marjane Satrapi's life in Iran under the Islamic revolution first written as a graphic novel is translated onto screen as an animate graphic novel. Film is incredibly moving and educational. (review next week)

The Best of the Rest
Freedom Writers
Hillary Swank attempts to inspire inner city students.

The Iranian national soccer team is in a final game to qualify for the world cup. Women are forbidden from attending the game. Several young women desperate to cheer on their team dress as boys to try and get in.

Black Book
The story of a young Jewish woman trying to survive Nazi occupation of Holland in 1944, and what happens when she falls for one of the of the Nazis.

Red Road
A CCTV security guard in Scotland sees a face on her screen one day that sets into motion a series of events.

Adrienne's Shelly's touching script a directing elevate this comedy/drama about a pregnant abused waitress who just wants wants to make pies (and not be abused).

The true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia who after being sentence to life in prison for killing her abusive husband fought to change the law for all women in England.

In the late 70s, Gracie wants play soccer like her brothers but there is no girls team. She wants to try out for the boys team but she is rebuffed. She perseveres and reminds us how happy we are that we have Title IX.

A Mighty Heart
The story of the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and how his wife Marianne aided and kept the focus on the search for him.

La Vie En Rose
Marion Cottilard as Edith Piaf. She is amazing, you can't take your eyes off of her. Too bad the film doesn't live up to her performance.

Broken English
Parker Posey is Nora a 30 something single female New Yorker, depressed, unhappy in her job and unsatisfied with her life. She knows she wants more but can't figure out how to get there. Sound familiar? Directorial debut of Zoe Cassavetes.

Becoming Jane
Jane Austen writes about love like no other novelist. The film build on the rumor that Jane has a great love in her life that helped inform all her work.

Fun musical that hits on many important issues including racism and weight issues.

2 Days in Paris
Julie Delpy wrote, directed, edited, and stars in this funny romance about a mismatched couple.

The Brave One

Jodie Foster become suffers a total breakdown and becomes a vigilante after a brutal attack.

Things We Lost in the Fire
Susanne Bier's character study of two people struggling to survive after facing a devastating loss.

Nina's Heavenly Delights
Fun film about finding love and cooking curry set in the Indian community of Glasgow, Scotland.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
A Harrowing look at the illegal abortion trade in Romania under the Ceausescu regime in Romania (review next week)

Sex trafficking keeps growing and the girls are getting younger and younger and nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it. Film follows the abduction of a girl and her brother's struggle to get her back.

The Golden Compass
Fantasy adventure about a young girl who turns out to be the key saving her world.

Not About Women but Directed by a Woman and Worth Seeing
Talk to Me- directed by Kasi Lemmons
The Namesake- directed by Mira Nair
The Savages- directed by Tamara Davis

Women Auteur (yes, women can be auteurs)
Julie Taymor - Across the Universe- because you can always tell a Julie Taymor project and she never fails to impress with her creative vision.

Women & Hollywood watches a lot of TV and wants to acknowledge that TV is the medium with the strongest female roles, and appreciates that the people who work in TV business acknowledge that women are a viable market.

Best Women Centric Shows on TV (shout out to the striking writers- please settle, I'm scared that I will have nothing to watch in January and I refuse to be sucked into reality TV)

Women's Murder Club- cause these gals are crime fighters who are not afraid to be women. Angie Harmon- best TV comeback of the year

Cold Case- cause the show is run by mostly women and touches on long undiscussed history like suffrage and Japanese internment camps.

The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard- cause it was damn nice to see that a woman in charge can make mistakes as a leader and move on. Am hoping for the reality TV version in the US next November.

Grey's Anatomy- Shonda Rhimes has changed TV. Nuff said.

Army Wives- Sappiness aside this series shows war from the female perspective and actually has a black female officer in the main cast.

Damages- cause Glenn Close is deliciously good as the deliciously bad Patty Hewes.

The Closer- cause I love to hear Kyra Sedgwick say thank you very much in her Georgia twang. And because she has gotten the respect of her mostly male team with her total competence as a crime solver.

Saving Grace- cause Holly Hunter is out of her mind and I've never seen anything like it or heard this amount of curse words on TV before.

Ugly Betty- cause I love America Ferrara and love to hate Vanessa Williams and for having the funniest gay men on TV.

Men in Trees- cause it's quirky and endearing and that Anne Heche is a total goofball. And especially for Jane falling for Plowguy.

30 Rock- cause finally we have a feminist comedy that's actually funny. The cast is the best on TV.

Battlestar Galactica- cause gender doesn't matter in their world. Women kick ass just as good if not better than the guys!

** In case you're wondering Frances Marion was one of the most prolific screenwriters in her day. At one time she was the highest paid screenwriter -- man or woman. She paved the way for all women working in the business today. Women & Hollywood is proud to honor her work.

Weekend at the Box Office
Big weekend for new releases.
P.S. I Love You starring Hillary Swank is the widest female centric release this weekend. It opens on about 2,500 screens. Haven't seen it yet but I will contribute to its box office tally this weekend.

Other films of interest opening include Charlie Wilson's War. Tom Hanks gives a hysterical performance as the pathetic Congressman Wilson who basically facilitating the US arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Communists. Directed by Mike Nichols it illuminates the short sidedness of US foreign policy or lack thereof and the US complicity in the pathetic situation we find ourselves in today. Great script by Aaron Sorkin, amazing performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Still in Theatres
The Savages
The Golden Compass
August Rush
Margot at the Wedding
Across the Universe

Opening December 25
Persepolis- limited

December 20, 2007

December 20, 2007

The first annual Frances Marion awards will be unveiled tomorrow. I know you're all waiting with baited breath.

Screen Actors Guild Nominations

Cate Blanchett - "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie - "Away From Her"
Marion Cotillard - "La Vie en rose"
Angelina Jolie - "A Mighty Heart"
Ellen Page - "Juno"

Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett - "I’m Not There"
Ruby Dee - "American Gangster"
Catherine Keener - "Into the Wild"
Amy Ryan - "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton - "Michael Clayton"

Ensemble Cast

Ellen Burstyn - "Mitch Albom's For One More Day" (ABC)
Debra Messing - "The Starter Wife" (USA)
Anna Paquin - "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (HBO)
Queen Latifah - "Life Support" (HBO)
Vanessa Redgrave - "The Fever" (HBO)
Gena Rowlands - "What If God Were the Sun?" (Lifetime)

Glenn Close - "Damages"
Edie Falco - "The Sopranos"
Sally Field - "Brothers & Sisters"
Holly Hunter - "Saving Grace"
Kyra Sedgwick - "The Closer"

Christina Applegate - "Samantha Who?"
America Ferrera - "Ugly Betty"
Tina Fey - "30 Rock"
Mary-Louise Parker - "Weeds"
Vanessa Williams - "Ugly Betty"

"The Closer"
"Grey's Antatomy"

"30 Rock"
"Desperate Housewives"
"Ugly Betty"

The Secret Lives of Bees based on the Sue Monk Kidd novel will be a full femme fest. Gina Price-Bythwood will direct her script adaptation and signed to star are Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Sophie Okonedo. Close to deal are Dakota Fanning and Alicia Keys. (Hollywood Reporter)

The Savages, Tamara Jenkins' new film about adult siblings taking care of their father has hit a chord with people across the country because it comes off as so real.
The Savages Captures Emotions of Caring for Aging Parents (USA Today)
Read Women & Hollywood's Interview with Jenkins

Amy Ryan Talks about how her life has changed since all the kudos from Gone Baby Gone. She has been working hard for many years and this recognition is well reserved.
Checking in With Amy Ryan (EW)

August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone is being revived in Baltimore. It contains several strong female roles.
The Women of August Wilson Speak (Broadway World)

An interesting article on the state of indie cinema and what the indie biz might be like in the future
Beyond the Multiplex (Salon)

Patti LuPone is the latest diva to take on the role of Mama Rose on Broadway. The Encores production will open at the St. James Theatre in March.
Gypsy Returns to Broadway (Variety)

December 19, 2007

December 19, 2007

A Brief Chat with Debra Zimmerman, Executive Director of Women Make Movies
Had a chance to catch up with Debbie at the NY Women in Film and TV event last week. For the uninitiated, Women Make Movies, started in 1972, distributes films by and about women. More info: Women Make Movies

It's interesting and emblematic of the sorry state for women in film that Debbie started the conversation in talking about TV, about how Grey's Anatomy has roles that are not black or white; how some of the new cable shows are superficially misogynistic (like Rescue Me and Dexter) because they know they are misogynistic; and how cable shows like Weeds are great for women.

One of her most recent acquisitions at WMM is Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go the new film by Kim Longinotto which won the Grand Jury Prize at the recent International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. This is the first film that WMM will be distributing that is not about women.

"We made a big exception because we distribute all of Kim's films. It's about juvenile delinquent boys and their teachers who deal with their problems by holding them instead of disciplining them."

"We've had so much success with this film and I have a feeling that it's because it's not about women. We're getting offers we haven't seen before. And it's really sad to me that women's issues are not seen as universal."

"I'm afraid if we take more films (by and about men) that we would do so well with those that it would dwarf our desire to be committed to women."
Please stick with the women- distribution is so hard for everyone, especially for film by and about women.

Shame on Us Weekly
It was awesome that Katherine Heigl spoke out in Vanity Fair that she thought Knocked Up was sexist. Cause even though you laughed like I did, bottom line is that the film is sexist. Us Weekly ran a poll in its recent issue: "Is She Ungrateful? Katherine Heigl Called Knocked Up sexist (and they put sexist in quotes, which I refuse to do) even though the comedy boosted her career." 60% of those polled said yes. Shame on all of us. No wonder women are afraid to speak out.

All the awards are getting quite boring and predictable.

African-American Film Critics Association
Best Director: Kasi Lemmons, 'Talk to Me'
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard, 'La Vie En Rose'
Best Supporting Actress: Ruby Dee, 'American Gangster'

Top Ten Films of the Year:
3. Talk To Me
7. Juno
9. Things We Lost in The Fire

San Diego Film Critics
BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie, "Away From Her" Runner-up: Ellen Page, "Juno"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone" Runner-up: Cate Blanchett
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Runner-up: "The Orphanage"
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Runners-up (tie): "Persepolis"
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Runner-up: Sarah Greenwood, "Atonement"

Austin Film Critics Association
Best Actress: Ellen Page, 'Juno'
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, Juno (yeah for someone finally noticing how great she was)
Best Foreign Film: Black Book
Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, 'Juno'

Palm Springs Int Film Festival will open and close with movies about women. The opener is Helen Hunt's directorial debut Then She Found Me. Closer is Audrey Tautou's Priceless.

Nancy Buirski has stepped down as head of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival after 10 years. She will be working on creating a fund to incubate and produce indies and docs.
Full Frame Boss Shifts Focus (Hollywood Reporter)

A more in-depth look at Juno and how it disarms both sides in the culture wars.
Juno and the Culture Wars (Slate)

December 18, 2007

December 18, 2007

New York Women in Film and TV's Annual Muse Awards
I was able to attend NYWIFT's annual celebration of women in entertainment. 1,000 people packed the ballroom at the Hilton for a looong lunch that honored Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lauren Zalaznick, Julie Taymor, Suzana Peric and Gale Anne Hurd with Muse Awards.

One of the important programs that NYWIFT funds is the Women's Film Preservation Fund which restores films to help keep women's film history alive. The fund has preserved films from early pioneers like Alice Guy Blanche and Lois Weber to Barbara Kopple's Oscar winning documentary Harlan County USA.

Some interesting quotes from the awardees speeches:
Gale Anne Hurd is a kick ass producer and has had a hand in producing some of the biggest action films. No chick flicks for her. She introduced us to Sarah Connor in the Terminator and worked on the kick ass Aliens (that's the second really good one). She received the Loreen Arbus award for those who take action and effect change.

It is disappointing that we still need AFI's directing workshop for women. The number of women directing film and tv remains woefully small in the single digits unchanged since the 1970s. We have witnessed the rise of the woman film and tv exec from Loreen Arbus to Sherry Lansing to Betty Cohen to Amy Pascal. Now let's make the same strides behind the camera. Let's not just talk about it. Let's not just complain about it. There's no longer just the old boy's network to overcome. We have no one to blame but ourselves. So let's take a chance and a woman director, editor or prop master so we can tell our daughters about a time when women weren't equally represented and they will look at us mystified.
Jennifer Jason Leigh who seriously has had one of the most diverse careers of any actress working, spoke of her muses the photographer Nan Goldin, director Jane Campion and especially her mom.
If I am a muse I'd like to think it's for being independent and making risky choices for paying attention to my own voice whether or not it is in the best interest of my career. My mom has always prized love over money, loyalty over money, ethics and honesty over money. My mom doesn't have a lot of money. (This got a big laugh) She taught me from a young age that women and men were equal in all ways.

The question that irks me that I get asked a lot is what is the difference between a male and female director. My answer is - it depends on the person. I can't imagine someone asking me what it's like having a female doctor or lawyer and it speak to the sexism that persists in this business even though there are more and more women directors we are still a novelty.
New Nicole Holofcener Movie
So psyched that Indie Queen writer/director Nicole Holofcener is reteaming with Catherine Keener and returning to NY the site of my favorite Holofcener film Walking and Talking for a new film about a group of neighbors in a NY building. Script was finished before the writers strike so it could go into production early next year.
Holofcener, Kenner Move in with Indie Drama (Hollywood Reporter)

Alliance of Women Film Journalists
Best Original Screenplay: Juno - Diablo Cody
Best Screenplay Adapted: Away From Her - Sarah Polley
Best Actress: Julie Christie - Away From Her
Best Actress In Supporting Role: Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Best Ensemble Cast: Juno

EDA Female Focus Awards
Best Woman Director: Sarah Polley
Best Woman Screenwriter: Tamara Jenkins - The Savages
Best Breakthrough Performance: Ellen Page - Juno
Best Newcomer: Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Women’s Image Award: Sarah Polley
Hanging in There Award for Persistence: Ruby Dee
Actress Defying Age and Ageism: Julie Christie
Outstanding Achievement By A Woman In 2007: Kathleen Kennedy, Producer, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Persepolis
Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Christie
Award For Humanitarian Activism: Angelina Jolie

EDA Special Mention Awards
Hall of Shame Award: Norbit
Actress Most In Need Of A New Agent: Hilary Swank
Movie You Wanted To Love But Just Couldn’t: Margot At The Wedding
Best Seduction: (tie) Atonement - Keira Knightly and James McAvoy and The Namesake - Tabu and Irfan Khan
Most Egregious Age Difference Between Leading Man and Love Interest: Beowulf - Robin Penn Wright and Anthony Hopkins
Bravest Performance Award: Julie Christie - Away From Her
Best Leap from Actress to Director Award: Sarah Polley
Cultural Crossover Award: Persepolis

The Satellite Awards
ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA- Marion Cotillard, "La Vie En Rose" (Picturehouse Entertainment)
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE- Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax Films)
SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL- Diablo Cody, "Juno" (Fox Searchlight)
ORIGINAL SONG- "Grace Is Gone" Clint Eastwood & Carole Bayer Sager, "Grace Is Gone" (The Weinstein Company)
SOUND (EDITING & MIXING)- Karen Baker Landers, Kirk Francis, Per Hallberg, "The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal Pictures)
COSTUME DESIGN- Alexandra Byrne, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal Pictures)

TELEVISION MINISERIES- "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (BBC/Kudos Productions)
ACTRESS IN A SERIES, DRAMA- Ellen Pompeo, "Grey’s Anatomy" (ABC)

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Ellen Page, "Juno"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart"

Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Cate Blanchett, "I’M Not There"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Margot at the Wedding"

"La Vie En Rose"
"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"
"Black Book"

December 17, 2007

December 17, 2007

Weekend Box Office
Juno expanded to 40 theatres and took in $1.44 million with each theatre grossing $36,018 - the most per theatre of any film this weekend including the Will Smith drama (which grossed 76 million and took in $21,000 per theatre.) Atonement expanded to 117 locations and took in $1.85 million. The Golden Compass was third at the US box office but remained first overseas for the second weekend in a row.

Film Femmes Marginalized by Testosterone
Its awards time, and the end of the year, and Variety has an article that takes a look at the paucity of roles for women onscreen. I just wish that it didn't take the Oscars or other awards for people to start talking about this problem which only seems to be getting worse. Will writing about it make any difference? Does Hollywood care that women are virtually invisible in films? Some interesting points:

Women seem to have been reduced to property, prizes and pregnancy, with Jesse James' mute wife a symbol of what's become of the women in mainstream movies.
It's surprising, given how late in the year it is, but coming up with five prospective best actress nominees is something of a struggle.
Most years are a struggle.
The actors are crowding the field, while the women have been sidelined.

When the women have made it to the screen this year, their characters have been shrill, vapid or outright grotesque.
This is what Hollywood thinks about women - silent or shrill. Do they see their daughters and wives this way?
It's been a season in which audiences seem to be avoiding "serious" stories in favor of a "Game Plan" or "Bee Movie" or "Enchanted," which, coincidentally, has one of the more prominent female roles of this holiday menu -- a princess. Which proves that some things never change, including the idealization of females and the good times to be had when boys are allowed to be boys, and men are allowed to be mugs.
I did like Enchanted but I agree wholeheartedly that this is a regression for women onscreen. Enchanted will be the top grossing film that stars a woman and she is what none of us can be - an animated princess.
There seems to be little doubt that the most fun had during "Knocked Up" or "Superbad" was when the lads were cutting loose. It's like real life: When a woman walks into a room full of men, behavior changes; when a woman walks into a movie full of men, the movie changes. It gets more serious. And since audiences are avoiding serious, they're also avoiding women. And the movies are avoiding them, too.
Why is it that people perceive that a woman in a room or in a movie makes everything more serious? WTF? Is this the male view of women? That we take all the fun out of their lives - force them to get jobs, stop smoking pot and looking at porn on the internet? This is such crap. Get over yourselves.

This line sums up life for women in Hollywood
The women-friendly films -- which, in this climate, means that women are actually in the cast, and speak -- prove to be exceptions to the rule.
Hollywood should be ashamed of itself.

Film Femmes Marginalized by Testosterone (Variety)

Jennifer Love Hewitt Stands Up for Size 2 Actresses

Didn't give the Ghost Whisperer her props when earlier this month after she stood up to the tabloids for calling her fat. She fought back on her blog saying:
I've sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women's bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I'm not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image.
A size two is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size zero doesn't make you beautiful.

What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my life and my engagement to the man of my dreams, instead of having to deal with photographers taking invasive pictures from bad angles. I know what I look like, and so do my friends and family. And like all women out there should, I love my body.

To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini -- put it on and stay strong.
Why is Liberal Hollywood so Afraid of Abortion? (Maybe because they hate women)
Since this summer's Knocked Up and the recent Juno, several articles have discussed Hollywood's lack of reality when dealing with pregnancy. Jennie Yabroff in Newsweek makes some great points.
Hollywood is generally assumed to be a bastion of political liberalism, but when movie characters find themselves unintentionally pregnant, one of two things happens: they keep the baby, or they conveniently miscarry.

Conservative bloggers and film critics are applauding what they interpret as the film's pro-life message, which raises a question: in our politically polarized world, can a film in which a girl decides against abortion manage to be viewed as anything other than an anti-abortion film?

Films like "Waitress" and "Juno" might not seem so politically potent if there were even a handful of counterexamples, but you have to go all the way back to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) to find one that shows a woman choosing to end an unplanned pregnancy in a sensitive, realistic fashion.

But if a majority of Americans support a woman's right to choose, why the on-screen taboo? One answer might be that while Hollywood likes to flaunt its political liberalism, it is fiscally very conservative—no studio wants to limit the size of its potential audience.

The message is that a female protagonist can't terminate a pregnancy and remain sympathetic.
A Special Delivery (Newsweek)

Jodie's Gay- So What?
The annual Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment breakfast which celebrates the most powerful women in Hollywood passed by without so much of a blip except for the news that Jodie Foster who received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award that morning, finally, publicly, acknowledged her big non-secret that she is gay and has been in a long term relationship for over a decade. Several stories have mentioned her comments but the best story on what this means or doesn't mean for Jodie, women and gay people in Hollywood comes out of Belfast of all places.
What was striking was not the acknowledgment itself. (Websites that breathlessly proclaimed Foster had 'come out' were surely overstating their case.) Rather, it was the sadness of everything that had gone before and the peculiar agony of being anything other than a straight up-and-down heterosexual in a town as supposedly progressive and forward-thinking as Los Angeles.
Here was one of the world's most successful women, with an enviable and growing body of work to brag about, and she couldn't - except in the most roundabout way and after 14 years - feel comfortable acknowledging her life partner in public.

People in Hollywood are, famously, only as big as their last film, and the knives are perpetually out to have the mighty fall and the talented go astray - but it is doubly, triply, quadruply difficult for a woman over 40 whose sexuality is, at least surreptitiously, seen as a strike against her and whose best work is often seen as being quite some distance in the past.

In the past few years, Foster hasn't been called upon to play those sorts of parts - a function of another Hollywood prejudice, this time against women too old to play romantic leads and too young to play grandmothers. In her past few performances (Flight Plan, The Brave One, Inside Man) she's essentially been a cog in the wheel of thriller-type plots that didn't require unusual amounts of soul-baring.
The Day Jodie Came Out Belfast Telegraph (thanks to AfterEllen)

AFI Named its Top Films and TV Shows of the Year
"The Savages"

"Tell Me You Love Me"
"30 Rock"
"Ugly Betty"

Chicago Film Critics Awards:
FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM - "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"
ACTRESS- Ellen Page - "Juno"
SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Cate Blanchett - "I’m Not There"
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Diablo Cody - "Juno"

The Society of Stage directors and Choreographers (the stage version of the DGA) has named Karen Azenberg its new president.

A Walk Into the Sea directed by Esther Robinson a behind the scenes and personal look at the Warhol Factory is currently playing in NY.
Interview with Esther Robinson

Lauren Bacall is still acting up a storm at 83. She currently appears in The Walker
At 83, Bacall is Still Bold and Beautiful (Washington Post via Miami Herald)

December 14, 2007

December 14, 2007

Weekend at the Box Office
Holdovers dominate the films that are by and about women this weekend.

Movies playing:
The Golden Compass
Margot at the Wedding
The Savages
August Rush

Looks like Juno, The Savages and Atonement go wider next week.

Opening next week is P.S. I Love You starring Hillary Swank and Julia Roberts' return in Charlie Wilson's War

Arranged - Opens in NY at the Quad Cinema Today
Arranged tells the story of two young religious women, one Jewish and one Muslim both anticipating their family "arranging" their marriages in modern day Brooklyn, NY. These are educated women, both teachers, who meet at their job and become unlikely friends when they realize they have more in common than they ever expected. Women are clearly submissive in both cultures and both these women have come to terms with how they fit into their own world. The principal at their school tries to get them to break free reminding them there was a woman's movement, yet both Rochel and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) are offended by her prying.

I think that the film would have been better served by a more experienced director. The performances felt quite choppy and the Jewish characters surrounding Rochel were caricatures. But the movie really tries to put forward a theme of tolerance, and I respect it for trying on its very limited budget.

Golden Globe Nominations

The Golden Globes are always more fun than the Oscars because they take themselves less seriously and the organizations that gives them out -the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - is always looked at suspiciously. They also give out awards for drama ans musical/comedies so there are more prizes to go around. But, it's televised and big star show up (although with the writers strike this year who knows what will happen.)

Relevant nominees:
Best Motion Picture - Drama

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Jodie Foster – The Brave One
Angelina Jolie – A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley – Atonement

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy
Across The Universe

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams – Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter – Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Ellen Page – Juno

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Cate Blanchett – I'm Not There
Julia Roberts – Charlie Wilson's War
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

Best Foreign Language Film
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (Romania)
Persepolis (France)

Best Director - NO WOMEN

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Atonement- Written by Christopher Hampton
Juno- Written by Diablo Cody

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
"Despedida" – Love In The Time Of Cholera
Music By: Shakira and Antonio Pinto
Lyrics By: Shakira

"Grace Is Gone" – Grace Is Gone
Music By: Clint Eastwood
Lyrics By: Carole Bayer Sager

Best Television Series - Drama
Damages (FX NETWORK)
Grey's Anatomy (ABC)

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Drama
Patricia Arquette – Medium
Glenn Close – Damages
Minnie Driver – The Riches
Edie Falco – The Sopranos
Sally Field – Brothers & Sisters
Holly Hunter – Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer

Best Television Series - Musical Or Comedy
30 Rock

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Musical Or Comedy
Christina Applegate – Samantha Who?
America Ferrera – Ugly Betty
Tina Fey – 30 Rock
Anna Friel – Pushing Daisies
Mary-Louise Parker – Weeds

Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Bryce Dallas Howard – As You Like It
Queen Latifah – Life Support
Debra Messing – The Starter Wife
Sissy Spacek – Pictures Of Hollis Woods
Ruth Wilson – Jane Eyre (Masterpiece Theatre)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Rose Byrne – Damages
Rachel Griffiths – Brothers & Sisters
Katherine Heigl – Grey's Anatomy
Samantha Morton – Longford
Anna Paquin – Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee
Jaime Pressly – My Name Is Earl (NBC)

Thoughts: So psyched that Damages has the most nominations of any series. Aslo thinkthe strongest category on the list is the best actress, TV drama. All great except I still don't get Medium at all. Very happy that Across the Universe was noticed and surprised that Tamara Jenkins and Laura Linney from The Savages were passed over.

Quotes from the nominees (all from Variety)

"Tim (Burton)'s assistant gave us the news. We're in the hospital because I'm supposed to have a baby tomorrow. It comes at a time when there's a larger event happening, an event almost as large as my stomach right now. (Stephen) Sondheim's a big challenge and learning to sing in three months was difficult but the material was so fantastic and my passion for Sondheim and the part got me through it. The part was so well written, you can't really go wrong, though I knew I had to take it in a different direction than Angela Lansbury. I've been a fan of Sondheim since I came out of the womb myself. At the moment I'm concentrating on one contraction at a time. It's a long journey. I don't know about the ceremony. We haven't really gotten that far. I think we've got a big thing to get through first and then we'll see."
-Helena Bonham Carter, nommed for actress, comedy/musical for "Sweeney Todd"
"It's lovely. I was actually at the Today show when the nominations were announced. I'm so excited and I'm so happy the film got three nominations and Diablo (Cody) got recognized. Her screenplay is one of the best I've ever read. I never thought it would lead to all these awards because that's not why I'm an actor and that's not how I pick roles. It's one of those things where everything clicked. I have a dinner tonight and then I head back to Nova Scotia where I'm sure there'll be a celebration of sorts. [As for the ceremony,] I'm completely supportive of the writers and I hope it's resolved soon in a completely fair way."
- Ellen Page, nommed for actress, comedy/musical for "Juno"
“Both films are so different from one another but each are memoirs told in an original voice. Marjane (Satrapi) has such a great voice and sense of humor. She makes the material so accessible.

“For ‘Diving Bell,’ I’m feeling great that it’s building momentum. It’s complicated in that it’s in French and there’s a certain amount of confusion in that it was nominated for foreign films in Golden Globes but not eligible for Oscar as a foreign film.”
- Kathleen Kennedy, producer on “Persepolis” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“Feels fantastic not only the show but Ted (Danson) and Rose (Byrne) too. I took it on the strength of one script.”

“I take great pride in the fact that I did TV in the beginning when people thought it would ruin my film career. I’ve always had a great respect for television, and I particularly like it now, as it has some of the best writing around. I love the pace of TV and the mental challenge. You have to learn lines a lot faster.

“I would never cross a picket line.”
- Glenn Close, nominated for TV drama actress, “Damages” (Variety)
“I’m thrilled. (Edith) Piaf went right into people’s hearts and she showed so much emotion. Most of the people in France know Piaf’s songs, but they don’t know much about her life.”

“It was difficult because we had to find the right balance of makeup and light, and it was a hard job to make a 30-year-old look that old. For me, after the tech problems were resolved, it was so much fun.”
- Marion Cotillard, actress comedy/musical, “La Vie en Rose”
“I was in my hotel room in Toronto where I'm rehearsing for a concert. Ironically, this is where the movie was made and a year and a half later, here I am nominated for a Golden Globe. I'm totally shocked and I'm dying inside. This whole experience has just been life-changing. It's just been fabulous and wonderful.”
- Nikki Blonsky, nommed for actress in a comedy/musical for “Hairspray”
"I'm in New York and I haven't slept all night. Everybody was yelling and I was so tired because I took a red-eye from San Francisco. I mean, I'm also happy, I just don't have the energy to yell myself. Animation is not a genre, it's a medium, so it fits me very well. We always felt that "Persepolis" was a universal movie that anyone could relate to and understand, so I think this nomination confirms that. You never know why something works but when it does, it's delightful."
- Marjane Satrapi, nommed for foreign-language film “Persepolis”
"It’s tremendous as we weren’t on the pundits lists and didn’t have big ads. I feel in a way that we were the engine that could. People vote from their heart and I feel very gratified"

“People come in with a prejudice about messing with the sacred Beatles, but they all loved the movie. We got tremendous support from that community. When so many movies are telling about the reality of war, I’m very proud to be putting out a movie with relatively unknown actors that kind of spark part of our lives.”
- Julie Taymor, nominated for best comedy/musical, “Across the Universe”

London Critics Circle List of Nominations




Laura Linney -- "The Savages"
Marion Cotillard -- "La Vie en rose"
Maggie Gyllenhaal -- "Sherry Baby"
Angelina Jolie -- "A Mighty Heart"
Anamaria Marinca -- "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days"

Samantha Morton -- "Control"
Julie Christie -- "Away From Her"
Keira Knightley -- "Atonement"
Helena Bonham Carter -- "Sweeney Todd"
Sienna Miller -- "Interview"

Saoirse Ronan -- "Atonement"
Imelda Staunton -- "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"
Tilda Swinton -- "Michael Clayton"
Kelly Macdonald -- "No Country for Old Men"
Vanessa Redgrave -- "Atonement"


Saoirse Ronan -- "Atonement"
Dakota Blue Richards -- "The Golden Compass"

Sarah Gavron, director -- "Brick Lane"

"4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days"

Sundance Screenwriters Lab
13 writers will participate in the lab with established filmmakers. Women picked include:
"Hammer and Anvil," by Alicia Erian (U.S.); "Hannah M.," by Hadar Friedlich (Israel); "Meadowlandz," by Moon Molson (U.S.); "Quotas," by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa and Karen Sztajnberg (U.S./Brazil); "Return," by Liza Johnson (U.S.).

December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007

Women & Hollywood interviews Mary Rae Thewlis

Mary Rae Thewlis has spent the last seven years as a producer and production manager on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Before that she spent five years as an assistant director on Law & Order. She spoke with Women & Hollywood as her show ends the first half of its season tonight. Catch the episode on USA at 10pm.

Women & Hollywood: Can you explain exactly what you do.

Mary Rae Thewlis: It's not uncommon for a production manager to also be a producer. The production manager is more nuts and bolts - works with budgets, hires crews. As the producer I am on the set at all times for the Chris Noth shows. We scout the locations sit in on script meetings, actor read throughs, casting sessions. On the set I am there to assist the director where needed to help keep things running smoothly, to keep an eye on the budget and to make sure the standards are maintained.
W&H: I thought that in TV a producer is a writer. Is that not the case?
MRT: In most cases a producer is a writer. If I were to flip open the title page of my script most of the producers would be writers. We have an executive producer and a showrunner, my boss who gets the produced by credit, another executive producer who is in charge of post-production. Then there are 3 writer producers and 2 consulting producers who are writers. Then there are those of us who manage the day to day filming and logistics and we get the producer title as well.

I don't think we are unique. I see a produced by credit now every time I turn on a CSI or House. You really need someone to handle the logistics and other non-writing aspects.
W&H: How would someone get into production management?
MRT: I was a DGA trainee and came up through the assistant director ranks. After you become the asst director you can move into production management. The DGA training program exposes the trainee to a variety of sets and environments possible so that at the end of the 2 years people have made a lot of contacts and options to choose from. When I was a trainee I worked on Scorcese's The Age of Innocence, and I also did TV shows. I am a trustee of the program now.
W&H: Are there as many women as men?
MRT: More than half the trainees are women, and we really emphasize diversity and opportunities for women. It takes time but honestly the girls are doing as good as the boys. It didn't used to be that way. At this point there are equal numbers of production managers and asst directors in TV. Features In features the first Assistant Directors are mostly men. Directing features you can forget about and its not much better in TV.
W&H: Why is it still so hard for women to break into directing?
MRT: I don't know. I'm on the DGA diversity task force and it's a constant battle at the directing level. We do extremely well in the below the line jobs like production managers, but at the directing level we still have a struggle One reason why TV is hard is that you have an 8 day prep and then shoot for 8 days. It's complicated and I've seen experienced directors struggle and if you come in without the episodic experience -- it's sink or swim. It's hard to give a person the opportunity to do it when they haven't done it before. It's kind of one of those situations where you have to have done the job to get the job. Men seem to have done better at it.
W&H: Have you noticed that female feature directors are now directing TV?
MRT: I think that's starting to happen and that makes me very happy. I think it's great to have a career as a feature director but TV can be someone's bread and butter while waiting for a feature.
W&H: How has the writer's strike affected your show?
MRT: We have shut down. We've shot everything. We are kind of in a holding pattern until its resolved and then we can make plans. I'm doing a couple a days wrap up. I will be on hiatus effective next week but there are always some accounting issues, checks to sign. Bills don't stop for a strike.
W&H: Do you have suggestions for a person who wants to get into production management?
MRT: You need to know the nuts & bolts of production. Get on the set experience as a Production Assistant or in Locations which is valuable in NY. When the opportunity presents itself learn everything you can learn about money and budgets. It is an industry open to bright people who want to learn.
Bionic Woman is one of the shows that might not make it back onto the schedule after the writer's strike ends. Personally, I think the show stinks and Michelle Ryan is dreadful. I haven't even watched the last 3 episodes but have a feeling they will get watched while there is nothing else on.
Bionic Woman Short Circuits (The Guardian)

A blistering take on the pathetic choice on the three networks dedicated to programming for women. I hardly watch any of them, ever (excepting some of the original programming on Lifetime like Army Wives and the previous series Strong Medicine and The Division). Is it women who are interested in these Bridezilla and women behaving badly shows, or is it the advertisers? I guess people watch them because they keep multiplying but they all make me sick.
Watching Women's Television (Slate)

If you've never heard of the singer Eva Cassidy who became famous after her death in 1996 at the age of 33 you are missing something special. In Britain her recording of What a Wonderful World is a top seller as a duet with Katie Melua. It also looks like a biopic is in the works.

December 12, 2007

December 12, 2007

She Made It Media Project Offers a Look Back and a Push Forward

I wrote this piece for the Women's Media Center
At a time when you could “hear the voices of women newscasters all over Europe,” recalled Nancy Dickerson, a network correspondent (who died in 1997) and one member of the Paley Center for Media’s She Made It class of 2007, the profession in the United States was “still riddled with prejudice.” In its third annual honors ceremony last week, the center (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) celebrated women's overlooked and underappreciated contributions to the history of television and radio, while noting as well how much had changed.

Check out the full piece: She Made It

Hollywood's Current Black List (this seems to be a good black list)
Confirming that Hollywood has no sense of history, a couple of years ago a black list of the most liked scripts that have made the rounds during the calendar year, but haven't yet been made. Some have been bought and some have even been green-lit. Most will never get made.Nikki Finke ran the index of the list last week and I thought it would be interesting to see how many women are on the list Out of 126 listings only 17 are by women (and 3 might be men).

Are women's scripts not as good or are they just not getting read?

The List:
I WANT TO F--- YOUR SISTER by Melissa Stack
UNTITLED BILL CARTER PROJECT by Jordan Roberts- (man or woman?)
WEDNESAY by Massy Tadjedin
JENNIFER’S BODY by Diablo Cody (this is being made next year)
JONES by Carol Heikkinen
BALTIMORE by Chris Terrio & Jesse Lichtenstein (man or woman?)
BUTTERCUP by Alice O’Neil
DEAR JOHN by Jamie Linden (man or woman?)
THE WEDDING PARTY by Francesca Marciano
WRECKING BALL by Susan Brightbill
ZELDA by Hanna Weg
BFF by Jenni Konner & Alli Rushfield
EAGLE EYE by Hilary Seitz
IN by Bess Wohl
MAN AND WIFE by Lorene Scafaria
MAN UNDER by Ann Cherkis
SEX AND SYLVIA PLATH by Jennifer O’Kieffe

Keep this caveat in mind: "This is also a "big dick" measuring contest for the Hollywood agencies and their motion picture lit departments: the most screenplays on the list were repped by Creative Artists Agency, followed closely by (in order of quantity) William Morris Agency, United Talent Agency, Endeavor, Paradigm, International Creative Management, and Gersh. Problem is, some screenwriters tell me this list isn't on the level because it consists of mainly junior studio execs and assistants along with self-interested agents and managers getting together to push their own clients and projects some of which have already been abandoned. " Deadline Hollywood
San Francisco Film Critics Circle
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - "The Savages" by Tamara Jenkins
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - "Away from Her" by Sarah Polley
ACTRESS - Julie Christie for "Away from Her"
SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Amy Ryan for "Gone Baby Gone"
MARLON RIGGS AWARD FOR COURAGE & VISION IN THE BAY AREA FILM COMMUNITY - Lynn Hershman-Leeson director of 2007's "Strange Culture," "Conceiving Ada" and "Teknolust"

Helen Hunt's directorial debut Then She Found Me will make its US debut at the Palm Spring International Film Festival on January 3. Film is also co-written and stars Hunt. Co-stars include Bette Midler, Colin Firth and Matthew Broderick.

Isabella Rosellini's series of short films Green Porno will be featured in the Berlin International Film Festival on February 8 (Indiewire)

An all African American cast will appear in the Debbie Allen directed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway in March. Stellar cast includes: Terrence Howard, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose and James Earl Jones.

December 11, 2007

December 11, 2007

Interview with Sarah Fain, Executive Producer of Women's Murder Club

Over the last six weeks of the writer's strike most of the voices have been male since they do make up 80% of the writer's guild. Women & Hollywood asked Sarah Fain, Executive Producer of the new ABC drama Women's Murder Club (ABC, 9pm) to talk about being a female writer in the TV business and how the strike has affected her and her show.

Women & Hollywood: You're in the middle of your first season on the Women's Murder Club and you are now on strike for the foreseeable future. How do you think this will effect the momentum of the show?

Sarah Fain: It's hard to say. At this point, there are so many possible scenarios. The strike could hurt us, it could help us, it could have a totally negligible impact, depending on how long we're out and what ABC's development looks like. It's something I really try not to think about (which doesn't mean it's not a good question-- I'm just trying to live in a certain amount of denial). I can tell you that we have a really great fan base, which pleases me to no end. And we all love working on the show. I've worked with some pretty fantastic groups of people, but our team on WMC is something special. So I hope we all get at least five years out of it.

W&H: Women are 20% of the writer's guild membership, and in TV they make up about 27% of the writers. Why do you think it is still so hard for women writers to break into Hollywood?

SF: Depressing numbers. Yikes. Liz (my writing partner) and I talked a little bit about this whole woman-writer thing in Written By a couple months ago. It was a bit of a relief, because it's something we've been hesitant to talk about with any degree of candor for a long time. And I'll still be somewhat restrained, because we're not sitting in my living room bullshitting with martinis and cigarettes. Although I don't smoke anymore. And I don't drink nearly enough. And my living room's a mess.

Anyhoo-- there's no question that there's a certain amount of sexism in this town. Probably in every town and every industry. For the most part, we just let it roll gracefully off our backs. I think if you're not willing to do that, it's harder to succeed. Which is screwed up and sad, but true. It's just harder for women-- and it's not like it's easy for men. Why is it harder for women to break in? I wish I had a good, specific answer for that. But it's all so subtle. I will say that I think it's getting easier. There are great men out there who really don't operate that way-- like Joss Whedon and Shawn Ryan, both of whom we've been fortunate enough to work for. And there are a lot of amazing women role models. People like Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, Barbara Hall, and Yvette Lee Bowser. They made it easier for us, and hopefully we'll make it easier for the folks who come around next.

W&H: Most of the voices we've heard about the strike has been male comedy writers. Can you let us know why you support this strike? Since women have fewer positions as writers do you think the strike will have a more adverse effect on women?

SF: This strike sucks for everyone. I think most of the voices out there have been male comedy writers because there are just so MANY of them. Throw a dart in this town and you'll hit a male comedy writer. Or the model/actress he's standing next to (read: hitting on). And I say that with love. There are many male comedy writers I adore. But you're seeing them on the news because... well, they like to talk. A lot. It can be annoying. But the issues are the same for all of us. We all have a lot to lose-- as do the actors, directors, and crews.

W&H: Most people don't know the term showrunner. Can you explain a bit about what you do and how in TV the Executive Producers are writers where in film they are not.

SF: Showrunners are basically the people who carry the vision of the show and make sure that vision is being implemented throughout the process of creating a series-- in the scripts, in casting, in the directing, editing, music, etc. Since Women's Murder Club is our first show, we're lucky to have Scott Gemmill as our co-showrunner. Which is extremely handy, because there's a lot to do, and we can all split things up when it gets nuts. On any given day, a we'll be in the writers' room (hopefully) approving story ideas, giving notes on outlines and scripts, re-writing, sitting in casting or approving casting tapes, making notes on cuts or sitting in editing, taking notes calls from studio and network executives, approving production choices in any number of arenas (sets, wardrobe, props, etc.), toning directors, and managing whatever crisis happens to arise. It's pretty much the best job there is-- never boring, always engaging, creative, and of course insanely stressful.

The difference between being a feature writer and a television writer is pretty huge. The entire structure of television is about educating writers in the process of making a show (at least it should be), so that they can be producers and showrunners. You start out as a Staff Writer, then move up the ranks through Story Editor, Executive Story Editor, Co-Producer, Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Executive Producer, and Executive Producer. Each title basically indicates an increased level of experience-- not just as a writer, but as someone who can also produce a show. In television, the writers are in charge. We hire directors, and they are expected to execute our vision. In features, writers are less empowered. Once a film script is sold, writers are significantly less involved in the production process. It's safe to say that they're usually not involved at all. Film is a director's medium. TV is a writer's medium.

W&H: TV is much more receptive to women's voices than film is; and ABC is the most female friendly network outside of Lifetime. Why is TV a more welcoming medium for women's voices and women leads?

SF: I can't speak to film, but in television... it's all about the numbers. ABC has only gradually moved into its current female friendly state of being. It took shows like Desperate Housewives for anyone (but Lifetime) to realize that there was a goldmine in shows that particularly appeal to women. And ABC has been extraordinarily successful in tailoring their programming to the fairer sex. It's cynical, perhaps, but it's really all about money. They make shows that appeal to women, women watch the shows in large numbers, they make advertising dollars. What I will say about ABC in particular is that across the board, their shows don't talk down to women-- which is probably why we watch them.

W&H: What advice can you give a person struggling to break into the TV writing game in Hollywood?

SF: Succeeding as a television writer is, in some ways, a war of attrition. It takes time to break in. So if you're not willing to give it three to five years, you might as well go home. And even in three to five years, you may not get anywhere. The harsh truth is that it's all a crapshoot. I've been really lucky, and worked really hard. I'm not sure which was more important-- the luck or the hard work. I wouldn't have made it without both.

I definitely recommend getting into a writers' group. It's important to keep producing material, to keep improving. It keeps you motivated and helps you develop a thick skin. Which you're gonna need. Getting to know writers is crucial. When Liz and I first stared trying to get into tv, our old agent told us to make friends with as many successful television writers as we could. At the time, I was Lauren Holly's second assistant, which basically entailed brushing her dogs' teeth and making pedicure appointments. Liz was making $9000 a year writing young adult books. We thought our agent was insane. How were we supposed to meet successful television writers? Like, what, is there some corner in Brentwood where all the television writers hang out? And then we met one tv writer (just happened to be Bob Fisher, who eventually co-wrote Wedding Crashers), then another, then another... and now everyone I know is a tv writer, and all I want to know is where's the corner with the nice, single, professor-types?

Great and honest interview in the Washington Post with Gabrielle Union star of the new film Last Holiday
Some quotes:

In Hollywood, you play a mom and instantly, you've got osteoporosis. I didn't want to age myself.
I'm lobbying Congress [about funding for rape crisis centers], advocating for breast cancer awareness. . . . I'm busting my [heinie], why are you assassinating my character? When I'm about the only one saying anything about our community? . . . Why do we subscribe to a crabs-in-the-barrel mentality? If I was getting arrested, if I had kids I don't take care of, if I was walking outside without my underwear, I'd get it, I deserve it. . .
A fact of birth puts me behind the eight ball. . . . The biggest roadblock is ignorance and getting people to change their minds about who can play what. Hollywood panders to the 18-to-34 crowd. That demographic doesn't care about race and the package it comes in. They care about the hottest chick. They just like hot chicks. . . . I was talking to my girlfriends, and we were talking about how no woman of color has her own show. Except America Ferrera and "Ugly Betty." . . . Reality TV looks more like America than movies do. But as bad as [African American actresses] have it, Latinas, Asians, Middle Easterners or anyone who's a combination of that has it way worse. . . . If a movie is under $10 million, then it's a black movie. "Bad Boys II" had only one white guy, but no one said it was a black movie. No one asks the cast of "Lord of the Rings," "How does it feel to be in a movie that doesn't represent what America really looks like?" (Washington Post)

Gabrielle Union, Relishing Her Latest Holiday Treat

More Awards
NY Film Critics
Best Actress: Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Best First Film: Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"
Best Animated Film: "Persepolis," directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

Bahamas International Film Festival
Dramatic Prize- "The Iron Ladies of Liberia" by Daniel Junge and and Siatta Scott Johnson
New Vision award - "I'm Through with White Girls" by Jennifer Sharp.
Lifetime Achievement Award- Daryl Hannah
Rising Star Award- Naomie Harris

Broadcast Film Critics nominations (supposedly largest critics org, with 200 TV, radio and online critics.)

Amy Adams — Enchanted
Cate Blanchett — Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie — Away From Her
Marion Cotillard — La Vie en Rose
Angelina Jolie — A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page — Juno

Cate Blanchett — I’m Not There
Catherine Keener — Into the Wild
Vanessa Redgrave — Atonement
Amy Ryan — Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton — Michael Clayton


no women!!!

Diablo Cody — Juno
Nancy Oliver — Lars and the Real Girl


Nikki Blonsky — Hairspray
Dakota Blue Richards — The Golden Compass
AnnaSophia Robb — Bridge to Terabithia
Saoirse Ronan — Atonement


August Rush
The Golden Compass

Tin Man

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
La Vie en Rose
The Orphanage

Come So Far — Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley — Hairspray
Do You Feel Me — Anthony Hamilton — American Gangster
That’s How You Know — Amy Adams — Enchanted

"Sandra Bullock is attached to star in comedy "One of the Guys," which she's producing with Todd Garner for 20th Century Fox. Project is based on a pitch by brothers Tom and Tim Mullen. Story is about a woman who throws her all-male circle of friends into chaos when she embraces her feminine side." (Variety)
Sounds like another male slanted movie that just happens to have a woman as the lead. These are the scripts our top-tier female actresses have to choose from. Yuck.

December 10, 2007

December 10, 2007

Women Dominate the Weekend Box Office
I'm going to put a positive spin on the supposed flop of The Golden Compass at the box office. I did see the film yesterday and enjoyed it very much. Dakota Blue Richards is fantastic as Lyra, a girl destined for greatness, which we hardly ever see at the movies. I think that kids will like it, all the political stuff will go over their heads and they will enjoy the polar bear fights. Hopefully it will be given some chance over the next couple of weeks to get an audience. Film made $26.1 million domestically and did quite well overseas raking in $55 million.

While no one can say if the church boycott made any difference in the grosses (I think people really wanted this movie to fail for some sick and bizarre reason- is it hatred for Michael Lynne after he kicked ass for several years with Lord of the Rings which no other studio would do?)

One of the things about this whole issue that makes me crazy is the wanting to have it both ways about movies. Do films make an impact in people's lives, or are they just movies designed for escapism and entertainment? I believe that some films are made to put forward a certain message. Those movies are usually smaller. I don't believe that a studio investing upwards of $180 million is stupid enough to make an anti-church movie. They were looking to make a broad based movie based on a very popular book. People need to get over themselves and take the movie for what it is - a fantasy. I mean a girl saving the world? Got to be a fantasy cause it sure ain't any reality I've seen.

Enchanted held on to the number 2 slot with $10.7 million for a total of $83.9 million in three weeks. Juno also kicked butt with an average of $60,000 per screen in limited release at seven locations. The theatre where I was yesterday was packed with people wanting to see Juno. Atonement also did very well with a $25,000 per screen average.

Are manly men back in vogue? (Did they ever go away?)
The LA Times ran a piece yesterday attempting to analyze the return of the manly men - like Indiana Jones, Rambo, John McLaine (Die Hard) to the big screen.

Writer Peter Rainer pushes a political connection between Reagan and George W. Bush

I don't want to overplay the parallels between the Reagan and George W. Bush years, but might the backwash of a colossally unpopular war have something to do with the fact that so many of our movies are -- how can I say this politely? -- atavistic?
Gee Peter, you think? Maybe one should pick up Susan Faludi's new book which discusses the return to masculinity since the towers came down. Rainer also goes on and talks about slasher films and modern masculinity but he never mentions once is women and how this retro machoness and acceptable and exulted warrior behavior effects women.
Screen test(osterone) (LA Times)

More Awards
New York Film Critics Online
Actress - Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Supporting Actress - Cate Blanchett," I'm Not There"
Breakthrough Performer - Ellen Page, "Juno"
Debut Director - Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"
Foreign Language - (tie) "Persepolis"
Animated - Persepolis"

LA Film Critics Association

Actress - Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Supporting Actress- Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Foreign Film- "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,"

Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Assn.
Actress- Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Supporting Actress- Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Breakthrough performance- Ellen Page, "Juno"
Screenplay- Diablo Cody, "Juno"

Boston Critics
Actress- Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Supporting Actress- Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"

Debra Winger will be honored at the Texas Film Hall of Fame awards to be held March 7 in Austin, TX. Winger will accept the Tiffany & Co. Star of Texas Award on behalf of the cast and crew of "Urban Cowboy," which was set and shot in Texas. (Indiewire)

Mary Olive Smith's "A Walk to Beautiful" won the top prize at the International Documentary Association (IDA) Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards on Friday night in Los Angeles. It is described as the story of "five courageous women in Ethiopia who have suffered from devastating childbirth injuries and have been shunned by their family and villages." (Indiewire)

December 7, 2007

December 7, 2007

This Weekend in Theatres

Busy weekend at the box office. I encourage everyone to get themselves to the theatres this weekend to see at least one of the several female-centric films. Some of them are quite good and enjoyable.

Options include:
The Golden Compass (which I have not yet seen)- this film really needs our support. Here's why. It is a potential franchise film starring a girl which happens rarely, and if it tanks the person who will most probably get the blame is Nicole Kidman and I am sick and tired of her getting shitted on for her films not living up to bullshit box office expectations. The religious freaks are also out for the film because the book preaches atheism so they are trying to organize a boycott. The film opens on over 3500 theaters so everyone should be able to see it.

Other new films that should be on your list:
Juno- 8 theatres
Atonement- 32 theatres
Grace is Gone

Still playing
The Savages
Margot at the Wedding
August Rush

Grace is Gone - review
Another film that I saw an enjoyed was the new John Cusack starrer, Iraq film, Grace is Gone. In this film John Cusack has finally grown up. He plays Stanley Phillips, husband of Grace, a soldier deployed in Iraq left at home to raise his two daughters aged 8 and 12. Cusack at first acts like he is in the army himself with short commands to his kids and rousing troop-like cheers to inspire his staff at work. In fact he still wants to be in the army, and would have been, had he not been kicked out for his terrible eyesight.

One morning the doorbell rings and his family is changed forever. His army-like facade of life crumbles instantly. He is truly lost and is unable to fathom a life without his wife, especially because he feels at a loss at being able to raise, let alone communicate with, his two daughters.

In order to delay telling anyone, and to give his girls one more chance to be kids, he puts them in the car and asks them where they wants to go. They wind up at a Disney like theme park several days drive away. Shelan O'Keefe, a local Chicago girl, makes her feature debut as Heidi the 12-year-old on the cusp of growing up yet still very girl-like. She is the family caregiver and worrier, who has been having trouble sleeping due to the anxiety she feels when her mom is away. The younger daughter Dawn, played by another Chicago girl Gracie Bednarcyzk, is more care-free than her older sister. Yet she deeply misses her mom and each day at the same time her watch alarm beeps and she pauses from whatever she is doing to take a moment to connect with her mom a world away.

Most of the images of war that we see are pictures of men deployed, and men coming home to their families. This film shows the other side of the coin, how men and their families deal with women in combat. Film was written and directed by James C. Strouse. I thought it was quite moving.

Atonement- review
I love a good British period piece and Atonement is a good British period piece that has been getting quite a lot of Oscar buzz. It's probably going to get one of the five best picture nominations. Everyone seems to be talking about the romance between rich girl Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James McAvoy), son of the housekeeper who works for Cecilia's family.

But the story of Atonement is not the story of the lovers, it is the story of Briony, Cecilia's highly imaginative and talented younger sister, who on one very hot evening spins a tale that devastates all three of them forever and causes Briony to seek atonement throughout the rest of her life.

Because Keira is a huge star and James is being groomed to be huge, of course, they are going to be put forward in all the ads for the film. But persoanlly, I think that Keira is overrated, her acting is at times stiff, and through the whole movie I couldn't get the images of another couple of lovers Kristen Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes from the English Patient out of my mind. Forbidden love needs to be hot and Keira just doesn't seem to have the heft (probably because she weighs as much as a bird) for it which could be due to the fact that she is still only 21.

The film is based on the Ian McEwan novel with a screenplay by Christopher Hampton and is directed by Joe Wright who also worked with Knightley on Pride & Prejudice and the new Chanel commercials.

Another films I saw that opens this week is The Walker, Paul Schrader's third film in his "lonely man" trilogy which began with American Gigolo and continued with Light Sleeper. The description "lonely man" trilogy totally pisses me off, can you imagine a woman director talking about her trilogy of "lonely woman" films? Firstly, no one would ever let a woman make one lonely woman films let alone three, so Schrader should really get over himself.

The film stars Woody Harrelson as a "walker" of rich powerful women in contemporary Washington DC. I went to see the film because of his co-stars which include Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin and the seldom seen lately Kristin Scott Thomas. The story turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected and Harrelson is quite good as the gay society man who knows and protects everyone's secrets but who gets thrown to the wolves when the going gets tough.

Women in Film and TV UK gave out their annual awards this week to J.K. Rowling and producer Alison Owen (Brick Lane)
WIFTV Honors Rowling, Owen (Variety)

Slamdance, the hipper version of Sundance, which runs concurrently to it announced its selections.

Film by and about women in the fest include:
Narrative Feature Competition
"Jetsam," North American Premiere (UK) Written/Directed by Simon Welsford
Starring Shauna Macdonald and Alex Reid
An amnesiac woman is washed up on a beach and attacked by a man who washed up next to her. On the run from this stranger, she pieces her life back together, uncovering a world of spies, obsession and betrayal.

"Portage," US Premiere (CANADA) Written/Directed by Matthew Miller, Ezra Krybus, Sascha Drews
In this sensual, intense drama, a quartet of teenage girls embark on a canoe trip with a male guide. After his accidental death, they find themselves trapped in the wilderness and have to fend for themselves to find their way back to safety.

"Under the Snow," North American Premiere (SPAIN) Written/Directed by Candela Figueira and Maitena Muruzabal
Following the unusual connection made between four workers at different stages of their lives, capturing factory life in a way rarely seen: personal, flirtatious, introspective.

Documentary Feature Competition
"Circus Rosaire," (USA) Written/Directed by Robyn Bliley
For nine generations the Rosaire family has entertained audiences all over the world with their legendary animal acts. However, the circus industry is changing and attendance has dramatically declined. The Rosaire's livelihood and future are at risk as they struggle to continue the family tradition.

"My Mother's Garden," World Premiere (USA) Written/Directed by Cynthia Lester
The story of one woman's extreme attachment to material objects and how her estranged children reunite to help her let go.

"Neo-Lounge," (CHINA) Written/Directed by Joanna Vasquez
Arong An Italian aristocrat, a Bulgarian jazz singer, a Colombian coroner, a French hair salon entrepreneur, all together for a short moment in time at Beijing 's hippest nightspot Neo-Lounge.

"Sync or Swim," World Premiere (USA) Written/Directed by Cheryl Furjanic
A splashy look at a marginal sport: U.S.A. 's top synchronized swimmers endure rigorous training and overcome unthinkable obstacles to compete for Olympic glory.

"View From the Bridge: Stories from Kosovo," World Premiere (USA/KOSOVO) Written/Directed by John Ealer and Laura Bialis Peace
Told through the first person stories of Serbs, Albanians and Roma (Gypsies), this documentary juxtaposes the nightmares and dreams of Kosovars as it portrays a society trying to build a future while inextricably bound to the past.

Narrative Special Screening Features
"Goodbye Baby", World Premiere (USA) Written/Directed by Daniel Schechter
When Melissa Brooks discovers she can't afford college she moves to New York City and gets a job as a waitress at a comedy club. Living with her eccentric older brother, she enters a love triangle while trying to muster the nerve to get on stage and perform.

Documentary Special Screening Features
"Frontrunner," World Premiere (USA) Written/Directed by Virginia Williams
A woman's heroic, relentless run for the Presidency of Afghanistan.

Interview with Jennifer Vendetti whose film Billy the Kid opens today at the IFC in NY.

Halle Berry will receive a film achievement award at the Desert Palm Film Festival in January.

There is another film professional in the Fiennes family, director Martha who has a new film, Chromophobia coming out in England.
The Price of Being a Fiennes (The Telegraph)