February 22, 2008

Women at the Box Office the Weekend of February 22

Since the Oscars are this weekend, the pickings are quite slim at the box office. I got Amy Heckerling's I Could Never be Your Woman from Netflix, so that's on my list this weekend. The Independent Spirit Awards air Saturday (5pm EST on IFC) and of course the Oscars are on Sunday, preceded by the Barbara Walters special (on the east coast) where three out of her four guests are women (Ellen Page, Vanessa Williams and Miley Cyrus).

There are still some gems in the theatres for your watching pleasure.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
A Walk to Beautiful (NY)
The Savages
Mad Money
The Business of Being Born
27 Dresses
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour
P.S. I Love You
The Golden Compass
August Rush
How She Move

Also, the Oscar nominated shorts are playing in limited release around the country. Several are by and about women.

Live Action Shorts

Animated Shorts

For more details: http://www.magpictures.com.

Opening Next Weekend
The Other Boleyn Girl

Oscar Predictions

Gotta say that this has been a petty lackluster Oscar season (some blame goes to the writers strike) but some of the blame has got to go to the types of films that are nominated. Violent, boy-centric and self-indulgent.

Here's to a better slate of films next year.

Some quotes from around the web on the Oscars:
from Kim Masters at Slate:

I'm amazed that Sarah Polley isn't the human-interest story of these Oscars: She's a 29-year-old knockout who just made an astonishingly mature, critically lauded debut as a writer/director. Is it because Away From Her's subject matter is so depressing (as opposed to the nonstop merriment of, say, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)? Is it a woman thing? A Canadian thing? Or is Polley just less savvy at self-packaging than, say, Diablo Cody?
I really think that it's interesting to talk about Sarah Polley and Diablo Cody. Both to me are strong female role models in very different ways. Sarah Polley is an artist who let's her work speak for herself. She comes off as shy and not interested in the publicity machine. Cody is just the opposite, very interested in milking the system (saying some great feminist bits) and riding her wave as far as it goes. She seems to have very few inhibitions (kind of makes sense since she worked the pole for a while).

But really, it just seems that Hollywood can't tell more than one "women's" story at a time. God forbid we should have read anything about Nancy Oliver nominated for Lars and the Real Girl. Come on, we must have read 400 stories about No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood.

The Oscars this year reflect an ongoing trend in the business -- women just don't matter.

from the Guardian:
Intelligent contemporary Hollywood has become very macho: a quality that I think is under-reported and under-analysed by the media, which arguably has just as much of a male bias as cinema. The Coens' No Country for Old Men and Anderson's There Will Be Blood are, I believe, superb: benchmarks for American movie-making. But, goodness, how that testosterone positively drips off the screen. These are movies about the sweat, the thrust, the growl, the facial hair - and the guns and the violence. No Country for Old Men might as well be called No Country for Women of Any Age, although it does have two excellent contributions from Kelly Macdonald and Tess Harper. As for There Will Be Blood, there are hardly any women at all.

That is why I think the remarkable young Canadian director Sarah Polley should have been given a director's nomination for her film Away from Her, starring Julie Christie. Hollywood has only just finished congratulating itself on finally giving acting awards to African-Americans. But it has an inbuilt assumption that the director's role is a man's job - and this assumption goes unchallenged with incredible regularity.

from David Carr aka the Carpetbagger at the NY Times:
Three women are in this category, which should tell Hollywood a story it needs to hear. The conventional wisdom wants Diablo Cody. Juno what? (Yes, the Bagger is a bit punchy by now, but bear with him.) Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right. She nailed something fresh, which even Hollywood can’t resist.
from Gold Derby at the LA Times:

When Oscar is not comforting the long-suffering wife, he can often be found in the arms of a young beauty.

Last year's best actress winner, Helen Mirren ("The Queen") was the first leading woman older than 40 to take home an Oscar in a decade. Up until then, the list of recent winners looked like the lineup at a beauty pageant: Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow. Personally, I think Mirren was able to overcome that trend by embracing it. At age 62, she's still quite sexy (remember her nude scene in "Calendar Girls"?) and she was brazenly frisky while out on the Oscar campaign trail last year, even appearing on the cover of Los Angeles magazine tugging at her bra.

Granted, the younger screen lovelies would often win acclaim and awards by deglamourizing themselves to show Hollywood that they were more than just pretty faces. But during Oscar campaign season, off came the false noses, boxing gloves and trailer-trash outfits, to be replaced by designer gowns and comely coifs.

This year, classic Gallic beauty Marion Cotillard turns from ugly duckling to swan and back playing tragic chanteuse Edith Piaf. With her head shaved and her eyebrows plucked, the French actress, 32, is transformed into the "little sparrow" at the end of her troubled life.

While 1960s siren Julie Christie, star of "Away From Her," still sizzles in real-life, like Mirren, for this 66-year-old to win would be to buck the trend. Though this age bias is less blatant in the category for supporting actresses, older gals still triumph there only now and then: Judi Dench once, Dianne Wiest twice in recent years, for example.

Pace University proved the obvious a few years ago when it conducted an Oscar study spanning the 25 years before 2000 and discovered that best actor winners were, on average, five years older than their female equivalents. And seven years separated male and female nominees.

In the last 15 years only two actresses older than 50 have won an Oscar in the lead or supporting races: Dames Mirren and Dench. Meantime, consider all of these chaps north of the half-century mark who've triumphed during the same years: lead actors Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Anthony Hopkins as well as supporting Alan Arkin , Morgan Freeman, Chris Cooper, Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Gene Hackman, Jack Palance.

Here are all the nominees and Women & Hollywood's predictions (in the categories I have a clue about):

Best motion picture of the year
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

Winner: No Country for Old Men

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis- no one else has gotten any traction in this category. Hollywood is in awe of Day-Lewis.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Winner: Javier Bardem

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production)

Winner: Julie Christie- I think that while Ellen Page is getting lots of traction lately, she is going to have a career and will see her time come later. I'm betting that not enough people have seem La Vie en Rose so that hurt Cotillard's chances. Christie is a mythical character, she transcends film and has become an icon. She doesn't give a shit about the pomp and circumstance and her performance in Away from Her was transcendent.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Winner- Ruby Dee. I'm not sure about this one. Amy Ryan had the early momentum as did Cate Blanchett, but Blanchett recently won and Ryan has faded as Swinton and Dee have gained. I just don't think that this will be the role Swinton will win for and Oscar always likes to honor a body of work and Dee has been around and is deserving.

Best animated feature film of the year
"Persepolis" (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Brad Bird
"Surf's Up" (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Winner: It pains me to say that Ratatouille will be about the magnificent Persepolis.

Achievement in directing
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Jason Reitman
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Winner: Joel and Ethan Coen- whatever

Best documentary feature
"No End in Sight" (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
"Sicko" (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
"Taxi to the Dark Side" (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
"War/Dance" (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Winner: No End in Sight- great doc

Best documentary short subject
"Freeheld" A Lieutenant Films Production: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
"La Corona (The Crown)" A Runaway Films and Vega Films Production: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
"Salim Baba" A Ropa Vieja Films and Paradox Smoke Production: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
"Sari's Mother" (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory Production: James Longley

Winner: Haven't seen any but I'm pulling for Freeheld

Achievement in film editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal): Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment): Jay Cassidy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Dylan Tichenor

Winner: Roderick Jaynes (he'll ride of the No Country like sweep)

Best foreign language film of the year
"Beaufort" Israel
"The Counterfeiters" Austria
"Katyn" Poland
"Mongol" Kazakhstan
"12" Russia

Winner: Since they didn't nominate 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or Perspepolis, I could care less about this category.

Adapted screenplay
"Atonement" (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her" (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Winner: Joel & Ethan Coen, but wouldn't it be great if Sarah Polley won?

Original screenplay
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl" (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

Winner- Diablo Cody. This will be Juno's award.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner" (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Productions, Distributed by Paramount Classics): Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami

Winner: Dario Marianelli

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from "Once" (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush" (Warner Bros.): Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
"So Close" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Winner: Since hardly anyone in the Academy will have seen August Rush or Once (both those songs are great), I'll give it to Enchanted- don't know which one, don't really care.

Achievement in makeup
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
"Norbit" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Winner: La Vie en Rose

Achievement in visual effects
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Winner: The Golden Compass

Achievement in cinematography
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins
"Atonement" (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

Winner: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Achievement in costume design
"Across the Universe" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Albert Wolsky
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal) Alexandra Byrne
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Marit Allen
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount) Colleen Atwood

Winner: Elizabeth: The Golden Age- bad movie, great costumes

News from the Week

Some tidbits I picked up over the week:

  • The great Christine Ebersole will star in a Lifetime pilot Libertyville, written and executive produced by Tom Saunders. Show is set in Libertyville, Ohio, and centers on Susie (Ebersole), a divorced mother fearful of dating whose life is complicated by her lazy 22-year-old daughter and cantankerous father who live with her.
  • Sarah Polley will receive the Claude Jutra Award (an award for a first-time feature director) at the Genies, the Canadian version of the Oscars on March 3.
  • Mandate Pictures has acquired an untitled romantic comedy from "The Devil Wears Prada" scribe Aline Brosh McKenna. Story centers on Maya, a young and highly successful businesswoman who has devoted her life to working for her legendary businessman father. But when Mr. Right enters her life and proposes to her, her father's disapproval of her new fiance leads Maya to devise a mischievous ploy to change Dad's mind. Debra Martin Chase ("The Princess Diaries," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") will produce.
  • Helen Hunt will receive the breakthrough director of the year award at ShoWest on April 25th.
  • Edie Falco will star in a Showtime comedy about a New York nurse juggling the frenzied grind of an urban hospital and an equally challenging personal life. Pilot was written by Liz Brixius, Linda Wallem and Evan Dunsky. Wallem and Brixius will serve as executive producers.

Diablo Cody, Hollywood Feminist

There has been much conversation about Juno and the reality (or lack of reality) it shows about teenage pregnancy. Many experts on the issue have criticized the ending of the film where Juno is playing guitar and hanging out with her boyfriend as if nothing happened. The reality is that an unwanted teenage pregnancy is most often a devastating experience for a young woman and that the film really glosses that over.

I am still impressed that Diablo Cody still speaks out about women's roles in Hollywood. Here is a short interview from January 2008's Glamour.

Q: You write great female roles. Do you feel like a spokesperson for actresses?

A: I feel like I am one of them. There are women who've played girlfriends for years, and it's unjust.

Q: Yeah, they either play the girlfriend or the bitch. Which is most annoying?

A: The girlfriend! It says women are secondary. At least the bitch gets to be an attorney or in the CIA.

Q: Unlike other teen girls in film, Juno's smart.

A: I've met so many girls who are articulate. It's infuriating when they are portrayed as airhears.

Q: Who got it right?

A: My So-Called Life, and Clueless's Cher is saavy. I'm doing what I can to unravel the dumb-girl stereotype.

Amen, Diablo.

February 20, 2008

Why Isn't This a Bigger Issue?

For those of you who are familiar with the blog, you know that I am constantly harping on the lack of roles for women in Hollywood. Let's face it women are missing not only from the big mainstream big budget films (unless you are the young girlfriend who likes to scream in peril) as well as smaller movies that get the most recognition this time of year in anticipation of the Oscars.

There have been a couple of articles this season about how the top Oscar nominees (No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood) are devoid of women except in minor roles (No Country).

The Telegraph had a great piece on this over last weekend. My question is, why don't we think this is a problem? There are so many good lines in the piece that I've wound up copying most of it.

Casting your eyes over this year's roster of film award contenders, you'd be forgiven for wondering why women, more than ever, have been relegated to the margins. The stories Hollywood wanted to tell last year were about fathers and sons, the American west, and machismo run amok.

Where are this year's The Queen, Erin Brockovich, Far From Heaven, The Hours? Even this year's Chicago? Oscar-watchers can only point to the best picture nominees Atonement and Juno as examples of female-led cinema, and neither of these will quite do.

The marginalisation pattern rears its head again in best supporting actress. Ruby Dee gets nominated for a single scene slapping Denzel Washington in the entirely phallocentric American Gangster. Blanchett is in for playing a man - but more on that in a minute. And Tilda Swinton, superb in Michael Clayton, makes a virtue of being the only gal in her own otherwise male-dominated ensemble. Her performance as the morally decentred opposition lawyer Karen Crowder is a brilliant reproach to a frankly wretched part: the role is tinged with misogyny, but Swinton makes Karen, with all her neurosis and terror, seem like the stricken victim of a man's world.

It does seem that Hollywood has been overwhelmingly working out maleness issues, rather than feminine ones - whether it's rampant capitalism (There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton) or essays on violence (No Country For Old Men, Jesse James) or paeans to male solitude (Into the Wild).

Even in traditionally female-targeted genres, such as the romantic comedy, there has been a shift in focus: the rise of producer-director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad) has seen date movies go out of their way to attract a more male demographic. Noticeably, women in Apatow's films don't get to have much fun - they're dealing with the responsibilities of childbirth while the men are off getting wasted.
I'm also tired of women getting pegged only as people interested in watching romantic comedies. Women are way more diverse than that.

I don't deplore this as an ongoing trend so much as call attention to it as a curious blip.

I deplore it and believe it is an ongoing trend and not a curious blip!

But why is Hollywood so scared of women's stories right now? Even a Devil Wears Prada has its place, but we didn't get one last year. We had to console ourselves with Hairspray.

Really, what is so scary about women?

The odds so often seem stacked against women's pictures at the multiplexes, not to mention the careers of any number of female directors, who manage to have one breakout success (Boys Don't Cry, Girlfight, Monster) and then struggle for years to get their next film funded.

This guy gets it. How come the powers in Hollywood don't?

Full Story:Why Is Hollywood Going for Bloke?

Reese Witherspoon- Hollywood Feminist

On vacation I read that Reese Witherspoon will be speaking at UNIFEM's Global Summit for a Better Tomorrow next month to coincide with International Women's Month. She is also acting as Avon's Global Ambassador and will be talking about many issues affecting women including domestic violence in this role.

Penelope, the film she produced through her Type A Films company finally opens opens on February 29th. (I will see it next week). If I was more conspiratorially minded I would think that the folks in Hollywood really want women's films not to succeed because for some bizarre reason Penelope is opening on the same day as The Other Boleyn Girl. (This also happened last month with Mad Money and 27 Dresses.) So there has basically been no movies targeted at women all month and now at the end of the month there are two. What's up with that?

Here is a great exchange from Reese about Penelope from the February issue of Marie Claire:

MC: What drew you most to the zany story of Penelope?

Reese Witherspoon: The ability of this young woman to supersede social expectations of what she should look like and learn to love herself for who she is- including her pig nose. This is a film that lets people know it's ok to be unique. It's ok to be different- it's actually better! I felt I could really speak to people, particularly young women, about self-acceptance.

Interview with Abby Epstein, Director of The Business of Being Born

The Business of Being Born, the new documentary produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein has been playing in limited release in several cities across the country. For information on where the film is playing: The Business of Being Born

Here is my review: Review of The Business of Being Born

Women & Hollywood: How did you become involved with this film?

Abby Epstein: Ricki Lake and I became friendly when I directed her in "The Vagina Monologues" Off-Broadway. We stayed in touch and I knew that she was planning a homebirth for her second child, although at the time I thought she was completely nuts! A few years later, Ricki had finished her talk show and relocated to LA so I stopped by to see her new house and have a visit. I had just completed my first doc "Until the Violence Stops" about the worldwide V-Day movement and Ricki was looking to start a "dream" project about midwives and birthing. I was completely ignorant on the topic but intrigued by Ricki's passion, so I asked her for some reading material and she gave me a book called "Spiritual Midwifery" by Ina May Gaskin. Then Ricki showed me the home video footage of her homebirth (which we use in the film) and I was completely blown away. We began from there.
W&H: How did your involvement with the film effect your own birth experience?
AE: On the one hand, I was very fortunate having spent 2 years researching birthing options in NYC before I became pregnant. I was not only a highly informed customer, but I had attended several births and did not have any more fear about the birth process. So, I felt like I had all these amazing people to choose from when it came time to selecting a provider (of course not all of them took my HMO, so that limited me a bit) But on the other hand, I was put in a position where there became pressure to include my birth in the film - which I resisted. I had no interest in turning the cameras on myself and was unsure whether we were in fact going to document my birth until the very last moment.
W&H: Explain why you chose the title The Business of Being Born.
AE: Truthfully, we couldn't think of anything short and catchy. None of us really loved the title but it seemed to encompass the broad range of aspects we were looking at in the birthing "business."
W&H: It seems that you and Ricki are both on a type of crusade here - using the film to help educate and organize women to take back their own bodies and their births. Did you ever expect the film would morph into this type of movement?
AE: We never expected that the film would have such an impact on mainstream birth culture. I think we suspected that it would hit a nerve, but we honestly just wanted to put the information out there in a bold way - not watered down. It all stemmed from Ricki's personal experience and grew organically from there. But we have definitely started a movement along with other writers and activists - Jennifer Block's book PUSHED was published at the same time we premiered, which was amazing. I think we are on a crusade to inform, but not to convince women to have natural births or homebirths. The modern woman wants information and options - but no one should feel pressured or regretful about their choices.
W&H: There seems to be a lot of women directing documentaries these days. Why do you think that is?
AE: I think that documentaries often have more substance than features and women are attracted to material that is potent and meaningful rather than commercially viable. Of course, there is also the fact that docs are low-budget and don't pay well (if at all!) so there is less competition.

But mostly I think that docs are usually self-generated passion projects where a director can have total control and women are organized, not afraid of hard work and always like a bit of control!
W&H: What's next for you?
AE: We are still opening the film in major cities (Chicago, Seattle, Boston, DC) so I am busy with that until April. Then, I am planning some vacation time with my family! Ricki and I are in the midst of writing a book based on the movie which will come out in April 2009 and a follow-up DVD that will accompany the book. We are also hard at work on our website - turning it into a resource for birth information and options. So, I will still be busy with all things BOBB for a while and then I plan to direct an independent feature film. I'd like to get back to working with actors and writers, which is truly what I love.
Film is available on netflix now

The Women is Coming on October 10th!

Just saw this description of the movie I am most excited about this year, The Women directed and adapted by Murphy Brown creator Diane English. Check out the most awesome cast. Mark your calendars!

Starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Candice Bergen, Bette Midler, Cloris Leachman, Carrie Fisher, Lynn Whittfield, Joanna Gleason, Ana Gasteyer and Debi Mazar.
“The Women” directed by Diane English from her screen adaptation of Clare Boothe Luce’s play of the same name, first made famous by director George Cukor’s iconic 1939 film.
Set in New York City’s modern whirl of fashion and publishing, “The Women” tells the story of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), a clothing designer who seems to have it all – a beautiful country home, a rich financier husband, an adorable 11-year-old daughter and a part-time career creating designs for her father’s venerable clothing company. Her best friend, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), leads another enviable life – a happily single editor of a prominent fashion magazine, a possessor of a huge closet of designer clothes and a revered arbiter of taste and style poised on New York’s cutting edge. But when Mary’s husband enters into an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), a sultry ‘spritzer girl’ lurking behind the Saks Fifth Avenue perfume counter, all hell breaks loose. Mary and Sylvie’s relationship is tested to the breaking point while their tight-knit circle of friends, including mega-mommy Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and author Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett-Smith), all start to question their own friendships and romantic relationships as well.
This sounds fantastic. Can't wait.

February 19, 2008

The Tabloidization of the Media and How it Beats Up Women

One of the things that I have been concerned about for some time is the "tabloidization of the media" and its detrimental effect on women.

This whole celebrity obsession seems to have started almost a decade ago and one episode that stands out in my mind as to the double standard - even back then- between male and female stars was the short relationship of Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. They met and supposedly feel in love on the set of Proof of Life. Once they were spotted together, the world turned against her for cheating on Dennis Quaid (of course, no one knows the state of their marriage at the time.) Meg who had been so popular in the 90s (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Courage Under Fire) seemed to almost disappear after the flop of Proof of Life and Kate and Leopold (with Hugh Jackman) that also did not do well (which I still think is adorable). According to IMDB she didn't make a movie from 2004-2007. It also didn't help that she hit 40 which is the kiss of death for women in Hollywood. (I am so looking forward to Meg's next role in the Diane English remake of The Women.)

But Russell Crowe passed through that incident, and many others (he actually is violent, remember the phone throwing incident), but he always bounces back and gets the next starring role making $20 million. Meg Ryan was judged more harshly because of the types of roles she played -- the good girl -- and the world couldn't handle the good girl with the bad boy.

My main concern is that we, as women, seem to be obsessed with the drama of these young women's lives. I am just as guilty with my subscription to Us Magazine (I am seriously thinking of canceling it- I am tired of seeing Britney Spears or Nicole Richie or those girls from Laguna Beach on every cover). We need to stop consuming this crap and then maybe the harassment of these young women will subside. Cause really folks, it is harassment. They can't drive anywhere, they can't eat anywhere. It's enough. Things are out of control.

The NY Times ran a piece in the Sunday style section on Sunday that illuminated this issue. Here are some quotes:

Yes, women are hardly the only targets of harsh news media scrutiny — just ask Mel Gibson. But months of parallel incidents like these seem to demonstrate disparate standards of coverage. Men who fall from grace are treated with gravity and distance, while women in similar circumstances are objects of derision, titillation and black comedy.
Mel did something illegal so let's not put his indiscretion in the same category as poor Britney who clearly has some psychological problems.
Some celebrities and their handlers are now saying straight out that the news media have a double standard. “Without a doubt, women get rougher treatment, less sensitive treatment, more outrageous treatment,” said Ken Sunshine, a publicist whose clients include Ben Affleck and Barbra Streisand. “I represent some pretty good-looking guys, and I complain constantly about the way they’re treated and covered. But it’s absolutely harder for the women I represent.”
Liz Rosenberg, a publicist at Warner Bros./Reprise Records who represents Madonna, among others, also thinks sexism is at work. “Do you see them following Owen Wilson morning, noon and night?” she asked.
Go Liz!
Some editors confirm that they handle female celebrities differently. But the reason, they say, is rooted not in sexism, but in the demographics of their audience.

The readership of US Weekly, for example, is 70 percent female; for People, it’s more than 90 percent, according to the editors of these magazines.
We are our own worst enemy! What are the kids learning when we are obsessed with Britney or Lindsay Lohan?
“Almost no female magazines will put a solo male on the cover,” said Janice Min, the editor in chief of US Weekly. “You just don’t. It’s cover death. Women don’t want to read about men unless it’s through another woman: a marriage, a baby, a breakup.”

Ms. Min acknowledged that her magazine played down its coverage of Owen Wilson and Heath Ledger. Part of the reason, she said, was that female readers tend to be sympathetic toward young men in crisis.
Why are women (cause women are the readers of the magazines) more sympathetic towards young men in crisis vs. young women in crisis? Why do we coddle the boys and hang the girls out to dry?
“There is certainly an argument for it being incredibly sexist, the attention that’s given to women and the hounding of them,” the actor Colin Farrell said at a recent party for his new film, “In Bruges.”
So now Colin Farrell is the spokesperson for women being hounded in Hollywood. Where are the women standing up for themselves and each other? Did the NY Times not bother to try and talk to one of the women who gets hounded so relentlessly?

Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Hounded by the Media

February 18, 2008

Tamara Jenkins, writer/ director of The Savages

It's Oscar week and I'm going to try and highlight the women nominees as much as possible on the road to Sunday's telecast. Here is an interview from Filmmaker Magazine with writer/director Tamara Jenkins. It's a very interesting pieces about the writing (Jenkins was nominated for best screenplay)

Quotes of note:

Filmmaker: Why did it take so long to make The Savages?

Jenkins: I feel like I know so many people who have made movies and then struggle so hard to get their next movie happening. This almost didn’t happen like 100 times. Just getting the financing…. [First] it was at Focus Features, and they really liked it, they financed the writing of the script, but then they were dissatisfied with the casting, which was crazy. And then we were out. They gave it [back] to us so we could shop it around, which took forever. We couldn’t get anyone to finance it, even with Laura and Phil.
I am floored that with Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman committed that this film almost didn't get made.

A great quote on writing
Writing is weird and lonely and makes you grumpy and strange, and it’s nice when somebody understands that. I also have a dog. That helps. Makes you go out into the world. Then your dog’s like, “Okay, I have to walk you.” There’s something about moving and thinking. A treadmill, working out, and your brain just kind of makes connections. Moving — being in cars, trains, being on treadmills, they’re all really good for the writing brain. But I haven’t written in a long time; I have to start writing. To write you really should be writing every single day to keep the muscle going. But then if you write and make a movie, the year of working on the movie goes by and then you’re supposed to start writing again and you have kind of forgotten how. So I have to start writing. I have to buy a new journal; I have to get some nice pens.
Read full story: Senior Moments

Middle Eastern Women Directors Use Films as Social Commentary

Check out this Christian Science Monitor piece: Women Directors Use Films as Social Commentary about three women directors from the middle east and how they are using their films to speak out about issues in their oppressive cultures.

In the Middle East, women have a new voice: the movies. As nascent film industries bloom in the region, a few emerging women directors are probing some of the most delicate subjects within their male-dominated communities, giving viewers a glimpse into once-veiled worlds.
The directors discussed are: Israeli Arab Ibtisam Maraana; Buthina Canaan Khoury of the Palestine Territories and Haifaa Al-Mansour of Saudi Arabia (which has no movies theaters)
Mansour didn't intend to focus her filmmaking career on women's issues, but found the issues too important not to address. She began her filmmaking career making a seven-minute short, "Who?," in which a man disguised as a women – i.e., dressed in a traditional black, full-body covering called the abaya – stalks women and enters their homes.
"Women typically appreciate my movies and want to have a forum for these important issues," she says. But men, especially, surprisingly, educated ones, feel threatened."
Maraana compares her filmmaking to going to war.

Buthina Canaan Khoury, a Christian Palestinian filmmaker from the West Bank town of Taybeh, is used to pioneering unchartered territory. She was the first Palestinian camera woman and producer for the European Broadcasting Union inside the Palestinian Territories. Now the head of her own Majd Production Company, she has nothing less than a filmmaking agenda: to highlight key Palestinian issues.

February 17, 2008

New Way of Posting

Hi folks. I'm back from my week off and excited to take Women & Hollywood to the next level. In order to make it easier for everyone I am changing the way I will post. I won't be organizing my posts by date, I will be organizing them by topic, that way it will make it easier to search and easier to read. Please let me know what you think of the new style.