March 14, 2008

Women at the Box Office This Weekend

There are no new women-centric releases this weekend.

Women & Hollywood recommends that you check out Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day which is playing in most communities. Girls Rock! is also rolling out on a limited basis and is fantastic. Here are reviews: Miss Pettigrew Review; Girls Rock Review

Holdovers Remaining in Theatres
The Other Boleyn Girl
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
The Orphanage
Mad Money
La Vie en Rose

Opening Next Week
Under the Same Moon - interview with director Patricia Riggen to come next week

TV This Weekend
If you don't want to go to the theatre there are a couple of things on TV worth watching.

The Return of Jezebel James
Feminist Amy Sherman-Palladino's return to scripted TV. Show stars Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose
Friday night, Fox, 8pm.
This commentary from the Huffington Post lays out why we should take a chance on the show and not listen to the reviewers. (I might add that in general I have stopped reading reviews before I watch something, especially on shows related to women. They just don't help and are usually get off on trashing a show) Will Jezebel James Follow in the Footsteps of the Gilmore Girls?

On Deadly Ground: The Women of Iraq
A behind the scenes look at how deadly it has become for women. Another unacceptable tragedy of the US occupation. Weren't we supposed to help women get rights?
CNN, Saturday and Sunday night at 8pm.

John Adams
While this is not about a woman, Laura Linney co-stars as Abigail Adams and gives another one of her fantastic performances. I've seen the first two parts and this is one of the most well done TV films I've seen in a long time. HBO does these types of TV events better than anyone else. It's riveting and Paul Giamatti is beyond good. Don't miss it.
Premieres Sunday night at 9pm on HBO.

Another Woman Joins the Boys Club

The list has grown from one -- Amy Pascal at Sony -- or two -- if you count Stacey Snider at Dreamworks (which is a subsidiary of Paramount)-- to three now that Mary Parent has been named Chairman (can we please make these names gender neutral?) of the MGM Worldwide Motion Picture Group.

She will oversee production, distribution, marketing and business affairs at the studio. Parent is a well liked and respected executive who used to be Vice Chairman of World Wide Production at Universal before her most recent gig as an indie producer with partner Scott Stuber.

The job at MGM has been vacant since 2004.

Parent will report to MGM chairman & CEO Harry Sloan.

Will her appointment lead to more opportunities for women onscreen or behind the scenes? Her most recently produced films The Kingdom, The Breakup and upcoming Wolfman speak for themselves.

March 13, 2008

News Briefs

  • The Golden Compass is the first film to cross the $300 million mark in international box office without having made $100 million in the US. Maybe the world doesn't have as much trouble with girls as the lead of movies as we think they do. Hopefully this will get sequel talks revived.
  • Sarah Polley 's Away from Her picked up seven awards at the Canadian Genie's. The film won best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, best first feature and acting awards for Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical film about her life in Iran has been banned in Lebanon.
  • ShoWest is the industry event that stokes the fire to get people in the biz (namely the theatre owners and reporters) ready for the summer season. They hand out awards each year that are focused on films that are coming out over the next couple of months. The list this year includes: Helen Hunt as the Breakthrough Director of the Year for Then She Found Me; Anne Hathaway as Female Star of the Year who will be seen as Agent 99 in Get Smart. Also, Sarah Jessica Parker who will try and whip up a female frenzy with Sex and the City, received the Vanguard award and Abigail Breslin who next stars with Jodie Foster in Nim's Island has been named Female Star of Tomorrow (based on her current crop of work, she seems like the female star of today.) This summer she also stars in the big screen version of the American Girl doll phenomenon, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.
  • Baby Mama, the new comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, will open this year's Tribeca Film Festival on April 23rd.
  • Judith Thompson has won the 2008 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Palace of the End, a series of monologues about the Iraq War. This is the most prestigious prize for female playwrights.
  • Joe Queenan in the Guardian uses the release of 10,000 BC to ponder the changing role of women in the prehistoric films.
In today's postmodern prehistoric film, the women - rather than thundering across the Hyborian savannahs clad only in string bikinis stitched together from the carcasses of very tiny Jurassic marsupials, but doing so in a strong and empowered way - are simply shunted off to the sidelines.
Full piece: The Women the Script Forgot (The Guardian)

March 12, 2008

Who Says Women Aren't Funny?

Over a year ago, Christopher Hitchens, the misogynistic blowhard had an essay in Vanity Fair entitled Why Women Aren't Funny. The article pissed off a lot of people including me and now a little over a year later, Vanity Fair takes a look at the other side with its April cover story Who Says Women Aren't Funny.

Firstly, it pisses me off that just because Hitchens says women aren't funny that we now have to defend ourselves. It just plays into the bullshit that feminists are humorless. Alessandra Stanley (who writes about TV for the NY Times) goes behind the scenes with some of today's funniest women to look at how comedy has evolved since the days of the big screen screwball comedies which featured some of the highest profile women of the time. As Stanley says, today's comedians are found on TV, not film (because we all know that there are hardly any funny (or even non-funny) women starring on the big screen today.

The leader of today's funny women is feminist Tina Fey who parlayed her role as head writer on Saturday Night Live into the comedy 30 Rock, which she created, writes and stars in. (Shame on you if you don't watch this show, it is fantastic and funny.) She's about launch a new female buddy comedy Baby Mama co-starring Amy Poehler which will open the Tribeca Film Festival in NY on April 23rd.

Here are some quotes from the piece:

It used to be that women were not funny. Then they couldn't be funny if they were pretty. Now a female comedian has to be pretty- even sexy- to get a laugh. At least, that’s one way to view the trajectory from Phyllis Diller and Carol Burnett to Tina Fey. Some say it’s the natural evolution of the women’s movement; others argue it’s a devolution. But the funniest women on television are youthful, good-looking, and even, in a few cases, close to beautiful—the kind of women who in past decades might have been the butt of a stand-up comic’s jokes.
Comedy used to be about women making fun of themselves as well as everyone else, and you couldn't really make fun of yourself if you were too pretty (think of Gilda Radner). The pretty girls get everything. Now, the one place where looks didn't matter as long as you made them laugh, is being taken over by the pretty girls. Come on. What's left for the rest of us?
How this evolution happened is not entirely clear. The backlash school of feminism would argue that it’s the tyranny of a looks-obsessed culture that promotes sex appeal over talent, be it in comedy, pop music, or even sports.
Is there a backlash school of feminism? Are there classes available? Give me a break. It's not the backlash school of feminism that thinks our culture is looks obsessed -- it's the WHOLE CULTURE that KNOWS that we are obsessed with looks.
There has been an epochal change even from 20 years ago, when female stand-up comics mostly complained about the female condition—cellulite and cellophane—and Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr perfectly represented the two poles of acceptable female humor: feline self-derision or macho-feminist ferocity.
The younger women on TV today owe their careers to Joan Rivers and Roseanne and don't forget Joy Behar and Rosie O'Donnell and the many other women who worked the clubs when it was all guys. They pushed the envelope and made it acceptable for women to be funny. They were funny and feminist. Stanley mentions Wanda Sykes and Maya Rudolph in her piece but hardly any other women of color. And also, where is Julia Louis-Dreyfus? I love The New Adventures of Old Christine that stars Dreyfus and Sykes.
It’s not that these girls are better than the girls who preceded them,” says Fran Lebowitz. “They’re luckier. They came along at a time when the boys allowed them to do this. In comedy, timing is everything.”
So glad to see we still need permission to be allowed to be funny.
At the moment, though, big-budget comedies are still a reach for most women. Comedians such as Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, and Sacha Baron Cohen are major movie stars in a way that their female counterparts are not. Looks, for them, aren’t important: pudgy Jack Black and Seth Rogen are tapped as romantic leads opposite Kate Winslet and Katherine Heigl.
Nobody knew who the hell Sacha Baron Cohen was before Borat. It seems that the films are trying to apply to the lowest common denominator (namely the young boys who are maybe too immature to understand nuanced comedy.) But the real question is, why are women allowed to be funny on TV and have to be the killjoys in films?
Poehler argues that, despite the changes in television and comedy clubs, Hollywood has made it harder than ever for comediennes to play leads in romantic film comedies. “I guess I’m not able to play the girlfriend of guys my own age anymore,” she says. “I play the bitchy older sister. And who doesn’t love the bitchy older sister who gets it in the end?” Poehler speaks wistfully of the days—20 years ago—when “Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler could open a movie, Teri Garr and Diane Keaton were movie stars and they looked like they lived in your building; you felt you could kind of know them.”
Amen, Amy.
It’s oddly cultural but not really much of a mystery: ticket sales are driven by young men (18–24), whereas television, especially network television, is more of a woman’s world. (Female viewers outnumber men by approximately 30 percent during prime time.) So it is something of a milestone that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have teamed up to make Baby Mama, a comedy about a single career woman (Fey) who wants a child and hires a working-class surrogate (Poehler), who moves in; they then clash like The Odd Couple. In a market that favors boy-girl romantic comedies such as 27 Dresses, a female buddy picture is bold. There have not been many successful ones since Bette Midler and Shelley Long starred in Outrageous Fortune in 1987. (Thelma & Louise had its funny moments, but that final pratfall was deadly.)

Fey says she is aware of the risks. “Women drive what’s on television, and husbands and boyfriends decide on movies,” she said. “I’m doing it backwards: I have a TV show for men and a movie coming out for women.”

I am so incredibly sad that the last female buddy comedy that they could think of to mention is 20 years old. somebody please help me understand why we can be funny or star in TV shows but cannot be funny or star in films. Let's all decide to go and see Tina Fey's movie on opening weekend to support her and her work! Anyone want to come with me?

March 11, 2008

Ladies Take Lead at HBO

I'm usually quite happy to read about women getting leads in TV shows. But I have to take issue with the tone of Lisa de Moraes TV column in today's Washington Post. From her piece today you get the impression that guys do the serious work and, "chicks" do the light stuff. It's just so demeaning. See for yourself:

Chicks are back, accessible is back, fun is back at HBO.

The network, which just wrapped up a wrist-slittingly depressing final season of "The Wire" and is still angsting its way through five nights a week of "In Treatment" (tonight's patient: Alex, the arrogant Navy pilot who insists his recent brush with death and a disastrous mission in have had no effect on him), announced yesterday it has ordered up 13 episodes of a new drama series, "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," based on the international best-selling novels of Alexander McCall Smith.

The news came the same day the trades unveiled HBO's greenlighting of a pilot from "Will & Grace" alum Jhoni Marchinko called "Driving Around With Joni," about a successful 40-year-old woman, suddenly widowed, who spends her days driving around Los Angeles with her French bulldog trying to figure out the meaning of life.

Can I do a show about me walking my dog around Brooklyn all day?

The network also is developing a comedy series with Darren Star and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas called "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" -- which, yes, is fun, unless you're the governor of New York, which most of us aren't. It's based on Tracy Quan's book, the Hollywood Reporter reminded.

These projects, and Alan Ball "True Blood," based on Charlaine Harris's best-selling books about a psychic waitress and her vampire boyfriend, mark the first projects in the post-Chris Albrecht era at HBO. (You remember former HBO chairman Albrecht, who entered rehab after allegedly assaulting a female companion in Vegas, only to get the old heave-ho when the L.A. Times reported another allegation of violence, this one against a female HBO staffer.)

HBO co-president Richard Plepler and programming group president Michael Lombardo declined to discuss the recent trend toward female leads and, um, fun, but did tell The TV Column their game plan is to "throw out the rulebook."

"Actually, we said, 'There are no rules -- the only rules are good storytelling,' " Plepler added.

I'm going to be watching this trend. My question is when is HBO going to air the Linda Bloodworth-Thomason Show, 12 Miles of Bad Road starring Lily Tomlin and Mary Kay Place. This sounds like a comedy and doesn't sound as "light" or trashy as some of the shows mentioned above.

This chickification of all things women is driving me nuts.

Tang Wei, Blacklisted in China

Actress Tang Wei who appeared in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution has been blacklisted in China. Her commercials have been pulled and her image has been banned from all newspapers and broadcast media.

Me thinks they doth protest too much.

Full story: Director Lee defends actor banned from Chinese media (The Guardian)

March 10, 2008

Send Yourself Roses- Biography of Kathleen Turner

I get lots of emails from Kathleen Turner. If you're on progressive and women's list-servs, you probably get them too. It wasn't until I started getting these emails that I realized what an awesome feminist Turner is. But looking back on the roles she played, it makes perfect sense. Now Turner has told her full, honest story Send Yourself Roses, her new memoir done in collaboration with the former leader of Planned Parenthood, Gloria Feldt.

Send Yourself Roses is an easy and interesting read, there are some great tidbits from her film career, but more importantly, Turner takes issue with the culture that dismisses women as they age, and gives us an example of a woman thriving as she moves into a new role in life. Turner has recently taken up directing getting great reviews for her Broadway directing debut, a revival of Crimes of the Heart.

Turner made it big playing smart, sexy, independent women in films in the 1980s and early 1990s. I loved her in Romancing the Stone, its sequel The Jewel of the Nile and especially in Prizzi's Honor. She kicked ass with that sexy voice and her awesome hair and she was a great role model. There was never any doubt that her characters were equal to her male co-stars. Sadly, nowadays, those types of female characters are gone. (Does anyone get the impression from watching Keira Knightley in the Pirates movies that she is equal to her male co-stars? I don't.)

Turner's memoir illuminates just how bad it has gotten for women in Hollywood, but it also talks about issues related to women and aging from a broader perspective. She is strong woman who has survived Hollywood (probably because she never moved there), and a debilitating bout with rheumatoid arthritis (when we all thought she had just gotten fat thanks to the tabloids). I was really impressed with her honestly and guts. Suffice it to say that it's a good thing she's done with Hollywood, cause after this book, she probably won't be getting her any more calls from the guys running the town.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

I am seriously unhappy about the way women are "sold" today, through film and media. I don't think women want to be anorexic. I don't think the way, as they do in Charlie's Angels, to strip and lap dance- how humiliating.
I choose my roles for film and stage the same way I choose my roles in life. The woman I play must be integral to the script. If the film or play will be just as good without her, then I will not play that part.
About LA and Hollywood:
It is anti-women out there, altogether. Women are, without a doubt, second-class citizens. There is almost a palpable contempt.
Our culture is still afraid of strong women and tends to demonize them.
But the facts are facts and the truth is that in Hollywood, as a woman ages she's not likely to be the romantic interest. She gets stereotyped, often as bitter and angry or just silly. Men, on the other hand, continue to get roles as the romantic lead in films well into their sixties. We often see a visibly older man with a younger leading lady..."
How our society views women will have to change, because today's women are changing how we feel about our own age and aging.

As women get more economic power, we also become more respected for who we are...
These are just a few choice tidbits, but you get the drift. Kathleen Turner rules! Book is available everywhere now.