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)