What we’d prefer to forget is just how many labored comedy quirkfests and effortfully wiseass capers the above films “inspired” for years afterward — wannabe movies straining for the same qualities without any original inspiration, failing to find their own voice while deliberately or unconsciously mimicking somebody else’s. The majority of these pale imitations wound up a blip on the Sundance Festival radar — if they were lucky — then were forgotten ever after.
Unfortunately, those happily buried cinematic memories come rolling back with the arrival of “Blue Iguana,
Tfe ...so he's still too young for this 100 Oldest Living Oscar Nominees list.
THR Movie attendance has been steadily rising in Russia but the UK and France remain the top European movie markets
/Film Hmmm, The upcoming Disney spectacle Nutcracker and the Four Realms will now have two directors credited after reshoots. Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) will be credited after the original director Lasse Hallström
Vulture Director Susan Seidelman on her 80s NYC classics Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan
Mnpp Luca Guadagnino has shown Suspiria to Quentin Tarantino who loved it
Moviemaker Paul Schrader on our selfish legacy and environmental disaster (Do Not Read If You Haven't Yet Seen First Reformed)
Playbill if you're in NYC in the second half of
Director Darya Zhuk reveals why she wanted to return to the hopeful, optimistic time of 1990s Belarus for her debut film Crystal Swan which opens Karlovy Vary’s East of the West competition on Saturday (June 30).
Crystal Swan is about a young woman growing up in post-Soviet Belarus in the 1990s. Alina Nasibullina plays a wannabe DJ who dreams of moving to the Us but makes a tiny error on her visa application throwing her plans into disarray. It is the
The series, created by Darren Star based on Candace Bushnell’s newspaper columns, centered on four women in their mid-30s and older, as they dealt with work, romance, sex, health, fashion and life. But the core of the show always remained the friendship among the quartet. It became a huge hit, and when “The Sopranos” debuted six months later, HBO got an unprecedented one-two punch, with comedy and drama series that
#16 — Mary Fisher, a frivolous romance novelist who steals the husband of a dowdy housewife.
John: For such a tepid and unruly film, She-Devil enjoys quite an outsized reputation. Considered by many to be the nadir of Streep’s early career and one of her worst performances, She-Devil is also a Streep turn that is often reblogged context-free online, which makes sense when one considers its outre, Gif-ready moments of ironic femininity and gaudy Real Housewives of Long Island aesthetic that some might consider ahead of its time. Having seen these images of Streep’s Mary Fisher before watching the film, I had anticipated fun kitsch or perhaps even smart camp. Roseanne’s film debut! Susan Seidelman with a budget! Meryl’s comedy vehicle to silence the critics! But these are promises that She-Devil most certainly does not keep.
The retrospective was created at a time when financially viable independent filmmaking was on the rise, such as films made by John Sayles, Wayne Wang and Susan Seidelman. According to the co-curators of the retrospective, Melinda Ward and Bruce Jenkins, the objective of the tour was to:
provide a more adequate picture than conventional history affords us of a rare period of American cinematic invention and thereby prepare a coherent critical and historical context for the reception of the new work by the current generation of independent filmmakers.
While Hollywood still lags when it comes to offering up opportunities to its most talented female filmmakers, many of them have overcome the dismal stats to deliver compelling, interesting, and unique first features. In short, they’re good filmmakers who made good movies,
Guest Post by Meira Blaustein
When I co-founded the Woodstock Film Festival 18 years ago I had no sense of how hard the work would be, and how immense the positive influence on so many people, near and far, it would have. When you are deep in the process of developing something that requires you to give your all, you can’t always see what’s happening outside of your immediate vision.
Eighteen years after the festival first began as a fiercely independent, artistically driven event, I can look around and see the thousands of lives that it has affected and helped: young high school students and college interns who were inspired by the festival and have gone on to successful careers in film and media, such as Amanda Warman Naseem, who started out as an assistant at the festival and today is one of the top producers at Vice; emerging filmmakers who have developed into accomplished artists in their fields, such as Leah Meyerhoff, who screened her short film “Twitch” at the festival back in 2005, and today is a feature film director who also heads the internationally known grassroots women filmmakers organization Film Fatales; community members who have discovered new passion for the power of the arts such as Jen Dragon, who was a volunteer at the festival and now runs a highly successful art gallery.
Seeing countless stories like this makes the hard work and dedication worthwhile. I suppose it’s like giving birth each year — a long and hard pregnancy period ending with a beautiful baby that gives you the courage and the energy to do it all over again.
As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, I recognize that there is much work left to do. Each year as I program the fest’s film lineup, put together the panels, and select the special honorees, I find myself looking for a gender balance that is not always easy to achieve. As such I’m proud that we have developed an official Spotlight on Women in Film and Media whereby we highlight annually the works by some of the year’s most talented and courageous women filmmakers.
This year we are showing 54 feature films, and 19 are directed by women, which puts us at a higher percentage than most festivals. Moreover, we have made a conscious effort in our programming to pay attention to issues affecting women, as well as films featuring outstanding female actors. Among the female-directed films showing this year are first-time director Lillian Lasalle’s “My Name is Pedro,” filled with engrossing twists and inspirational lessons, Hope Litoff’s “32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide,” which explores the life and death of her artist sister, and Catherine Eaton’s “The Sounding,” a narrative of a woman’s struggle to maintain her independence and find her own unique voice, also written and acted by Eaton.
The 2017 Spotlight on Women in Film and Media includes titles such as “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” “La Chana,” and “This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.”
This year’s honorary Maverick Award, given for her outstanding artistry in acting and her long-standing commitment to the support of issue-driven films as a producer, will be presented to Susan Sarandon. In the past we have honored documentarian Barbara Kopple, producer Christine Vachon, director Mira Nair, and actor Ellen Barkin. In talks and events we have featured Vera Farmiga, Melissa Leo, Lucy Liu, Kyra Sedgwick, Patricia Clarkson, Parker Posey, Uma Thurman, Catherine Hardwicke, Debra Granik, Susan Seidelman, Katherine Dieckmann, Rebecca Miller, and countless others.
So while it is still a challenge to create gender balance, I’m glad that we can do our small part in tipping the scale towards equality. The more that festivals like ours offer opportunities to showcase and celebrate the outstanding works by women filmmakers, the higher the chances that those keepers of the gate in the financing and distribution universe will open their purse and greenlight female-directed projects.
The 18th annual Woodstock Film Festival runs from October 11–15. To download a pre-fest program of this year’s event click here.
Meira Blaustein is an arts entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience developing film organizations, entertainment, arts, and media events in the U.S. and globally. Blaustein is the Co-founder, Executive Director, and Head Programmer of the Woodstock Film Festival (Wff). Wff was launched in 2000 and has become one of the most respected and influential regional film festivals in the USA. Blaustein has been running it ever since its inception. As an international consultant Blaustein also co-founded and developed the Cabo International Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The festival developed into what is now the Baja International Film Festival. A filmmaker by training, Blaustein directed, produced, and consulted on numerous feature films in various stages, from development to marketing.
Guest Post: What It’s Like to Be a Fiercely Independent Woman Film Fest Director in the Trenches was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
To be clear, Soderbergh’s an outlier; his billion-dollar box office dwarfs every other indie filmmaker. However, looking at the performance of his contemporaries who got their start in that indie film movement, you may be surprised at who’s on the list. (Note: “Outside wide release” means less than 1,000 screens. Also, the list doesn’t include directors like Sam Raimi and Abel Ferrara, who have independent roots but were not discovered via the film festival/arthouse pathway, or Alan Rudolph, another significant ’80s figure; he started in horror films in the early ’70s.
“We are thrilled to be launching this program to unite New Yorkers around one film, and provide the opportunity for all New Yorkers to watch it for free on the same night,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin in an official statement. “Film has the power to bring people together and to spark a civic conversation. These five films all raise important themes in their respective genres,
Read More: ‘Rough Night’: Filmmaker Lucia Aniello Breaks Into the Male-Dominated R-Rated Comedy — Watch
Written as a spec script, “Rough Night” sparked a minor bidding war in the spring of 2015 when Sony Pictures picked up their then-untitled screenplay (the film later appeared on the Black List that same year). “Rough Night” follows a motley group of old friends, reunited for
by Carrie Rickey
This five-part Truthdig series by Carrie Rickey is published in partnership with Women and Hollywood. The series considers the historic accomplishments of women behind the camera, how they got marginalized, and how they are fighting for equal employment. Specifically, this series asks, why do females make up between 33 and 50 percent of film-school graduates but account for only seven percent of working directors? What happened to the women directors in Hollywood?
While female filmmakers waited for Judge Pamela Rymer to hand down a decision in the 1983 Directors Guild class-action suit against Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures, alleging discrimination for not hiring women and ethnic minorities represented by the guild, there were positive signs of change in Hollywood.
In 1984, for the first time that almost anyone could remember, one needed two hands to count the number of feature films by women released in the U.S. market. One was Diane Kurys’ “Entre Nous” (1983), nominated for best foreign film at the Academy Awards in April 1984, making Kurys the second female director whose film was so honored.
Between 1950 and 1980, the number of movies directed by women in the Directors Guild of America (DGA) totaled 14. From 1984 to 1985 there were 12.
In 1984 many women were making their second features. Among them were Gillian Armstrong’s period drama “Mrs. Soffel,” Amy Heckerling’s gangster comedy “Johnny Dangerously,” Penelope Spheeris’ teenage-runaway saga “Suburbia,” and Amy Holden Jones’ romantic drama “Love Letters.” Martha Coolidge, beloved for “Valley Girl,” her 1983 debut, was on her third feature, “National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex.” With more women behind the movie camera in the United States than any time since the ’teens, it seemed that Hollywood was reopening the studio gates to women. Their movies featured women in lead roles.
The wave of optimism crested in 1985. Argentine director Maria Luisa Bemberg’s historical romance “Camila” (1984) was in contention for best foreign film. Susan Seidelman, an Nyu film-school grad who made a splash in 1983 with the indie “Smithereens,” released “Desperately Seeking Susan,” starring “It Girl” Rosanna Arquette and Madonna, cast when the latter was a relative unknown. It was a runaway hit. Heckerling and Spheeris each released third features, respectively “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” and “The Boys Next Door.” Coolidge released her fourth: “Real Genius,” a genuinely funny nerd comedy with a fully developed female character — and special effects.
Then came the crash.
In August 1985 Judge Rymer handed down her decision. While the class-action case was important and viable, Rymer ruled, she had to disqualify the DGA from leading the class due to a conflict of interest. White male members also competing for directing jobs dominated the guild, she said. Thus the DGA was in no position to represent the interests of its women and ethnic minority members. Out of exhaustion and lack of money, the Original Six, the group of female filmmakers that had first spurred the DGA to initiate the suit, did not pursue it any further.
As the DGA suit played out during the early 1980s, Hollywood’s business model was in flux. Studios abandoned the one-size-fits-all strategy of advertising a movie in general-interest publications and embraced segmented marketing — that is, making and marketing movies to a specific demographic. Fewer dollars were spent advertising movies in mainstream newspapers and more were spent on ads that ran during TV shows young males were said to watch. More and more, movies starred predominantly men and boys. Because actors had higher-profile roles, they could command higher salaries than actresses.
By dividing the market into sectors, studios divided the audience and the culture. Boys see movies about boys. Older people see movies about older people. Women see movies about women. Those in different demographics no longer watch the same stories.
In 1980, four of the 10 top box office stars were women: Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Sissy Spacek, and Barbra Streisand. In 1990 there was only one: Julia Roberts. According to 1990 statistics from the Screen Actors Guild, not only were actresses underpaid, but they were also “undercast”: 14 percent of the leading roles, and only 29 percent of all roles, went to women.
The “Indiana Jones” trilogy made in the 1980s reflected the progressively diminishing role of females in film during a decade when male action/adventures dominated the multiplex. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), the character Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) plays Indy’s helpmate. In “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984), the Willie Scott character (Kate Capshaw) is helpless. And in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” archeologist Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) is the enemy.
Despite such trends, the late 1980s and 1990s proved to be boom years for female directors in Hollywood and Indiewood, as independent film is known. In 1987, Kathryn Bigelow, a onetime sculptor and graduate of Columbia University’s film program, made her second feature, the “vampire Western” “Near Dark.” And though Elaine May’s studio film “Ishtar” was almost universally panned upon release, it earned belated respect. Richard Brody of The New Yorker correctly described it as “an unjustly derided masterwork.” In 1987, six percent of films were directed by women, higher than at any time since 1916.
The percentage dropped in 1988, but that was a watershed year for female filmmakers. “Big,” a comedy from Penny Marshall (co-written by Anne Spielberg), was universally acclaimed. It was the first movie directed by a woman that surpassed $100 million at the box office. With the romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey,” Joan Micklin Silver returned to making big-screen fare, and her modest hit was well received. Also in 1988, Silver’s daughter, Marisa, made her second feature, “Permanent Record,” about teen suicide. “Salaam, Bombay!”, the first feature from Mira Nair, the India-born, Harvard-educated documentarian, was a best foreign film Oscar nominee.
The following year, “Look Who’s Talking” from Amy Heckerling likewise surpassed the $100 million mark for box office sales in the U.S. and made nearly $300 million worldwide. For the most part, though, heads of studios regarded Marshall’s and Heckerling’s box-office smashes as flukes. Two heads of production told me in 1991 that “movies by women don’t make money.” Nevertheless, it turned out to be a exceptional year for the quality and range of releases from women. And it shaped up to be a year when movies by female filmmakers did make serious money.
Some of the highlights of 1991: Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” an evocative portrait of generations of Gullah women off the South Carolina coast circa 1901; Jodie Foster’s “Little Man Tate,” about a child prodigy emotionally torn between his mother and a psychologist for gifted children; and Mira Nair’s “Mississippi Masala,” a sexy romance about a South Asian woman born in Uganda (played by then-newcomer Sarita Choudhry) in love with an African-American man (Denzel Washington). Both Kathryn Bigelow’s action film “Point Break” and Barbra Streisand’s psychological study “Prince of Tides” examined the emotional costs to men who struggle to prove their masculinity. Bigelow’s movie grossed $83 million and Streisand’s $110 million. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s $148 million and $196 million in today’s dollars.)
Not only can female filmmakers make movies that show a different side of men, but they also make movies that show different aspects of women. Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own” (1992), about the All-American Girls Baseball Leagues during World War II, celebrates the athleticism (rather than the sexuality) of the female body. Nora Ephron’s “This is My Life,” her 1992 directorial debut about a single mom whose choice of comedy career affects her daughters, shows that career and motherhood need not be in conflict. Like Ephron’s film, Allison Anders’ “Gas Food Lodging” (also 1992) explores what happens when the children of single moms reconnect with biological fathers. Male directors were, and are not, making movies like these.
During the 1990s, almost every year brought a new evergreen made by a female filmmaker. In 1993 there were two. One was Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” a haunting allegory about a mute woman that struck a chord internationally. It earned $62 million at the box office and multiple Oscar nominations, including one for best director, making Campion the third woman to be cited in this category. The other was Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” the comedic romance between two people who don’t meet in person until the last scene, which scored a $227 million box office.
“Sleepless” additionally introduced the questionable concept of the “chick flick” to a broader audience. This is a non-genre that has come to be defined as any movie that, according to the term’s proponents, women want to see and that men think they don’t want to watch — or any movie directed by a woman. The division between “chick flick” and its corollary, the “dick flick,” is a perhaps unintended consequence of target marketing, implying that movies represent a gender-linked proposition.
Almost overnight, the perception was created that movies predominantly featuring women, or “women’s interests,” or directed by women would shrivel the manhood of the male moviegoer. In 1994 the head of a major studio told me, without irony or shame, that “Women on the screen means no men in the audience.” When I asked him for data to back up his claim, he said he had it, but it was proprietary.
Despite such signs of cultural and corporate sexism, the 1990s were a good time to be a female filmmaker. In 1994, Gillian Armstrong’s “Little Women” was immediately embraced as a classic. Newcomer Darnell Martin’s “I Like it Like That,” an urban comedy about a working mother juggling job, marriage, and parenthood, earned positive reviews. And Rose Troche’s “Go Fish,” the first indie comedy about girl-on-girl courtship, marked a milestone for the burgeoning genre.
The following year, 16 films by women were in U.S. release, setting another record for that era. Many of them were comedies. There was Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless,” a droll version of Jane Austen’s “Emma” set at a Beverly Hills high school. There is Betty Thomas’ “The Brady Bunch Movie,” in which the former actress sets the characters of the 1970s TV hit in the 1990s to great comic effect. Distinctly not a comedy was Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days,” a science-fiction thriller about sex crimes, which lost money but became a cult favorite. At the 1996 Oscar ceremony, with “Antonia’s Line,” Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris became the first female filmmaker to direct the award-winning foreign film.
But apart from Bigelow and Mimi Leder, a director of episodic television who in 1997 directed “The Peacemaker” and in 1998 “Deep Impact,” female filmmakers were not making action films. For the most part women made comedies and human stories, movies with no explosions in the opening scene. Veteran filmmaker Martha Coolidge spoke for many women when she noted that the scripts the studios sent her were for comedies or family dramas. “About 90 percent of what comes my way are ten different kinds of breast cancer stories, ten kinds of divorce stories, and ten kinds of women-taking-care-of-their-fathers stories,” she said. “I do those. I care about those deeply. But one does want to do more.”
Female filmmakers were typecast in the way many actors and actresses have been, for the most part pigeonholed in family drama and comedy genres. For example, in 1997 actress Kasi Lemmons made her directorial debut with “Eve’s Bayou,” a haunting family drama, and Betty Thomas returned with the Howard Stern biopic “Private Parts.” In 1998, Ephron returned with the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” Nancy Meyers, a long-time screenwriter, made her directorial debut with the family-friendly comedy “The Parent Trap,” and Brenda Chapman, a Disney animator, was one of three directors on “Prince of Egypt,” the animated story of Moses.
In 1999, three female filmmakers made rookie features unlike anything in American movies. Two were romantic dramas about teenage sexuality, the other an imaginative Shakespeare adaptation. Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides,” based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, looked at how boys look at girls, subversively turning the female gaze on the male gaze. Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry” dramatized the life story of Teena Brandon, who changed her name and gender to become Brandon Teena and fell victim to a hate crime.
Julie Taymor, the theater director who created “The Lion King” on stage, made her movie debut with “Titus,” an anachronistic version of the Shakespeare history play “Titus Andronicus,” underscoring its parallels to Italy under Mussolini.
At the end of the decade — and century — of the 11,000 filmmakers working both in television and film included in the Directors Guild of America, about 2,300 were women. While women made up 21 percent of the membership, they comprised only 9 percent of the filmmakers working in movies.
Most, including Martha Lauzen, a professor at San Diego State University and the head of the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television, naturally assumed that in the new century the needle would move toward 50/50.
In addition to writing film reviews and essays for Truthdig, Carrie Rickey has been a film critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Village Voice, and an art critic at Artforum and Art in America. Rickey has taught at various institutions, including School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, and has appeared frequently on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” MSNBC, and CNN.
What Happened to the Women Directors in Hollywood? Part 4: 1984–1999 was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant‘s collaborations are highlighted in a series that brings Notorious, Suspicion, and To Catch a Thief on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively.
Prints of Max Ophüls‘ Letter from an Unknown Woman and Alan Arkin‘s Little Murders play on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
A print of James and the Giant Peach
Best known for their horror and genre releases under their Scream Factory banner, Shout Factory is making a heavy push into the repertory world, with a new restoration of Susan Seidelman’s masterful 1982 feature, Smithereens. Seidelman’s directing debut, Smithereens is an odyssey into early ‘80s New York, a world of punk rock, pimps and lost dreams. The first ever American indie to play in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, the film tells the story of Wren, a streetwise woman living in a New York City that at once feels like a dystopian wasteland akin to an urban Mad Max and yet has an alluring energy and vitality that feels all but lost.
Museum of Modern Art
Leo McCarey and the great Gaumont series are continuing their ongoing retrospectives, both of which make for a densely packed lineup.
Relive your traumatized childhood with “This Is PG?!” Jaws, Temple of Doom, and Poltergeist are but a few of the first weekend’s titles.
Helen DeWitt will present a print of Seven Samurai on Sunday.
Susan Seidelman had just completed her first feature when the Cannes Film Festival came calling. In 1982, Seidelman wasn’t yet 30; she was only a few years out of film school and had only a single feature under her belt. But that didn’t matter to the world’s most well-regarded festival. They wanted Seidelman’s “Smithereens,” and the ensuing reception for the film — a punk-infused dark comedy about the bohemian underworld of New York City featuring a not entirely likable lead character — didn’t just change Seidelman’s life; it changed the way American independent cinema was received around the world.
“Smithereens,” shot guerilla-style around the city with a cast and crew made up of many of the filmmaker’s Nyu classmates, marked a sea change for Cannes: It was the first American independent feature had
Artistic and Programming Director Jacob Perlin says in a press release, “Jean Eustache in a Rocky t-shirt. This is the image we had in mind while making this first calendar. Great cinema is there, wherever you can find it. The dismissed film now recognized as a classic, the forgotten box-office hit newly resurrected, the high and the low,
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