May 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
Here is food for thought- Appendix B from a new study on gender equality in film, from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism .
The study’s findings are, basically, more of the same, if not worse for the most recent year. (thus Appendix B for your perusal, consideration, reality checking…) On the site, USC Annenberg News, a post from May 13, 2013 notes:
“Across five years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012), 500 top-grossing films at the U.S. box office, and over 21,000 speaking characters, a new study by USC Annenberg found that females represented less than one-third (28.4%) of all speaking characters in 2012 films. When they are on screen, 31% of women in 2012 were shown with at least some exposed skin, and 31.6% were depicted wearing sexually revealing clothing.”
Okay, so I’m not adverse to skin showing. Lust and sex are part of life. And women like to preen sometimes. Flaunt what God gave ya. The study, however, notes that the skin shown tends to be on teenage girl body parts,
adding salt to the wounds of aging female actresses lucky enough to factor within the 28.4% of speaking roles available and calling into question just what “we” intend to do through film. Sell Peter Pan?
And to the lower than 28.4% female representation. Maybe that truly reflects who watches movies and pays for them.
Maybe WOMEN don’t WASTE THEIR TIME WATCHING (teenage skin in) MOVIES?
There’s a “do loop” here? Build Costner’s baseball diamond and the players will show up.
Maybe the better question, in light of all these not so surprising Annenberg study findings, is WHERE ARE THE MOVIES WOMEN WANT TO WATCH?
Hey, I like action and adventure- say, the BOURNE flicks- as much as the rest of us, but, speaking of BOURNE, the female leads in them are among my favorite actresses because I admired them in the BOURNE. They could stand on their own, given a well written role. Like SALT, for instance, where Angelina Jolie plays a bang up, save-the-world, angry female fabulous lead. SALT has cruelly few other female speaking parts.
Did part of SALT’s success depend upon men watching Jolie? Will men stop wanting to watch Jolie now that she’s altered her body? What an interesting thing to check. Was it just Angelina’s real boobs that the guys were watching all the time? Will there be a new superstar beauty goddess now, one men consider real? The men who, apparently, are the audience for whom the 78% male speaking roles are writ? And the directors and writers and producers and decision makers.
The full study is available at:
List of 2012 Films in the Sample
Marvel’s The Avengers The Dark Knight Rises The Hunger Games Skyfall
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
The Amazing Spider-Man Brave
Think Like a Man The Campaign
Dark Shadows Parental Guidance John Carter
This Is 40
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Phantom Menace (3D) Resident Evil: Retribution The Cabin in the Woods What to Expect When You’re
The Guilt Trip
*Study funded by the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism © 2013 Dr. Stacy L. Smith
February 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships — both old and new — begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels….” says the IMDb website log line about the 2007 movie (Robin Swicord wrote the screenplay and directed) based on Karen Joy Fowler’s book.
I’m not obsessed with Jane Austen, but why didn’t someone knock me down and make me see this film the minute it came out? It would have saved me the wondering why I felt like the only one walking around with more problems than I could handle and two heads to boot. For that matter, I guess I could re-read Austen’s works and remind myself women have been being women, and people people, to credit her fully, forever.
The movie starts with a quick five minutes flick past scenes of life’s little inconveniences- bank machines that balk; gas pumps that go stupid; and a funeral- for, we quickly learn, a favorite dog.
At first I thought, oh, no, another romp through Hollywood’s version of how to start a chick-flick. There’s tall-dark-handsome Jimmy Smits playing wayward husband, Daniel. Somebody’s gonna get drunk and laid at the reception.
Nope. Jocelyn (played by Maria Bello, a would-be lawyer turned actor thank goodness) the woman throwing the full blown funeral for her dog, turns out admits she really misses him (she shows dogs) but she’s honestly partial to her main show dog, her “sexually altered bitch.” She admits this to the only male member of the Jane Austen book group, Grigg (played by Brit Hugh Dancy of the square jaw and startling blue?green? eyes and, yes, great thighs) and he gulps appropriately. She says it with a direct stare. He’s sweet on her. She has no idea, at that point.
Go to the IMBd website for full cast, full pitch. Or go rent the darn movie if you haven’t’ seen it. FABULOUS film, I think. As does Jane, it portrays people very authentically. I want to live where they do and be their friend. I think even my husband wouldn’t mind living in their world. The movie’s not just a chick flick.
I just want to mention two more players. Three. Vanessa Redgrave makes a startling entry/exit as a hippie mother, a small part but seared on my brain now; the pathos of scars she left in her daughter’s little girl heart for the now-grown woman, Prudie (played by Emily Blunt) to undo.
Emily Blunt, a true prude as Prudie. Wow.
And Bernadette (played by Kathy Baker, whose parents were Quakers and whose early career included work as a pastry chef and the stage with playwright Sam Shepard- why don’t we see more of her? Okay, maybe it’s just me. I’ll look.) Bernadette has been married six times, and adds another to the list at the end of the film. Go girl. She starts the book club. After the dog’s funeral. Scoops up a weepy total stranger, Prudie, from a line forming at a movie theatre, pulls her together over drinks and side-wrangles her into joining what’s to be the J.A. book club. God, I wish she were my neighbor. I woke up crying over something stupid this morning. I could have used her company.
Bernadette points out two things to her cronies that caught my copy-down-on-paper-scrap attention. Two Austen themes, but, for my purposes, considering portrayals of women in film, really important, I thought.
First, “the humbling of the pretty, know it all girl” that spoke, in the movie, particularly to Prudie but is, I think, something that, done well, is done very rarely in garden variety films. Think, however, about how true to our own maturation process this humbling of the “pretty girl” ego hits. Written well, by Austen; and scripted and played well in the way this movie’s ensemble cast does it, the humbling growth that every woman will encounter in her life, and hopefully accept as a bonafide gift from the little gods who make her more beautiful by wrinkling her gradually; humbling growth is a powerful part of the female experience to actually capture in an art form, to hold still, to show at all. This soft little movie does that.
And finally, Bernadette points out that Austen lets men explain themselves. Men. Heaven knows we women crave explanation of what it is, slamming around up there in those male brains, causing those man-acts, that muddles our perfectly sane and reasonable female sensibilities and causes us such turmoil, irritation, grief, stress, pain, heartache, confusion. And makes us love them, too.
Okay, I’ve gone on too long. But I’m awfully glad I finally watched the movie. Where have I BEEN, girl? Where have I been?
February 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Even a Southerner might have trouble declining the relatives in that title at first. Essentially, it’s a spot-on summary of what’s to come. A double helix becoming one single strand, two into three kind of thing. Three words, two sisters, and whoever’s pointing at them both. A relationship triangle. Perfect. Okay, show me…
This movie portrays women brilliantly. And it’s a well acted, hyper-realistic close-in telling of love between siblings, family bonds at their best. One poignant moment, which they could have played a little louder since ultimately it’s the movie’s main point, comes when the third person, Jack (Mark Duplass), bares his soul and tells Iris (Emily Blunt) she’ll never know how important her sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is to her. Until she’s gone, he means.
There could have been a second or two more of meaningful staring at that moment, maybe actually saying “until she’s…” I think. Maybe I’ve watched too many 1940’s flicks lately. Duplass is, in real life, a director known for “mumblecore” techniques, naturalistic dialogue. Go figure. It shows. They must have talked through this timing, he and the director, Lynn Shelton. And decided to mumble the theme rather than wear it like a white cowboy hat.
In fact, a lot is under dramatized in this show. And there is some over-talk mumblecoring. I’m new to the term. I think I’ll use it at my teenagers. “Put down that drink and quit mumblecoring right now, young man.”
If you don’t like dialogue, consider yourself warned over YOUR SISTER’S SISTER. But it’s always realistic dialogue, real life-like, lovely. Music doesn’t actually play when you make love, does it? And you do sometimes say a little too much because your nerves or your habits or the voice in your head’s making you yammer on.
Anyway, Jack hands out the main point to Iris. Why Jack? The movie starts with a celebration of the life of his deceased brother one year on. The brother happens to have been Iris’s fiancée until she broke it off. But that’s not immediately clear. I almost stopped watching during the first two minutes. The scene almost bored me. I thought, ach, the BIG CHILL again, but poorly.
Good news is “the scene” bores Jack, too. He’s not into all the hero-worshipping his brother’s circle of friends are serving up. He’s deep in curmudgeon denial angst. Playing out that ache of being the one alive, that resentment gig. So later, when he tells Iris to value her sister, the story satisfies a main plot point. Jack the curmudgeon’s learned his lesson. One of them. And made the main point Iris’s instead.
Double helixed her. Made her issue, loving the guy who slept with her sister, part of the whole, which is what the action of the story does to the three characters. And it viscerally draws the viewer into caring about each of the three, too. Sometimes with almost-too-much soft, dull reality.
I kept watching through my almost-boredom and, by the time Jack and sister number two, Hannah, were hanging out at a remote cabin kitchen table getting drunk past midnight, I honestly felt I was there with them and knew them very well as friends. The soft dull stuff worked. I wasn’t so bothered by the running dialogue.
So when Iris arrives next morning and surprises Jack and Hannah in bed, I ache for Iris. I know, before anyone admits it, that she’s in love with Jack, and hope that Hannah catches on quickly, because it’s immediately clear she and Iris love each other. I hope that Iris can forgive anything she discovers, because she and Hannah have such a strong relationship already. And I desperately hope that Jack just hangs in there waiting for the fall-out without doing something totally dumb that we then have to live through until there’s a reunion of the happy couple. Making it a movie driven by the guy, like so many. I wanted the movie to be smarter than that.
In fact, I was opting for everybody hushing up about that sex thing last night, since Iris didn’t catch them and doesn’t know, because I’d begun to care about each character. I watched them enjoy the cabin and one another and dodge the sex elephant in the room with some humorous scenes, all the while remembering that the rubber’s still in the trash can beside the bed and hoping against hope that the writer’s plan isn’t for Iris to find it. And then I remember that the guy at my local boutique movie rental joint told me he thinks YOUR SISTER’S SISTER’s ending is the best one he’s seen in years.
And, as in all relationships, prophylactics play a part. Oh, no. NO NO NO don’t go there!
Without spoiling the end, I’ll show you towards it.
In YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, Emily Blunt has shed her bad relationship with eyeliner DEVIL WEARS PRADA bitch role for a truly likeable, British daughter of a man who owns a cabin in the Pacific Northwest, girl-next-door role. After having seen her as Iris, I’d watch her sit still in a chair. She’s very good. She brings your heart out. At least she did mine.
And Rosemarie DeWitt, who, by the way, shows up again in MARGARET, another movie my guy at the boutique rental suggested, Rosemarie wasn’t scheduled for the role of Hannah until close to shooting began but is a joy to watch on screen and in the role of the American half-sister. She feels authentic. In this film there’s ample time to feel the characters, watch souls play out in front of you on their faces, and her face is particularly good at that. Not glamour-shot close ups. Real authenticity. Which speaks to the quality of the writing, I should note. Or at least hazard a guess. Actors can’t act characters that aren’t well created.
And all the characters wear really comfortable clothes, which is VERY authentic in at least my view of life lived best. Comfort encourages authenticity. But I digress.
In the plot of the movie, Emily’s Iris and Rosemarie’s Hannah go from sisters thrilled at unexpected reunion, through the sharing and hiding of heart’s secrets, into utter and almost fatal betrayal. And then, because their relationship is deeper than drama, deep like real life, they return to love.
It’s all plausible. In fact, this movie captures the essence of sister love. It surpasses drama. It’s real.
Because it’s “real”, it may not be for everybody. It does not spoon up a pat ending. It does not have a car chase scene or take me to Bhutan on a lear jet. It did, however, send me to a beautiful, remote Seattle island; involve me, like a welcome relative, in a well adjusted, loving family I’d claim as part of mine were it real; and leave me with respect for the writer/director, Lynn Shelton.
And also great faith that women ARE cracking the code of how to tell real woman stories on film. And doing it.