Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Why, you may wonder, are we so excited at this seemingly unrelated triumph? For so many reasons, not the least of which is that it's star Melissa Leo is also our star. It's also a film written and directed by a woman with women in the lead roles.


CONGRATULATIONS to JULIE CHRISTIE and RUBY DEE! Two women well over the Hollywood target age who gave us performances of beauty and integrity, and to Sarah Polley for daring to take us where many of us fear to travel with a blend of humor and pathos.

I've been in contact with Thelma Adams, film/DVD critic for US Weekly, and Melissa Silverstein, www.womenandhollywood.blogspot.com, to discuss the irony of a woman-guided film taking the top prize when the sundance critics' panel was again composed soley of men. Melissa Silverstein noted that the difference between male and female helmed films was reflected in the purchase prices as well, Frozen river selling for about 1 million, yet all the boy movies, like Hamlet2, sold for much more. Isn't the equation how it performs, not who made it?

WOMEN!!! Wake up! If you don't go to the polls, the movies, the anything ... or let the powers that be know you are not happy with the choices you're being offered, well ... our absence is viewed as apathy not disinterest. Get interested. Get vocal. When women vote women win.

Here's the rub ... many films made by women FOR women, not to sugggest that Frozen River falls into this category as it is a story with enormous humanity, but many female helmed films are made by women FOR women and are killed before they reach their target market, by male critics. 51% of the population is being told by Papa what's good for them, or that the reflections we cast of ourselves into the popular conversation are sub par, or of no interest, or more incredibly that our reflections of ourselves are WRONG. Huh? Seriously? What is that about? Will somebody please explain to me why this equation seems equitable? And if not, why it still exists?

The yardstick is still how men see women, not how we see ourselves. Level the playing field please. Give us more women critics! I suspect less of the traditional fare would survive a deluge of estrogen. Yes, judge my artistic content and execution, but on the intended playing field please. I DO NOT WANT SOME MODEL-DOTING TWENTY-SOMETHING TESTOSTERONE DRIVEN STUDIO EXEC, AD MAN, POLITICIAN TELLING ME WHO OR WHAT I AM. I do not want my work to be leveraged against what's come before as the only stamp of good and true. I can chew my own food, thank you.

Studio films target the testosterone driven "prick flick" market (thank you Gloria Steinam for the introduction of this apt term), consisting of 14-18 year old males, as if they are the only movie goers and the only repeat offenders. It's middle aged women who are buying those boxed sets of PBS and indie films, AND the "chick flicks" at a premium which we will watch over and over again. When I go to my local theater on a Monday night the audience is full of middle aged + women, and we're regulars. Hm ... what's missing here?

Though women directors sit in that esteemed chair far less than their male counterparts, the ratio of award winning films is disproportionate. Pay attention investors... a far greater percentage of women's films are winning awards, though less women are making films. Again I say hm ...

If I know Melissa Leo's in a film I'm going to see it. Not just because she's a friend, but because I know that the film is gonna be interesting, textured, complicated, not black and white but built in the grey-zone where most of us live. And the women are gonna be three-dimensional, not JUST moms and arm candy. I will go to see anything with Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep, Liv Tyler, Brenda Blethyn, Helen Mirrren, Judi Dench, Fanny Ardent, Sarah Polley, Drew Barrymore, Renee Zellweger and a host of other female actors worldwide who choose material that challenges the status quo, which challenge our view of women throughout history. Women who dare to tell her story. This win gives us hope. I like hope. It sure beats the alternative.

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