14 December 2009

Manohla Dargis on Women in Hollywood

Manohla Dargis may be my favorite mainstream film reviewer -- it's not just that she's got great perception of cinema as an artform of its own (too many reviewers treat movies like they're illustrated novels), but she's also an extraordinarily talented writer, one of the few film reviewers I'm happy to read simply for her sense of language and prose structure within the newspaper review form. Plenty of writers' expressive abilities have been deadened by the demands of writing multiple 800-1000-word reviews week after week, but Dargis still turns in more energetic and thoughtful reviews than not, and it's an impressive feat.

In a recent issue of the Times, Dargis wrote an essay about women in Hollywood. The commercial American film industry remains an astoundingly sexist enterprise, and the sexism is systemic, as Dargis shows. Even if you think you know how bad the situation is, the statistics are breathtaking:
Only a handful of female directors picked up their paychecks from one of the six major Hollywood studios and their remaining divisions this year: 20th Century Fox had “Jennifer’s Body” (Karyn Kusama) and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (Betty Thomas), while Fox Searchlight had “Amelia” (Mira Nair), “Post Grad” (Vicky Jenson) and “Whip It” (Drew Barrymore). Anne Fletcher directed “The Proposal” for Disney, while the studio’s once-lustrous division, Miramax Films, continued on its death march without any help from female directors. Ms. Ephron’s “Julie & Julia” was released by Sony Pictures while the art-house division Sony Pictures Classics released “An Education” (Ms. Scherfig), “Coco Before Chanel” (Anne Fontaine) and “Sugar” (Anna Boden, directing with Ryan Fleck). Universal Pictures has Nancy Meyers’s “It’s Complicated”; its specialty unit Focus Features has no female directors.

Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Pictures, meanwhile, did not release a single film directed by a woman. Not one.

The Jezebel website has now published an interesting interview with Dargis about the essay and about the relationship between women and Hollywood. Her replies to the questions are sharp, succinct, and peppered with the wonderful vernacular vocabulary the Times never lets her use...
The only thing Hollywood is interested in money, and after that prestige. That's why they'll be interested in something like [Kathryn Bigelow's] The Hurt Locker. She's done so well critically that she can't be ignored.

Let's acknowledge that the Oscars are bullshit and we hate them. But they are important commercially... I've learned to never underestimate the academy's bad taste. Crash as best picture? What the fuck.

1 comment:

  1. "Crash" winning best picture I thought was a rare display of courage.

    Usually the awkward avant-garde films flounder.

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