Is 2018 the Best Year for Movies Featuring Women and Girls?

Posted on June 10, 2018 at 11:45 am

2017 was a good year for women in film, with “Wonder Woman” directed by Patty Jenkins and “Beauty and the Beast” in the top 10 for box office. 2018 looks even better, with “Oceans 8” doing better than its male-led predecessors with a very strong $41 million opening weekend.

Also worth noting:

The Washington Post’s The Lily, which focuses on news stories about and of interest to women, has a very good piece on upcoming movies and television shows with strong female characters. Recommendations on television include “Dietland,” “Claws,” “American Woman,” and the second season of “GLOW.”

And in movies, “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Woman Walks Ahead,” “Whitney,” and “Brain on Fire.”

And Slate’s Lena Wilson says that horror movies have reached “the age of the monster girl.”

This year and the last in particular have seen a number of releases featuring monstrous young women. Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds and Julia Ducournau’s Raw both found widespread critical success, while features like The Lure, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Wildling, and Tribeca premiere The Dark feature lesser-known violent ladies. Regardless of Rotten Tomatoes score, each of the protagonists in these movies are girls with uncontrollable bloodlust, whether psychological (the sociopaths of Thoroughbreds and The Blackcoat’s Daughter) or physical (the flesh cravers of Wildling and Raw). None of these movies have overtly political plots, but it’s hard to dismiss the social implications of a spate of girls-bite-back films in the era of Trump.

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Gender and Diversity Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Beyond the Bechdel Test: Using Software to Test Screenplay Gender Balance

Posted on May 13, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Male actors are refusing to appear in films unless their female co-stars get equal pay.  Stars are insisting on “inclusion riders” in their contracts to make sure that every part of the production is open to all.  And now there is software to test the “gender balance” in a screenplay.

The New York Times reports:

Now, a few Hollywood players have developed technology that aims to do that: new screenplay software that can automatically tell whether a script is equitable for men and women.

The idea came from Christina Hodson, a screenwriter who is involved with Time’s Up, the activist Hollywood organization addressing inequities in the industry…

She wondered if screenwriting software — which writers almost universally use to format scripts — could easily tabulate the number of male and female roles, for example, and how much each spoke. That way, writers could see and tackle the problem even before casting directors or producers had their say….On Thursday, just weeks after that initial conversation, Highland 2, with the gender analysis tool that Ms. Hodson dreamed up, became available in the Apple app store as a free download.

 

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How Screenwriters Described Iconic Female Characters

Posted on April 10, 2018 at 3:22 pm

We’ve seen so many awful stories about the way that female characters are described in movie scripts that it was a real relief and pleasure to read Vulture’s list of the way that fifty great characters were first imagined and described by their screenwriters.  There’s a whole extra level of delight in getting to see writing by some of the best writers in Hollywood that we would normally not get to see.  We think of them as only being responsible for the witty dialogue, but they are also every bit as good at defining a character in a few short sentences of description as they are with what we will actually hear her say on screen.  (Note: The odd capitalization of character names and other words is standard for movie scripts.)

Kyle Buchanan and Jordan Crucchiola lead off with one of the most vivid characters in the history of movies, aging theatrical star Margo Channing, as played by Bette Davis in “All About Eve :”

How do you create a memorable female character? It helps if you get it right from the very beginning, as Joseph L. Mankiewicz did in his screenplay for All About Eve when he introduced the woman who would be played by Bette Davis. “The CAMERA follows the bottle to MARGO CHANNING,” wrote Mankiewicz in his stage directions. “An attractive, strong face. She is childish, adult, reasonable, unreasonable — usually one when she should be the other, but always positive.”  

via GIPHY

One of the best ones is this wonderfully evocative introduction of the faded movie star played by Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard:”

via GIPHY

Norma Desmond stands down the corridor next to a doorway from which emerges a flickering light. She is a little woman. There is a curious style, a great sense of high voltage about her. She is dressed in black house pajamas and black high-heeled pumps. Around her throat there is a leopard-patterned scarf, and wound around her head a turban of the same material. Her skin is very pale, and she is wearing dark glasses.

Few women but Audrey Hepburn could truly live up to this description in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s:”

The girl walks briskly up the block in her low cut evening dress. We get a look at her now for the first time. For all her chic thinness she has an almost breakfast-cereal air of health. Her mouth is large, her nose upturned. Her sunglasses blot out her eyes. She could be anywhere from sixteen to thirty. As it happens she is two months short of nineteen. Her name (as we will soon discover) is HOLLY GOLIGHTLY.

via GIPHY

One of the best screen couples has got to be Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man.” If you haven’t had the pleasure of falling in love with them onscreen, rest assured that this description of Nora will do it for you:

NORA CHARLES, Nick’s wife, is coming through. She is a woman of about twenty-six… a tremendously vital person, interested in everybody and everything, in contrast to Nick’s apparent indifference to anything except when he is going to get his next drink. There is a warm understanding relationship between them. They are really crazy about each other, but undemonstrative and humorous in their companionship. They are tolerant, easy-going, taking drink for drink, and battling their way together with a dry humor.

via GIPHY

I especially enjoyed the contrast between the descriptions of Sarah Connor in the first and second “Terminator” movies. And the quiz to try to guess the character from the description.

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Film History For Your Netflix Queue Gender and Diversity Great Characters Movie History Understanding Media and Pop Culture

“Token” Black Actors of the 90’s

Posted on April 4, 2018 at 7:32 am

On The Undefeated: Interviews with Black Actors who played “token” characters on television in the 1990’s, from “Seinfeld” to “Dawson’s Creek.” Important, moving, and infuriating.

n the 1990s, the wealth of black representation on television could lull you into thinking (if you turned the channel from Rodney King taking more than 50 blows from Los Angeles Police Department batons) that black lives actually did matter. But almost all of these shows were, in varying ways, an extension of segregated America. It’s there in the memories of the stars below: There were “black shows” and there were “white shows.” If you were a black actor appearing on a white show, you were usually alone.

For some of the most visible black actors coming of age in the 1990s, it’s clear that along with the triumphs came isolation, blatant racial stereotyping and biased casting calls. As for “crossing over” to the mainstream, in the mostly segregated worlds of Seinfeld, Frasier, Melrose PlaceSaved by the Bell: The New ClassFelicityV.I.P.Buffy the Vampire SlayerDawson’s Creek and more, blacks were usually relegated to bit parts or were there for a short time. The Undefeated sat down with eight of these talented women and men. These are their stories. This is history.

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Actors Gender and Diversity Gender and Diversity Television Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Women Writers Week 2018 at Rogerebert.com

Posted on March 26, 2018 at 8:20 am

I am honored once again to participate in Rogerebert.com’s annual women writers week, and will post a link when my review of Andie MacDowell’s “Love After Love” is published. Be sure to read the opening comments from Chaz Ebert, explaining the origins of this tradition five years ago and how it seems especially apt and powerful now.

I have always firmly believed that being introduced to diverse critical voices and opinions in the arts affects how we see the world but also has a profound influence on how we begin to heal it. It is our responsibility as publishers and editors to lift up those voices that seek to nurture and educate and unite us. This week at RogerEbert.com, those voices will be the voices of women.

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