Women Directors to Watch Out For

Posted on January 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Copyright 2017 Walt Disney Pictures

Film School Rejects has an enticing list of 81 movies by woman directors scheduled for release in 2018, including one of this year’s most anticipated big-budget studio films, “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by “Selma’s” Ava Duvernay. The topics range from thrillers (“The Strange Ones,” “Blame,” “The Turning”) to comedies (“I Feel Pretty”) to documentaries (“On the Basis of Sex,” one of two films about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg coming out this year). I’m especially looking forward to “Freak Show,” directed by Trudie Styler, “Oh Lucy!,” directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi, and “Valley Girl,” a musical remake of the 1980’s cult classic, directed by Rachel Goldenberg.

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Directors Gender and Diversity

AWFJ Awards 2018: Shape of Water, Frances McDormand, and Hall of Shame

Posted on January 10, 2018 at 3:32 am

Copyright 2017 Fox Searchlight

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 AWFJ EDA Awards. This year, AWFJ presents EDA Awards in 25 categories, divided into three sections: the standard ‘Best Of’ section, the Female Focus awards and the irreverent EDA Special Mention awards—including Actress Most in Need of a New Agent and the AWFJ Hall of Shame Award.

In the ‘Best Of’ section, this year’s big winner is “THE SHAPE OF WATER”, garnering EDA Awards in two categories including Best Film, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro.  The film’s lead actress, Sally Hawkins, was awarded an EDA Bravest Performance Award to make the film’s cume of three awards.

Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” was also honored with three awards that included Best Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf and two awards for Gerwig for Best Woman Director and Best Woman Screenwriter.

“The Florida Project” won two EDA Awards for Best Supporting Actor for Willem Dafoe and Best Breakthrough Performance for Brooklynn Prince.

In the EDA Special Mention Categories, documentary filmmaker Agnes Varda was voted the Actress Defying Age and Ageism Award, while receiving the Best Documentary Award for her film “Faces, Places.”  Kate Winslet won the Actress Most in Need of a New Agent for  “Wonder Wheel” and “The Mountain Between Us.”

The AWJF chose to honor Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd and all women who spoke out against sexual harassment with the EDA Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry.

The Annual AWFJ Hall of Shame Award was bestowed upon Sexual Tormentors:  Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, et al.

“This year was an important year for women to feel empowered to speak out and be heard,” states EDA AWARDS and AWFJ founder and film critic Jennifer Merin.  “The need for gender parity and gender diversity in the movie industry is patently clear, and the time to stop sexual harassment in all industries is now.  These goals are fundamental to AWFJ’s mission and it’s core values. I am thrilled that for this year’s awards, our AWFJ members voted to honor such a diverse array of talent and to recognize those who are leading with their voices to put an end to long time misconduct making the 2017 EDA Awards particularly relevant when art and film must be the vanguard of social progress.”

Here’s the entire list of this year’s winners:


These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration.

Best Film 


Best Director 

Guillermo del Toro – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Best Screenplay, Original

GET OUT – Jordan Peele

Best Screenplay, Adapted


Best Documentary


Best Animated Film  (Tie)



Best Actress


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Laurie Metcalf — LADY BIRD

Best Actor

Gary Oldman — DARKEST HOUR


Best Actor in a Supporting Role


Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

MUDBOUND – Billy Hopkins and Ashley Ingram

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins — BLADE RUNNER 2049

Best Editing

Lee Smith — DUNKIRK

Best Non-English-Language Film




These awards honor WOMEN only.

Best Woman Director

Greta Gerwig — LADY BIRD

Best Woman Screenwriter

Greta Gerwig — LADY BIRD

Best Animated Female


Best Breakthrough Performance

Brooklynn Prince — THE FLORIDA PROJECT

Outstanding Achievement by A Woman in The Film Industry

Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and all who spoke out against sexual harassment



Actress Defying Age and Ageism (name actress and film)


Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Lead and The Love Interest Award

I LOVE YOU DADDY  — Chloe Grace Moretz and John Malkovich

Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent (name actress and film)


Bravest Performance (name actress and film) (Tie)

Sally Hawkins — THE SHAPE OF WATER

Margot Robbie — I, TONYA

Remake or Sequel That Shouldn’t Have Been Made


AWFJ Hall of Shame Award

Sexual Tormentors: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, et al

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Awards Gender and Diversity

Golden Globes 2018

Posted on January 8, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Many people were given awards at the 2018 Golden Globes, but there was just one winner and that was the #metoo movement and the cause of women’s equality.  From the sea of black gowns that women attendees wore as a sign of the “Time’s Up” movement to the barbed comments from host Seth Meyer,  presenters like Natalie Portman and Reese Witherspoon, the theme of the night was that discrimination and abuse will no longer be tolerated and women’s voices will no longer be silenced.   As Meryl Streep said, ““We feel emboldened in this moment to stand together in a thick black line dividing then from now.” (The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan points out that many women declined to give credit to their designers on the red carpet.  This is something of a mixed message as on one hand they want to be seen as more than mannequins representing the designers, but on the other hand, as creative artists they should respect the work of the designers and their staffs that made their finery, well, fine.)

Many of the women who attended brought non-celebrity activists with them including the founder of the #metoo initiative,  Tarana Burke.  Several speakers emphasized that the movement is inclusive of people outside the Hollywood celebrity community.

Unquestionably the show’s high point was Oprah Winfrey.  It was fun to see some of the biggest stars a bit abashed when they took the podium to accept their awards and saw her sitting in the front row.  Winfrey herself took the stand to accept the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award, the first black woman to receive it.  Her nine-minute speech was stem-winding, spell-binding, and just plain thrilling.  The Baltimore Sun called it “a moving jolt of moral authority.”

Winfrey spoke about being a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of her mother’s home, waiting for her to come in from cleaning other people’s houses, and seeing Sidney Poitier receive the Oscar for “Lilies of the Field,” realizing for the first time that even for a poor black girl, the possibilities were endless.  She spoke to the girls out there now, who needed to get that message from her.

Many of the most significant awards went to stories about women, including HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” Amazon’s “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale,” and the film “Lady Bird.”  Portman noted in presenting the Best Director award that all of the nominees were male, excluding “Lady Bird’s” writer/director Greta Gerwig.

Men of color made some news as well, with Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”) as the first black man to win Best Actor in a Television Series and Aziz Ansari became the first South Asian man to win Best Actor in a Comedy Series.

Meyers was a capable host, making some pointed jokes and some welcome points during his monologue and then getting out of the way.  The Hollywood Foreign Press Association made some progress in improving its reputation with million-dollar grants to two journalist organizations, including one of my favorites, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.  

Some of the other highlights: Amy Sherman-Palladino’s heartfelt “Spanx, oy” comment when she accepted her award for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Carol Burnett and the Thelma and Louise team up of presenters and the tribute to Kirk Douglas not just as an actor but as a fearless advocate in breaking the blacklist, underscoring the evening’s themes of integrity and justice.

List of nominees and winners.



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Awards Gender and Diversity

A Plus on the Need for More Female Film Critics

Posted on October 13, 2017 at 11:24 am

Jill O’Rourke of A Plus has an excellent article about why it is important to have diversity in film criticism as well as in filmmaking.

AWFJ amplifies the voices of women who write about film — a group still very underrepresented in all forms of media — and focuses film industry and audience attention on the work of women behind and in front of the lens,” Merin said her organization, which was founded in 2006. The AWFJ website highlights feminist Movies of the Week, with reviews written by women, as well as spotlighting a female creator once a month. “Raising awareness through these ongoing AWFJ projects opens opportunity for women in film and hopefully will lead to a gender-equal playing field.”…”AWFJ invites all to join our THE FEMALE GAZE FORUM group on Facebook, where they can post information and recommendations about ‘feminist’ films and projects, applaud special achievements by women in film, and engage in substantive discussions about how to equal the playing field for women in film,” Merin suggests, in addition to creating viewing clubs and supporting the films recommended on the organization’s website. “Women represent more than 50 percent of the movie-going population. We want to see films that tell our stories and reflect our interests.”

Diversity in entertainment goes beyond just the faces on our screens. All aspects of the industry should reflect the people who consume its media. Chaz Ebert, widow of film critic Roger Ebert and publisher of RogerEbert.com, put it simply in The Daily Beast in 2015: “It is critical that the people who write about film and television and the arts — and indeed the world — mirror the people in our society.”

I am very lucky to be a longtime member of AWFJ and a contributor to Chaz Ebert’s rogerebert.com.

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Critics Gender and Diversity

Battle of the Sexes

Posted on September 21, 2017 at 9:53 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and partial nudity
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, cigarettes
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: September 22, 2017
Date Released to DVD: January 1, 2018
Copyright Fox Searchlight

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” was the 1970’s slogan for a cigarette for women. Virginia Slims were marketed as a badge of liberation and sophistication. They had a woman’s slightly naughty-sounding name and a word with a lot of appeal to female consumers (and a suggestion that they would aid in keeping weight down). They had a kicky advertising campaign. And they were the only commercial product willing to sponsor the brand new Women’s Tennis Association, founded by tennis champion Billie Jean King to protest the pay differential in professional tennis, with women making a fraction of the prize money awarded to the men. When they raised the issue, they were told that women’s tennis was not as interesting (even though they sold as many or more tickets at the same price as the tickets to see the men play) and because the men had families to support. It may now seem absurd, or at least off-brand to have a women’s athletic competition sponsored by a cigarette, but probably no more absurd than the argument that “the men’s tennis is more exciting to watch; it’s biology.”

One-time men’s tennis champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was a bit of a sexist and more than a bit of a showman, and much more than a bit of a gambler. And so he bragged that even in his 50’s he could beat the top-ranked women’s player. Margaret Court accepted the challenge, and he triumphed in a humiliating defeat. And so, Billie Jean King agreed to play him in something between a sporting event and a three ring circus, complete with marching band, scantily dressed cheerleaders in Sugar Daddy outfits, and the ceremonial presentation by King to Riggs of an actual pig.

So, not your usual night on ESPN, which, of course, had not been invented yet. This was front-page news in the midst of the fight for what people were still calling “women’s liberation.” This was consciousness raising whether you liked it or not.

It is especially suitable that this film was directed by a female/male team: Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (“Little Miss Sunshine”). They found the human story, the vulnerability, the drive, the fear, the resolve behind the hoopla and hyperbole, and they have made a film about real people that is moving and, even though we know the outcome of the game, suspenseful.

Bobby Riggs would have been a public feminist if he could make a dollar at it. (A dollar, by the way, is what the original players in King’s Women’s Tennis Association were paid to sign up.) He would cheerfully admit, except possibly to his wealthy wife (Elisabeth Shue), that he was more of a showman and a huckster than an athlete. Billie Jean King was a determined, disciplined athlete at the forefront of the Gloria Steinem era of feminists. She was companionably married to Larry King (not the TV show host), but she was beginning to admit to herself that she was attracted to women. Her hairstylist, Marilyn (Andrea Reisborough), leans in and brushes her hand on Billie Jean’s cheek. The woman who never allowed herself any distractions has met a distraction she cannot ignore.

Faris and Dayton create the environment of the 70’s without any air quotes. The cinematography, the score, the deft use of Howard Cosell’s actual commentary during the match (at one point, he says approvingly that King moves like a man), evoke the era without exaggeration or snottiness. Every performance shines, including Sarah Silverman in the Eve Arden wry sidekick role. The film is generous to all of its characters, even the real and metaphorical pigs.

Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and an explicit situation with some nudity, issues of sexual orientation, some crude language, alcohol, cigarettes, sexism, and homophobia.

Family discussion: What is different today and what hasn’t changed? Why did Billie Jean King decide to play Bobby Riggs?

If you like this, try: Footage of the real King/Riggs game

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Based on a true story DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Gender and Diversity GLBTQ and Diversity movie review Movies Sports
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