Wait, Women Go to Movies?

Posted on November 19, 2009 at 8:00 am

MaryAnn Johanson has a great piece in her series on the website of the Association of Women Film Journalists in response to the Hollywood conventional wisdom that movies need to be directed at boys and men to make money. Noting that the advance sales for “New Moon” are ahead of “Transformers” at this stage, she says:

If the boys can be targeted by Hollywood with movies that pander to their basest instincts — toys! explosions! Megan Fox! — then I suppose we must see it as a sign of progress that girl audiences are getting the same treatment: sighing! moon eyes! Robert Pattinson!

And speaking of Megan Fox, Johanson skewers Lynn Hirschberg’s profile in the New York Times Magazine.

Later, noting that the TV in the hotel room was on and tuned to some girly reality show about wedding dresses or somesuch, and that Fox said she watches these things because she doesn’t understand them and is trying to figure them out, Hirschberg characterizes Fox thusly:

Fox said this as if she were contemplating an alien species.

Because, you see, reality shows about wedding dresses represent the actual actuality of all women, and a woman who doesn’t comprehend why anyone would collapse into fits of tears over a wedding dress must be an alien. Because no real women would need to study such a reality show, as Fox indicates she does — a real woman would just understand.

I like to read Johanson’s summary of the way women are portrayed in current releases. Here’s what she had to say last week:

OPENING THIS WEEK. Women are there to be rescued in 2012, whether it’s the Mona Lisa or Amanda Peet as John Cusack’s ex-wife, who does literally nothing but scream for two and a half hours while the world ends around her. Good riddance to this world. Women — or females, at least — are all but absent from Fantastic Mr. Fox, except Meryl Streep as the alternately scolding and praising wife to the titular character; the male animals are the ones who get to have all the adventure and all the fun, and they’re the ones who get to learn things about themselves and grow as people. And forget Pirate Radio: the boat HQ of the illegal broadcaster is boys only — well, there’s one girl present, to cook, but she’s a lesbian, so she doesn’t really count.

On the indie side, things aren’t much better. Women in Trouble does feature an ensemble cast of terrific actresses, but it’s all in service of writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez’s fantasies about what women are really like (hint: it frequently involved lingerie). The Messenger, a drama about the soldiers who notify families that their loved one has been killed overseas, does at least feature Samantha Morton in a powerful and unexpected role as a new widow.

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MaryAnn Johanson

Posted on May 6, 2009 at 8:00 am

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has an excellent website that this week includes a very thoughtful essay by MaryAnn Johanson about the week in media.

It’s mostly a testosterone fest at the multiplex this weekend, with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” slashing its way into theaters and sure to be a huge hit. Girls who like boys will appreciate all the Hugh Jackman beefcake on display, of course, but girls who want to see stories about girls will be disappointed…though the film does feature Lynn Collins in a smallish role as the woman Logan (aka Wolverine) loved and lost. I was astonished by her Portia in 2004’s big-screen “Merchant of Venice,” and continue to hope that she will one day headline her own film, instead of playing second fiddle to the boys.

You might think that “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” would feature some kick-ass women — perhaps one or two who’d actually kick Matthew McConaughey’s ass for being such a meatheaded manwhore — but no: they’re all simpering crybabies to a one, overemotional dunderheads simply incapable of not falling in love with him after 10 seconds of the blatant propositioning that he thinks is seductive and flirtatious. If McConaughey’s playboy had gone through as many women as we’re supposed to accept he has, he should have run into one or
two who were as rapacious and as uninterested in any kind of relationship beyond a sexual one as he is. But doncha know, all women feel exactly the same way about love and sex!

The only female of any prominence this weekend is the teenaged alien Mala of the animated “Battle for Terra.” Voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, she is spunky and adventurous and actually gets to save her world. Of course, she’s a cartoon, but I guess we can’t have everything.

I loved the quote Johanson found from one of my favorite actresses, Juliet Stevenson (Kiera Knightly’s mother in Bend It Like Beckham and the grief-struck widow in Truly Madly Deeply), from an interview in The Telegraph. She speaks about the difficulties of finding a role as a mature actress in a world looking for babes.

“It is intensely frustrating.” There is a jagged edge to the famously honeyed larynx. “The longer you live, the more interesting life gets, and yet many of the parts involve carrying trays and putting lamb chops down in front of the leading man.”

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