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Posts Tagged ‘whip it’

I have been so bad about blogging lately, which is in part due to the fact that I have a big paper due soon, and I’ve been desperately trying not to procrastinate. The procrastination has won over, however, especially after I saw this article.  Written by Manohla Dargis, one of the NY Times film critics (and, I admit, my least favorite NY Times critic), this article discusses the lack of opportunities for female directors in Hollywood.  She cites to some pretty depressing statistics, not the least of which is that in the 81 years of the Academy Awards, only 3 women have been nominated for best director. (!!) None of them won. Organizations like The Women’s Media Center and the blog Women and Hollywood are vigilant about tracking these statistics.

It’s hard to know why women have fared so badly in Hollywood in the last few decades, though any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination. The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines. Even the so-called independent sector, with its ostensibly different players and values, hasn’t been much better, as we know from all the female directors who have made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival only to disappear. New digital technologies and the Internet have leveled the field — though usually it seems as if it’s sheer grit that pushes filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”) along the hard road from idea to distribution.

I recently wrote a law review article that discusses the idea of digital technology and its democratizing potential. (Soon to be published…) I think there’s a lot to be said for the fact that more women are starting to use new (cheaper) digital technologies to create their own films without the backing of a studio. These films always tend to be more interesting anyway. But, I think it’s insane that the studios haven’t caught on to the fact that women go see movies. And, many women are interested in more than cheesy romantic comedies. I enjoy rom-coms as much as the next girl, but I personally feel so refreshed when I go see a movie like Whip It! or Bright Star. Not to mention that it would be nice for younger girls to see role models on the screen, rather than just Bella and her dysfunctional relationship with Edward. (Sorry, at this point I feel like a Twilight reference is obligatory).  I could go on and on about the blatant discrimination that happens in Hollywood, but I’ll spare you.

What I would like to say, however, is that this year there has been a whole slew of films that are directed by women and are starring women. And, many of these movies are not your typical rom-coms (see Bright Star, Coco Avant Chanel, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Julie & Julia). Many of these movies and directors are getting Oscar buzz, but predictably, male-driven films like Up in the Air and Avatar threaten to pull ahead and woo the Academy with quirky style or crazy special effects (respectively).  Bright Star, Coco Avant Chanel, and Julie & Julia, I think, are the best three movies that I have seen all year. I am not advocating for the Academy to give the best director award to a woman, just because she’s a woman, but I think they should at least take it into account. And, this year seems to be the perfect year to do it. I also hope that the studios will get their heads out of the ground (to be kind) and look at how many both financially and critically successful films came out this year that were led by women. Next year, I hope to see even more…

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I saw Whip It over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised to see a female written, female directed, and female driven film that was smart, funny, and has appeal beyond women (my boyfriend loved it!). Whip It is Drew Barrymore’s first foray into directing (she also plays a supporting role) and stars Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, and Kristen Wiig. The film is the story of a teenager growing up in rural Texas, who is dying to escape her mother’s attempts at making her a beauty pageant queen. She makes it onto an Austin roller derby team, the Hurl Scouts, and the movie takes off from there.

Yes, the movie was predictable. Yes, the mother-daughter relationship was slightly cliche. But, the film was incredibly enjoyable, and it was refreshing to see women in such powerful roles, and not letting their lives revolve around men. Also, I could not be more obsessed with Ellen Page. She always plays the best characters.

I hope that Whip It is successful, so that studios don’t hesitate in producing more movies like it.

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