2) Ware, Susan, and Radcliffe Institute. Notable American women: a biographical dictionary completing the twentieth century. Belknap Pr, 2004. Print.
Despite recent controversy over Julie Taymor and the “Spiderman” on Broadway debacle, she is in my opinion one of the best visual artists of the past few decades. I first gained interest in her when I saw her 2007 film “Across the Universe”. I watched the entire movie enthralled, but the best part was seeing the end credit fade onto the screen that said “Directed by Julie Taymor”. I was so excited to leave the movie inspired by the visual and auditory mastery, but I was just as excited to see that it had been directed by a woman.
Although it was my first time hearing about Taymor, she had already been accomplishing great career successes. She had already won a Tony for best costume design and was the first woman to win a Tony for direction of “The Lion King.” After such acclaim in the theatre world she made the transition into film where the only thing that rivaled her creativity was her persistence. “She's a fierce artist from the theater who believes in the power of her visual imagination. She will fight to the death to protect her art” (Thomson). When Revolution Studios’ chairman Joe Roth screened a shorter version of “Across the Universe” to an audience without Taymor’s knowledge, she didn’t let him get away with it. She fought to keep her cut as the final product that people would see and she succeeded.
Although there were mixed reviews of “Across the Universe”, it seemed like the well known critics were just as intrigued by it as I was. Rodger Ebert said that “Across the Universe” “is an audacious marriage of cutting-edge visual techniques, [and] heart-warming performances...” and even goes so far as to say that Taymor is a “choreographer” of visual images. The film also graced the top of the lists of notable critics as one of the best films of 2007.
In an interview Taymor describes her process as an inspiration of sorts. She is inspired by music, magazines and most importantly, words. “Words inspire me a lot to my visual imagery” says Taymor. But perhaps her ideology that I agree the most with, especially in this time where big budget movies seem to lack any artistic drive, is that cinema comes first. Yes, she was given 45 million to create this film, but it was spent to create a big budget film with an unexpected artistic and experimental motivation. She says “It’s got art in it, but not at the expense of entertainment.”
Ebert, Rodger. "Across the Universe." Chicago Times 14 September 2007: n. pag. Web. 28 Apr 2011. <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070913/REVIEWS/709130301>.
‘“I can’t separate my work into either art or activism,” said Saalfield.’ (Saalfield, 64) This quote would best describe the filmmaker Asian American filmmaker Alice Wu, and her feature film “Saving Face.”
Much like Catherine Saalfield with her works with Lesbian and Gay themes, Alice Wu’s rose to fame was
her script for Saving Face, a tale about a Chinese American woman about coming out, and falling in love for another Asian American woman, while her mom is mysteriously pregnant and being shunned by the Asian community. Her script won the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacific in Entertainment) screenwriting award, which was then made to an outstanding film on 2004. Her script and film was inspired by her own experience being a lesbian in an Asian community, as well as her mom’s middle age crisis.
“Defying colossal odds, she quit Microsoft and set out to do exactly that, giving herself five years to succeed.” (NY Times). She left everything on her journey to have her story told and be seen by millions of people. But being a triple minority, a woman, Asian and lesbian, the journey was pretty hard for Alice Wu, and I can imagine how much pressure she got when she decided to pursue filmmaking to get her script into a reality, with such subject matter. Having Asian women as main characters, with a gay theme, it would be hard to market it, let alone hard to actually gross revenue from it. This task would be very difficult for her, yet she still remained strong and dedicated to her goal despite the odds.
She was brought to many Hollywood studios to review her script in hope to get funded. But many wanted change her character’s race so white actors can play them, and some even wanted to change is from a lesbian story to heterosexual one. Wu decline all the changes, and kept on searching until she found the right producer to fund her movie.
She went on to Will Smith’s production company, which found the right producers at Sony to fund her project without changing and altering the story. But it still came with suggestions and requests, which Wu replied “These things are nonnegotiable..”’ (NY Times).
It took her exactly 5 years in succeeding in making her movie into a reality, which almost came close to breaking her promise she said to herself.
The movie won various awards, “Breakthrough Director” at Gotham Awards, “Viewer’s choice & Best Actress” at the Golden Horse Film Festival. It was featured in Sundance and Toronto film festival. It was a success overall.
When I first saw the movie, I was surprised that it had a lesbian story line, which I didn’t read the description prior (only just having known it was a success as an indie film), and other subject matter. But I as I went on to watch the whole movie, it was a heart warming romantic comedy that I really enjoyed. It was really honest and powerful in telling the story about an Asian woman coming out, and the reaction of the parent and the community who aren't fond of gays. This story was very relatable to anyone with the same situation.
Now I know why Will Smith backed this movie up. Alice Wu was making statement, even with gender, race and sexual orientation, you can still make it as long as you word hard to get it. It may be a harder route, but it isn't impossible. She sets a great example to anyone who aspire to be a filmmaker.
Gurinder Chadha sounds like a nice spicy Indian dish, but it really is the name of a Indian director that is based in the U.K. Now, hearing her name rings no bells for anyone, but she received critical acclaim for her movies like Bend It like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. Yes, the movie that was put Keira Knightley in the spotlight, and first brought famous Indian actress Aishwarya Rai to American audiences. She was, “born in Nairobi. Chadha was raised in West London and graduated from the University of East Anglia.” (Wikipedia) What is interesting about her movies is the ability to try to connect with a central character that wants to break from family tradition, as seen in the movie Bend it Like Beckham. The main character Jess, played by Parminder Nagra, wants to play soccer. But her parents do not allow this, because she is a woman. It is only through her friend Jules, played by Keira Knightley, that she is propelled into playing and finding an opportunity to play which enables her to get an opportunity to play in the America.
Most of her movies try to express that necessity to just embrace difference, rather than shun from it. It is similar to what Bell Hooks writes about movies when she states,
“Movies not only provide a narrative for specific discourses of race, sex, and class, they provide a shared experience, a common starting point from which diverse audiences can dialogue about these charged issues… While audiences are clearly not passive and are able to pics and choose, it is simultaneously true that there are certain “received” messages that are rarely mediated by the will of the audience.” (2,3)
Chadha’s thinking comes from “her affinity for stories about families was also attributed to her love for It’s a Wonderful Life. (Wikipedia) You see this in Bend It Like Beckham there is a scene showing comparisons of family life between Jess and Jules. Jules’ family being more liberal about playing soccer and dating, while Jess is a traditional family that prefers to have Jess go to school but be more of a housewife, with husband in tow. Race and gender do come into play, but so much. It is more of a focus of change though following one’s dreams and aspirations. Her ability, as an auteur, to tell a story about breaking past tradition is interesting, because she doesn’t force in on the audience to watch her point. Her point being that change, if any, comes from two places. The first place is the family, and the necessity to allow the audience to understand the identity of the characters. This gives the character space to search for a new identity, beyond the one that confines them by culture and tradition. The second is the situations that propel the character to want that change.
In an interview with Bafta, she was asked if, “She felt constrained in her career by labels place upon you, whether It be “female director” or “Anglo Asian filmmaker”?” to which she answered, “I think in America they don’t look at it like that. They think ‘do your films make money?’, and that’s the category. You’re either in that category and bring audiences in, or you win awards and the critical impact, but expect to make much money.” (Bafta) She is not trying to promote being a woman director or anything for that matter. She tries to just be honest about what family is, and the necessity for independence from a set tradition.
Bafta. 2008. 2008
Bend It Like Beckham. Dir. Gurinder Chadha. Perf. Keira Knightley and Nagra Parminder. 2003.
Hooks, Bell. "Introduction Making Movie Magic." (n.d.).
"Wikipedia." 15 April 2011. Wikipedia. 15 April 2011
Lisa Cholodenko is an American screenwriter and director who is probably best known for the 2010 film The Kids Are All Right. This film was nominated for four Academy Awards including best picture and stars Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. The film is about a lesbian couple that each had a child with the same sperm donor. The kids bring the man into their family lives and the film centers on what happens as this man becomes a part of their family. When thinking of the auteur theory and its use in film Humm says it is explained as “the self-expressive signatures of Hollywood directors rather than a collection of the ideas to which these signatures were signed.”(Page 96). Cholodenko’s auteur approach to filming is more of a hands off system. In an interview, Mark Ruffalo explains what it was like working with Cholodenko when he said “Lisa is a rare director that knows actors, by the time you've finished your first week of shooting, probably know the characters better than the writer or the director. She creates a safe environment, and she casts well. She knows what to bring out of people.” Cholodenko says herself that “you have to be a very specific person to establish your career as an auteur.” She also says it can be hard as an auteur to find the people who can work with you and still keep your idea intact. It’s about finding the right funding and the right cast and crew.
One aspect that is definitely important to Cholodenko’s approach to filming is casting. She explains in an interview that casting was the toughest part of making this film because she was “painstaking about casting. I thought, if this isn't spot on, it isn't going to work.” Cholodenko wanted people who looked and felt real in their parts, not fake. The fact that this worked perfectly is easily seen in the film. Each character fits perfectly into their role and you truly believe you are getting a look into real lives.
Another thing to point out is that a movie like this normally doesn’t generate such good praise. When you hear that there is a movie out about a gay couple and their sperm donor you realize pretty quickly that this could be a very controversial subject. For me, the thing about this movie is that within minutes you find yourself forgetting about the fact that this is an unconventional family and begin to see that the same relationship issues exist across all families. In the Maggie Humm reading, funny enough, she actually mentions lesbianism and its use in films. Humm talks about lesbian continuum and how it is “the exploration of lesbian history and culture in which every woman can engage.” (Page 93). In The Kids Are All Right lesbian continuum is definitely seen because of how easily you can relate to these women.
It is important to point out just how long it took Cholodenko to make this movie. It took over five years with many rewrites and issues with funding. Cholodenko chose to go the independent route so she could have more artistic freedom. Most critics were very happy with the film but of course with any controversial subject you will always get the people who are unhappy. Cholodenko herself co-wrote this movie and is herself in a lesbian relationship and had a child through a sperm donor.
When thinking about this movie A.O. Scott says it best in a review when he says The Kids Are All Right “is outrageously funny without ever exaggerating for comic effect, and heartbreaking with only minimal melodramatic embellishment.” The main thing when it comes to Cholodenko as an auteur is the reality in this film. This seems like a real family and something that could happen anywhere. Bell Hooks says, “most audiences choose to give themselves over, if only for a time, to the images depicted and the imaginations that have created those images.” (Page 3). When you give yourself over to a movie like The Kids Are All Right the result is allowing yourself into the lives of an atypical American family and the issues they face.