Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ida Lupino

For this blog I decided to go a little old school and pay homage to the incredibly significant yet depressingly seldom mentioned Ida Lupino.  Ida came from a family of performers who all were relatively well known in their respective fields.  She started as an actress and within 10 years was starring opposite Humphrey Bogart (most notably in a film that made them both household names).  Shortly after this Ida was suspended by the studio system for “turning down a role” and instead of quietly taking her timeout quietly, she started a production company with her then husband Collier Young.  Within this production company she put on the hats of screenwriter, producer, and then eventually film director when the original director had a heart attack mid-production on one of her company’s projects.  The film was relatively well received which, combined with her production company, allowed her to continue making films.

What I find significant about Ida Lupino is not just that she was the only female director of her time, but the films that she choose to make.  The film she took over was about a young girl who was manipulated by her worldly lover into giving up their child and then she is driven through grief to kidnap another child, the second project she directed is about an up-and-coming star dancer who finds out that she has contracted polio, Ida’s third project was about a newly engaged girl who gets raped on her way home from work and the psychological trauma that this rape causes.  All of these stories were incredibly atypical of 1940s. I feel that she epitomizes the auteur theory because Ida Lupino made movies centering around issues that the majority of the society she lived in never even acknowledged.

 2) Ware, Susan, and Radcliffe Institute. Notable American women: a biographical dictionary completing the twentieth century. Belknap Pr, 2004. Print.

Julie Taymor

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.”

Works Cited:

Thomson, Anne. "Taymor flies 'Across the Universe'." Variety 6 September 2007: n. pag. Web. 29 Apr 2011. <>.

Ebert, Rodger. "Across the Universe." Chicago Times 14 September 2007: n. pag. Web. 28 Apr 2011. <>.

Alice Wu’s “Saving Face”

‘“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.


Redding/Brownworth_ZimmermanandSaalfield reading

Nia Vardalos

Antonia Eugenia "Nia" Vardalos is a Canadian-American actress, screenwriter, director, and producer. Her most notable work was My Big Fat Greek Wedding which was nominated in 2002 for an Academy Award. The wildly succesful independent film was loosely based on her own personal when her husband Ian Gomez, converted to the Greek Orthodox religion to marry her.
Vardalos started out as an actress, working small roles on some popular television shows such as The Drew Carey Show, but went on to write her own movies and a spin off on television. In addition to My Big Fat Greek Wedding Vardalos has also written Connie and Carla, a musical about two women pretending to be drag queens,and My Life in Ruins, about a misguided
tour-guide travelling around Greece.
As a women, Vardalos and her view on family, religion and love and extremely different from a mans perspective. Instead of writing about dramatic things, Vardalos prefers to write about the things shes experiences best in her own life, about large families and looking for love while adding a little bit of dramatic flair to her movies. "There’s a big wide shot when Connie and Carla are singing and my whole family is right across the audience, of course, mugging for the camera. That’s where it comes from. I’m so lucky. They do actually exist, these twenty-seven first cousins who will call me up and say, “Don’t wear your hair like that. You’re not a rock star. Get real.” By writing from experience Vardalos is able to escape the 'cheesy'feeling most romantic comedies are attributed. Women, real women are able to see themselves in Vardalos characters who are not extremely beautiful nor are they .
Theyre real women which is incredibly appealing."My favorite thing in the world is when people come up to me on the street and say “I am you. I am Israeli and I married a man from Scotland.” I love hearing everyone’s story. Everybody feels like every woman and every man. That’s why we all relate to Oprah. I think so. I do. I am a black woman."

Vardalos's movies have not all been well received however. After her hit movie,My Big Fat Greek Wedding,her movies were critically panned for being 'too simialer' to her first major hit. Her weight has also drummed up criticism.Pressured to lose weight because of the medias comments,Vardalos lost 40lbs but which then out shined all her accomplishments."Just 40 pounds of fat now gone from my body, but wow, it's pretty much all I get asked about. In the last year, I got to star in a movie, wrote and directed my next one, and adopted a three year old from American Foster Care. But guess what I'm asked- how did I lose the weight?"

"Socially, the issue of men's weight is simply not a big deal. Let's face it: Russell Crowe is fat and no one ever talks about it. Alec Baldwin just orders his suits a size bigger and we continue to swoon."

Lisa Cholodhttp: She's alright

Lisa Cholodenko is a present day film director/writer, whose most recent film "The kids are alright", starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, is nominated for four Oscars. Cholodenko studdied at Columbia University Film School, where she recieved her MFA. while there she created her first award winning short film "Dinner Party". Cholodenko then went on to create "High Art" and "Laurel Canyon"; "High Art" one the National Society of Film Critics award for Ally Sheedy's performance and The Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at Sundance. Both these films premiered at Cannes Director's Fortnight.

In "The kids Are Alright" Cholodenko shares the story of two children who are conceived by artificial insemination, who go looking for their birth father and then bring him into their family life.
Cholodenko and her longtime girlfriend Wendy have a son by a sperm donor, the situation a springboard for the movie, which is dedicated 'to Wendy and Calder', Calder, the son of the two women in real life.

In this particular movie Cholodenko's role as Auteur is extremely apparent, she looks at this movie as a extension of her life. Having said that, being in the film industry is no piece of cake, and to have a woman who is also a lesbian, making great movies is radical, if we want to change the way that women should be represented in and out of film. “Changing how we see images [and changing how we make images] is clearly one way to change the world” (Hooks, 6). linked are interviews with the cast about Cholodenko herself, and about the movie.

Work Sited

Tina Fey

Tina Fey is arguably the most iconic New York comedian of our generation. Most recently she has been commended for her uncanny portrayal of Sarah Palin and, of course, her multiple-emmy award winning television series, 30 Rock. But Tina's new memior "Bossypants" graciously reminded me, over this spring break, that what Tina Fey does best is write. A self-declaring feminist, Tina is the perfect choice to focus on for this assignment.
Tina started out preforming at Second City in Chicago where she met fellow entertainers such as Amy Pholer and Steve Carrell. Second City is legendary for producing some of the most hilarious and well-known comedians of our time and Fey is no exception. What really put Tina on the map, for 30 Rock and otherwise, was her impersonation of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Diablo Cody and her Juno

Brook Busey also known as Diablo Cody (awesome pen name isn't it?) is an American screen writer mostly known for her very successful movie, Juno. One could say that Diablo's journey to becoming a screen writer has been more than unusual. Brook Busey journey to becoming a screen writer could have very well began with blogging. Keeping blogs allowed her to have a creative writing outlet which later turned into authoring a successful memoir. Her resume is graced by the experiance of working as a columnist for Entertainment Weekly, City Pages and Jane magazine. Her talent for creative writing was transformed into various blogs. These very same blogs led her to being signed with Gotham Books to publish Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, a memoir based on her experiances as a full time stripper. Diablo is mostly known however for Juno and United States of Tara, a television series about a suburban wife with a disasociate disorder.

Diablo has admited that over the course of writing the script of Juno, she was covinced that it will never be produced into a movie. Perhaps being this cynical allowed her to trurly create an authentic story with characters almost plucked out of real life.
The movie presents the story of Juno MacGuff, a sixteen year old teenager who begifted with the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy. Juno is faced with the dilema of accepting the coming of her early adulthood by either keeping the pregnancy or getting an abortion. Facing this enormous presure of an adulthood and social pressure from her fellow teenagers, Juno contemplates getting the pregnancy aborted. However ultimately, she has a change of heart in the last minute and decides to keep the baby and later give it up for an adoption.
Diablo Cody drew inspiration from her own experiance as a high school student. She abased of the characters of juno in the image of her real high school firends. Diablo sought out stories of other adoption and birth parents. She also drew on experiances of adoptee children. She saw Juno as an extension of her. Jason Reitman beign the film director allowed a great level of input from Diablo. She was on the set day in and day out. Perhaps it was this colaboration and “micromanagment” from Diablo that made Juno such a great movie. (moviefone)
Juno debuted on the movie screens of America in 2007. It quickly became favoured by the movie critics left and right. It had a smashing financial success as well. Juno's success was clearly evidant by the multitude of nominations and awards being given out. Wheater it was the Academy Awards, the Globes or its British and Canadian counterparts, Juno performed greatly in each of these venues.

Bell Hooks in Reel to Reel: Race, Sex, and Class, asserts that “movies do not merely offer us the opportunity to reimagine the culture we most intimetly know on screen, they make culture,”(Hooks 9) perhaps that's exactly what happened with Juno. For decades, teenage centered movies about highschool life revolved around a class sturcutred society, where the Jocks and the cheerleaders dominated over the nerds, the goths, the geeks and every other sub class of high school society. These movies centered on the jocks and the cheerleders and their dilemas, all other groups were either used as a story fill ins. The rarely were the center of the story. Was this really the state of society in high schools throughout the US? Most likely not, but that's what was schowed down our throats. The magical stories of the jocks and the cheerleaders. Juno was successful because it was authentic by not telling a story of a WASP cheerleader impregnated by the captain of the football team. Following Juno' debut, I would argue that the industry of the teenage drama/comdy movies has shifted to telling of the stories of characters that vast majority of people in US can actually relate to. You know, not everybody was the head cheerleader or the football captain; to surprise fo the movie studios we were: math geeks, goths, skateboarder punks, the comic books nerds etc. Juno broke that mold in the mainstream movies in America.

When you watch these high school movies coming out today, they're portrayed as horndogs, as wolverines, as these desperate, horny, oily creatures. And the guys I knew weren't like that at all. They were just cowed by me.”
-Diablo Cody (moviefone)
Juno deviated from the common themes that are ever present in most the genre of “Pregnant teenager” movies. Juno was characterised as an independent, confident and intelligent ableit immuture girl. She was a normal teenage highschooler with an imperfect family (stepmother in the picture) and a host of other problems. The movie dealt with the themes of fatherhood and relationships at large.
In some ways, Juno is a femminist movie. It portrays the character of Juno as a strong, confident and independent female teenager who deals with the situation of her unplanned pregnancy all by herself. Juno doesn't allow any input from her partner in crime, Paulie, in regards with how to deal with the unplanned pregnancy. He is cast away as decision maker altogether. Vanessa and Mark, the future adoptive parents of Juno's baby eventually split up, thus invalidating the adoption contract with Juno. Mark seeing as he is not ready to be a father leaves Vanessa. Juno however isn't detered by this. She decides to still give up her baby for adoption to Vannessa if she is still in for it. (Schalafly)
The movie subtely suggests that the presence of a father is uneeded and not a hinderance to having kids anymore. It dethrones the male figurehead as the head of the family, much less a needed or /wanted/ component of the modern day American family unit.

“Changing how we see images is clearly one way to change the world”
-Bell Hooks (Hooks 6)

While perhaps Juno isn't trying to turn our world upside down, but it certainly breaks away from the mainstream to show an authentic slice out of the life of an American high school teenager. It subtely shows us that the traditional marriage/family never really was as prevelant as we were led to believe. Nothing is perfect, even those “imperfect families” ( Vanessa as a single mom) are fine and quite common in US. Juno was about portrayal of the “imperfections” and authenticism.


Hooks, Bell “Reel to Reel; Race, Class and Sex at the Movies”. 1996. Routledge. New York. NY

I edited the post to add quotes and sources.

Salaam Bombay : Auteur Meera Nair

The year 2010 saw a dramatic increase in use of 3-D technology in filmmaking after the box office hit of Avatar but when will the “status” of women filmmakers will improve? In 2009, there were 217 million moviegoers. Among them, 113 millions of the moviegoers were women and 104 million of the moviegoers were men (WMM). However, there are only few films that focuses on women’s story and there are only few film festivals throughout the world which dedicate in showing the work of women directors. Facts about the percentage of women in film behind the camera are really discouraging. For instance, The Celluloid Ceiling 2007 report states that, women accounted for 6% of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films released in 2007. In Bell Hooks essay Making Movie Magic describes that the movies provide the shared experience which audiences can relate to and initiate a dialogue about charged issues. But whose experiences have been highlighted in most movies and who writes and directs most of these movies? The sole answer is men. No wonder there are only few films focused on women.

Being frustrated with this vicious circle of male dominance in all most every sector, few females have been successful in establishing their image in filmmaking and actively involved in fighting over the rights of women and other minorities. Like Catherine Saalfield, Meera Nair combines documentary work with an activist agenda. She started her career with four television documentaries. Her films, Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding and the Namesake illuminate the ambiguities of immigrant experience and raises issues about race, class, sexuality, intergenerational strive and also highlight the conflicts between modern and traditional cultures.

“Salaam Bombay” won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and also earned the nomination for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Salaam Bombay as the title implies is set in the streets of Bombay. Similar to Broken Mirrors that Maggie Humm talks about in her essay, Salaam Bombay also dives into the daily interactions of prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers in streets of Bombay (92). Maggie Humm has also indicated what she sees as the advantages for feminist film theory of paying attention to feminist literary theory on the subject of authorship(98). Nair wanted to create unmediated, authentic kind of cinema, capture and document the exordinaryness of ordinary life and to represent the unrepresented. Salaam Bombay took on feminist issues like human trafficking, abuse and violence against women.Impressively, this film was shot entirely on location , and the actors seem very natural. In the opening credits, the actors' names are preceded by the word "introducing," so it is clear that it is their first feature film. In fact, all but one of the actors are non-professionals

Nair also explain in an interview with Cinema Diaspora that how lack of audiences for documentary lead her to create Salaam Bombay as fiction. Some reviews on Salaam bombay criticized her work as the misrepresentation of child labor. But her work had direct impact on Indian government policies on street kids (Cinema Diaspora).

Works cited:
Bell Hooks, Making Movie Magic
Judith Redding and Victoria A Bronsworth, Catherine Saalfield: Art and Activism
Maggie Humm, Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film
interview with Cinema Diaspora

Samira Makhmalbaf

Samira Makhmalbaf is an internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker and script writer. She started to learn cinema in the Mohhmalbaf Film House when she was 14 years old. At the age of 17, she had already directed two videos. She directed the movie called The Apple when she was 18 years old. She becomes the youngest director in the world participating in the official section of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. She also won Sutherland Trophy of London Film Festival for The Apple in 1998.
The Apple is a film that reflects the discrimination women face in a patriarchal society. An unemployed father and a blind mother locked their twin daughters up for more than 10 years. The daughters are never allowed out. As a result, they can’t communicate and behave like the children who are at the same age. The welfare officer releases the children with the help of the neighbors and encourages the children to play outside and make friends. The officer locks their parents inside their home as punishment. The children make friends with two neighborhood girls and walk around the city with them. When they return, the officer asks them to open the door to release their parents. At the end, the father takes the children to buy a watch. The father holds their hands and walk away from the camera. It is the first time, we see they walking freely together in the street.
Unlike some filmmakers, Makhmalbaf uses the camera to reflect the serious issue in Iranian society. She creates “new awareness of standpoint and accountability “(Hooks, P7). The mistreatment of these two young girls is representing the female experience in a historically patriarchal country. The father refuses to allow his daughters go out is a symbol of oppression of women. At the same time, two young girls also act as a symbol of women pursuit happiness and freedom. They follow a young boy who hangs an apple and walk around the city with another two girls after they go out. The young girls and also the women in Iran need more opportunity to know more about the outside world and pursuit their happiness.

Makhmalbaf not only makes movies to relate the experience of women, but also to encourage women to fight for their rights and freedom. She has been important like some female directors, such as Catherine and Debra Zimmerman. They draw attention to women. They know that “a major problem, even today, is convincing men that films by and about women are important.” (Brownworht, P265) They all call for more opportunities for women filmmakers to get their work before the general public. “Changing how we see images [and changing how we make images] is clearly one way to change the world.” (Hooks, P6)

Gurinder Chadha

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.

Trailer of Bend It Like Beckham:

Works Cited

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 .

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation is an independent film directed by Sofia Coppola about two Americans in Japan lost in their own ways of life and for this reason, they bond with each other. In the two weeks they spend with each other they grow closer. They are both lacking an emotional connection with their significant others, which they find within each other. Bob is an older man, he is a well known actor in America and has gone to Japan for business, to shoot a commercial for a whiskey. Bob misses his son's birthday while away and feels disconnected from his wife. Charlotte is a recent college graduate who is struggling with finding a career with herself and has tagged along with her photographer husband for a job in Japan. However he is so busy with work he cannot spend time with her. 

The subtleties in this film makes it very special. Throughout the movie, Coppola eludes to the fact that these Bob and Charlotte have a connection, more than friends. Coppola carefully controls how much interaction and the extent of interaction between the two characters. In the article, Tokyo Story, it perfectly states that "They are both [Charlotte and Bob] lost and vulnerable, and despite their age gap, they bond in a romantic — though not sexual — way." There are several scenes where both characters are physically close to each other but there is never anything sexual between them. In one scene, Bob carries Charlotte back to her hotel room and tucks her in after a night of partying with Charlotte's friends. And in another they are both laying in the same bed together, discussing life and marriage. They turn towards each other and Bob touches Charlotte's feet but that is as much physically interaction there is. It's just as simple as two people trying to figure things out. Although both characters like each other, neither make any move to show their feelings until the end of the movie when Bob kisses Charlotte before he leaves Japan to return home.

This film is powerful in the sense that it makes the viewer think and analyse the characters' situations and how these small connections affect our lives. The scene especially at the end, Bob whispers something in Charlotte's ear but we cannot hear what it is. Hooks says in Making Movie Magic, "And even though most folks will say they go to the movies to be entertained, if the truth be told, lots of us, myself included, go to the movies to learn stuff. Often what we learn is life transforming in some way." It is left for the viewer to make out the rest because nothing it blatantly being shoved down our throats. This movie can transform the way we as viewers and as people in society think about our own lives and our own encounters with other people.

Coppola was determined to make the film her way. In the same article of Tokyo Story, she said, “I didn’t want to make something I’d have to change,” Coppola remarks. “I had an idea of what I wanted to make, and I wanted to not have a boss. It’s hard to get final cut, but it was very important to me to have the freedom to do [the film] the way I wanted.” This film was very personal to her and Coppola was sure she did not want to compromise her film direction or the story.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lisa Cholodenko

The Kids Are All Right Trailer

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.

Works Cited:

Mark Ruffalo interview

Lisa Cholodenko interview

Cholodenko interview

New York Times

Auteur interview

The Birth of "American Psycho:" A Perspective Into Mary Harron.

What makes a female filmmaker an outstanding filmmaker? Is it the way in which she direct her films? Is it the fundamental values that she is instilled with? Is it the particularly unique sense of direction that empowers her on set? Mary Harron, a Canadian filmmaker once said, "I like subjects that are enigmatic and contradictory, ... and expressed these interesting contradictions between something we associate with shame and sexual oppression, something sinister, something hidden, powerful...." In other words, Harron argues that female filmmakers are unique in the sense that they bring forth feministic ideals and morals through their films and execute a parallel connection between the audience and the protagonists they follow. My written discourse attempts to focus the spotlight on Mary Harron and uses auteur theory to understand Harron's perspective within her 2000 psychological thriller, "American Psycho," starring Christian Bale.

Prior to engaging my analysis, I would like to dissect the apartment scene from "American Psycho" in order to help establish the film's chilling atmosphere that clouds the idea of women oppression. When the scene begins, Harron, gives a medium-close up shot of Jean facing away from the intended audience as she suddenly turns her focus from Bateman’s eloquent view of the adjacent and opposing high rises towards Bateman himself. The camera suddenly captures Bateman as he offers Jean sorbet and turns his attention to the inside of his refrigerator. During this moment in spatial and temporal continuity, we are shown a quick point of view shot of inside Bateman’s refrigerator through his eyes showing us a severed, decayed, bagged head of a woman resting next to the pint of sorbet in which Bateman gladly acquires. As the audience, we perceive the event as that of surprised. Why? One reason is possibly because we have been exposed to decapitated head within the refrigerator that has occurred. This short-lived segment has taken us by surprise. However, we are left to question what is possibly going to happen next? We not only understand through this point of view shot that Bateman is clearly a psychotic mess by being able to obtain a pint of a sorbet from his refrigerator and still maintain a gleeful attitude about the situation at hand, but we are also alerted at the fact that Jean remains oblivious to the decapitated head herself.

Now one would ask themselves this question. What would film critics think of this scene? Of course Maggie Humm would second Harron in her essay, "Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film," as she states, "feminist literary theory is extensive and reflective, receptive to all those nauances of framing, inflection and authorial viewpoint. No concept of gendered media representation can function without a concept of authorship. (92)" With this in mind, we could deduce that "American Psycho" does not actually convey what is objectively displayed on screen. Harron, instead uses Bale's character of Paul Bateman as a prime example of the conflicting dichotomy between one's confinement to masculinity roles and the desire to reflect upon one's own feminist existence. In other words, Harron uses "American Psycho" to evoke the conformity to and disconnection from insatiable erotic voyeurism. To this end, we could argue this because it has been a recurring theme throughout the entirety of the film ranging from Bateman's desensitized use of sheer, physical brutality towards prostitutes to his conscious desire for yearning love and affection.

Harron's underlying struggle with self conformity versus liberation depicted in "American Psycho" also provides basis for gynocentrism, or as Humm defines it, "the separation of the female way of thingkin, and a recognition that women's experiences have been effectively silenced by a masculine culture. (95)" Humm establishes truth beyond a reasonable doubt as Harron does allow for the male protagonist to satisfy his uncontrollable blood lust all the while allowing his unjustifiable actions to go without say or punishment despite his desire to willingly break free. On another interesting note, Harron herself becomes the victim of her own creation on an authorial level. In her critical essay, Remembering "Barbie Nation": An Interview with Susan Stern," Stern states that "Mary Harron, director of American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol and Paul Thomas Anderson both had critically acclaimed first features. But Harron was virtually ignored, while Anderson was hailed "new talent bursting on-screen." (195)" That is the true meaning of irony. Harron's ruined image could be frowned upon by most and argued by feminist literary theory that despite the fact that she was shunned as a filmmaker, Harron was able to effectively address the experience of women through visual cinema and interpretation. In addition, "feminist literary critics have already made a firm decision that gender shapes sinature and that there is an aesthetic difference in the way in which gendered signatures write. (110)"

“You suffer rejection, and you think, ‘Wow, I must really suck.’ Then you get into a group, and you realize it’s about something bigger than you. As a group, women filmmakers have been quiet for a long time. Now it’s time to raise consciousness, to say to people, ‘Look at what you’re seeing. At the end of the year, how many of the films that you’ve seen have been directed by men? All but one? Think about that.’”
- director Nancy Savoca

Work Cited

Humm, Maggie. "Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film." Feminism and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1997. 90-110. Print.

Stern, Susan. "Remembering "Barbie Nation:" An Interview with Susan Stern." Looking Across the Lens: Women's Studies and Film. New York: Feminist, 2002. 189-95. Print.

Phillips, Jennifer. "Unreliable Narration in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho: Interaction between Narrative Form and Thematic Content." Current Narratives. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. .

Woman in Hollywood

“Whether we call it “willing suspension of disbelief” or just plain submission, in the darkness of the theatre most audiences choose to give themselves over, if only for a time, to the images depicted and the imaginations that have created those images.” (Hooks 3) When discussing classic, almost cult movies of the ’80’s and ’90’s you would undoubtedly come across a movie or two where the director has done exactly what Hooks mentions; create images using their imagination carrying the audience into submission of their reality.

Amy Heckerling is a director that can accomplish this. In the 80’s she was one of only a handful of American female directors (alongside the likes of Penny Marshall, Martha Coolidge, Susan Seidelman and Penelope Spheeris) that were allowed to direct big budget box office movies. As a matter of fact, Siedelman discusses how there were only 9 women directors at the time she began directing that were making movies in the 80‘s. (Directors on Directing) Heckerling’s first movie, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, became a cult classic as well as becoming the first of what we now call the teen movie genre. Fast Times At Ridgemont High is funny and its characters cover all of the usual High School tropes, but it’s also quite serious about the various meanings and pressures of High School kids “coming of age.” Despite going on to be popular amongst the viewers, the critics panned the movie. Rodger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times, called the movie a “scuz-pit of a movie” in his review. He even went on to say “The makers of ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High’ have an absolute gift for taking potentially funny situations and turning them into general embarrassment. They’re tone-deaf.” Despite this, Fast Times went on to gross more than $27 million for Universal Pictures, more than 6 times its original $4.5 million budget.

“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.” (Hooks 2) Heckerling’s movies brought about much conversation of the realities of High School in the 80’s and they were so realistic, that they transcended into the 90’s and even today. "Few filmmakers are as in touch with their inner teenager as Amy Heckerling, even if her own experience is diametrically opposed to those of the California teens in her best films." (Donadoni) Heckerling was born in the Bronx to working class parents. She attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan and went on to College at NYU. Being aware of the stereotypes of women directors in Hollywood, she never let it deter her and even used it to challenge her career choice.

Heckerling went on to make National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) which grossed $75 million; Look Who’s Talking in (1989) which grossed $297 Million, from an original budget of $7.5 million; and Look Who’s Talking Too (1990) which grossed $47 million. All Of these were critic box office bombs even though they were all profitable movies for the movie houses. As a female director, Heckerling had always found it hard to persuade Hollywood to back her projects. She said her ‘trick’ was to always have one movie in the can so that there was always a question and movie houses were willing to take a chance on her projects. (Directors on Directing)

In 1995, Heckerling went back to what she became known for and directed her biggest critically acclaimed movie to date, Clueless starring then unknown Alicia Silverstone. It was another High School movie filled with teen tropes like the ‘airhead blonde fashion plate teen’ that she made famous. The film became a surprise sleeper hit of 1995 grossing over $11 million its opening week and over $56 million overall. That’s almost 3 times its original $20 million budget. In 2008 Entertainment Weekly named Clueless the 19th best comedy of the past 25 years.

While not nominated for an Oscar in her career to date, Heckerling wrote and directed Look Who’s Talking, winning her a People's Choice Award for Best Comedy in 1982. In 1998, Heckerling received the Franklin J. Shaffner Medal from the American Film Institute (think Planet Of The Apes and Patton) and in 1999, she received the Crystal Award from Women In Film.

Works Cited
Hooks, Bell “Reel to Reel; race, class and sex at the movies”. 1996. Routledge. New York. NY (

Donadoni, Serena. "Hormonal pyrotechnics 101: Amy Heckerling on life, love and other high-school explosives.", Metro Times, July 26, 2000. Accessed February 10, 2008.

"Clueless, Alicia Silverstone, ... | The Comedy 25: The Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. Time.,,20221235_7,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-03

Reel Women Media. Directors on Directing #5. 2008. Video. (

Under The Skin; Carine Adler

Carine Adler was in her 40's when she wrote and directed "Under The Skin".
"Adler has always worked with themes of 'dramatic sexual situations' in her previous short films. One of her inspirations for Under The Skin was a book called Mother, Madonna, Whore by Dr. Estela Welldon. Instead of engaging the cast and crew in long, analytical feminist discussions, she chose actors and a DP who could instinctively gravitate to a raw, emotional style."

Released in 1997, Adler's film is structured around tropes of alienation, sexual power, and power dynamic. Emotional difficulty, insecurity, rage, and guilt drive the film's young female protagonist. Iris is essential to the film's structure, she acts as a catalyst for plot; much of the film's intrigue is constructed through the characters reactions to Iris' impulsivity to the spinning out from the film's centricity of female sexuality. "Under The Skin" deals heavily in relationships.
"Reviewers have described Under The Skin as a 'rare', unnerving, and brilliant exploration of a young woman's 'sexual odyssey' . It is woman-centered, focusing on maternal-daughter, sister-sister relations, language and the formation of the feminine subject and the female body as expressions of conflicts over femininity and social conformity."
Iris' internal struggle is the root of her attitude of the hostility and hyper sexual behavior. Though her actions are pleas for help of a scared girl, she's written off as a whore in typical tradition.
Iris' self-destruction makes her identifiable, she incites pity and empathy in the audience, and she is representative of female pain. Iris is powerful, the root of the film's drama and the reckless initiator of cinematic climax. In this way, "Under The Skin" can be interpreted as an uniquely female narrative and analyzed within the realm of 'Gynocriticism' of feminist film theory.
As feminist critic Josephine Donovan asserted;
"'Gynocriticism is a way of assessing works of art specifically in relation to the interests and desires of involves a separate female way of thinking, and a recognition that woman's experience has been effectively silenced by masculine culture." (95 Humm)

"Under the Skin is her debut feature film. It's such idea, to have an older woman deliver such a raw, visceral film about fucking. It's also probably one of the reasons that the film has so much depth and wisdom on the subject."

Under the Skin - All We Do is F**K

works cited:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

XXY - Movie Trailer

Lucia Puenzo: XXY

“A tough, engaging, extremely touching work of cinema.”
Richard James Harris /The Hollywood Reporter

”Films are powerful. “They have power over us and we have no power over them.” (hooks, 3) Films do not know national boundaries, they transcend cultures. As Frank Capra said, “Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music.” Yearly, billions of dollars are spent in this extremely profitable industry and like so many others it remains highly unbalanced between women and men. As stated in The National Women’s History Museum, “Women have been central to the film industry since its inception in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From Nickelodeons to full-length feature films and from silent films to talkies, as writers, directors, actors, and audience members, women have influenced the trajectory of the film industry.” (Women in Early Film)

Lucia Puenzo is an Argentinian author and film director. She studied literature at the University of Buenos Aires, followed by the National Film Institute (INCAA). In 2007 Puenzo directed her first film XXY. (Wikipedia)
XXY is an Argentinian drama that has won several awards including three awards at the 2008 Argentine Film Critics Association Awards, and the 2008 Goya award for Best Spanish Language Film. (Wikipedia) Lucia Puenzo wrote and directed this powerful film that is based on “Cinismo,” a short story.
Lucia Puenzo, through her film narrates the story of Alex; a 15 year old intersex, who lives on the coast of Uruguay with her parents. She has long taken medication to suppress the appearance of masculine traits and we observe all the changes that Alex goes through as the medications leave her body.She becomes angry and highly sexed.

Her parents cycle through denial, anxiety and panic. “As the movie slowly unfolds we learn new insights into how each member of the family has a very different relationship to Alex’s gender and sexual identity, especially now that she is beginning to manifest and sexual preferences.” (Feminema, 1) Her mother has researched the prospect of sex reassignment surgery thus she invites a prominent surgeon to remove the “offending member” so her “daughter” can become a phenotypic female.

In the 91 minutes of her film, Lucia Puenzo concerns herself with issues that are part of our society, but at the same time difficult to digest, or even think about. Through her film she introduces not just the difficulties of coming of age, common for all adolescents, but especially so for an intersex child. By taking it a few steps further, she brought to light problems and concerns that are created when one faces nature’s reality. Issues like this can be taboo in society and, “Whether we like it or not, cinema assumes a pedagogical role in the lives of many people.” (hooks, 2) Through her pen and later on through her camera, she tells a story of a family whose fear of social stigma motivates them to move. The embarrassment that they will certainly face drives them out of Buenos Aires, to an isolated village, simply to avoid questions from friends and relatives. Social stigma, the difficulties of coming of age (especially when you are like Alex), confusion of gender, biological sex, and sexual orientation that arises in intersex cases, conflicts within the protagonists’ selves and with each other, even parental authority, all are themes that are touched by Puenzo and her story. “In the movie everyone refers to Alex as “she” although throughout the movie the author and filmmaker makes clear that this is strongly debatable.” (Feminema, 1) The mother wants Alex to be “a girl” so badly. Her daughter looks like a girl, but has male genitals and she believes that she can decide her fate. “Parental authority…” Where does it stop? Who is deciding? Are these the only choices? Boy or girl? In a society that if one is far from the “norm” you are stigmatized…. Being male or female is…“socially enforced.

Although the cast is amazing, and Ricardo Darin is exceptional, the success of this film, belongs to the auteur-director, Lucia Puenzo. Usually, in films, actors’ creativity is non-existent. Directors are “telling the story.” Through their eyes we see; and what we see is what they want us to see. Directors are in control; by deciding the light, the frames, angles, or even a gesture they leave their personal impression throughout the movie. Lucia Puenzo breathed life into this film. From the start, Lucia Puenzo infuses the film with her creative freedom, showcasing her stance/viewpoint. She created XXY. When asked, “Literature and cinema have been borrowing elements from each other for many years, but they are still different worlds in so many ways. Being a novelist, what advantages or disadvantages did you face when you had to adapt ‘Cinismo’ to the screen?” She replied, “Everything, everywhere, all of them! It was very hard… must run a team. That’s a big challenge and a key difference between literature and cinema: solitude vs.teamwork.”

From the single dimension of still paper she brought her inspirations into a multi-dimensional frame by making them visual, with images, sounds and actions. Her pen, when writing the story, was replaced by her camera when directing it. Through her eyes she brought to life what had been simply ink on paper. “The camera work and lighting result in a sulky, poignant and most memorable film.” (Keely and the Blog) By bringing herself into her work, she approaches the topic with great sensitivity and understanding and “She casts light onto such neglected areas of social life.” (Keely and the Blog) She deliberately has the father say that Alex is “perfect” to challenge the viewer. “I was playing with such a strong word on purpose, almost to question what is perfection because in this society everything seems to be divided in a binary.” (Interview with Lucia Puenzo)
“This is yet another piquant and rewarding film from Argentina, one that stands alone as a glorious movie, but one that also would be wise to add to the film libraries of high school and college students and of patient resource facilities who deal with problems of sexual identity.” (Award Winning Independent and Foreign Films)

Works Cited
Feminema: “XXY” (2007): gender/sex mashup by Didion.
Film Movement. Award Winning Independent and Foreign Films.
hooks, bell. Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies. Taylor & Francis. 11-22-1996
Keely and the Blog. July 9 2010.
Realfic(c/t)ion. XXY: Interview with Lucia Puenzo. April 29, 2008.
The National Women’s History Museum. “Women in Early Film.”
Wikipedia “Lucia Puenzo”
Wikipedia “XXY”