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Hollywood’s Femme Fatality Rate

Hollywood’s Femme Fatality Rate (photo)

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In the mid-’70s, when women (among them Claudia Weill, Joan Micklin Silver, Joan Darling) were getting the chance to direct mainstream movies, Pauline Kael cautioned against expecting great things right away. Filmmakers needed a chance to learn and develop, she said, and there was always a chance they might not, or might simply become proficient hacks. It didn’t matter, she was quoted as saying, whether there was a king or a queen on top of the garbage heap.

Daphne Merkin’s profile of Nancy Meyers in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back was an attempt to claim that a Garbage Queen was a step forward. The trouble with the piece, as with almost every plight-of-women-in-film article, is that the relentless focus on Hollywood winds up saying that the women directors working outside the mainstream don’t exist.

The institutional sexism that still cripples Hollywood is appalling. When Mira Nair’s “Amelia” opened poorly at the box office, there was talk about how it had just become harder for all women directors to get big assignments. We remember the remarks — later hotly denied — from the Warner Bros. executive who declared no woman would ever again star in a WB release when Neil Jordan’s “The Brave One,” starring Jodie Foster, wasn’t a hit. Like the partnership at a law firm, or a slot on the board of directors, getting a chance to work in Hollywood is a chance to earn attention, clout and big money.

But treating the movies as if they were solely a business has, since the late ’70s when “Star Wars” showed the enormous profits to be made from blockbusters, been the main thing eroding the quality of American mainstream movies over the last 30 years. It’s not wrong for any filmmaker to want a shot at that kind of success. But this far into the game, any filmmaker, female or male, has got to realize the odds against doing good work there.

01192010_KathrynBigelow.jpgFor Merkin and all the other writers who have filed similar pieces, women making it behind the camera in Hollywood is a question of basic fairness. For film critics, who see good films ignored or buried as a matter of course, there’s something bigger at stake than gender parity atop the garbage heap — namely, the chance for talented directors to develop their own styles and do good work without having to worry about a mainstream increasingly geared towards spectacle and merchandising.

Merkin mentions the notable 2009 films from female directors, among them Jane Campion’s “Bright Star,” Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” and “Julie & Julia” directed by Nora Ephron or, as she might be called, Meyers Mach I. But the view of the article is expressed by John Burnham, executive vice-president at the talent agency ICM, who says, “There are about four women directors in the business, only two of whom are working.”

Merkin calls Burnham’s view cynical, but pretty much allows it to stand. And as an example of the myopia that affects Hollywood, it’s close to perfect. If it didn’t happen here, it didn’t happen.

Thinking of the women who made films in the last year, I came up with Claire Denis, Lucrecia Martel, Agnès Varda, Lynn Shelton, So Yong Kim, Catherine Breillat, Karyn Kusama, Havana Marking, Anne Fontaine, Drew Barrymore and Andrea Arnold. I’m sure I’m leaving out plenty of others. And that list doesn’t include other contemporary women directors like Sofia Coppola, Nicole Holofcener, Lynne Ramsay, Barbara Kopple, Darnell Martin, Stacy Cochran, Kasi Lemmons, Gillian Armstrong, Catherine Hardwicke, Allison Anders, Lynne Stopkewich, Kimberly Peirce and Patty Jenkins.

Those names carry their own untold stories, the years between projects (during which many got by on TV work), the films that didn’t get released, the projects that went to more established directors (to think we lost Lynne Ramsay’s “The Lovely Bones” only to get Peter Jackson’s disaster). But it’s not a list you come up with if your idea of a movie is limited to what’s at the multiplex.

What’s so insidious about making Nancy Meyers Hollywood’s little-engine-that-could is that her films present perhaps a particularly retrograde notion of womanhood.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.