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Girls on film, again.

Girls on film, again. (photo)

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The year can’t end until someone writes an essay decrying the lack of female directors, both in Hollywood and worldwide. This year, the honors go to the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis, with the bluntly titled “Women in the Seats but Not Behind the Camera.”

The statistics, as usual, are damning: Dargis points out precisely how many H’wood films this year directed by women — out of 600 or so movies released in New York this year, about 10% were female directed.

But the article’s also full of unpacked assumptions and declarations. For starters: is “Precious” really “the most passionately debated women’s picture in memory”? What makes it a “women’s picture” (and if the subject is female directors, what are we make of gay male director Lee Daniels)? Is it really true that the financial success of “New Moon” and “The Blind Side” is “good for women in film”? If so, why? Has conventional wisdom really dictated for years “that women don’t go to the movies and can’t open movies,” and if so, why do chick flicks exist?

In comparing the respective careers of Michael Mann and Kathryn Bigelow, isn’t it relevant that Bigelow’s financial track record in the ’90s and ’00s (specifically, the triple-fails of “Strange Days,” “The Weight of Water” and “K-19: The Widowmaker”) and lack of a huge, defining success at least in part explain her struggles (compared to Mann’s relatively profitable ’90s streak) and his success as much as institutional sexism? And how is it exactly that “The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines”? Aren’t there female geeks too?

This is the part where I tell you that I’m not actually sexist (something you’d hope would go without saying, but you never know) and that I understand and care about what Dargis is getting at. I’m just saying it’s time for this annual essayistic ritual to take a new leap into the land of pure journalism.

12112009_clairedenis.jpgFor example: Dargis dismisses the kind of arthouse movie she likes (and I do too!) as something “I bet you never heard about, much less saw, most of them,” but it dawned on me that six out of my nine favorite working female directors were French. And yes, those numbers are alarmingly small, but: what’s up with that statistical disproportionately? France isn’t generally noted for its exceptional progressivism in gender matters, so how’d that come about? Might Dargis’ sly suggestion that women might be doing badly in Hollywood because “any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination” — insinuating women just can’t play the hack game — actually bear fruit in the surplus of unconventional French female auteurs?

Another thought: I went to film school for a while at NYU, and I’d say the number of women in each class wasn’t more than 1/3. Given that NYU is notoriously willing to take anyone’s money if they can hurdle a certain academic bar, and generally regarded as one of the country’s premiere film schools, it’s hard to know what was up with that disproportionality (unless NYU itself is sexist in the very admissions process, which is hard to credit).

So, like, let’s send an actual reporter to go to the source (because, for better or worse, film schools are where a lot of directors pass through these days) and see what that’s about. Interview the women in the program, talk to them about their goals and ambitions, track them — do something to figure out what the gap in film school (and its greater margin behind the camera professionally) is about.

I know I’m just giving anecdotal evidence here, but that’s my point — I’m tired of reading this article every year, and I’d like to see some harder reporting. I’m just as interested in broadening up the number of voices in film; we have enough hack directors with no discernible directorial personality (male or female) around already.

[Photo: “Twilight: New Moon,” Summit Entertainment, 2009; Claire Denis]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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