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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.

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Give Back

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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