Sunday, September 17, 2006

Matinee

When I was a teenager, I remember E! television. Much of it was the same crap we all know today, gossip and awards shows and general stupidity, but there was one really good show there. Mysteries and Scandals, hosted by AJ Benza. I was addicted to that show. I admit it, I like "True" Crime, documentaries and fiction. It's why I took the Criminology elective in High School. We got to watch a lot of those as course material. The first time I saw the Hollywoodland preview on a blog, I knew I'd have to see it as soon as possible. Shortly thereafter, I learned of an upcoming Black Dahlia film.

Today, I ventured forth from my comfortable Subterranean Cave (a lair deep beneath the storm shelters of Oklahoma City) to the movie theater for a double-feature. They were both playing in the same place, and spaced far enough for a lunch break.

I do not regret the expenditure of time and money, but I left the theater saddened. Not in the good, "I just watched well-done tragic story" way. No, this was the "I was feeling down during the previews" way.

You know why? Because each movie had five previews in front of it.

Not a single preview was for a movie with a female hero.

All the King's Men, Catch a Fire and The Last King of Scotland seem to be historically based, so yes, leeway is to be given there. I think out of the three of them there were two female characters, and both was The Girlfriend/Wife type.

Man of the Year is about a comedian who was successfully elected President after campaigning as a joke. Laura Linney seems to be the female lead, his wife (who didn't vote for him). No female campaign workers or politicians of enough note to be shown in the preview.

The Prestige looks pretty damned good. 19th Century Magicians. The female lead is a girlfriend.

A Good year is an uplifting story from the viewpoint of the man who finds an exotic foreign love interest as he discovers the true meaning of life.

The Departed (which aired in front of both movies) pissed me off because it's a modern era set undercover police drama with not only no female hero, but no female cops in the background! Not even in the Academy shots!!

And then we get to the last preview, which also aired in front of both movies. It was a post-apocalyptic story where every woman on the planet is infertile (They don't mention whether the men are shooting blanks or not) and have been for eighteen years now. It seems to be about trying to get a pregnant woman from the middle of the country to the coast in a world fraught with violence and danger and desperate people, so she can go someplace safe to have her kid. It looked promising, because they show Julianne Moore coming to get the male hero and enlist him into the cause. But she's not in any of the action/travel shots. The pregnant woman is simply there as a womb, a treasure to be moved from one spot to another. But hey, Moore could still be a hero, right? Well, the overview says One Man and dashes that hope. Oh, and the title is Children of Men.

Most of these are action movies. Not a one of them stars a woman. They just have women there as part of the plot.

And the two movies that I saw? Well, they are historical/true crime fiction so of course, the leads were male.

I liked both movies, they are good movies. I like watching movies with male leads.

Just not all the time.

Remember what I said before about maybe we'd be better off if the Wonder Woman movie wasn't made?

Well, fuck that. We need that movie, and we need it now. And we need it to make a bazillion bucks so that a bunch of knockoffs get made the next year.

Because this year, we got nothing. Movies like The Devil Wears Prada. Or action movies were male-led solo movies with love interests, or team movies with weak-ass token women who surrender leadership to the attractive male loner and misogynistic villainesses. My Super-Ex Girlfriend, a movie about a fucking supervillainess who was basically a romantic interest.

We had more than this in the 90s. We had a few kickass action heroines. Ellen Ripley, anyone? Sarah Connor? Hell, even those stock horror movie girls like Nieve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt were tough as nails and the story was centered on them. It should have grown from there. The cliches should have been smoothed out, the disrespectful parts should have been fixed. It should have gotten better. We should have more than we had then.

I shouldn't see ten previews without a single female lead. That's just not right.

(And Hollywoodland? Bring tissues.)

15 comments:

  1. Hollywood is fickle. After seeing the box office takes of Catwoman, Elektra, Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet, and Underworld, I'm sure many studios have jumped to the conclusion that "action movies with female leads do not make money" rather than "sucky movies do not make money."

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  2. [sarcastic]
    Frankly, I'm surprised that the theaters aren't packed with actions movies staring female leads. After all, the Hollywood formula is Guns+Explosions+T&A=$$$. Why hire an expensive male lead and then a love interest when you can pay less for a female star and have it all in one package!
    [/sarcastic]

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  3. I've noticed that too! I was struck by the complete dominance of men's movies the last few times I was in a theatre. There was not a single movie previewed that had any interest for me (and that's as a *white* woman). It was all about men (and I'm not just talking about action flicks.) It was surreal. Oh, but there's "John Tucker Must Die" and "Stick It" to keep us happy, right? And the frat boy flick..."Accepted"? That's got lots of chicks in it. (I can't BELIEVE that 80's throwback is getting made in *this* decade. It's been done.)

    "All the King's Men, Catch a Fire and The Last King of Scotland seem to be historically based, so yes, leeway is to be given there."

    Eh, I don't give historically based movies any leeway. It's Hollywood's choice to make almost all the movies about the *men* in history and not the women. Women have always been there in history, you'd just never know it from the white-washed view we get from mainstream history and pop culture. We didn't just start having interesting lives, that didn't involve being geishas, in the 19th or 20th century (but speaking of suffrage: where's all the movies about American suffragists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony?)

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  4. Well Julianne Moore is starring in the movie you mentioned... ;) She's in some of the action shots, but maybe not in the preview you were watching.

    And Gillian Anderson is in The Last King of Scottland!

    But yeah, I know what you mean...

    "Walking wombs": that's reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale, which I'm reading right now. I suppose the lack of strong female roles in this year's crop of movies is a reflection on our new economic role? Even though women are working now, the men make more money. But women, in exchange, get to control the family's money, and what do they want to see? Chick flicks--duh! **Smacks head**

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  5. I've not read the novel Children of Men, but given that it was written by a woman, I'm hoping that it isn't as dire as the trailer looks, as I pretty much had the same reaction to it you did. The plot synopsis I've read makes it sound like it's less about biology than it is about social breakdown in the face of significant change--ie, the immeninet and irrevocable extinction of the human race. Or, to put it another way, I'm really hoping that the trailer is horribly edited and doesn't reflect the actual theme of the film.

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  6. You're definitly right on this one ... There is one movie full of women full of ineteresting female characters (apparently, I haven't seen it yet) ... It's Pedro Almodovar's "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura and lots of other Spanish actresses .. Viva Pedro!

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  7. I remember reading the Dykes to Watch Out For movie rule (A movie must pass three requirements: (1) It must have at least two women in it who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man) and being depressed about how few of the films I see could clear this bar.

    There wasn't that many superhero comics that would pass that test either.

    From what I remember from reading All the King's Men, there's only two women of note - the girlfriend, who exists to cheat on the hero and set off his great journey of introspection, and the hero's mother to be the Oedipal fixation at the end. I was less than impressed with the book.

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  8. Descent. Best woman film this year.

    COuld we hope for a Manhunter movie done well?

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  9. This is why I don't go out to movies very much anymore. Sounds pretty typical unfortunately. I think I'll go watch all six hours of Pride & Prejudice. The A&E one, not that crap with Kiera Knightly. Man did THAT stink.

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  10. Neve Campbell did kick tail in the Scream movies, and in recent years she's made a few independent flicks where she still kicks butt (more subtly in the ballet story, true, but ...)

    TV is a little bit better, since we've still got Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica (where the women are more action-oriented than nearly all the male leads, save Adama).

    Billie Piper also kicked butt in the past two seasons of Doctor Who...

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  11. Actually, I was talking with some friends a couple of weeks ago about the apparent dearth of noteworthy female actors of this generation. Where are this generation's Jodie Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep? Are there no good female actors right now, or (more likely) no good roles for them?

    A week later, it struck me--movies right now are dumb. Incredibly dumb. Very few mainstream films have a plot or dialogue worth remembering. Hollywood films have lost just about any claim to being "art" and have become marketing tools (or "tentpoles"). Even the films intended for Oscar consideration are formulaic, safe and predictable. Although the men are getting the high-profile film roles, their roles are really only better than their female counterparts in terms of screen time and number of lines (not to belittle the issue, which is a concern). Even action films aren't great. Lately, it's been foreign action films (Ong-Bak, District B13) that have grabbed me--by concentrating on good action, not going overboard with special effects, and having just enough plot to keep the characters motivated.

    Ironically, the "idiot box", of all places, has become the place for intelligently-written plot and characters. I'm with the fortress keeper on this one.

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  12. Now would be a bad time to mention I'm looking forward to Casino Royale, right? :-)

    The Descent was pretty good, but practically nobody saw it. House of Sand is supposed to be pretty good. But overall, this has been a bad year for women starring in non-"chick flick" roles, trashy bad-girl action flicks aside; and I don't remember last year being any better.

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  13. Where are this generation's Jodie Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep? Are there no good female actors right now, or (more likely) no good roles for them?


    Premiere Magazine recently profiled several prominent Women in Hollywood, among them Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood. While it was quite possibly the whitest list of honorees I've seen, I'd have to agree that Blanchett is one of the best actresses of our generation. I'd also add Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Angela Bassett, Sanaa Lathan, Lucy Liu, and many other actresses who are languishing in relative obscurity.

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  14. Wow, that Premiere list was pretty pathetic in that it featured only white women, all blondes--natural or not. Sadly, Angela Bassett and Lucy Liu might be very good actresses but they aren't given great roles. I wonder if Liu might be able to get better roles if she spoke Mandarin and could star alongside Gong Li or Zhang Ziyi? The sad fact is that women of color don't have many options in film.

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  15. BTW, Battlestar Galatica is a great show for showing women varied roles. However, it does a piss poor job when it comes to black men. The one memorable black male in a role was Bill Duke, who guest-starred as smuggler crimelord who pimped women and cute little white kids.

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