Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nim's Island

Nim's Island (Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin)

Despite a very clichéd ending, Nim’s Island proves to be, for the most part, a positive representation of the girl adventure film. Abigail Breslin’s Nim is a fun, frolicking, and fierce little gal who cannot only save her island from tourists and help her father with his lab experiments, but can also connect to another slightly ambiguous older woman, namely Jodie Foster’s Alex Rover - a character I’m guessing is supposed to emulate J.K. Rowling.

Foster’s Rover has given her own name to the male main character in a series of adventure books she created, which gives the film a wonderful duality in two ways - one, Foster’s Rover suffers from agoraphobia and uses the male character to explore the world for her. Two, the film uses that misogynistic overtone for its feminist advantage - the male character Alex Rover springs to life from the real Alex Rover’s imagination and encourages her to leave the household and take care of her own life. One could also say that Nim’s Island is the watered-down, Hollywood version of Gilliam’s Tideland in that it depicts a little girl thrown into a situation beyond her supposed mental years and somehow (notice the sarcasm) manages to thrive in that environment.

It should also be noted that Nim’s Island is one of the few female-driven films I’ve seen this year that has its production roots deeply embedded in female filmmakers. It’s co-directed by a woman, produced by a woman, the book it’s based upon is written by a woman, and two of the four screenwriters are women. Though the films of Hayao Miyazaki still own my heart as far as girl adventure films go, I’m happy to say that Nim’s Island provides a positive, mostly empowering outlet for girls of all ages.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Girls Rock!

Girls Rock! (2007, Arne Johnson and Shane King)

During the summer of 2005, two male filmmakers (Arne Johnson and Shane King) ventured into the very female world of rock ‘n’ roll camp for girls - a one week program in Portland, OR for eight to eighteen year olds to learn how to rock their hearts out with instruments and roll into supreme self-confidence.

The purpose of both the documentary and the camp itself is to set a positive example for girls who are growing up in the putrid pop era of Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, and Kelly Clarkson - gals who reinforce all the negative stereotypes that the likes of PJ Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, and Fiona Apple tried so hard to eliminate in the previous musical generation. In the one week they’re at the camp, girls are given the learning tools of not only how to read music and play a guitar properly, but are also taught the connotations of the self-image and how important it is to have a good one. The gals’ are educated on confidence (how to use your physical space and voice), self-defense techniques (no means no!), women’s history (the great female rockers of the past), and the value of female community (how to interact with other women on a non-bitchy level). At the end of the camp, all of these ideas culminate into one concert where all of the bands formed at the camp perform in front of hundreds of people.

The filmmakers utilize statistics on young women (which all basically sum up to - girls are in trouble!), interviews with the amazing camp counselors (all women), and one-on-one discussions with the female protagonists themselves - Laura (age 15), Misty (age 17), Amelia (age 8), and Palace (age 7) to show us the utter positivity the camp bestows for young girls everywhere. All of these girls are bright, spritely, and talented young women who definitely experience positive outcomes because of the ideas taught to them at camp. Their music is heart-felt, in-your-face, and often funny - my favorite song was created by Palace and it's entited "San Francisco Sucks!" By focusing on four distinct girls with varied backgrounds within a camp full of hundreds, the documentary further proves how important it is for young women to have the skills rock ’n’ roll camp sets-up because it clearly shows that all women are being affected by the poor state of femininity in the media in one way or another.

By acting as a catalyst for all of fury being built up by young women everywhere, Girls Rock! really and truly succeeds in its mission to help give young girls the minds -- and voices to enter the world of female adulthood with a clear-minded perspective on how to be an empowered woman.

I simply cannot ask for more.

Since 2005, rock ‘n’ roll camp has branched out significantly. There are now camps all over the U.S. and there are more making their debut in Europe and South America. The documentary is making the rounds at festivals (I saw it at the Wisconsin Film Festival) and theatrical venues throughout the country. You can read more about it on their official website.

I can’t recommend this film highly enough. Girls Rock! is certainly my favorite female flick of 2008 thus far and I can’t wait to buy copies of the DVD for my nieces, cousins, and, of course, myself when it comes out in September. You can pre-order the DVD on the official website and, just so you know, all of the proceeds will go to female-driven charities.

Rock on, ladies!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

She keeps her own name, motherfuckers!

This is pretty darn funny.

Yeah, yeah...I'm working on three reviews (Teeth, Girls Rock!, and It's a Free World...) and doing some other feminist film fun stuff, but until I'm done, enjoy this!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Female Filmmakers

Hey y'all,

I'm busy and sick. Not a good combination. But here is a list of female filmmakers I've made! I've separated them into categories regarding their over all talent as filmmakers who bring forth feminist themes into their films. Enjoy!


Chantal Ackerman (1950-present, Belgium)- Born in Belgium in 1950, Ackerman has created forty-two movies for either film or television. Her films utilize avant-garde aesthetics to create deeply personal material. She currently has a DVD box set of her work released that features a significant portion of her filmography, including the wonderful News from Home (1976) and Hotel Monteray (1972).

Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979, U.S.)- The first female filmmaker inducted into the DGA. She led one hell of a life and created approximately twenty feminist films between 1927 and 1943. You should see Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), Craig's Wife (1936), the predecessor to the Joan Crawford film, Harriet Craig (1950), and Christopher Strong (1933).

Sadie Benning (1973-present, U.S.)- Daughter of famous avant-garde filmmaker James Benning. Her videos, which she started creating in her early teens exhibit feminist themes and often deal with gender roles and queer cinema ideals. Look for It Wasn't Love (1992) and The Judy Spots (1995).

Jane Campion (1954-present, New Zealand)- One of the most famous female filmmakers of contemporary cinema. She entered into the American mainstream in the early 1990's when she directed the Oscar hit, The Piano (1993). She has been making films since the early 1980's starting with such short classics as Passionless Moments (1983) and working her way into longer films like Sweetie (1989) and An Angel at My Table (1990). Following The Piano, Campion made three features - The Portrait of a Lady (1996), Holy Smoke(1999), and, most recently, In the Cut (2003). Since 2003, Campion has returned to her roots by making short films. Her next feature is set to come out in 2009 entitled Bright Star - a film about the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Campion is one of three female filmmakers to be nominated for a best director Academy Award.

Sofia Coppola (1971-present, U.S.)- Despite the fact that she only has three features to her name - The Virgin Suicides (1999), Lost in Translation (2003), and Marie Antoinette (2006) and is the daughter of one of the most revered American directors of all time, Sofia Coppola has successfully made a name for herself with film-going audiences. All three of her films thus far have dealt with the inner-isolation of the female mind and what it feels like to be a young woman thrown into a situation beyond comprehensible reasoning, all amounting to the advent of womanhood in the forms of puberty, living in a foreign country, and becoming the ruler of one of the most prominent countries in the world. She is also one of the three female filmmakers to be nominated for a best director Academy Award.

Su Friedrich (1954-present, U.S.)- Avant-Garde film/videomaker Su Friedrich creates diary documentaries that, for the most part, revolve around her own life and family members. I highly recommend Hide and Seek (1996), Sink or Swim (1990), and The Ties that Bind (1984.)

Alice Guy (1873-1968, France)- Silent cinema filmmaker Alice Guy is probably the world's first female filmmaker. She created nearly three hundred films during her lifetime, most of which were produced under her own production company, Solax Film. Though a large portion of her work is long-forgotten and unrecoverable, a few of her shorts exist on compilations like the American film archives (where you can find her film, Falling Leaves (1912) and The Movies Begin box set (where you can find Making an American Citizen (also 1912.)

Miranda July (1974-present, U.S.)- She made a splash with the indie crowd in 2005 with her film - Me, You, and Everyone We Know, which is also her most recent venture. She has a total of four films to her name and all of them seem to encapsulate that rare adult-yet-child-like sense of whimsy that audiences fell in love with when they watched Me, You, and Everyone We Know.

Ida Lupino (1914-1995, U.S.)- Feminist actress turned feminist filmmaker, Ida Lupino made a handful of Hollywood films during the late portion of the golden age and turned to television when it became popular. She rocks the feminist house as both an actress and as a filmmaker. Only two of her films are available on DVD - The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and On Dangerous Ground (1952) - a film she both acted in an did an un-credited directing job when Nicholas Ray stepped out of the picture.

Marie Menken (1909-1970, U.S.)- Andy Warhol actress and director of several short experimental films, Marie Menken is regarded as American avant-garde royalty in all the right circles. As far as I know, only one of her shorts, Visual Variations on Noguchi (1945), is available on DVD through Kino's Avant-Garde vol. 2. She is also supposedly the basis for the character of Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Lynne Ramsay (1969-present, Scotland)- Thus far, she's created three short films, Kill the Day (1996), Small Deaths (1996), and Gasman (1997). Ramsay has also directed two feature length films - Ratcatcher (1999) and Morvern Callar (2002). Her films exude this sort of listless, dream-like quality that center around several horrific events in her main characters' lives, causing seemingly violent acts like chopping up a dead body into tiny pieces to become strikingly beautiful.

Adrienne Shelly (1966-2006, U.S.)- She could have been one of the best female filmmakers of the twenty-first century if she hadn't been violently murdered for no reason in November of 2006. Waitress, her third feature since she started directing in the early 1990's, encompasses everything positive about womanhood in cinema. Though I only knew of her a short time before she died, I will nevertheless continue to tout her name to anyone who will listen to me. She got her start in the industry as part of the Hal Hartley indie crowd, which eventually led to creating her own material. In her short career as a director, Adrienne Shelly made three short films and three features.

Julie Taymor (1954-present, U.S.)- The great narrative visualist female filmmaker of contemporary cinema. Her roots lie in theatre and her love lies in the work of Federico Fellini, which shows greatly in her body of work. She's made three TV films - The Tempest (1986), Fool's Fire (1992), and Oedipus Rex (1993) and three feature length films - Titus (1999), Frida (2002) and, most recently, Across the Universe (2007.) I can't wait to see what images she can create if she were to work from her own screenplay.

Agnes Varda (1928-present, Belgium)- Best known for her films Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) and Vagabond (1985), Varda is regarded as one of the sole female filmmakers of the French New Wave film movement. Since 1954, Varda has directed 45 films and/or television programs and is currently in post-production for her own autobiographical film, which is set to be released later this year.


Allison Anders
Katherine Bigelow
Catherine Breillat
Zoe Cassavetes
Vera Chytilova
Tamra Davis
Catherine Hardwicke
Mary Harron
Amy Heckerling
Patty Jenkins
Kasi Lemmons
Mira Nair
Kimberly Peirce
Sally Potter
Sarah Polley
Liv Ullman


Nora Ephron
Callie Khouri
Penny Marshall
Nancy Meyers
Betty Thomas

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More Sarah Marshall

* A big thank you to Lisa and Jake for acquiring pics for me!

More people are getting pissed off about the Sarah Marshall ads:

(From IMDB)

'Sarah Marshall' Campaign Turning Heads
The teaser billboard campaign to promote Universal's upcoming Forgetting Sarah Marshall, produced by Judd Apatow, is drawing much praise from advertising executives, considerable comment from bloggers, and even some viral parodies. In an item headlined "You Win This Round, Advertising," Condé Nast's Portfolio reported that the campaign, which includes ads like "You Suck Sarah Marshall" covering placards and billboards around several cities, has aroused the curiosity -- and bemusement -- of tourists in New York. On the website /Film, writer Peter Sciretta reported last week that a backlash has developed in San Francisco. "It's actually a very cool campaign, maybe too good," Sciretta wrote. "Last week, flyers that look like the Sarah Marshall advertisements have started appearing on trees around the city reading, 'I'm So Over You Tree'."

(From The Gothamist)

The Real Sarah Marshall Speaks Out
Observant New Yorkers may have noticed that someone's got an ax to grind with Sarah Marshall. There are posters all over town telling the woman that she is maternally hated, she sucks, and that yes, she does look fat in those jeans. The posters are part of an ad campaign promoting the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, featuring Kristen Bell as an ex-girlfriend who is difficult to forget. In a city the size of New York, however, there are the inevitable actual Sarah Marshalls, who can't help but notice they're being harangued by name all over town.

The Daily News spoke to a few SMs it could find and their reactions to the campaign varied. One Sarah in her mid-30s told the News, "You see . . . words like 'hate' and 'suck' with your name over and over again. It just doesn't feel pleasant inside." Her mother, who is 71 years old and shares the name, was more put off by the salty language on some of the posters. On the other hand, one 27-year-old Sarah Marshall who teaches 4th graders in Queens, says that the signs have her students asking for autographs.

These damn ads just won't leave my mind! Every time I walk outside, I'm bombarded with stark black and white female hatred in the form of a movie ad. I've thought about the Sarah Marshall statements a lot more and I'd like to point out a few more of my observations from a feminist perspective -

There's an even bigger fish to fry than the Apatow female I mentioned in my previous post. These ads are reminiscent of the "true" messages seen in John Carpenter's They Live, in which a man is accidentally given special sunglasses that allows him to see the subliminal messages implanted upon billboards by the media and government - saying things like "stay asleep", "marry and reproduce", "conform", etc. But these ads aren't subliminal! Do you really think people will be able to sit through Forgetting Sarah Marshall and have a clear-minded perspective of her character? No, whether we like it or not, our minds will subconsciously drift back to "You do look fat in those jeans Sarah Marshall" and start to question the merits of waif-then Kristen Bell's physique when she appears in a bikini or remember the "I always hated you Sarah Marshall" ad if her character does something even slightly bitchy. To put it bluntly, the collective "we" will hate Sarah Marshall before she even steps out on screen.

Part of me wants to give the film's publicist credit for at least being honest about their intentions with the marketing of this film. The misogyny of their product isn't hidden with an inane poster of say, something like an awkwardly charming Jason Segel in the middle of sexy-smiling Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis. But that doesn't make it anymore morally right than the other misogynistic advertisements being seen in today's media.

Sarah Marshall is a woman who is fat, stupid, sucky, and, apparently, unsuitable marriage material. And what are women not supposed to be? Fat, stupid (at least not that stupid), sucky (unless she's giving you a bj), and!!! unsuitable marriage material (mom must hate you for a reason). And I sure am glad we all know that now.