New Rules Yield Greater Diversity for AMPAS Board of Governors — Anne Thompson reports

Thanks to new rules, this year’s Academy Board of Governors race was more intense than usual. The Academy’s 17 branches each has three governors on the board; they can serve three consecutive three-year terms. One seat is up for reelection every year. The Board of Governors actually runs the show at the Academy, determining the strategy and mission, and keeping tabs on its financial health. This year, the race was opened up to allow any of the 6200-plus Academy members to run for the board. Before, the membership voted for 50% of a nominating committee that selected candidates to present to the Board. This yielded the same favorites over and over again. Read more>>

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Anne Thompson’s THE $11 BILLION YEAR (Exclusive Excerpt)


After reporting on everything movies for 25 years, Hollywood pundit Anne Thompson, an AWFJ member, has written her first book. It’s fascinating. We excerpt it here.


In its history, the Academy’s largely male directors’ branch had nominated only three other women directors—Italian Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), New Zealander Jane Campion (The Piano), and American Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), daughter of Oscar-winningGodfather creator Francis Ford Coppola.

Gender politics in Hollywood—as everywhere else—are complex, layered, often unconscious, and difficult to parse. One can argue that things are slowly improving for women in the film industry, but they are still woefully underrepresented in too many areas, from hiring, especially as directors, to roles onscreen.

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Top Ten 2012 – Anne Thompson

1. Life of Pi

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Silver Linings Playbook

5. Lincoln

6. End of Watch

7. Argo

8. Anna Karenina

9. The Sessions

10. Moonrise Kingdom

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AWFJ Women On Film – Oscar-Winner “In a Better World” Slashed by Harsh Reviews – Anne Thompson comments

Since when is winning an Oscar a bad thing? In his disparaging NYT review ofIn a Better World, A.O. Scott uses its recent foreign Oscar win as a warning sign. Read more>>

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AWFJ Women On Film – “Cheri” – Anne Thompson reviews

It’s devilishly hard to get everything to go right on a movie. Many little things can turn a promising project into something that never quite gels.

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“Fear of Flying: Confessions of a Free Women” – Anne Thompson comments

I watched the six episodes two at a time, three nights running. (I had admired Fox’s 80s doc Beirut: The Last Home Movie.) I was fascinated. Fox took five years of her own life and turned it into the narrative through-line for a survey of women and their life choices in different cultures. Read more>>

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“10,000 B.C.” – Anne Thompson reviews

Well, I’ve seen Roland Emmerich’s latest pixel-fest 10,000 B.C., and it’s no Quest for Fire. Would that it had been silent! Read more>>

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Sundance 2008: Fem-helmed Doc Sells – Anne Thompson reports

Finally, the long-in-the-works “American Teen” deal went down late Tuesday night, marking the fourth movie to sell at Sundance in the last two days. Paramount Vantage acquired all world rights (excluding the U.K.) for $1 million to Nanette Burstein’s Indiana high school cinema verite doc. After the A & E Indie Films documentary screened Friday night, Fox Searchlight made a bid which later expired; Sony Pictures Classics also pursued a deal but pulled out Tuesday afternoon, leaving the pic to Vantage, which is promising a significant P & A commitment. Sellers were Cinetic and CAA.

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Sundance 2008: Women Score “Polanski: Wanted and Desired” – Anne Thompson reports

Sheila Nevins’ HBO documentary unit has acquired North American rights to Marina Zenovich’s Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the hot buzz title of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Read more>>

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“Juno,” commentary by Anne Thompson

My class ate up Juno like it was strawberry ice cream. Read more

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“Gone Baby Gone,” commentary by Anne Thompson

Gone Baby Gone is a tough piece of gritty entertainment. What Miramax will be able to wring out of the boxoffice is anyone’s guess. Read more

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“Lars and the Real Girl,” comments by Anne Thompson

Lars and the Real Girl is one of those movies that walks a tightrope between laughs and genuine emotion. Read more

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Premier Magazine’s obit by Anne Thompson

In her Variety column, Anne Thompson surmises that Premier Magazine’s demise signals the death of long-form entertainment journalism:

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Anne Thompson: Because I Say So!

In THR’s Risky blog, Anne Thompson trumpets Diane Keaton for the star power that earned “Because I Said So” a $13-million opening, despite generally poor reviews.

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Anne Thompson on writing credits for “Nanking”

Referring to David Poland’s cleverly cloaked “Little Red Writing Hood”, Anne Thompson reveals in THR’s Risky the background on screenwriter Lizzy Bentley’s credit on “Nanking.”

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Anne Thompson on Women Directors in the US and Abroad

Pointing to the fact that 12 of the 61 foreign films submitted for 2007 Academy Awards consideration were directed by women, Anne Thompson notes in THR’s Risky Biz blog that women directors have an easier time getting films made abroad than they do in the US. In Hollywood, “the state of support for women directors remains woeful. Even when someone brilliant comes along like Karen Moncrieff, who wrote and directed the 2002 Sundance hit “Blue Car” and this year’s just-released “The Dead Girl,” it’s hard to summon up much optimism for her future,” writes Thompson. In comparison, the women who’ve helmed this year’s Academy Awards submissions from France and Denmark, have directed numerous films in their respective countries– and shun the idea of working in Hollywood because they fear creative controls execised by studios and producers.

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Emma Thompson casts light on child sexual slavery with SOLD — Anne Brodie Reports

Emma Thompson, an outspoken advocate for women and children’s rights is focusing on the international human trafficking crisis. As part of her campaign to end the practice of selling women and children into sexual slavery, Thompson executive produced Sold, a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful feature film. It is based on the true story of Lakshmi (Niyar Saikia) a rural Nepalese girl sold by her parents to an Indian woman. Watch the trailer and read more about this important and beautifully crafted film.

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The Academy’s 90th Oscars: First Promo, New Time and Shortlists — Michelle Hannett reports

oscars goldKicking of the 90 days to the 90th Oscars, the Academy revealed to movie fans that the telecast from Hollywood on Sunday, March 4, 2018, will now begin at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST, a half-hour earlier than prior telecasts. As previously announced, late-night talk show favorite Jimmy Kimmel will return to host. Nominations voting opens for the 90th Academy Awards on January 5, 2018, closes on January 12, 2018, with the announcement on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Women filmmakers are definitely part of the conversation this awards season continue reading…

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Rickey and Thompson: new blogs

AWFJ members Carrie Rickey and Anne Thompson are blogging anew.

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AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, November 13, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

Women do so go to the movies, though we maybe shouldn’t watch TV, and Megan Fox is sexy!

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AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, October 9, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

The secret of Hollywood success: cheat women. Also: movies about girls are icky, Victorian smelling salts not required, and more.

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AWFJ Members In The News!

It’s time for AWFJ to exercise our bragging rights! We’re proud to report that AWFJ members have been making news, and congratulations are in order:

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“Cineaste” and “Sight and Sound” Polls: Why So Few Women’s Voices? – Jennifer Merin comments

Few pollsters rise to the rigorous standards set by Dr. Martha Lauzen in her Thumbs Down survey about stats on women film critics. Unfortunately neither Cineaste nor Sight and Sound make the grade in their recent studies about film criticism.

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Thumbs Down

Thumbs Down: Representation of Women Film Critics in the Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers

By Dr. Martha M. Lauzen


Center for the Study of Women In Television and Film

San Diego State University


Contrary to the myriad prognostications of media observers and writers, film criticism is not dead. It is, however, hurtling into a new era in which professional critics share space with amateurs, and credentialed journalists find multiple platforms for their reviews. Through web sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, formerly print-only film critics and writers now supplement their traditional audience with a whole new generation of on-line readers.

A number of these critics have noted the incredibly low numbers of women filmmakers and female protagonists in major studio films. Commenting on the dearth of women directors and lead characters in films released during the summer of 2008, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis opined, “Welcome to the new, post-female American cinema” (“Is There a Real Woman in this Multiplex?”, May 4, 2008, p. 3).

The fact that males dominate the business and art of filmmaking is well documented. According to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report, women comprised a scant 15% of all directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2007 (“The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Representation of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2007,” Martha M. Lauzen). In addition, female characters comprised only 28% of all characters in the top 100 films of 2002. However, little is known about the sex of those writing reviews and whether this influences the nature of their reviews. This report seeks to fill this void by asking some basic questions about women’s representation in the ranks of those individuals who write about film in the United States.

This study examined film reviews for theatrical releases written in the top 100 U.S. daily newspapers (by circulation) from October 22, 2007 through December 25, 2007. A list of these newspapers can be found in the Appendix.

The sample included reviews written by film critics; other types of critics including those for television, music, and popular culture; staff reporters; and

freelancers. In addition to tracking the overall numbers of reviews written by these individuals for the top 100 newspapers, one randomly selected review by each individual who wrote during the study period was chosen for additional analysis. These reviews were analyzed for length (number of sentences) and nature of the review (number of positive, negative, or mixed/neutral sentences).


During the fall of 2007, 186 individuals wrote 2,365 film reviews for theatrical releases appearing in the top 100 daily newspapers in the United States with a combined circulation of approximately 28,215,000 readers. However, because the majority of these reviews also appear on the Internet, the reach and influence of the writers included in this study are far greater than the circulation numbers indicate. According to the Rotten Tomatoes website, over 7 million readers visit the site each month.

Approximately one-quarter (26%) of the newspapers in the study had no women or men writing film reviews during the study period. It is not known whether the absence of film reviews in these newspapers is the result of recent budget cuts or long-standing policies regarding news content. Numerous media reports have documented the recent cutbacks at newspapers nationwide.

Writing for Variety, Anne Thompson noted, “Over the past two years, newspapers have forced out or pushed into early retirement some 28 critics” (“Crix’ Cachet Losing Critical Mass,” April 7-13, 2008, p. 12). Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein observed, “Seeing their business model crumble, many newspapers simply have decided they can’t afford a full range of critics anymore” (“Are They Still Relevant? Everyone’s a Critic,” April 8, 2008, pp. E1, E4).

Of the newspapers featuring film reviews in the fall of 2007, 47% had no reviews written by women critics, writers or freelancers. In contrast, only 12% had no reviews written by men critics, writers or freelancers. Overall, 70% of the individuals reviewing theatrical film releases in Fall 2007 were male and 30% were female. In addition, men wrote significantly more film reviews than women. Men wrote an average of 14 film reviews. Women wrote an average of 9 film reviews.

These imbalances may be slightly tempered by the fact that women critics, writers, and freelancers wrote for newspapers with marginally higher circulations. The average circulation size of newspapers with women writing reviews was 348,530. The average circulation size of newspapers with men writing reviews was 294,760.

In addition, women and men wrote reviews of equal length. Reviews written by both women and men averaged 23 sentences.

In sum, more men than women write film reviews in the nation’s top circulation newspapers, and men write more reviews than women on average. Women work for newspapers with slightly larger circulations and their reviews are the same length as men’s.

Overall, these findings suggest that film criticism in this country’s newspapers is largely a male enterprise, echoing the heavy male dominance behind the scenes and on screen in the film industry.

Sex of Reviewers and Job Titles

Men outnumbered women in every job title category considered in this study. Seventy seven percent (77%) of film critics were male and 23% were

female. Sixty eight percent (68%) of staff writers were male and 32% were female. Eighty four percent (84%) of other types of critics (e.g., television,

theatre) writing film reviews were male and 16% were female. Sixty one percent (61%) of freelancers were male and 39% were female (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Job Title by Sex of Reviewer

Women were most likely to hold the job title of staff writer, whereas men were most likely to hold the job title of film critic. Women writing reviews were most likely to hold the job title of staff writer (35%), followed by film critic (29%), freelancer (29%), or some other type of critic (8%). Men writing reviews were most likely to hold the job title of film critic (37%), followed by staff writer (29%), freelancer (18%), or some other type of critic (16%). These findings indicate that men hold the higher status titles of film critic or critic in categories other than film including television critic, music critic, theatre critic, pop culture critic, and media critic. Individuals with these titles are assumed to have expertise in their given area. In contrast, the women in this study were more concentrated in the staff writer and freelancer categories. These job titles imply a jack-of-all-trades or part-time status.

In every job title category, men wrote more film reviews than women. Men film critics wrote an average of 25 reviews whereas women film critics wrote an average of 19 reviews. Men staff writers wrote an average of 10 reviews and women staff writers wrote an average of 6 reviews. Men critics in areas other than film wrote an average of 6 film reviews whereas women with this job title wrote an average of 3 film reviews. Men freelancers wrote an average of 7 reviews and women freelancers wrote an average of 4 reviews.

Sex of Reviewers and Film Genre

Men wrote more reviews of films in all genres than women. Men wrote 77% and women 23% of reviews about dramas. Men penned 55% and women 45% of reviews about comedies. Men wrote 57% and women 43% of reviews about romantic comedies and dramas (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Genre of Films Reviewed by Sex of Reviewer

Romantic comedies and dramas constituted a larger proportion of the reviews written by women than by men. Sixteen percent (16%) of the reviews written by women but only 9% of the reviews written by men were about romantic comedies and romantic dramas. Twenty seven percent (27%) of the reviews written by women and 14% of the reviews written by men were for non-romantic comedies. Fifty six percent (56%) of the reviews written by women and 77% of the reviews written by men were for non-romantic dramas.

It is unclear whether women chose to review romantic comedies and dramas or if editors were more likely to assign films with romantic themes to women writers. Informal interviews with a number of the critics included in this study suggest that the ratios are a likely result of reviewer choices and editorial assignments. The individuals interviewed described the assignment of film reviews as a highly collaborative process, involving input from both reviewers and editors.

Sex of Filmmaker and Sex of Reviewer

This study considered whether women were more likely than men to review films featuring a female director. However, the number of films with female directors during the study period was so low that it prohibited statistical analysis. Thus, we combined women directors and women writers to create a women behind-the-scenes variable.

Of the reviews written by women, 22% were for films with at least one woman director or writer and 78% were for films with only men as directors and writers. Of the reviews written by men, 14% were for films with at least one woman director or writer and 86% were for films with only men as directors and writers. In other words, films with women filmmakers constituted a larger portion of the films reviewed by women than by men.

It is not clear whether women chose to write reviews of films with women directors and writers or if editors assigned these films to women writers. Informal interviews with film critics included in this study indicate that reviewer choices and editorial assignments produce the reported percentages.

Sex of Protagonist and Sex of Reviewer

This study also considered whether women were more likely than men to review films featuring a female protagonist. However, the number of films featuring a clearly identifiable female protagonist was so low that films falling in this category were combined with films featuring ensemble casts in order to conduct the statistical analysis.

Of the reviews written by women, 33% were for films featuring a female protagonist or ensemble cast and 67% were for films featuring a male protagonist. Of the reviews written by men, 18% were for films featuring a female protagonist or ensemble cast and 82% were for films featuring a male protagonist. In other words, a significantly higher percentage of films reviewed

by women than men were for films featuring female protagonists or ensemble casts.

Once again, it is likely that these findings are due to a combination of reviewer preferences and editorial assignments.

Editors of Film Critics, Writers, and Freelancers

This study identified the sex of the editor of the section containing film reviews. Forty nine percent (49%) of these editors were female and 41% were male. Ten percent (10%) had no section editor or the gender of the section editor was unknown.

Nature of Reviews and Sex of Reviewer

Whereas the numbers of women versus men who write reviews and the number of reviews that they write are decidedly unequal, the nature of the reviews written does not appear to differ by sex of the reviewer.

This study analyzed one randomly selected review by each of the 186 individuals writing reviews during the study period. We counted the number of positive, negative, and neutral/mixed sentences in these reviews. Positive sentences praised some aspect of the film including performances, cinematography, pacing, and storylines. Negative sentences noted poor performances, disjointed plots, and overly pedantic or frenzied pacing. Mixed or neutral sentences included both positive and negative comments or offered plot descriptions.

On average, women and men wrote equally negative reviews. Both women and men wrote reviews with an average of 4 negative sentences. On average, women and men wrote equally positive reviews. Both women and men wrote reviews with an average of 5 positive sentences. The remaining sentences in the average 23-sentence review offered either mixed or neutral observations. In addition, women were not more likely than men to write significantly more positive reviews about films with at least one woman director and/or writer or featuring a female protagonist or ensemble cast. Similarly, men were not more likely than women to write significantly more positive reviews about films with only men filmmakers or featuring a male protagonist.


In summary, women are under-employed as reviewers of film in the nation’s 100 largest circulation newspapers. Not only are women outnumbered as film critics, staff writers, other types of critics, and freelancers, women also review fewer films on average than men. In addition, larger proportions of the films reviewed by women are for films with romantic themes, and those with women filmmakers and women protagonists or ensemble casts. However, the actual reviews written by men and women do not differ significantly in their length or nature. Women and men write equally positive and negative reviews and do not become significantly more positive when writing about films with same-sex protagonists or filmmakers.

Overall, these findings suggest that film criticism in this country’s newspapers is largely a male enterprise, echoing the predominance of men working on screen and behind the scenes in the film industry. In short, men dominate the reviewing process of films primarily made by men featuring mostly males intended for a largely male audience. The under-employment of women film reviewers, actors, and filmmakers perpetuates the nearly seamless dialogue among men in U.S. cinema.

Appendix : Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers*



USA Today


The Wall Street Journal


The New York Times


Los Angeles Times


New York Post


Daily News


The Washington Post


Chicago Tribune


Houston Chronicle




The Dallas Morning News


The Arizona Republic


The Boston Globe


Chicago Sun-Times


The Star-Ledger


San Francisco Chronicle


Star Tribune


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Detroit Free Press


The Plain Dealer


The Philadelphia Inquirer


The Oregonian


St. Petersburg Times


The San Diego Union-Tribune


The Orange County Register


Miami Herald


St. Louis Post-Dispatch


The Sacramento Bee


am New York


The Times-Picayune


The Washington Examiner


The Indianapolis Star


The Denver Post


Rocky Mountain News


The Kansas City Star


The Baltimore Sun


South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


San Jose Mercury News




Orlando Sentinel


The Tampa Tribune


The Columbus Dispatch


The Seattle Times


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


The Courier-Journal


Fort Worth Star-Telegram


The Charlotte Observer


Boston Herald


The Oklahoman


The Detroit News


The Cincinnati Enquirer


St. Paul Pioneer Press


The Buffalo News


The Virginian-Pilot


Richmond Times-Dispatch


Hartford Courant


Omaha World-Herald


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


Investor’s Business Daily


The Press-Enterprise


Contra Costa Times


Las Vegas Review-Journal


The Austin American-Statesman


The Palm Beach Post


The Record


The News & Observer


San Francisco Examiner


The Tennessean


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle


Florida Times-Union


Commercial Appeal


The Providence Journal


Daily News


Daily Herald


The Fresno Bee


Asbury Park Press


The Des Moines Register


The Birmingham News


Honolulu Advertiser


The Grand Rapids Press


The Salt Lake City Tribune


Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Dayton Daily News


The Blade


The Journal News


La Opinion


Akron Beacon Journal


Tulsa World


The News Tribune


Knoxville News Sentinel


The Post-Standard


Daily News


The News Journal


Lexington Herald-Leader


The Morning Call




The State


Arizona Daily Star


Albuquerque Journal


*Source: 2007 Editor & Publisher International Yearbook

About the Center

The mission of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film is to celebrate the accomplishments of television and film directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors – who happen to be women. The Center’s programs encourage more women to pursue careers as storytellers, and its research agenda documents trends in women’s employment, the impact of their employment on television and film content, and factors influencing the under-representation of women’s voices in television and film.

About the Author

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen is founder and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. A nationally and internationally recognized expert on the employment of women on screen and behind the scenes, her research has been widely published in scholarly journals, trade publications, and the popular press. Dr. Lauzen directs research at the Center and teaches classes including The Women of Prime Time: From “That Girl” to “Saving Grace” and Film Directors: When Women Call the Shots in the School of Theatre, Television and Film. She holds a doctorate from the University of Maryland, and M.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of Iowa.

Special Thanks

The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their important contributions to this project: Mary Long, M.A. Candidate, Department of Women’s Studies, SDSU, and Douglas M. Deiss, Jr., M.A., School of Communication, SDSU.

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AWFJ Opinion Poll: All About Movie Trailers

Of some 10-billion videos watched on line annually, movie trailers rank #3, after news and user-created video. With such easy and instant access to them, these increasingly popular cinematic morsels are being devoured by moviegoers–and served up with serious consideration by the industry that sometimes spends sums equivalent to a third world country’s annual budget to concoct them.

Timed to coincide with the Ninth Annual Golden Trailer Awards’ ceremony on May 8, AWFJ releases the results of our “All About Trailers Opinion Poll,” surveying AWJF members for their takes on the aesthetics, ethics and impact of trailers: Do we consider trailers to be an art expression or marketing ploy? Can clever trailers catapult indie films into the mainstream? Should theaters charge studios to screen trailers? Would we miss trailers if they were withdrawn?

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