AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, December 5, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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Another female film critic departs, some positive voices for a wider and wiser presence for women in the cinematic realm and girls kissing girls for male pleasure is still OMG hot.

THE RANKS DIMINISH… And another critical voice has been silenced. Leah Rozen, film critic for People, will see her final reviews run in that magazine next week. It’s some small consolation, perhaps, that when so many large, influential, mainstream publications are simply eliminating their film critics, Rozen’s departure is voluntary: she accepted the buyout Time Inc., People’s parent, has been offering its writers. People will continue to run reviews, but — it’s safe to assume, considering the nature of the buyout as a mechanism by which to eliminate higher-paid employees — not by a veteran of Rozen’s caliber and experience.

As Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture notes:

[I]t’s hardly a surprise to see a talented critic like Rozen rushing for the exit. If you read Time Inc. publications, be it People, Time or Entertainment Weekly, it’s pretty obvious that the magazines put less value on reviews than ever before, since the space for criticism has been curtailed radically over the last few years. With newspapers in economic turmoil and moviegoers preferring friend-based recommendations, the art of criticism is in its death throes. If you ask anyone under 35 who’s not actually in the movie business, he or she would be hard pressed to name a film critic outside of Roger Ebert.

I’m not sure that criticism is in its death throes, though it’s clearly having a bumpy time making the transition to the Internet, where there are plenty of smart, inventive, thoughtful critics hard at work. Still, we’re unlikely to see Rozen herself make the transition, for, as she tells Goldstein:

I’m leaving because 13 years of reviewing movies full time (and another five years part time) is enough. Been there, done that. I want to get out while I still love movies. I remember reading Pauline Kael in the New Yorker in her last years and, even as a young twentysomething, I could tell that she was desperately trying to convince herself that she cared about the movie she was reviewing when she was really bored silly. I don’t want to reach that point. I want to leave before they all look like “Old Dogs” to me.

Sounds like Rozen is done for good. It’s a particularly notable to lose a female voice in such a male-dominated film as film criticism. She will be missed.

LET HER BE CHUBBY. Vera Farmiga talks about the challenges of portraying an independent woman in Up in the Air to the actors’ newspaper Backstage:

To portray female desire in a very masculine way—which is demanding and shameless and liberal—and still have her come across as appealing and feminine is a hard line to tread. You’re trying to honor her power, her prowess, and not scare people away. She’s a sexual adventuress; she has escapades and dalliances, but she has self-respect. That’s what I really admired about the character and thought it was a feminist manifesto of sorts. Her motto is to be the way she is and have the world accommodate it on all levels. She is a full-fledged sexual creature and a romantic operative who’s free to chase or be chased without abandon or apology. It’s very masculine, and there’s a role-reversal here. You could even interchange both of their names—Ryan and Alex.

And listen to this! Two weeks ago, I noted with disgust how Air producer Ivan Reitman fretted that Farmiga, who’d just had a baby, wouldn’t be attractive enough onscreen to tempt the likes of George Clooney. Here’s how Clooney reacted to this notion, according to Farmiga:

There came a point where we didn’t know if the pregnancy would happen too close to filming, and George said—it may not have been in these exact words but something to the effect of—”Let her be chubby. She’s not playing a model.”

If ever there were more reasons needed to love George Clooney, there’s one.

(See also: AWFJer Jenny Halper’s interview with Farmiga.)

SCI FI GEEKS GET ALL EXCITED WHEN GIRLS KISS EACH OTHER. I’m a sci fi geek, but my fellow geeks really piss me off sometimes. Sci Fi Wire — the online news arm of SyFy (formerly the SciFi Channel) — hoped to whip boys into a frenzy this week with a post entitled “Details on Natalie Portman’s girl kiss in The Black Swan.” And apparently, the details don’t need to be anything more substantive than the acknowledge that there will be a girl-on-girl kiss in an upcoming film to qualify as newsworthy:

Take Star Wars‘ Natalie Portman and The Book of Eli‘s Mila Kunis and put them in the capable hands of The Fountain‘s director, Darren Aronofsky, and what do you get? A geek’s dream girl-on-girl kiss, that’s what.

And that’s it. That’s the extent of the news, and that’s the extent of all you can expect from one of the most acclaimed young actresses working today (Portman) and one of the most intriguing young filmmakers (Aronofsky).

Pathetic.

LOOKING OUR AGE. Patricia Clarkson talks to AWFJ member Jen Yamato at Cinematical, and she has an appealingly optimistic take on her appeal to the directors who cast her:

I still look relatively good – and I still have my own real face – and I think often directors seek me out because of that, because I still look like myself and yet I am the age I am, and I’ve never tried to hide it or be anything other than what I am. But it’s interesting how I’ve become more of a glamorous actress the older I’ve gotten.

I’m not sure many actresses over 35 would say that, and it’s encouraging to hear. Perhaps attitudes toward older women are changing, at least a little…

“GIRLY” AND “SMART” ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. Oh, how I love Rachel Maddow. As Jezebel highlighted, earlier this week, on her show:

Martha Stewart proclaimed, “It’s hard to talk Afghanistan while you’re making a croque-em-bouche,” then proceeded to discuss increasing troop levels with Rachel Maddow while handling scalding caramel.

Video at Jezebel. All hail Rachel.

As commenters at Jezebel pointed out:

I feel like this, in a nutshell, is modern womanhood. A businesswoman and an influential pundit analyzing politics while baking.

and

Dear Men,

We totes have it covered.

Love

Rachel and Martha.

Tee-hee.

SUPPORT A FEMALE FILMMAKER. A film called Fat Girls Float is seeking funding via KickStarter. What’s the film about?

Fat knows no boundary—economic or professional status, race, age, ethnicity. We all know someone fat, or overweight. Yet, fat stigma, like obesity, is on the rise worldwide. How deep seated and how early we begin to stigmatize fat people in the USA is best illustrated in a research study revealing four year old children chose fat people as friends last among a varied group choice. In the media we hear from those losing weight, those who lost weight, or from those who “should” be losing weight. What about those who feel they are fine just the way they are? They never seem to have a voice, until now.

FAT GIRLS FLOAT is an independent documentary in which a 300lb. filmmaker Kira Nerusskaya (me!) takes the audience on a journey through international fat subculture, giving fat women from four counties an opportunity to have their say.

I donated my five bucks.

OPENING THIS WEEK. Among the new wide releases this week, Natalie Portman makes the very best of a limited role — as a miltary wife and mother to two small children — in Brothers, which is, as the title suggests, mostly about two male siblings, and their relationship with their father. Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore do their best, too, with smallish roles as the daughters of a man (Robert DeNiro) looking to reconnect with his adult children; the story is, as most movies aimed at the mainstream are, all about a man’s road to change, with women in supporting roles that foster that growth.

But at least women are present in those movies. Women are entirely absent from Armored, a heist flick about armored-car guards, who are of course exclusively male — there isn’t even a wife or a mother among them to complicate their tales.

See the AWFJ’s regular weekly rundown of new releases for more.

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her AWFJ.org archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).