Of high heels and ageist filmmakers who are real heels

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The Cannes Film Festival got involved in a towering controversy over a requirement that women wear high heels to some screenings. Photo provided

The Cannes Film Festival got involved in a towering controversy over a requirement that women wear high heels to some screenings. Photo provided

Well, I found out last week that I can never go to the Cannes Film Festival.

I didn’t have airline tickets booked for next year or anything, but still, it’s a disappointment, especially because of the reason.

You see, I don’t wear high heels, and I wouldn’t want to go all the way to France just to get turned away for my footwear choices.

Along with some persistent ankle problems, heels are just not my style. Maybe it’s the Oklahoma address or the farm-girl upbringing, but I prefer boots: They’re comfortable yet powerful; I’ve never had to kick someone in the teeth, but when I wear my boots I feel like I could pull it off it ever became necessary.

And if I did decide to kick someone in the teeth, it would be the man – maybe I’m being a bit judgey, but I’m fairly certain a man wrote this rule – who came up with this apparent Cannes rule that women have to wear high heels to red-carpet screens at the French film fest.

ScreenDaily.com reports that a handful of women in their 50s were turned away from the screening last Sunday night of Todd Haynes’ competition entry Carol after being told the height of their smart footwear didn’t pass muster.

Multiple guests, some older with medical conditions, were denied access to the anticipated world-premiere screening for wearing rhinestone flats.

The festival initially declined to comment on the matter, but did confirm that it is obligatory for all women to wear high-heels to red-carpet screenings, according to ScreenDaily.com.

Senna director Asif Kapadia, whose Amy Winehouse documentary Amy screened during the festival, subsequently tweeted that his wife had received similar treatment, but was eventually let in.

Gee, I suppose it’s a good thing the French aren’t into foot binding.

The backlash was swift and well-deserved.

According to The Guardian.com, Emily Blunt, who was due to walk the red carpet on Tuesday night in support of her new film, the FBI drama Sicario, was among those who spoke out against the archaic rule.

“Everyone should wear flats, to be honest. We shouldn’t wear high heels,” said Blunt, when asked about the controversy at the Sicario press conference. “That’s very disappointing, just when you kind of think there are these new waves of equality.”

Oscar Quine of The Independent spent a day in electric blue snakeskin stilettos so he could weigh in on the Cannes issue, and  he came to a conclusion most any woman could tell you: High heels might make you taller, but the discomfort will bring you down right quick:

“Women have suffered in the podiatric department from foot-binding onwards thanks largely to the perverse predilections of men. I’m sure the last thing anyone wants is some bloke in fancy shoes coming along to validate those experiences. But, for what it’s worth, I concur with Blunt et al – wearing heels is, excuse the pun, a right drag,” he reported.

Although he wrote in tweet initially that “The rumor that the festival requires high heels for women on the steps is unfounded,” Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux eventually issued an apology over “flatgate,” according to EW.com.

“There was perhaps a small moment of over-zealousness,” he said.

Still, a Care2 petition was launched last week demanding that Cannes clarify its hazy dress code rules and make a clear statement that women can wear flats to red-carpet screenings. The petition has received 9,236 signatures, with a goal of 10,000. The petition is here.

Coincidentally, I checked the Associated Press’ list of today’s announced Cannes Film Festival winners: As far as I can tell, men won all the major awards except best actress (a tie between Rooney Mara of Carol and Emmanuelle Bercot of My King) and the previously announced honorary Palme d’Or for influential filmmaker Agnes Varda.

Sad, no?

UPDATED: Although it was left off the AP list of winners, Fox News Latino reports that the film “Allende Mi Abuelo Allende,” by Chilean-Mexican director Marcia Tambutti, won the Golden Eye Award (L’Oeil d’Or) for the best documentary screened in all sections of the Cannes Film Festival. If we’re going to criticize Cannes’ shortcomings in gender equality, it’s only fair we celebrate its victories as well.

The seductiveness of ageism

Here’s something else that’s sad: That potent combination of ageism and sexism that Hollywood apparently still finds so incredibly seductive.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, an Oscar nominee getting Emmy buzz for her work on the Sundance miniseries The Honourable Woman, revealed to TheWrap.com that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” Gyllenhaal said. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

What a difference six years makes in Hollywood: Gyllenhaal was apparently acceptably young at 31 to romance then-60-year-old Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. She even got an Oscar nomination for it! But a 37-year-old woman seducing a 55-year-old man? Apparently, that’s a no-go.

Gyllenhaal and I are basically the same age: I turned 38 in April, and she turns 38 in November. And I just don’t see how this Hollywood standard has any basis in reality. I feel confident that if I wanted to romance a 55-year-old man – and let’s be clear that I definitely do NOT, being happily married to a 42-year-old and all – anyone who actually cared about the age difference would feel that man was too old for me rather than the other way around.

The Oscar nominee declined to specify the project on which she was considered too old, but told TheWrap.com she has hope for equality for women in Hollywood.

“A lot of actresses are doing incredible work right now, playing real women, complicated women,” said Gyllenhaal, who won a Golden Globe in January for her role in The Honourable Woman as an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman. “I don’t feel despairing at all. And I’m more looking with hope for something fascinating.”

She’s correct that there is hope for women right now on the casting front: After all, 50-year-old Monica Bellucci is playing Lucia Sciarra opposite Daniel Craig’s 007 in the upcoming James Bond film Spectre, according to The Guardian.

“My first thought was, ‘How can I be a Bond girl at 50?’” she said, talking about the role for the first time.

“After my audition (director) Sam Mendes told me that, for the first time in history, he wanted a woman of a similar age to the actor playing Bond.

“I told Sam he would be a hero among women for casting me in Spectre.”

He’s certainly got my vote for hero status. Not only is Bellucci close to Craig’s age, she’s actually – gasp! – about three years older than the 47-year-old Brit.

And maybe it’s my ingrained disdain for numbers, but all this talk of ages is starting to irritate me. Who cares about the digits when you’ve got the sex appeal and acting talent of Monica Bellucci?

“Compared to the Bond girls who have gone before me, I am so much more mature,” she said. “‘I’d prefer to be called a Bond woman or perhaps a Bond lady.”

There’s another change I can get behind.

Quick hitters

– Because of Memorial Day, the box-office race for this week won’t officially be called until Monday when final estimates are released for the long holiday weekend, but it’s clear that Elizabeth Banks’ Pitch Perfect 2 continues to sing a pretty tune – and prove that female audiences can lead to box-office dominance. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the musical-comedy sequel earned an estimated $30.3 million for its second weekend in theaters, putting its four-day domestic gross at a projected $37.9 million. Overseas, the sequel earned another $15.2 million from 37 markets for a foreign total of $61.7 million and worldwide haul of $187 million through Monday (that includes just north of $125 million in North America).

Brad Bird’s tentpole Tomorrowland has narrowly pulled ahead of Pitch Perfect 2 at the Memorial Day box office with an estimated three-day debut of $32.2 million, putting its four-day domestic launch at a disappointing $40.7 million for powerhouse Disney, according to the trade publication. Heading into the long holiday weekend, most expected Tomorrowland to gross between $45 million and $50 million for the four days domestically, giving it a wide lead over box office sensation Pitch Perfect 2, but on Friday, it even looked like the tuneful sequel could end up beating Tomorrowland, until the George Clooney vehicle gained traction on Saturday.

That means Pitch Perfect 2 already is approaching the $200 million mark globally after only its second weekend in theaters.

So much for that Hollywood myth that women directors can’t pull in big audiences.

As previously reported, the American Civil Liberties Union asked state and federal agencies earlier this month to investigate the hiring practices of major Hollywood studios, networks and talent agencies for what the organization described as rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors.

Now, the ACLU of Southern California has launched a petition demanding for formal government recognition of the problem and a call to action for equal pay. Check it out here.

– Singer, songwriter and occasional actress Taylor Swift (The Giver, The Lorax, Valentine’s Day) topped the 2015 Maxim Hot 100 list revealed last week, and while that may be an odd opening to talk about feminism, the “Blank Space” hit-maker did address it in her Q&A. I found it quite revealing that Swift, who started her wildly successful music career as a teenager, said that as long as she could be regarded as a kid, she didn’t experience double standards because she wasn’t viewed as threatening:

“Honestly, I didn’t have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn’t quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, ‘Oh, feminism’s not really on my radar,’ it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn’t as threatening. I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived. A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining,” Swift tells Maxim.

“Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.”

– Auteur Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) is keeping a low profile here in Oklahoma as she works on her upcoming movie American Honey in the Muskogee area. The film stars Shia LaBeouf and a cast of young actors, many in their teens, reports Michael Smith, my excellent counterpart at the Tulsa World.

“The filmmaker is trying to shoot in ‘documentary-style’ as much as possible. So we’re really trying to make the setting very natural and keep as low a profile as possible” and not attract attention, such as onlookers or those interested in tracking down LaBeouf, Mark Jarrett, location manager for American Honey, tells Michael.

“We’re using many unestablished actors on the film, people who are up-and-coming performers.”

According to IMDb, American Honey is about “a teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.” The site lists Muskogee, Norman and Okmulgee, Okla., as filming locations, along with Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota.

While I’m glad to hear the project is going well – “Everything’s been going great. … I really can’t say enough about how great everyone has been to us,” Jarrett told Michael – I’m eager to hear a lot more about Arnold’s new project.


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