g The Film Panel Notetaker: Creating Timeless Women: Critics (original post 1/12/06)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Creating Timeless Women: Critics (original post 1/12/06)

I hope you enjoyed my previous blog postings from my notes taken at the 2004 and 2005 IFP Market & Conference. Whats old is new again.

As always, if you attended any of the panel discussions mentioned in my blog, please leave any of your own notes that I may have missed in the comments section. If you didnt attend, and are not sure how to comment, please feel free to leave any constructive feedback for me, so I can try to make improvements.

I promised you a brand new one, so here goes.


The Film Panel Notetakers Notes From

Creating Timeless Women: Critics
January 9, 2006


About the Panel
New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) presented the first of its three-part series on women critics, stars and marketers in all media at Marymount Manhattan College. This particular panel included prominent women critics, who provided the keys to understanding their work to producers, writers, directors and actors.

Panelists included:

Karen Durbin [KD]
- Film critic for Elle
- Feature writer for The New York Times Arts and Leisure section,
- Former editor of The Village Voice
- NYWIFT member

Marisa Guthrie [MG]
- Television reporter at the New York Daily News
- Previously reported on television industry at the Boston Herald
- Been writing about television for over a decade

Linda Stasi [LS]
- Columnist and critic for The New York Post
- Television host of NY1s What A Week with Mark Simone
- Previous columnist for New York Newsday and The New York Daily News
- Former magazine editor and freelance writer
- Authored four non-fiction books and at work on first novel
- Regular guest on numerous TV talk shows
- Named Columnist of the Year by the Newswomens Club of New York

Maggie Bruen [Moderator]
- Adjunct Professor of Cinema Studies at Marymount Manhattan and Ramapo Colleges.
- Author of several award-winning screenplays
- Produced and directed feature-length documentary The Fourth Green Field
- Her short documentary, The History of the Fraunces Tavern, is on permanent view at the Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan

Questions from the Moderator
[KD] = Karen Durbin, [MG] = Maria Guthrie, [LS]= Linda Stasi

1. What is the primary function of critics in todays society?

[KD]Bearing witness to a piece of work almost nobody sees. Make sure reviews she writes for Elle are worth her readers time. She tries to make the case for movies an audience might not automatically turn to. Shes happy when Hollywood movies are really good, but also happy to point out smaller films. Ex) Me and You and Everyone We Know.

[MG]TV is free. Genres could be confusing to people. She tries to boil down and sort out the enormous, explosive universe of television.

[LS]To understand an audience and give a perspective on films. Be as entertaining as possible in her writing. Show a sense of what she has seen, and if it is worth the audiences time.

2. What is your opinion on which of todays actresses will still be esteemed in the future?

[MG]Sophia Coppola, who is someone fairly new to directing. Even though she has had a leg up, she has still managed to create a distinct vision. Really likes Lina Wertmullers films including Seven Beauties and Swept Away.

[LS]- Agrees with MG. Sophia Coppola took a hit when she acted in The Godfather Part 3, and she has recovered beautifully.

[KD]Thinks Sophia Coppola is brilliant. Loved The Virgin Suicides, which was even better than the novel. The name may get you in the door, but if you screw up, that could be it. Mentioned Coppolas next picture is a $40 million biopic of Maria Antoinette. Also really likes Catherine Hardwicke and Nicole Holofcener and. Their work will last, and they have originality in common. Said Holofcener told her once that movies she has to offer are ones that no one else will make, that are her vision, and tell a story. Holofcener was offered to direct Legally Blonde, but turned it down.

3. Who do you think is overrated?

[KD]Paris Hilton (jokingly), Brad Pitt. Theyre not doing really interesting stuff, but Pitt was good in Thelma & Louise. Matthew McConaghey plays the big, dumb handsome guy roles. There is another, better machine out thereIndependent Cinema ex) Scarlett Johansson. Also really liked Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. Shes really heaven. It was a more challenging role than Joaquin Phoenixs.

[LS]Disagrees with KD about Brad Pitt. Said, Did you see him in Snatch? Said Scarlett Johansson is getting thin looking like everyone else. She had some fat on her in Lost in Translation.

[MG]Asked, Doesnt this happen to a lot of actors? They become a part of the Hollywood Machine. Liked Brad Pitt in Snatch, and 12 Monkeys.

4. Stars arent born, their made. How do you contribute to this?

[LS]Paris Hilton became a celebrity in the gossip columns. When critics mention stand out performers in a small part in a movie, it can sometimes make that persons career. If someones name gets out enough, they can become a hot property.

[KD]An example of an actress on the radar is Michelle Williams. While The Baxter got panned by critics, she got attention for her role, and shes getting Oscar buzz for Brokeback Mountain. When KD saw Me Without You, she thought Michelle Williams was a terrific British teenaged actress. She didnt know Williams was an American TV star from Dawsons Creek.

[MG]On Dawsons Creek, Michelle Williams was supposed to be a mysterious ingnue, and she wasnt. Shes too smart for that.

5. Do you have a responsibility as critics to help women achieve more prominence?

[KD]When she was 5, she went to see a war movie with her family. She was a critic even back then. It was very disappointing to her that there were no women in the movie. It was true then, and still true now that there are many more roles for men, than women in film. Shes a feminist. The importance of seeing yourself/being visible in films is important. Not just women who are under represented. Woody Allens Manhattan should have been called Upper East Side, because there were no people of color in it. She spent a long time editing The Village Voice, when there were hardly any women directors.

[MG]There are more people working in television, so there are bound to be more women working in television. Women are becoming more recognized in non-fiction programming. Television is becoming more democratic and inclusive. Advertisers value and recognize the female audience. Greys Anatomy is a show with central female characters, and the men are on the periphery. ABC wont throw all its promotional dollars on Commander in Chief.

[LS]Advertisers try to reach women age 18-34. They think that once women turn 35, theyre not interested in trying a new mascara. They keep women buying the same tampon for 15 years.

6. Do you make it a specific point to champion a particular actress?

[LS]Point out women in smaller roles who do an interesting job, so they can use it on their resumes. Something she always keeps in mind. For example, the new NBC sitcom Four Kings is a terrible, misogynistic show, but she praised the one woman on the show who shines, despite it being a dreadful show.

[KD]Chantal Akerman, a Belgian filmmaker, made a wonderful film with a French actress named Jean Dalmain. Did a story on it in The Village Voice.

7. How do you deal with criticism of your criticisms?

[LS]Critics are chosen for their jobs because they are outspoken. Critics are not there to please everyone, just to generate a buzz. When people are offended, they ask: Why dont you get a life?

[MG]People get easily and deeply offended by subjectivity. People call her 70 times a day to rant. Mostly the same people all the time. They want the interaction. Her intention is not to offend anyone, but she needs to have an opinion. Thats her job.

[KD] A lot of what she writes is positive. When she was in Sundance in the 90s, she sat on a panel about Neo-Violence (which she says is merely an independent film)and talked about Reservoir Dogs with producer Lawrence Bender. She thought the film was brilliant, but was enraged by the torture scene where a character gets his ear cut off. The violence was not the problem. It was the pop song that played along to it that bothered her. That was the cheapest trick in the book. She made her views clear on the panel. The audience got mad at her.

8. What trends in film would you expect to change? [My handwriting on this one was messy, so not sure if thats exactly the way the question was phrased.]

[KD]Violence is not a problem. Its stupidity that bothers her. Guys are now crying more at movies. Example- Titanic. The first weekend phenomenon. Studios looking for a heavy hit, but these movies can still be smarter. Most are movies by slobs and for slobs.

[MG]Violence as a set piece, exampleCSI. To shock, but missing the point, understanding the audience. TV is trying to grab the essence of The Sopranos, and make it suitable for network TV.

[LS]Constant degrading of Italian Americans. Why did Hillary Swank have to get her legs cut off in Million Dollar Baby, when Rocky gets to live on in every film.

9. Any hopeful trends to promote?

[MG]Great shows on cable, ie. FXNip/Tuck, Rescue Me, ShowtimeThe L Word. A singular vision for a piece of art is what makes it successful.

[LS]The quality of writing. More edgy, seat-of-your pants stuff.

[KD]Sundance, indie films, the rise of digital video, Focus Features, Soderberghs Bubble release on DVD, theatrically, TV, and the web at the same time.

10. Favorite Directors/Actors?

[MG]David Chase, The Sopranos; Also really likes Showtimes Weeds

[LS]HBO documentary series, and continually loves HBOs Def Poetry Jam

[KD]Kimberly Pierce


Questions from the Audience

1. What do you think of Jodie Foster as a director?

[KD]Doesnt dislike her work, but never really excited about her directing.

2. Where do you see blatant sexism in TV, or in the newsroom?

[MG]With Elizabeth Vargas co-anchoring ABC news now, she doesnt think viewers will necessarily care if its a man or a woman anchoring. Advertisers are always appealing to the bottom line.

[LS]The View was cutting edge when it debuted. What the hell is with Desperate Housewives? Its disgusting. Takes us back a couple of decades. Doesnt find it satirical. Finds it sexist. Mark Cherry got mad at her for saying those things in a review.

[KD]Thinks Desperate Housewives is satirical.

3. Whats beneficial to the industry from actors?

[KD]Talent, distinction, hard work. Willingness to go for interesting work, instead of just the money.

[LS]Character actors becoming leading actors.

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