Film Independent Wed 2.25.2015

Women in Film: Hollywood’s Winter Report Card

Well, awards season officially ended this weekend and now we’re all feeling ready for spring (especially our friends on the East Coast). You know what that means: it’s report card time! Hollywood did manage to improve on its grade from our fall report card for its pitiful showing of female directors at the box office: of the 25 highest-grossing films of the winter, only four (Unbroken, Fifty Shades of Grey, Selma and Jupiter Ascending) were directed or co-directed by women. That’s four more than last season—but a still-pathetic 16%. Come on, Hollywood. Not exactly honor roll material yet.

C– to The Academy
Which did not nominate a single film with a female protagonist for Best Picture—nor any female composers, cinematographers or screenwriters—as well as snubbing the unquestionably deserving Ava DuVernay in the Best Director category for Selma. The Oscars also excluded comedian and red-carpet fixture Joan Rivers from the ceremony’s ‘In Memoriam’ segment—an insult to the memory of a relentless rule-breaker, fearless boundary-pusher and hilariously unmerciful fashionista. (We’ll recuse ourselves from grading the Spirit Awards, but DuVernay did get a Best Director nomination; and the awards also recognized emerging female talent in our Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay categories. Here’s to those ladies appearing in some major categories at both awards shows in future years!)

A to Television
While film awards failed to recognize the contributions of women this year, female showrunners and TV directors were picking up trophies left and right. Three DGA awards went to female television directors, and this year’s Golden Globes for best TV comedy and drama went to Jill Soloway’s Transparent and Sarah Treem’s The Affair, respectively—not to mention that the awards were hosted, for the third time, by beloved TV icons, friends and feminists Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. The CW’s Jane the Virgin has earned accolades, in particular for its star, Gina Rodriguez; and ABC’s new Captain America spinoff Agent Carter features a smart, complex and totally badass female lead in British actress Hayley Atwell. Shonda Rhimes, of course, spent this winter smashing glass ceilings and ruling Thursday nights, as usual.

F to The Hollywood wage gap
In the most GIF-able moment of the Oscars telecast, Meryl Streep enthusiastically cheered on Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette for her impassioned call to action for wage equality in America. And if anything good came out of the nightmarish Sony hack, it was some transparency about some appalling specifics of Hollywood’s gender wage gap that will hopefully lead to change. For example, after the information became public, Charlize Theron renegotiated her deal for the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman sequel The Huntsman to make as much as her costar Chris Hemsworth. Theron gets an A (as do Streep and Arquette), but it’s infuriating she ever had to insist.

B+ to The Sundance Film Festival
Robert Redford said at Sundance’s day one press conference this January that the Sundance Institute will continue to champion diversity in the face of an industry that consistently resists it. And it did: this year’s program featured an array of female-centric stories, and over one-third of the films in competition were directed or co-directed by women. But, as Kyle Buchanan writes in Vulture, that doesn’t change the fact that the Sundance movies that get picked up and positioned to hit the mainstream still tend to be the ones from white, male filmmakers. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

A to Geena Davis
As an advocate for gender equality in the film industry, Davis is in a league of her own: a longtime champion of women in media, Davis continued her efforts this winter by launching the Bentonville Film Festival, dedicated to promoting diversity in film. The first fest will be held this May in Bentonville, Arkansas.

B– to Fifty Shades of Grey
Content-wise, this month’s Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation may or may not be doing any favors to women in general. We can’t ignore, however, that the female-starring, female-written and female-directed film smashed box office records with its $94.4 million opening weekend, nor that it was the fifth highest-grossing film of the season (after only two weekends). It’s time for Hollywood to pull off its fine silk blindfold and open its eyes to the truth: movies made for women, by women and about women can dominate the box office—here’s hoping the next one also happens to be more empowering.

to 2014
January came, and the end-of-year statistics were not good. Only two of the 10 highest-grossing films of 2014 had female protagonists, and only 12% of all the year’s films did. But now that awards season has come and gone, too, the cinematic output of last year is officially behind us. Happy 2015, Hollywood. Time to get to work on some New Year’s resolutions.

Mary Sollosi / Film Independent Blogger