Indie Focus: What you want to read about women in Hollywood



Hello! I'm Mark Olsen and welcome, whether it’s welcome back or you’re here for the first time.

There’s a lot happening out there, movies-wise, so we’re here to help. Think of this as your ongoing field guide to a world in which there are Only Good Movies.

And keep an eye out for upcoming Indie Focus Screening Series announcements. The cooks are back in the kitchen, whipping up some special things for summer –- drama, comedy, romance, sex and music. (Sometimes all at once!)

Nonstop movies. Movies nonstop.

Women + Hollywood 2

The issue of gender equality in Hollywood we mentioned here a few issues back took on added relevance this past week when it was announced that the ACLU wanted investigations into discrimination in Hollywood.

My colleague Rebecca Keegan has been a leading voice in reporting on this topic for some time, and so it was no surprise she also provided one of the most well-rounded and clear-headed takes on the week’s developments.

“It’s not that it’s an unequal playing field,” said film director Maria Giese. “There is no playing field at all.”

'I’ll See You in My Dreams'

Blythe Danner in "I'll See You in My Dreams." (Bleecker Street)

A movie with a quiet power, “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is about a woman (Blythe Danner) who late in life rediscovers not so much romance as herself.

Danner’s character is a longtime widow who finds herself at loose ends after the death of her dog. She then finds herself romantically pursued by a dashing, age-appropriate gentleman (Sam Elliott) and in a more ambiguously defined relationship with someone much younger (Martin Starr).

The movie, which opened in Los Angeles on Friday, is directed and co-written by Brett Haley, a filmmaker I first encountered when his feature “The New Year” played at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.

“It's not in-your-face and sort of cynical and brash," Haley said to me then of his first feature. "It's very simple and honest and human.” The same could be said of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”

'Pitch Perfect 2'/'Mad Max: Fury Road' (and not versus)

Many people would position Elizabeth Banks' “Pitch Perfect 2” and George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” in opposition as a “versus,” but we’re going to think of them together as an “and.” Yes, there are obvious distinctions between the perceived audiences for both films, drawn along lines of gender and generation, but a good time at the movies knows no boundaries. Let’s live in a world that can celebrate both styles.

Both films exist in their own self-defined worlds, with female-centered story lines and a knack for combining set-pieces with storytelling. (It’s tempting to say there is no musical number in “Fury Road,” but there is that guy on a truck with a guitar that spits fire.) Regardless, it’s always a delight when the movies at the multiplex are ones that we actually want to, you know, see. We vote for a double feature. You decide the order. 

Betsy Sharkey was taken with Banks’ movie, noting “the comedy choir wars are more intense, more absurd and more lowbrow fun than ever in ‘Pitch Perfect 2.’ It is almost impossible not to be amused by the cutthroat world of competitive a cappella.”

I think my favorite review so far of “Fury Road” is the one by Nick Pinkerton that appeared in the British publication Sight & Sound. In it, he declared, “Miller’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is a hammer-down, cast-iron-plated, diesel-exhaust-belching manifesto on the physics of screen action. … I don’t believe I have seen a film on this scale so single-mindedly dedicated to the heat of pursuit since, well, Mel Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto.’”

Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy in "Mad Max: Fury Road." (Jasin Boland / Warner Bros.)


The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing, unveiling movies we could easily still be talking about this time next year. Our own Kenneth Turan is there and wrote an overview of what’s on deck. And Steve Zeitchik is on the ground too.

Manohla Dargis at the New York Times tied in what’s happening at Cannes with what’s happening in Hollywood by noting that the festival -- which she called "the grand temple of the male auteur" -- has made apparent inroads to changing its own dynamics regarding female filmmakers.

“The only sure bet this year is that Cannes will be celebrated and condemned," Dargis wrote. "It will absorb the criticisms and move on, but I hope that its commitment to female directors continues.”

'Something Wild'/'Married to the Mob'

If you are hoping to find me on either the 22nd or 23rd, be sure to check the New Beverly Cinema. There are strong odds I’ll be viewing their double bill of Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” and “Married to the Mob.” Quite simply, “Something Wild” is one of my favorite films of the 1980s. With great performances by Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith and Ray Liotta, the film is warm, funny, sexy, a little scary, a lot surprising and gives itself license to be weird. “Married to the Mob,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Modine, carries over the alternative Americana thrift-store aesthetics of “Wild” to a different story. (And Demme’s women-in-prison flick “Caged Heat” screens on the 23rd at midnight!)

Even with his directing Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs,” not enough good things are said often enough about Demme, to my mind one of the most important American filmmakers of the post-'60s era. Demme's latest film, “Ricki and the Flash,” starring Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield and written by Diablo Cody, will be released this summer. We can hardly wait.

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