Monday, April 16, 2007

Wonder Women

I've been thinking about this Wonder Woman movie. Over on my blog, Electronic Cerebrectomy, I've talked on and off about it, lamenting the weak presence of women among America's directors. America isn’t very strong on the female point of view in cinema. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years, since Joel Silver announced that he wanted Joss Whedon to write the Wonder Woman movie because “he knows how to write women.” My own negative feelings about Whedon’s work aside, my first thought was that, just maybe, women also knew how to write women. Is it such a strange, foreign idea to think that maybe a woman should handle the Wonder Woman movie?

Someone in my comments section challenged me: come up with someone to direct this Wonder Woman since you hate Joss Whedon so much. Then he suggested that Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer, and Mark Steven Johnson are directors who really have superhero experience. I suggested that sort of thinking is why the Wonder Woman movie is never going to be anything more than fantasy material for thirteen year-old boys. Why not try to make it a movie about a character instead of yet another superhero movie?

I want to see other viewpoints in film, and the woman's point of view is especially interesting to me because, well, I'm not a woman and I'm interested in how they think about things. And not in that commercial, obvious, cutesy Nora Ephron/Penny Marshall/Nancy Myers way. And not in that way that Penelope Spheeris or Amy Heckerling are co-opted to make comedies for kids and stupid people. Yes, Amy Heckerling still had Clueless, and Penelope Spheeris made The Decline of Western Civilization, but it's hard to argue credentials when someone finds themselves directing a movie starring Kadeem Hardison as a basketball-playing ghost.

It keeps happening to more recent talents, too. Angela Robinson, Maggie Greenwald, Francine McDougall, Sara Sugarman--all filmmakers with interesting sensibilities, all consigned of late to directing Disney movies. Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, is now being touted as the director of either I Dream of Jeannie or Dallas. Talk about getting marginalized. Where are the female equivalents of Spielberg, Scorsese, and (Francis Ford) Coppola? Too many movies about women are made by men, who seem to have their own fairly conventional and stereotypical ideas about how women grow up and deal with the world.

Why should a man make a Wonder Woman movie? Because stuff might have to blow up?

Here are a couple of directors I'd like to see more of:
Asia Argento (director of Scarlet Diva and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things)
Coralie Trinh Thi (director of Baise-Moi)
Jamie Babbit (director of But I'm a Cheerleader)
Kimberly Pierce (director of Boys Don't Cry)
Sofia Coppola (director of The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and Marie Antoinette)
Patricia Cardoso (director of Real Women Have Curves)
Niki Caro (director of Whale Rider)
Patty Jenkins (director of Monster)
Jane Anderson (director of Normal and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio)
Isabel Coixet (director of the underrated My Life Without Me)
Nicole Kassel (director of The Woodsman)
Barbara Kopple (director of Havoc and Shut Up and Sing)
Mary Harron (director of I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, and The Notorious Bettie Page)
Laurie Collyer (director of Sherrybaby)

These are all women I'd like to see get more opportunities to direct. I'd pay to see a film directed by any of them a lot sooner than I would to see another Michael Bay travesty. Is it so against the Hollywood grain to think that the scope of American film should be widened to let women in?

If so, that's probably a good thing.

Tell me what you think: women directors? Wonder Woman?

20 comments:

damian said...

Kathyn Bigelow was making genre-films like Point Break and Strange Days in the 90s and she expressed her passion for action films and the blockbuster but EVERYONE chalked up her working to her husband at the time, James Cameron.

On the other side of the spectrum, Nicole Holofcener makes female-centric films in a Woody Allenesque world e.g. Lovely and Amazing.

I think there is such an untapped resource of great female directors. What about black women? Asian women? Lesbians?

I studied Women Directors in American Film in undergrad and it's ridiculous how uneven the playing field is. But I commend you for bringing it into the blogosphere ;)

Wonder Woman + Bigelow = comeback???

NAH.

SamuraiFrog said...

I just hope Kathryn Bigelow gets to make her Joan of Arc movie one day. I liked seeing her take on stereotypically "masculine" films like Blue Steel (underrated, IMO) and Strange Days (although James Cameron actively stole the credit for that one).

Neel Mehta said...

I'm ashamed to say that I never thought of this before. I don't know if a woman HAS to write or direct Wonder Woman, but they should certainly be in the discussion.

I would add three names to the list: Karyn Kusama, Mira Nair, and Kasi Lemmons. The first has superhero experience (Aeon Flux) and the latter two could be Christopher Nolan-type choices. Not that Wonder Woman is like Batman, but I'd interested to see that kind of dramatic, non-cheesy take.

Boyd said...

From foreign shores:

*Marleen Gorris (she was the first woman director whose film has won an Oscar - and it was in the Foreign Language Oscar winner (Antonia's Line) - she's a straight-shooting feminist, so that could make Wonder Woman very interesting)
*Caroline Link
*Susanne Bier
*Lorne Scherfig
*Margharete von Trotta (!!!)
*Pascale Ferran

J.D. said...

And I know this is impossible since NONE of you know who she is, but what about Shona Auerbach? She's a Scottish director who has made only one feature length, Dear Frankie, but it is excellence like I've never seen before. I nommed her for Best Director for 05 for it. I know it's impossible, but she is good for ONE THING. That's amazing.

Anyway, Gorris and Nair would both probably be good choices. But if they wanted buzz, they could bring in Coppola. You never know...

Marius said...

People have been talking about this for ages. Why aren’t there more women represented in the Arts (including the performing arts)? It’s sad but true that women (and many minorities) don’t have the opportunities that white males seem to have. Discrimination is a bad thing and should be stopped. So, that may explain a lot of it.

On the other hand, you said you wanted to see a woman’s viewpoint. However, you seem to want to see that perspective on your terms. The female perspective is all around you. Women are, of course, consumers. They want to be entertained just as much as you and I, but they go at it differently. You’re very motivated to keep track of movies and blog about it, while many female bloggers discuss issues that are important to them—community service, fashion, human interest stories, education, academia, family issues and so on. And these women are just as motivated. Interestingly, most of my female friends don’t seem that interested in movies. Of course, they enjoy watching films.

Obviously, some women love movies just as much as you do. However, I think most women are interested in personal/social issues and family. Heather B. Armstrong at dooce.com is a great example. Maybe we need more movies that address these specific interests, but it may end up being the commercial, obvious, cutesy Nora Ephron/Penny Marshall/Nancy Myers stuff you don’t seem to like.

I think it’s great that you brought up this issue. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think someone unexpected, like Patty Jenkins, Jane Campion, or Lucrecia Martel, should direct it. They are each very good artsy-type female directors.

Jason Adams said...

The thought of a Jane Campion directed Wonder Woman film makes my head implode.

Not because it's good or bad, mind you, just... I can't even wrap my brain around what that would be.

DL said...

Or Lynne Ramsay - the woman behind Morvern Callar. Then the Wonder Woman movie could become an intense, moody character examination with little to no action or dialogue. Now that would be awesome!

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Regarding the Wonder Woman movie, I'd like a woman to write the Wonder Woman character while the "13-year old fan" creates the world she gets to move around in. Add that co-director/writer credit of course.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is completely uninterested in Wonder Woman (even with Joss Whedon at the helm), I definitely would pay to see Kathryn Bigelow or Karyn Kusama tackle her on screen.

Anonymous said...

What about Julie Taymor?

Anonymous said...

I love Dear Frankie too, great movie.

Don't forget Niki Caro made North Country after Whale Rider. She's not quite working with basketball playing ghosts yet, but she's well on her way...

Glenn Dunks said...

I really want more female directors in the world. So many of them get torn down though. If a movie of their's is a success (let's say Coppola's Lost in Translation) then it's because of something else (Bill Murray, a lot of people would say) yet if one fails (let's say Coppola's Marie Antoinette) it's ALL Sofia's fault. She made it all girly and frilly and pink and it wasn't conventional.

And then you have people like Kimberley Pierce who has taken nearly a decade between movies.

Barbra Streisand was probably the closest we ever got to a female director on the level of the great male directors (in terms of no only talent but success and all that stuff). But, alas, the thumping The Mirror Has Two Faces got made her quit directing or something like that. Cher's segment of If These Walls Could Talk was easily the best yet nothing came of that.

Some other female directors are Gillian Armstrong, Ana Kokkinos and Sarah Watt, who's debut film Look Both Ways was easily one of the best films of 2005.

Leslye said...

Asia Argento is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Yes!! I am a woman, and I am so tired of everything being so male oriented and looking like it was made for 13 - 22 year old boys.
How about some decent damn role models for young girls. I am sick with the Bratz and Pussycat Doll culture.
Kathryn Bigelow, or Asia Argento are both interesting choices! Also, Sophia Coppola!
I wish we could actually get the studio to think about this.
Ah well.

Nick M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick M. said...

After North Country and The Itty Bitty Titty Committee, I hope I don't hear from Niki Caro or Jamie Babbitt for quite some time.

Please, however, bring on more Nicole Holofcener, Kelly Riechardt, Sofia Coppola, Miranda July and Agnès Jaoui films.

Anonymous said...

Isabel Coixet went on to make rather acclaimed Secret Life of Words.

I think you are doing those directors a bit of discredit by lumping them all together just because they are women. Isn't it ultimately sexist? I am not sure Coixet and Coppola would be pleased to be mentioned together with Coralie Trinh Thi. Have you even seen Baise-Moi? Checked the rest of Ms. Coralie's filmography (as an actress)? Why exactly should we expect her to make Wonder Woman something more mature than "fantasy material for thirteen year-old boys"?

SamuraiFrog said...

I have seen Baise-Moi and I thought it was, if nothing else, at least a visceral and honest movie.