Saturday, February 13, 2010

That Sentimental Feeling

So it's Valentine's Day, a holiday I used to hold in the highest contempt for all the trendy reasons-- 'I don't need a special day to remind me about love', 'it's just a commercialized holiday designed to get people to spend money they don't need to', 'conventional romance is stupid and I'm so much better than that', yadda yadda. While I don't really celebrate it, I have gotten over my contempt for it and don't see anything wrong with people wanting to appreciate their significant others any day they choose. (And really, it's not like it's hard to find commercialized holidays of any sort these days, not just this one.)

However, having said all that, I do still hold most romantic comedies in pretty high disdain. Not because I think it makes me cool or smart, but because I find them to be insulting to my intelligence (and often even my gender) and I simply don't enjoy watching them. I especially hate the version of "romance" they present as anything even remotely approaching healthy or charming, and would run screaming in terror from most of the lead characters should I ever manage to meet one in reality. These people are not healthy, and I resent the idea that I'm supposed to root for them to get together with the other screwed up person and make sociopathic babies. Very often this gets me branded as a non-romantic, and if the examples in movies like How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days or The Proposal are considered real romance, then that's fine with me. But that's not to say that I've never enjoyed an onscreen couple, there are many that I find charming for a number of reasons. So if anyone's looking for something maybe a little off the beaten track to snuggle up with their special someone with, you might give one of these a glance.

Stranger Than Fiction
This charming, genre-defying movie is one that works on just about every level for me, from the tone to the performances, to the quirky plot and its trust in the audience to get the jokes without flashing neon signs. One of my favorite aspects of it is the relationship between mildly OCD IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrel in a surprisingly restrained and nuanced performance) and Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the sleeve-tattooed "anarchist" baker whom he's auditing. On paper they might be your standard romantic couple trope of the people who start out hating each other but then inexplicably fall in love, but on screen, something much more interesting happens. They're charming people. Ana is understandably upset with Harold when he shows up to audit her and makes no effort to hide her anger, and Harold promptly sticks his foot very far down his mouth, and then stares at her breasts in the process. Instead of being played for big laughs, it's a humiliating awkward scene that feels more true than if it were trying to be funny. I have to say that I love the casting choices, too-- neither Ferrell nor Gyllenhaal are what would be considered conventionally attractive on the scale that most romantic comedy stars are, and that's part of what makes them so endearing. In her first appearance, Anna is less than ingratiating since she's yelling at Harold, and yet you can tell he's completely taken with her anyway. If this were Kate Hudson, not only would she be less intimidating but Harold's attraction would feel more shallow and superficial. Gyllenhaal not only isn't afraid to be abrasive, sardonic, and even unpleasant at times, she still manages to be likable, understandable, and very much a person who knows who she is and what she wants and who isn't required to change that for the movie to work. She and Harold don't spend the whole movie hating each other, or trying to trick the other one into dating them, or avoiding their feelings, and it's really refreshing to watch their relationship take its natural course.

A tip: Mix up some chocolate chip cookie dough and keep it in the fridge until after the movie. You will want a warm, gooey cookie straight from the oven like crazy by the end of this.

3-Iron (Bin Jip)
This movie took me really off-guard the first time I saw it. Based on the title, I was expecting some sort of golf movie, and while the sport does play a part in the film, it's not at all what I was expecting. The story is about a young man who breaks into people's houses while they're away, but instead of stealing their things, he repairs broken appliances and does their laundry in exchange for eating their food and using their homes. There's not explanation as to why he does this, he's a college graduate who rides a nice motorcycle and seems by all other accounts to be pretty normal. One day he breaks into a really upscale place, not knowing that the wife of the man who owns it is still inside. Clearly abused and battered, she watches him go about his normal routine of doing laundry, cooking, and repairing her bathroom scale, and never calls the cops or tries to escape. When her husband comes home, they fight again and she leaves with the younger man to accompany him on his routine of living in other people's homes while they're away. What follows is probably one of the sweetest, most tender and mutually respectful relationships I've ever seen on screen. It's all done without a word exchanged between the two, leaving one wondering how necessary words really are in understanding who someone is. For anyone not familiar with Buddhism, it might be a bit confusing at the end, but the whole movie is basically a Buddhist parable. It's a gentle, loving look at how people are capable of relating to each other in ways we don't often consider, and a reminder of how our actions influence the lives of those around us. "Haunting" is probably the best word I've heard to describe it.

When Harry Met Sally
I saw Norah Ephron in an interview once stating that she thought the ending to this movie (which she wrote, in case you didn't know) was unrealistic, and I'd agree, but there's something that's still so much fun about watching these two idiosyncratic people go through different phases of their lives, become friends, and eventually lovers. He's neurotic, cynical, and reads the endings of books before everything else in case he dies before finishing the book, whereas she is optimistic, confident, and likes to order food in very specific, exacting terms. They're both flawed and quirky but not unpleasant and you don't feel guilty rooting for them to them to get over themselves enough to get together. Even though it was made in the late 1980s it still holds up and I found it to be a genuinely entertaining movie when I watched it with my mom a few months back.

Movies don't get much quirkier than this, or more evocative of the little pleasures in life that we often don't notice, like the feeling of sticking your hand in a basket of dried beans, or eating fresh raspberries off your fingers. The title character is odd, to say the least, and she lives a somewhat reclusive life in her little Paris apartment. There is a romance of sorts with a man she sees in the train station one day, but really, this movie is more of a romance with life and its oddities, tiny pleasures, and unnoticed opportunities.

The Band's Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret)
Not a romance as much as a sweet moment between two people who cannot be together due to life circumstances just as much as who they each are. It doesn't focus on the idea of 'what might have been' or lament the missing of an opportunity, but instead quietly revels in the beauty of the connection that was briefly made. It's a wonderfully sweet movie, full of hope and idealism for two cultures that despise each other so fiercely in reality. It's not a realistic movie in that sense, but it is an optimistic one. Sasson Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz give wonderful performances as two lonely people who happen to share one evening in each other's company, then each go on their way to wherever they were going.

Chungking Express
The first time I saw this, I described it as the Chinese version of Amelie, and there are some similarities, but really, they are their own unique movies. This one actually has two stories, both involving lovelorn policemen meeting someone new. The first cop meets a woman who, unbeknownst to him, happens to be involved in a drug smuggling syndicate and is on the run after a job goes bad. The second cop just got dumped by a flight attendant and catches the attention of a young woman working at the fast food place he frequents. This is the story that's Amelie-esque (even though this movie came out before Amelie), in that this young woman takes it upon herself to interfere with the cop's life in unusual ways, doing little things to break him out of his routine and help him move on from his past relationship. It's also really interesting in how it plays with time and makes you aware of the timing of things, and how sometimes when a moment passes us by, it's not always a bad thing or a good thing. Sometimes things just are what they are and it doesn't mean they have more or less value in life.

Yeah, yeah, I know, but I can't help it, I love watching this movie. I love the overblown emotion and the goofy characters and the food, food, food, and the sheer operatic nature of it all. It's just fun, and the cynical view of life, death, and love is so funny because they managed to not overdo it. Everyone's theatrical and overblown, but somehow it all works. Cher's classic "snap out of it!" line still kills me every time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not A Review: "Shutter Island"

I'm not a huge horror movie person, admittedly, but I've been interested in seeing this one since I saw a short trailer for it last month. I'll freely admit that the idea of Martin Scorsese tackling a psychological thriller/haunted asylum story is intriguing, and I'm a sucker for period pieces, so sign me up, I'll give it a whirl. Then today when I was perusing my usual blogs on my lunch break, I happened across a piece of trivia I wasn't aware of: the screenwriter for it is a woman, Laeta Kalogridis. Okay, vaguely interesting, but I've never heard of her so I have no opinion one way or the other, really. Except that I am familiar with some of her work without even realizing it. It turns out that she worked with James Cameron for something like eight years on the script for Avatar, only she doesn't have a credit for it in the movie. Okay, I still haven't seen it, but from everything I've heard, even from people who liked it, that the script itself is no great shakes, it's the visuals and experience that make the movie worth watching. So hmm, not sure how I feel about that, but it's just one movie, and I don't know how much she had to do with the end result, right?

Turns out she also wrote Oliver Stone's epic, Alexander, too. I didn't see all of it, but I did catch part of it on TV when I visited Greece a few years back and despite it being the only thing on in English, I kept changing the channel because watching talk shows in Greek was more entertaining. But hey, maybe I didn't give it a fair shot, and it's not like the script is the be-all end-all of the end result of a movie, right?

So she also executively produced the TV shows Birds of Prey and the reboot of The Bionic Woman. I didn't watch the second, but I have yet to come across someone who did and liked it, and I tried so hard to like Birds of Prey when it was on, I really did. It just... wasn't good. Not even so bad it was entertaining, it was poorly handled on just about every level save for a few of the casting decisions. But hey, maybe she's a better writer than a producer.

She also worked on the Tomb Raider movie and Scream 3 in some unspecified capacity. Now, I will admit that I do own a copy of the Tomb Raider movie, but I also freely admit it's not a good movie. It's one of those guilty pleasure movies that everyone has where you love it against all better judgment and you're not able to explain why. Scream 3 I saw and I remember being bitterly disappointed in nearly all the way through.

According to IMDB, she also wrote the screenplay for Night Watch (the Russian movie, not the Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte movie from a while back), and Pathfinder (based on a Norwegian movie, this one is about a Viking boy left behind after his clan fights with a Native American tribe and later on becomes their savior in fending off more Vikings-- sounds vaguely familiar...), neither of which I've seen so I can't say anything about them. They might be good, I have no clue, but I have to say, so far I'm not impressed with her resume. I'm still going to see Shutter Island and hope it's better than the other movies she's written have been on average, but still, yikes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Watch: Best Animated Feature

Okay, so the blogosphere is probably alight with people yammering on about the Oscar noms from this morning, and while I certainly have my opinions (as my previous post makes no secret of), the fact is, I've hardly seen any of the movies up for the major awards this year. Some of it is due to a lack of enough interest, some is due to a lack of money, and some is due to a lack of time and/or availability (there's only one movie theater left where I live and their selection can be very skimpy when it comes to independent movies and certain subjects-- let's just say they didn't carry Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and likely will not carry A Single Man). To be fair, I still haven't seen any of the nominees for Best Picture from last year either, despite a Netflix subscription and two movie rental places at my disposal.

Getting back on topic, so while I can run around screaming that I want so-and-so to win such-and-such for whatever reason, the fact is, I've only seen Inglourious Basterds and Up for the Best Picture category, and Julie & Julia for the actresses and actors' awards. I feel a bit underqualified to be talking about these categories as a result. Instead, I'm going to be talking about my favorite category anyway, and the one from which I've seen the most nominees: the Best Animated Feature category.

First off, I have to eat my words from the other day: Up is indeed nominated for Best Picture. I am thrilled to see a second animated film make it to that category finally (the only other one was Beauty and the Beast in 1991), and I think it deserves to be there as much as anything else this year. So a big tip of my hat to the Academy for recognizing that it's not only a good animated movie but a good movie, period. Having said that, it won't win. I'm pretty sure Avatar's going to be taking that prize (why that isn't listed in the Animated Feature category is a little beyond me, but you can't win them all, I guess), and if it doesn't, one of the other live-action ones will. But it's okay, because it's also nominated for Best Animated Feature. (Has that ever happened before? I know the animation category is pretty new, and all, but I'm not sure I've seen even the Golden Globes double-book one movie for two different Best Feature awards like that.) So Up will win Best Animated feature, no real shocker there, and it is deserving. What's both frustrating and gratifying is that there are actually five movies in this category this year, and several of them are very good in their own right and I'd love to see them win, too. It's great to see more worthy contenders here at last, and there's even a diversity of media, too! In fact, I think for the first time ever, Up is the only CGI movie nominated, with two stop-motion films (Coraline and The Fantastic Mister Fox) and two traditional films (The Princess and the Frog and The Secret of Kells), making for a nice display of the variety and diversity that animation can offer as a medium. I will say I'm surprised Miyazaki's Ponyo didn't make the cut. Seems like there could have been room for it somewhere in there.

While I know what movie will likely win, I'd still like to give my impressions of the other nominees, too, because I think they're very deserving of attention as well. Each one is unique and imaginative and skillfully made.


Clearly the frontrunner to take this one, since Pixar nearly always wins and it's also up for Best Feature. It totally deserves every award, ticket sale, and word of praise it's received. It's a lighthearted adventure, a nostalgic story, a tearjerker, a comedy, and a buddy movie all at once, and yet it never feels constrained by any of those categories, either. It literally is all of them at the same time, never moving jerkily from one idea to the next, and it's all wrapped up in this warm-heartedness that permeates every aspect of it. It manages to convey a lifetime in ten minutes and have it mean something to the people watching it, so we understand Carl's attachment to things like a mailbox and a painted wooden bird. The lesson he learns is one that the audience learns with him, instead of watching from a superior vantage point, already knowing the answer and just waiting for him to get there. It's a lesson a lot of us have a hard time accepting, and maybe afterward still don't want to accept. It challenges us there without ever feeling like it's condescending to us. Someone remarked that it felt more like a Miyazaki movie than any other Pixar movie had managed to do so far, and I agree there. That envelopment in a sense of nostalgia and sentiment that never seem cloying, that ability to literally create a world from nothing that still feels like it has life in it, the gentleness and the heartfelt desire to really create something of quality and emotion and meaning is all there, as it is in every Miyazaki film I've seen. I may complain about Pixar winning this category every year, but it's only because I think they deserve either better competition here, or to be competing for Best Picture. They deserve it.


I've blogged about this one before, but time hasn't lessened how much I like this movie. Henry Selick has a way of capturing an atmosphere and almost indefinable charm that I find lacking in a lot of other stop-motion (Wallace and Gromit being a big exception), and he really deserves a lot more recognition than he gets. Most people still think Tim Burton directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it gets tiresome correcting them all the time. Of course, I'm also partial to this movie because it's based on a book by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors since I was sixteen. Some things were changed for the film (like the existence of a major supporting character), but it's part of the process of adaptation from one medium to another, and I thought it was very well-handled and done with a lot of respect to the source material. One of the most distinguishing aspects of Selick's design style that I'm very fond of is little physical irregularities, like a mouth being lopsided. It makes the characters more interesting to look at without being distracting, and it adds a quirky charm to everything that I really love. I also love that he wasn't afraid to keep it creepy. My favorite movies when I was a kid were the ones with creepy or even outright scary moments in them, like The Dark Crystal (which I think I've seen in English once, since the only friend of mine who had it in my childhood had it taped off TV from Costa Rica-- I couldn't understand what they were saying, but I loved it anyway), The Neverending Story, and Return to Oz, which also features some of my favorite pieces of claymation animation. (Honorable mention goes to The Adventures of Mark Twain-- even though I didn't see it until I was much older, parts of it unnerved the hell out of me and it probably would have fit right in on that list.) I was personally glad to see a return to the kids movie with some teeth, since it always gave me the impression as a kid that something really was at stake in these stories, and what these characters were doing mattered. It made the triumph at the end mean more because they had something very threateningly real to overcome. That's very much the case with this movie, and I have to give a lot of credit to Terri Hatcher for her performance as both Coraline's mother and the Other Mother-- such subtle things she did with her voice that gave the animators a lot of room to get the acting just right to hit that balance of honey-sweet overlaying something terrible. I also love that all the women in this movie have a witchiness about them-- real witch, not "w-to-rhyme-with-b" witch. There are so many subtle touches in it, and I'm a sucker for detail, and I felt it was a wonderful adaptation of an equally wonderful children's book. Growing up, this one would have been an absolute favorite for me, the adventure/coming of age story I'd always wanted without having to superimpose myself on a boy to get it.

The Fantastic Mr Fox

Okay, I have to admit, this is the only one in this category I haven't watched yet. I wasn't sure what to think of it judging from the one or two very short promos I ever saw for it, but I did hear from friends that it was a lot better than they'd been expecting, and was even downright good. It never came anywhere close to me, but it'll be on my Netflix queue as soon as it's available. On a side note, I really wish George Clooney would do more voicework, he's got what they call "a voice with character" in spades, and he has a great range of emotive capabilities to draw from. I think the medium would suit him nicely.

The Princess and the Frog
(Pretty long, since I never got around to writing an actual review for it before.)

Disney finally returns to the media that launched the mega-conglomerate in the first place. I could not believe the short-sighted stupidity at play when they closed down their traditional animation studios after 2004's Home on the Range. I was ecstatic when I heard they were (finally!) reopening them after the merger with Pixar and Lasseter finally brought a little common sense back to the creative decisions. (Really, assuming that tepid ticket sales on the traditional animation movies with the booming sales for Pixar movies meant that traditional animation was dead as an art form is asinine-- evidently no one paused to consider that it was the stories that were lackluster, not the medium itself.) The directors in charge for this movie were Ron Clements and John Musker, the directing team behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet, which I felt was a pretty wise choice, as well as a symbolic one, given that Mermaid kicked off Disney's '90s renaissance and saved it from going under. The end result was pretty fine, a return to the traditional fairy tale stories that the company is known for, with some really beautiful animation (almost show-off beautiful in places) and the sort of charming, plucky, independent heroine that Ron n' John love to showcase. Bonus feature that the prince was also charismatic, charming, and cocky (an actual personality, something lacking in Mermaid's prince-- or most of Disney's classics, for that matter), and they both felt like a lot of work had gone into their development as individual characters, not just their designs. You could tell that they really wanted to get this one right, and in a lot of ways they did. The beginning was wonderful, the villain was incredible, the animation was absolutely lovely (and in places spooky), and it featured Jim Cummings doing his wonderful Cajun accent, which I'd only heard once before in a direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movie.

I loved that the heroine wanted a career, and I love that she didn't have to choose between it and her romance-- even if the romance part was incredibly rushed and sort of came out of nowhere and smacked me upside the head with its randomness 2/3 of the way through the movie. That really was the biggest beef I had with this one, was I did not buy the suddenness of the romance at all. It jerked me completely out of the movie and I found thoughts like "really? you've known her for a day!" to be very distracting for much of this part. I would have been totally fine if they'd implied more of a passing of time at the end, or if they hadn't set up such a constrained time limit for the action to take place in initially, or if there was some attempt to show that they had spent more than a day together before falling in love. But it was literally a day. And this wasn't one of the love at first sight relationships, either, it was one they were clearly supposed to grow into, so that just made it even more jarring.

The middle in general is a problem, since it seems to dissolve into random comedic relief elements for the sake of waking the kids up and filling space until the end. There's also a character here who seems to serve no real point to the story whatsoever (aside from padding things out and giving the leads something to do for the middle part) and while I get that she was supposed to be the representation of the "proper" form of voodoo in contrast to the villain's misuse of it for personal gain, I felt like giving her a gospel song and lots of Christian church imagery sort of undermined that idea. Oh, and there are some issues with astronomy at one or two points (the Evening Star is the planet Venus, not an actual star, for instance, and there's something that happens later on that sort of made my head explode a little) but it wasn't anything so major that I lost any sleep over it.

It does come back together at the end again, and there's a really wonderful dynamic between Tiana and the female supporting character whose name I have forgotten (but who may have been my favorite character next to the villain just because she was hilarious), as well as the prince, once we get past that really awkward phase in the middle and I was able to pretend they'd had more time to get to know each other. And yeah, there are subtle mentions of racism, and a contrast drawn between the means Tiana's family lives in and the means her friend, the rich, white debutante lives in. It's subtle enough to keep any nagging feelings of guilt at bay, and some things may be unrealistic for the time frame this is set in, but it doesn't try to sweep these problems under the rug, either. So, in summary, yeah, the movie has some flaws, but honestly, they didn't keep me from enjoying myself a great deal, and overall I was pretty pleased with it as a return to good ol' hand-drawn animation. It's probably the most flawed of the films in this category, but I think it does still deserve to be in here, and it's worth seeing.

The Secret of Kells

I'm probably one of the very few people on this side of the Atlantic to have been able to see this one yet, and I was both very surprised and very happy to see it nominated. First-off, it's really, really beautiful. Astonishingly beautiful. Very reminiscent of a little-known masterpiece of traditional animation called The Thief and the Cobbler, by animation legend Richard Williams. It's done in that same 2 1/2-dimension style that's reminiscent of medieval art, and it draws inspiration from the Book of Kells and traditional Celtic artwork as well. There's a mix of magic and faeries and the old nature-worshipping religions of the British Isles and the Christian religion that was trying to stake its claim there as well. I never felt like it was disrespectful of either one and seemed to be leaning more towards the idea of mutual cohabitation and respect, which I always appreciate. There are definitely ideas under the surface here, and it never felt like it was pandering exclusively to a young crowd, nor did it feel like it was trying to exclude them. There are also interesting changes in perspective, between the way a young Brendan sees the events happening around him, and the way the adults do, and there's a wonderful sense of trust on the part of the filmmakers to allow audience members of all ages to consider both without pandering to either. There are some tense moments, and a few that I was really shocked to see in a film with such a fun and colorful design. There are more of those creepy/scary moments towards the end that I would have been afraid of but secretly loved as a kid, and again, it serves to add some real weight to the story and create a sense that something important is at stake. It's a stunningly beautiful film that probes some ideas that most kids movies don't like to, and there is a surprising intensity to some of the later scenes that not all kids are going to be comfortable with. But I like that the filmmakers took some risks, and I'm really happy to see it get recognized. I hope that means we get a DVD release soon.

Well, that's it for that category. I have to say, I'm really pleased with the diversity and quality of the selections this year, and I really, really hope it's a trend that continues.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why Am I Suddenly Excited About the Oscars This Year?

I don't really get that into the Oscars. They tend to be awarded based on which nominee attends the right parties and schmoozes the right way, or which idea/cause is most popular at the time, rather than which one is truly the most deserving. I have to say, it is rare to find a nominee that's undeserving of recognition or praise, but the actual winners do tend to be based around political (and by this I mean Hollywood politics, not politics-politics) decisions instead of technical merits. So I don't tend to pay attention much unless a movie I particularly like is up for something major.

But that isn't to say they don't matter. To the average moviegoer, they don't really, people will see what they want to see regardless of awards. But to the people making films in Hollywood they do matter because not only does it bring them recognition and a certain status amongst viewers, but it opens doors to projects they might not be considered for otherwise. An Oscar win to executives can mean a certain bankability because suddenly people know who this person is and are more likely to be interested in a film from a familiar name. To the winner, it means a certain level of prestige, but more than that, it means being taken seriously. Of course, it adds pressure, because then they have to deliver something on par with something that successful or they risk being labeled a fluke, or even worse a hack with a lucky win. But you still get your name and your movie branded with the Oscar-Winner seal forever, and that's more than most people get.

But given that that's pretty much a constant, why do I actually care this year when I don't most of the time? No, it's not because Up might be be nominated for Best Picture (razzaflabbin' Best Animated Feature category... I learned my lesson after Ratatouille and Persepolis got their conciliatory nominations there in '07 instead of being able to contend for the "more serious" category-- and really, it does get a little boring when Pixar wins it every freaking year; not that they don't deserve to win it, but geez, they may as well just start calling it the Pixar Award), it's because a woman is going to be nominated for Best Director for only the fourth time ever. And she has a serious shot at being the first one to win it.

Out of 82 years and approximately 410 Best Director nominations, Katheryn Bigelow will be the fourth woman nominee, behind Lina Wertmuller in 1976, Jane Campion in 1993, and Sofia Coppola in 2003 (none of whom won, I might add). This weekend, she won the Director's Guild of America award for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film, and the DGA is an almost flawless match with the Academy Award for Best Director (according to what I've been reading, there have only been six deviations from DGA winners and Oscar winners). She is the first woman to win that award, too, and now she's the front-runner for the Oscar.

Now, to be fair, I haven't seen her film, The Hurt Locker yet. I hear it's very good, and I've been seeing snippets about critics lauding her very highly for her work, and her topping many of their lists for best director of the year. I haven't heard anyone saying that she's only getting attention because she's a woman, or that she didn't deserve to win the DGA just as much as anyone else that was up for it. In fact the only reservations about this I hear are from a few people who wish the film that got the possible first woman winner nominated was a "woman's" film instead of a "guy's" film (The Hurt Locker is about soldiers in the Iraq War-- an action/suspense movie). While I understand that sentiment and agree with it to a certain extent, 2009 was a phenomenal year for women-fueled movies, with Julie & Julia at $94.1 million, It's Complicated at $100 million, The Proposal at $164 million, The Blind Side at $235 million, and New Moon at $293 million, and all of them hitting in the last half of the year. Say what you will about any of them as films, the fact is, they were geared for women, starred women (two of them starring the same woman, who is over forty to boot), and three of them were even directed by women. New Moon's numbers were something like 90% female viewers (note: not fact-checked, am basing this on memory which is often faulty with numbers), making that even more astounding (most Hollywood blockbusters are split around 60% male and 40% female audiences, so even with "guy" films, women make up a significant portion of ticket sales). Normally a movie like that making that kind of money will be chalked up to a fluke by studio execs, who from what I've been given to understand by people in the know, like Nia Vardalos (writer and star of My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding) writing an article stating that during a movie pitch she was asked to switch the female lead to a man because "women don't go to movies", and based on the levels of contempt, vitriol, and venom that arose when NPR's Linda Holmes posted an open letter to Pixar asking why they hadn't yet made a film starring a female lead (which I blogged about early on here). This year, of all years, is the one that is making people notice because women are proving the execs wrong and proving that they do go to movies.

So I don't care if Bigelow directed an action thriller and that's considered a "guy" movie because there is plenty of proof that female-driven, made, and geared films are profitable and desired by women who want to see themselves reflected on the screen as much as the guys do. Bigelow did the job, she directed a really good movie from all accounts, and she deserves the award as much as anyone else up there. So yeah, I want her to win it. I want her to win it bad because it's one less glass ceiling in the world, because it's 2010 and women make up 51% of the population and it's about time, because I want that message to resonate with all those girls out there who might have talked themselves out of a directing career because it's so hard to be successful, because I want it to resonate with the studio execs, because I want it to resonate with everyone who considers the efforts, ambitions, dreams, thoughts, feelings, and lives of women as less important or meaningful than that of men, and I want it for me. I'm headed to film school in a few short years and yeah, I'd like to direct someday, and I'd for damn sure like to be taken seriously enough to be given the chance to succeed or fail at it on my own merits, not on the basis of my gender. An Oscar win won't magically make that happen, but it's a step forward, and that's what I care about.