The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

« Previous Post | The Big Picture Home | Next Post »

Manohla Dargis on the Hollywood boys club: 'One guy after another in a baseball cap'

December 14, 2009 |  5:56 pm

When it comes to incendiary film criticism, no one does it better than Manohla Dargis, the New York Times' film critic whose reviews have the same tart-tongued zing as Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday."

Dargis has led something of a one-woman crusade against the Hollywood boys club, which as Dargis put it in an essay in the Sunday New York Times, is far happier making movies for women than allowing women to actually make the movies. She pointed out that two of the Big Six Hollywood studios didn't release a single film directed by a woman this year. The record of the other studios, if you take away the female-directed films released by their specialty divisions, was pretty spotty as well.

Dargis made an even more provocative point, arguing that male directors are allowed to fail in ways women aren't, citing as an example the fact that Michael Mann had no trouble getting immediately hired again after making the box-office bust "Ali," while Kathryn Bigelow went nearly six years without a film after making "K-19: The Widowmaker." I'm not sure it's actually a fair comparison, since Mann had a lot more hits under his belt before "Ali" than Bigelow did before "K-19," but you could easily cite a dozen other female director career trajectories that have been far more slowed by a box-office misstep than untold hundreds of male cinematic hacks.

But what does Manohla really think about the sad state of affairs for female filmmakers? She let it all hang out today in a no-holds-barred interview with the website, where she swears like a sailor, using the kind of colorful profanity that could never be printed in the NYT (or my own paper, for that matter), called "Mamma Mia!," the biggest recent hit directed by a woman, "a terrible movie," explained why most romantic comedies "sucked" and unloaded on box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, calling him a certain anatomical profanity that starts with the letter "a." Here's a few highlights:

On why women don't fare better in Hollywood: "This business is really about clubby relationships. If you buy Variety ... you see one guy after another smiling in a baseball cap. It's all guys making deals with other guys. I had a female studio chief a couple of years ago tell me point blank that she wasn't hiring a woman to do an action movie because women are good at certain things and not others."

On Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron: "I personally don't think either of them is a good filmmaker -- they make movies for me that are more emotionally satisfying but with barely any aesthetic value at all."

On why so many romantic comedies are so terrible: "One, the people making them have no [expletive] taste. Two, they're morons. Three, they're insulting panderers who think they're making movies for the great unwashed and that's what they want.... I think it's depressing that Judd Apatow makes the best romantic comedies and they're about men."

On prominent box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, who was quoted in the Washington Post recently as saying that "there's no 'Bourne Identity' with a woman starring in it right now. It's almost as if in real life, women want to be empowered and in control, but on screen they seem to like the old-fashioned damsel-in-distress, love-struck female." Dargis: "[Screw] him. What an [expletive]. Yes, that's what I want! That's exactly what I want. If Angelina Jolie had been cast in a movie as good as 'The Bourne Identity' with a filmmaker like Paul Greengrass, I would've gone out to see it, and I'm sure I wouldn't be alone. That is absurd. That's blaming female audiences -- you get what you deserve?"

On panning films directed by women: "I've had testy people imply that I should go easier on women's movies. I find that incredibly insulting. Are you kidding me? I don't want to be graded on a curve."

Photo of director Kathryn Bigelow on the set of her film "The Hurt Locker" by Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment