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Cross Post: Heroines of Cinema: An A-Z of Women in Film in 2012

Features
by Matthew Hammett Knott
December 26, 2012 3:00 PM
2 Comments
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Kathryn Bigelow, Director of Zero Dark Thirty

Since this column began in August, it has profiled a wide variety of women - fictional and real, contemporary and historic - whose achievements in film have been considered worthy of attention. Given the difficulty in characterising a single year in film, even through a specific prism such as gender, I have opted for the catalogue format of an A-Z review. Inevitably, there will be deserving omissions -- though be aware that I have attempted to chronicle the bad and the ugly as well as the good. The film industry in 2012 remains entrenched in sexist practices, a fact which is readily apparent in the following article. Nonetheless, the wide variety of compelling characters, star performances and inspiring writers, directors and other creatives listed below give plenty of reasons to cheer 2012's Heroines of Cinema.

A is for Ava DuVernay

"Middle of Nowhere" is one of the year's best reviewed films, and its writer / director Ava DuVernay made history by becoming the first African American to win Sundance's Best Director award in January. Black female filmmakers have faced a long struggle to get their voices heard, but along with Victoria Mahoney's "Yelling to the Sky" and Amma Asante's forthcoming period drama "Belle", the future has never looked brighter.

B is for Brenda Chapman

Chapman hit the headlines when she was hired as Pixar's first female director for "Brave", but tongues wagged when she was fired from the project a year in. Keeping her directing credit (and her lips firmly shut) she shared the praise when "Brave" was released to strong reviews and became a $535 million hit this summer.

C is for Catwoman

Halle Berry somewhat soured the Catwoman brand with her 2004 Razzie-winning flop. But Anne Hathaway proved its unlikely saviour this summer with her turn in "The Dark Knight Rises". Despite a lukewarm reaction to her casting, she won the critics over, adding to a good year for female action heroines, as will be proved below.

D is for Double Standards

Helen Hunt bared all in her role as a sex surrogate in "The Sessions". Unsurprising you might think - except for the fact that her co-star John Hawkes was not called on for full frontal nudity. The director Ben Lewin offered a lame excuse, claiming that there was no point in showing his character's penis if not erect (which would guarantee the dreaded NC-17 rating). But for those who witnessed a clearly prudish shot of Hawkes attempting to combat his fears by examining his (not so) naked body in a mirror, it was clear that the infamous double standard was at play.

E is for Emmanuelle Riva

85 year old Riva gave one of the year's most moving performances as a woman staring death in the face in Michael Haneke's "Amour". Though her performance hardly needs validating by the razzmatazz of the Oscars, should she pull off a Best Actress nod she would be the oldest actor ever to be nominated.

F is for Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach has written some pretty great female roles over the years, not least with 2007's "Margot at the Wedding", but this year he teamed up with Greta Gerwig to co-write "Frances Ha". Gerwig's writing and performance of the titular character drew rave reviews following its premieres in Telluride and Toronto.

G is for Ginger and Rosa

Sally Potter gave an inspiring interview to this column in October, detailing her triumphs and pitfalls over a willfully unique career. This year she gave Elle Fanning a plum role as the star of "Ginger and Rosa", Potter's attempt to portray the epic scale of emotions common to what she sees as the perpetually trivialised experience of female adolescence.

H is for Hunger Games

It was the Twilight saga that proved the spending power of teenage girls at the multiplex, but Bella Swan was no match for "The Hunger Games"' action heroine Katniss Evergreen. Kicking off the franchise with a $686 million worldwide gross, Jennifer Lawrence announced her star potential and claim to the title of "the next Julia Roberts", which were later cemented by her acclaimed turn in "Silver Linings Playbook".

I is for Interview Bias

Helen Hunt may have suffered from the double standard on "The Sessions" but she wasn't going to stand for it during an actress roundtable for the Hollywood Reporter with two male moderators. Mid-interview, she called them out for their clearly sexist line of questioning - which incorporated nudity, facing your fears and the paparazzi - comparing it to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, when "they were asking Obama about foreign policy and they were asking her, "How do you stay healthy on the road?". When her fellow actresses agreed, the interviewers quickly changed their tune.

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2 Comments

  • Conrado | January 6, 2013 7:34 AMReply

    Where's M is for Milla Jovovich??? =O

  • Lou | January 2, 2013 5:11 PMReply

    No JULIA LOKTEV? Only woman nominated as Best Director in the Independent Spirit Awards? Her feature, The Loneliest Planet, nommed for Best Film alongside The Master and Moonrise Kingdom in the Gotham Awards? Named in numerous Top Ten end-of-year lists (Time magazine, EW, LA Weekly, Village Voice) and just finished a seven-week run at IFC Center in NYC (Middle Of Nowhere played for 2 weeks). Odd.

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