10 December 2018

The dearth of movies written about women and for women

In 2013 women constituted just 10 percent of the writers working on the 250 top grossing films. If the remaining 90 percent of working screenwriters are too lazy to write a movie from a woman's perspective, then the result is what we see now: an absolute dearth of movies written about women and for women. Amy Pascal, Sony's then co-chairman, said, 'You're talking about a dozen or so then female-driven comedies that got made over a dozen years, a period when hundreds of male-driven comedies got made. And every one of those female-driven comedies was written or directed or produced by a woman. It's a numbers game - it's about there being enough women writers and enough women with the power to get movies made'.

Not that studios especially want these female-driven movies anyway: they want franchises, and romcoms and female comedies aren't seen as blockbuster material. 'Studio executives think these movies' success is a one-off every time,' Nancy Meyers, who wrote and directed Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated, said. 'They'll say, "One of the big reasons that worked was because Jack [Nicholson] was in it," or "We hadn't had a comedy for older women in forever". According to Melissa Silverstein, editor of Women and Hollywood, 'Whenever a movie for women is successful, studios credit it to a million factors, and none of those factors is to do with women'.

Romcoms aren't heart surgery, but they - at their best - explore and explain the human heart, and that's why great ones are so great and terrible ones are so very, very terrible. This is also why it feels like such a shame that studios simply think they're not worth their time any more. To be fair, writers as wise and funny and fair as [Nora] Ephron - and Austen for that matter - don't come along every day. But things have reached a pretty pass when film trade publications admit that When Harry Met Sally wouldn't even get made any more.

- Hadley Freeman, Life Moves Pretty Fast, London, 2015, p.110.

See also:
Blog: Highlander vs Ladyhawke, 15 March 2018
Blog: The remarkable impact of My Forgotten Man, 1 May 2016
Blog: 'Hey, did you see the grosses for Gandhi 2?', 3 February 2014

28 November 2018

Things we shouldn't have to discuss: How to take a bus

Implementing Wellington's new bus network certainly hasn't been smooth sailing, and there's plenty of work yet to be done to get things running properly. For one thing, the bus companies need to hire the right amount of drivers, pay them fairly, and put the right number of buses on the routes they contracted to deliver. But we Wellingtonians can also do our bit to help things work in the meantime too.

I travel on the Karori buses occasionally, and like many people I've noticed that there are capacity problems, with buses full up when they travel down Lambton Quay, and passengers are being turned away by drivers, which causes real frustration and isn't sustainable for a modern public transport network. This even happens after peak travel time, with some no.2 buses leaving passengers behind on the Quay even after 7pm on weeknights. Perhaps switching the Northland buses so they start at the station and the Wright's Hill buses to go via the University has inadvertently placed too much pressure on the remaining Karori service. Oh well, we have a history of making duff decisions about public transport (Karori losing its tram service in 1954, for starters)

So for whatever reason there's a capacity shortfall on the Karori route. Unfortunately with the no.2 route having all the tunnels (Karori, Mt Vic and Seatoun), using larger capacity double-decker buses isn't an option. One solution to this is to refit the existing buses with fewer seats and more standing area for passengers. This was derided by the usual skeptics at the time it was announced a few months ago, but as short-term measures go it made sense - you can simply fit more people in standing rather than seated.

There are also a few simple strategies we could each take to help things work more smoothly. Passengers should continuously move down the aisle to allow the maximum number of people aboard. This is hardly a revolutionary concept, I admit, but people don't seem to be aware that others might need to get on the bus they themselves successfully boarded. This includes standing in the rear door well and in the raised rear aisle over the engine; I agree it's not super-convenient but it's better than fellow travellers being stranded. No-one should be sitting on the aisle seats to preserve a spare window seat for their bag - that's simple good manners. And there are things we can do to speed up the service so it runs on time. If you're sufficiently mobile, you should make the move towards the exit before the bus halts, rather than making everyone wait for you to extract yourself and move down the aisle. And passengers should be asked politely to always exit through the rear doors, to allow passengers to board quickly through the front doors.

On this evening's bus ride home a mother with a pram at the Bowen House stop was refused entry by the driver with a curt, 'No room for you'. She must've wondered what she'd done to offend him. Firstly, obviously bus drivers should be polite to all passengers and particularly parents travelling with babies. Everyone should do their level best to make room for them. On the other hand, when things are crowded it's perfectly legitimate to ask people with prams to fold them up before boarding: this is common on buses in England, which are designed with plenty of room to park the prams. We can do this, Wellington!

17 November 2018

Delaney Davidson

Delaney Davidson plays Meow in Wellington on his Shining Day tour, 17 November.

Whistle while you work


Jillett's whaling station

Jillett's whaling station at the north end of Kapiti Island, in a 1907 watercolour by Walter Armiger Bowring, after an 1844 sketch by John Alexander Gilfillan. From an exhibition at Pataka in Porirua.

25 October 2018

Crusader Kings 2: Stayin' alive

Northern Europe in CK2, 1189AD
I've started playing CK2 again after a long break, and in between bouts of Cities Skylines. Returning to my old save of the Empire of Britannia, I've played another 75 years or so to the year 1189, moving from Emperor Thoraed the Shadow to his son Eadfrith the Black (pesky excommunication, people will make a fuss over nothing), and now Thoraed's grandson, the aging Emperor Osmund, who lacks a cool nickname.

Thoraed managed to live to age 59 but met his end at the fangs of an irritated serpent, which found its way into the royal bed thanks to some unnamed ne'er-do-well. He was lucky to have finally secured a male heir after many years of trying, but it was a close-run thing: his first son Eadfrith only arrived after eight daughters.

Eadfrith, it's fair to say, was something of an opportunist. Not only was he excommunicated by the Pope a couple of times, but he racked up a total of four wives - consecutively, not simultaneously, mind - and to preserve his hold on the throne there was also the small matter of having his cousin Queen Mildrith of Greece assassinated. Well, she was trying to seize the imperial throne in a war of rebellion, so as a strictly impartial observer I think Eadfrith's subjects should just cut him some slack...

As for Osmund, most of his reign was hamstrung by a massive anti-British pact across the Christian kingdoms of Europe so he couldn't wage any perfectly sensible wars against his younger brother, the rebellious King of Scotland. A bigger problem manifested itself early, in that when he was the Crown Prince he and his Italian wife Cecilia only managed four daughters before Cecilia hit the game's age 45 childbirth cut-off. No male heirs, which is serious business in this game. And then to make matters worse the first two daughters died young, with Princess Wulfthryth dying of natural causes in 1175 aged only 28, and the unpronounceable Princess Beorhtflaed, Queen of Poland, dying in childbirth in 1182 aged 32. 

This left young Princess III, otherwise known as Wulfgyth, who was unmarried, as the main heir. Osmund adoped several tactics to address this pesky problem.

First, a matrilineal marriage for Wulfgyth to the unlanded commoner Aethelfrith Byrhtnothson of Werle (a forgettable German county somewhere near Mecklenberg), in the hope of giving her offspring with the 'proper' male chromosomes. Said commoner spouse promptly demanded to run off to devote his life to the Knights Hospitaller, which Osmund had to decline and take a 100 Piety hit. Make heirs not martyrs, Aethelfrith! This marriage eventually helped Osmund's predicament by producing four children in the royal line, including three sons, although one of these was a bastard.

Second, Osmund adopted the Seduction life-path in the hope of siring an bastard to legitimise. After plenty of trial and error, including a failed sally in the bed of the Countess of Slesvig (which was more in the hope of convincing her to become a Brittanic vassal, really), Osmund's long-standing mistress, the beautiful Aelfthryth Cenwulfsdohtor, finally produced a fine, ginger bastard of the male variety, Prince Eadfrith. Sorry, Wulfgyth! You're out of royal luck. Now Osmund has gone all pious and switched to the Religious focus to reap the rewards of the Health bonus, in the hope of staying alive long enough so the little bastard reaches his majority. Eadfrith is currently age 3 and counting, and with plenty of jealous older cousins by his father's mistress to complicate matters should he live long enough to become Emperor!