Archive | Film Matters

The Fast Company of Eve Babitz

There were many West Coast It Girls of the 60s and 70s, but Eve Babitz may have been the West Coast It Girl, at least among people in the know. Born in 1943 to a Jewish studio violinist and a gentile Texan rose, she counted Igor Stravinsky as her godfather and Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Bertrand Russell among her family friends. In the 1960s, she became a “groupie-adventuress” who designed album covers for Linda Ronstadt and Buffalo Springfield, and counted everyone from Frank Zappa to Salvador Dali among her friends, and Steve Martin, Jim Morrison, Harrison Ford, and both Ruscha brothers (photographer Paul and painter Ed) among her lovers. She also was the nude girl in the famous photograph of Marcel DuChamp playing chess.

But none of these biographical details are as compelling as Eve’s prose. In essay collections and autobiographical novels, she rhapsodized about booze, beauty, jacarandas, and, above all else, her native stomping grounds of Southern California. Whether describing a stunning angle of sunlight, the many sorts of SoCal winds, or a perfect crate of Chavez-approved grapes, she wrote with such extravagant style that you found yourself falling in love with Los Angeles even if you’d always considered it a cultural wasteland. Continue Reading →

The Hollywood Firsts of Sherry Lansing: Q&A

Sherry Lansing is the Queen of Hollywood firsts. When appointed president of production of 20th Century Fox in 1980, she became the first woman to run a Hollywood movie studio. Going on to run Paramount Studios during one of its most successful decades, she prevailed as a Tinseltown superpower through the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. She even became the first female studio head to leave her hand- and footprints on the sidewalk in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Standing five foot ten, Lansing worked as an actress mentored by the legendary director Howard Hawks (she appeared in his “Rio Lobo” with John Wayne) before joining MGM as a script reader. Married to director William Friedkin since 1991, she left the film biz in 2005 to launch the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which is dedicated to funding and raising awareness for cancer research, health, public education, and encore career opportunities. Now she’s the subject of Leading Lady, an authorized biography by Stephen Galloway. On a deliciously long phone call, we talked about her many hats as well as feminism, the changing movie industry, and “Fatal Attraction,” which she produced. Continue Reading →

‘Lady Macbeth’ and the Unlikeability Paradox

The “female likeability” mandate has been holding women hostage in literature, as in life, since the Ancient Greeks introduced Medea and Clytemnestra. But it was Shakespeare who really enforced the myth that girls had to play nice. Though he authored some beautifully complex women, he also created a bevy of thorny female characters who either sweetened up or met a brutal fate–in King Lear and The Taming of the Shrew, especially. Then there’s Lady Macbeth. As a woman who notoriously did not know her place, she was doomed to go mad before offing herself entirely.

Though she is never name-checked except in its title, William Oldroyd’s adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s classic 1865 novel, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk, is haunted by the Lady. About a young woman sold into marriage to a man more than twice her age, this “Lady Macbeth” is a feminist screed that doesn’t just politely nudge at expectations that adult women should be good little girls. It rips them up and then stares at us defiantly. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy