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Backwards and in Heels: The Past, Present And Future Of Women Working In Film Paperback – August 15, 2017
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About the Author
Alicia Malone is a film reporter, host, writer and self-confessed movie geek. She first gained notice hosting movie-centric shows and reviewing films in her native Australia, before making the leap to Los Angeles in 2011.
Since then, Alicia has appeared on CNN, the Today show, MSNBC, NPR and many more, talking about movies. Currently she is a Fandango Correspondent, and the creator and host of their weekly show, Indie Movie Guide. Alicia is also a host on FilmStruck, a cinephile subscription streaming service run by the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies.
Alicia is passionate about classic films, independent movies and supporting women in film. In 2015, Alicia gave a TEDx talk about the lack of women working in film and why this is important to change. In 2017, she was invited to give a second TEDx talk, where she spoke about the hidden stories of the earliest women working in Hollywood. Alicia has also spoken at conferences around America, and because of this, was named one of the 100 Worthy Women of 2016.
Alicia has traveled the world to cover the BAFTAs, the Oscars, the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and SXSW. She is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and over the years has interviewed hundreds of movie stars and filmmakers.
She also wrote this bio, but knew it would sound way less egotistical if written in third person.
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The first few chapters were often a slog to read through because I was less interested in the older figures than modern filmmakers. The book also should have had a more thorough editor, allowing for quicker pacing, tighter chapters, and a better format (or perhaps that was just the fault of a poor format for Kindle). The book did not need to be placed in a chronological timeline as it is, as many of the modern women had influences that went back. If the book had been written with an interwoven format, where modern women and influences were mixed with older ones, the book would've been more interesting, keeping the reader engaged as well as connecting different women through the ages. But ultimately, this book felt like a reference PBS Special, where you would see images of women and their accomplishments, with a voiceover by Gwen Ifill (rest in peace) narrating their accomplishments, rather than a book that brought these women to life. Still, I enjoyed Alicia's tone guiding me through women that contributed greatly to film, but were forgotten. The most notable thing I learned was how women disappeared from important positions in cinema over the years, and came to be considered mainly sex objects in a male-driven industry. My favorite chapters were Alice Guy Blanche, Lois Weber, Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe. The last two were particularly awakening because we only know their public images.
I'm excited to see what Alicia comes up with for her follow up. I'm glad she wrote this.
Covering many important women through a series of mini-biographies, Malone explains how they (especially during the early days) had a great role in pioneering film technologies and film-making techniques. However, further to their technical prowess, it was women who were also ready to tackle taboo subject matter in their films. That was of course, until such a time when Hollywood was left in the hands of a small number of large studios with predominantly male executives; controlling everything from stars to theaters. This changed the landscape for women and the stories that could be told in film. Heavy censoring, racist stereotyping and sexist policies left women with an even harder road through the system than it already was. Yet still, many continued to fight their way through and paved the way for the next generation.
Surprising, inspiring and tragic at times, the book is more than a treatise on women in film, with insight into a broader Hollywood history. Explaining how Tinseltown was like a microcosm of the world, with everything from world wars to shifting social taboos and foreign influences affecting what was considered beyond the pale for women and minority groups who sought (or were forced into) careers in show business.
While Malone acknowledges her book is not a complete history of women in Hollywood, the concise timeline she presents gives a wide picture, satisfying her intent of ensuring the false “boy’s club” narrative no longer hinders our thinking. We can now celebrate them along with her as we get to know about a long line of passionate, strong, artistic and important filmmakers. Ones who left a lasting legacy, from Hollywood all the way to living rooms in Canberra where she first met them as a child.
By challenging our ideas and understanding about the role of women throughout the history of Hollywood, Backwards & In Heels becomes more than a chronology of events but rather a splash of water in the face of that false narrative which has permeated the industry regarding the role of women in film as it's been told in recent times, making the book an important read for movie buffs and contemporary historians alike.
This review first appeared on blurbhack.com
A must-read for other film lovers, and those wishing to understand the historic and current struggles in Hollywood.