CATEGORIES Columns, Cinematical


Finding great women on film is like hunting for that elusive remaining basselope, Rosebud. They're out there, somewhere, if you have the patience to look. After a 2010 where the Top 20 films saw female characterizations improving from wild-eyed women obsessing about men to little girls loving dinosaurs and cowboys, 2011 arrives with a little bit of hope in the air.

Unfortunately, it's hope dashed by the numbers game. The numbers are pretty rough for the first half of 2011. Less than 40% of the films feature female leads or co-leads. Only 3% are directed by women. Now to be fair, indie films often pick up a reasonable amount of the slack, and release schedules for 2011 are still being formulated. But as of now, you might want to fire up that entertainment unit and make your own retro playlist of female fare, stopping briefly to hit the theaters in March, a month that offers some of the most diverse characterizations and the most directorial offerings by women.

Hit the jump for the January-June run-down.

Note: To earn starring credit, an actress has to lead a film, or co-lead with other actors -- appear in the top names on the cast list, referenced to in the plot summary and shown on the film's poster.

JANUARY

Films: 'Season of the Witch,' 'The Green Hornet,' 'The Dilemma,' 'Barney's Version,' 'The Company Men,' 'No Strings Attached,' 'The Way Back,' 'The Mechanic,' 'The Rite,' 'Biutiful,' 'From Prada to Nada'

Films with Female Stars: 2
January is a big supporting actress party, from Cameron Diaz playing the quintessential superhero secretary in 'The Green Hornet' to Rosamund Pike falling for an unfaithful, rotund and neurotic "hero" in 'Barney's Version.' When it comes to leading ladies, however, it's a month as bleak as the weather of the North. We've got the Oscar hopeful who shed her skin and became a chilling bird in 'Black Swan' -- Natalie Portman -- sexing up her best friend in the latest Kutcher-com, 'No Strings Attached,' and a Latina twist on 'Sense and Sensibility,' Jane Austen's tale. You know, the one where stilettoed sisters are left penniless when their loaded dad dies and leaves them yearning for shoes in East L.A. Cliche-breaking genre fare, for sure.

Female Directors: 0
Though we get to finally see how Michel Gondry fares against Seth Rogen's superheroes, how Ron Howard deals with cheating and what's 'Biutiful' in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's world, there are no female directors gracing wide releases.

FEBRUARY

Films: 'Sanctum,' 'The Roommate,' 'Frankie and Alice,' 'Just Go With It,' 'Gnomeo and Juliet,' 'Cedar Rapids,' 'The Eagle,' 'I Am Number Four,' 'Unknown,' 'Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,' 'Vanishing on 7th Street,' 'HappyThankYouMorePlease,' 'Drive Angry 3D,' 'Hall Pass'

Films with Female Stars: 5
The month of love perks up a bit for women, and thankfully in more than just romantic roles. Sure, we see Jennifer Aniston in another romcom, killer roommates, ensemble romances and Shakespeare's iconic romance told through gnomes, but the month also marks the return of Halle Berry. After a three-year hiatus, she's starring in 'Frankie and Alice' as a woman with multiple personalities, one of which is racist.

If only the month didn't end with a 'Hall Pass' for dudes who want to cheat, where "things get a little out of control" when the wives -- gasp -- want to find new lovers too.

Female Directors: 0
Kelly Asbury might pique your interests with 'Gnomeo and Juliet,' but this is a male Kelly, the man who previously helmed 'Shrek 2.'

MARCH

Films: 'Rango,' 'The Adjustment Bureau,' 'Apollo 18,' 'Take Me Home Tonight,' 'Battle: Los Angeles,' 'Jane Eyre,' 'Red Riding Hood,' 'Mars Needs Moms,' 'Limitless,' 'Paul,' 'The Lincoln Lawyer,' 'Beastly,' 'Sucker Punch!,' 'The Beaver,' 'Win Win,' 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules,' 'Miral,' 'Shelter'

Films with Female Stars: 8
It's great to see the growing numbers in March, but what's even better is the diversity. There's 'Jane Eyre,' where Mia Wasikowska gets to dig her teeth into the Charlotte Bronte classic. 'Sucker Punch' then arrives for all-girl arse kicking before Julian Schnabel focuses on a Palestinian girl (Freida Pinto) during the Arab-Israeli war with 'Miral.'

And if you happen to see a redhead on the poster for 'Take Me Home Tonight,' that's Anna Faris.

Female Directors: 2
Hold onto your seats -- women direct movies in 2011 too! We've got not one, but two films to look forward to ... or for many, avoid. Catherine Harwicke is sure to please 'Twilight' fans with her next look at a girl lusting for overly hairy supernatural boys with 'Red Riding Hood.' Unfortunately, the ads look so much like the Meyer series that it's sure to turn off a solid portion of the audience right away.

Things don't look too much better for our other female director of the month, Jodie Foster. 'The Beaver' -- the story of a man who befriends a beaver puppet -- sounds quirkily intriguing, but it's also tainted with the real-life controversy surrounding star Mel Gibson.

APRIL

Films: 'Source Code,' 'Insidious,' 'Super,' 'Hop,' 'Your Highness,' 'Hanna,' 'Arthur,' 'Born to Be Wild,' 'Scream 4,' 'Rio,' 'Soul Surfer,' 'Madea's Big Happy Family,' 'Water for Elephants,' 'Born to Be a Star,' 'Fast Five,' 'Prom,' 'What's Your Number?'

Films with Female Stars: 8
Though 'Source Code' plays with women in charge and women in need of saving, April is the month of toughness. Take your pick between Natalie Portman and her bow and arrow in 'Your Highness,' Saorise Ronan acting as a young, 'Professional' Portman in 'Hanna,' Sidney Prescott facing Ghost Face again in 'Scream 4' and...

Okay, this girl gets her own extra blurb because she's real, tough and kicks all sorts of ass. April also brings the true story of a surfer girl -- Bethany Hamilton -- who lost an arm to a shark at the age of thirteen, and then finds her way back to the board as a one-armed surfer in 'Soul Surfer.'



Female Directors: 0
It's back to the boys' club.

MAY

Films: 'Thor,' 'Something Borrowed,' 'Bridesmaids,' 'Priest,' 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,' 'The Hangover Part 2,' 'Kung Fu Panda 2,' 'The Tree of Life,' 'Jumping the Broom'

Films with Female Stars: 3
With the air warming, Hollywood is in a wedding frenzy and offering most of the female fare through the hazy sheen of white lace and walks down the aisle. Take your pick: girls falling for their friend's fiance with 'Something Borrowed,' women battling each other in 'Bridesmaids' or African American families converging on Martha's Vineyard.

Female Directors: 1
The next 'Panda' offering is directed by Jennifer Yuh. A head of story for the first film, this will be her feature directorial debut. Here's hoping it's killer not because the world needs an excellent movie about kung fu-fighting pandas, but to maybe help diversify the Pixar roster some time in the future.

JUNE

Films: 'X-Men: First Class,' 'Beginners,' 'Super 8,' 'Green Lantern,' 'Bad Teacher,' 'Cars 2,' 'Rise of the Apes'

Films with Female Stars: 2
As of now, the 2011 summer season isn't starting off with a female bang. We've got Elle Fanning starring in the highly secretive 'Super 8,' while Cameron Diaz offers us a 'Bad Teacher.' Luckily, she's not sexing up students, but in a not-so-much-better role, she plays a gold-digger battling for the affections of a fellow teacher.

Female Directors: 0
Three female directors was all the Spring season could handle.

There are tons of films still waiting for placement on the 2011 schedule, so let's hope the female fare gets a nice jolt as the months roll on.

Any that you're particularly looking forward to?