About Moviediva

My name is Laura Boyes, and I was the Film Curator at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh, North Carolina starting in 1999.

Now, I introduce the Moviediva Film Series at the Carolina Theatre of Durham on select Wednesday nights.

I shared a monthly Movies on the Radio program with Frank Stasio and Marsha Gordon on WUNC’s “The State of Things” for eight years.  Here is the archive of shows.

Starting in 2002, I was a member of the selection committee for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Here is my most recent Moviediva manifesto from March 2024

Hollywood has been run by men since almost the beginning.  Male interests and the male gaze overwhelm cinema history.  So many film genres leave women out almost entirely.  If women green-lighted stories from movie infancy, would there be so many Westerns? School marms and floozies are just about the only women to be found on that prairie.  Action movies? Women rarely get to be a part of that action, they are there to be rescued—or raped or murdered.  Not to mention the enormous number of comic book movies dominating the release schedule.  Yes, you can Wonder Woman or Captain America me, but do I really care?   What does it say that Barbie is the top grossing Warner Brothers film of all time? And what does it say that its creator, Greta Gerwig was snubbed for the Best Director Oscar.  It says absolutely nothing new.

Watching classic films can be a delight, but it can also be cringe -inducing.  How many movies that you love include a male character who badgers a female character until she gives into his pursuit?  Leave her alone!  She said no!  How many times is that man decades older than the object of his desire? Audrey Hepburn made delightful and endless rewatchable classics, but Cary Grant? Gary Cooper? Humphrey Bogart?  Are these men old enough to be her father if not her grandfather?  Can I please recast these movies with younger heroes? And don’t get me started on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Pretty Woman? The hooker with the heart of gold.  Do men think it would be kooky and fun to be a sex worker?  Judging by the history of Hollywood, they do.

And how many films include a sequence in a strip club for no reason?  How many movies (post-Production Code) require an actress to take off her top?  Pole dancing?  Who cares? Oh, wait a minute.  Let me guess.

Yet, half the movie-going audience is female and some of them legit love these kinds of movies, too.  Fine.  But, where are the other movies?  The goal of Moviediva is to provide a safe space for women’s interests, women’s stories, women’s bodies.

In the very earliest days of silent film, there were numerous women directors, some of whom even owned their own studios.  When the film business began to consolidate in the 1920s, and it was clear that money was to be made from the picture business, many of the women, like Lois Weber, Alice Guy Blache, Cleo Madison and Nell Shipman were pushed out or resigned the field.  Women continued to work as film editors (it was thought their tiny hands were an attribute to that kind of detail work) as script girls and sometimes as screen writers.  There were many powerful women scenario writers in the silent era, like Frances Marion, Jeanie MacPherson and Anita Loos. But women were much less dominant in classic talkie Hollywood.  A couple of women, Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino managed to become directors, although their careers were decades apart from each other. 

Today, there are many more female directors and writers.  But, there is still a missing link.  There have to be more female reviewers (I’m guessing aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are mostly populated by young males, hence their often low scores for female dominated films) and more female programmers.  I’m happy to say that women reviewers are much more common in the last 10 years or so, but there also have to be female film curators, and that’s where Moviediva seeks to fill a void.

Now let me be clear about one thing.  I will defend to the death your taste in movies, even if it is diametrically opposed to mine.  Everyone is allowed their own taste. I am not putting down your love for whatever pleases you.  And, in return, I expect respect for the type of films that I love.

I’m just saying, can we not have films with age-appropriate romantic partners?  Female characters that are not long-suffering wives and mothers?  Can we please wear pretty clothes?  Can we plan our own heists, like Topkapi or How to Steal a Million (that by the way has Audrey with a hero approximately her own age).  I want to see some outsized personalities, like Carmen Miranda or Marilyn Monroe. Women who don’t feel obligated to defer to men.  I want a rom com heroine that does not have to trip and fall down to show how vulnerable she is, independent spirits like Amy Irving in Crossing Delancy or Melanie Griffith in Working Girl.  I want to root for the office workers in 9 to 5. I want to see Barbara Stanwyck take control in The Lady Eve or Baby Face.  I want to see Judy Holliday outsmart all the men who think she is too dumb to know what they are doing in Born Yesterday.

I get it.  This will probably never be as many movie fans as come to see Godzilla or Dario Argento.  I’m OK with that.  The Carolina Theatre is a treasure because it is an extremely large tent, and the fact that Moviediva’s choices are included is a pleasure for me, and hopefully movie fans looking for all kinds of stories to be told.

Here is the updated version of my original Moviediva manifesto:

When I started this job (in the 20th century!) I discovered things had changed since I had last programmed films as Film Society Chairman at the University of Cincinnati from 1973-1975. Back then, you could make up a wish list of films and there were many companies that would rent them to you. Since the advent of home video formats DVD and now, Blu-Ray, on demand, cable movie networks like TCM, Netflix, DVR and so on, most of those companies are out of business, and the remaining ones struggle in a changing market. Audiences, comfortably at home with their Big TVs and Netflix membership need a pressing reason to leave the house and go out to see a film they know they can obtain elsewhere, may have seen once long ago, or one of which they have never heard.  Since the COVID Pandemic, theaters are evaluating once more the future of cinema.  But, it’s a delusion that the proliferation of formats means you can see anything you desire.  Many films, for a myriad of reasons, are not available to the home viewer.

Fortunately, since I began my tenure at the NCMA in 1999, several companies have devoted themselves to reissuing new 35mm prints of some classic films, and archives have discovered that new prints are in demand by repertory film programs across the country. We are lucky to have the archival projection facilities that allow us access to rare prints from the Library of Congress, the UCLA Film Archive, the Museum of Modern Art Film Archive, the archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the UNC School of the Arts Film Archive and studio archives. Choosing carefully, it’s possible to program a challenging and enjoyable film series. Hollywood has almost entirely phased out 35mm for current films in favor of digital formats, a new challenge presents itself for the repertory programmer. New restorations may be DCP only, bypassing celluloid entirely. 35mm prints are now rare and valuable, and you must demonstrate to the archives that hold them that you are a trustworthy venue in order to screen them. When I left the NCMA, we had recently received our technology upgrade (but kept our 35mm projectors!) and were getting used to the benefits and limitations of the new world.

Film notes can make a huge difference, and I’ve enjoyed writing and giving introductory talks at the NCMA. There has been a lot of fascinating film writing, augmenting the early, nostalgia-oriented movie books that I began to use as a film programmer. Scholarly research, bringing in all aspects of popular culture and entertainment history, feminist and queer studies have all brought new points of view to movie writing. Academic texts are often impenetrable to the average reader, which is a shame, because sometimes there are great insights. My talks attempt to bridge both academic and more popular writing styles, although the older essays on the site are not as well footnoted as more recent ones. I intend to give credit where it is due!

A decade ago, there was relatively little on the Web about films that pre-dated the Web. No longer!  Moviediva was originally a response to that need.

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I believe there is nothing to compare to seeing a film with an audience in a theater, shown on the big screen. Or, as Francois Truffaut said:

“The most beautiful thing I have ever seen in a movie theater is to go down to the front and turn around, and look at all the uplifted faces, the light from the screen reflected upon them.”

As always,

Moviediva