Jordan Chariton here.
I had to actually think about all my favorite films, list them in my head, and then go look at who actually directed them. Not many females.
In there, Wayne's World (a guilty pleasure), directed by Penelope Spheeris, directed many films I've seen...and didn't like. While Black Sheep was funny, it was the stars and script that were the best parts, and followed an a-b-c plot that I think almost anyone could have done.
I even went so far as to look up movies by female directors, and surprisingly, I had seen most of them (Thanks IMDB, for keeping track of the movies I've seen and helping me categorize them).
I loathed The Piano, The Hurt Locker, and Lost in Translation. (While they may have been visually compelling, I found them bloated and long winded. I didn't even know they were directed by women until now). Yet they are top rated films. Not by me, but by the general public.
Then I looked at the most financially successful female directors...Twilight. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Yeah. Sorry, not the best flagship.
Some of my favorite films are Cinema Paradiso, Its A Wonderful Life, Amelie, Shawshank Redemption, Pan's Labyrinth, Moonrise Kingdom, and many more, not including the guilty pleasure ones that I can watch constantly such as Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Ghostbusters, Spiderman, Memento, Transformers, etc.
What I did find was that many of my favorite films had female writers. I can always forgive a film for bad directing or poor special effects. Story, plot, dialogue, and character have to be good. Mrs. Doubtfire, Limitless, the Lion King, Julie and Julia, Juno, and a lot more have great stories and characters by female screenwriters.
Sadly, my list of favorite actors was sparse on females, with Tilda Swinton's chameleon-like skills pushing her up. Jodie Foster made the list. Even after looking at the academy awards for best female actor I found myself indifferent towards many of their roles. Kathy Bates and Cate Blanchette are there, but top actors (for me) go to Kevin Spacey, Christoph Waltz, Gary Oldman, Denzel Washington, and Heath Ledger.
Which is odd, because I find my list of favorite books both as an adult and as a child featured strong, charismatic, self possessed and independent women: Sabriel, Matilda, Anne Shirley, Hellen Keller, Princess Cimorene, Lucy Pevensie, V.I. Warshawski, Clarice Starling, Pecola Breedlove, and Susannah Dean are some of the best, well written characters I've ever read who I would want to meet in real life, and if I ever had a daughter, would want her to read about. (I'll be throwing my sons into that, though. I want them to know damsels don't need saving, they need cheering on).
I think the problem might not really be "Hollywood" but the agents that represent females. I think they're selling them short.
From a financial viewpoint it makes a kind of sense: If you have a George Clooney or a Brad Pitt, you get a really healthy cut of their paycheck.
Let's say that you want to make a sustainable income, though. You would then like to have many clients who, though they don't make much, will still garner you a bit of a profit. While not a lot on its own, their salary adds up considerably in a cumulative way.
If you have ten women that you can have a guaranteed "sell" at a lower rate, that means more secure money in your pocket than if you risked going higher and got nothing.
So maybe we need to put pressure on the agents for underselling their clients. It may be more effective if all the agents got together and said "We will not represent these actors for less than this amount, and if you try to find a lookalike or "new" actress due to financial or sexist reasons, we'll make you match the old offer."
Might work, might not.
All I know is: Jennifer Lawrence, Gweneth Paltrow, Emma Thompson, Cate Blanchette, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, and Kathy Bates (All amazing and versatile actors that I do enjoy watching), won't get me into the movie theater, but Leslie Dixon, Nicole Pearlman, Tina Fey, Jane Goldman, and Diablo Cody might.
(That last one might get some ire, but her dialogue is great, and Evil Dead was better than I expected).