If you’ve ever seen fairy tale heroines as teenage girls whose coming of age goes completely wrong (locked in a tower, put to sleep, being made a servant in your own house) then Pin Cushion is for you.
Write a masterpiece aged 18, create a new genre and a character for all of time – and then history thinks it’s your husband who wrote it, and pays more attention to the monster you created than to your own name.
We speak, of course, of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the joy of finally seeing a film on screen which shows why she wrote the novel, published two hundred years ago in 1818.
Just when you think you know as much of Whitney Houston’s story as you ever will, along comes a new documentary with a devastating claim; that Whitney and her half-brother Gary were sexually abused as children by their cousin Dee Dee Warwick (who died a decade ago.) The story first came out in May after the film, Whitney, premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
As In the Fade had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival a year ago, a suicide bomber walked into Manchester Arena and murdered 22 people attending an Arianna Grande concert.
Diane Kruger says that she “didn’t sleep” for a couple of nights afterwards, because she had just spent months devoting herself to In the Fade – the story of a German woman who loses her Turkish husband and their young son to neo Nazi bombers.
We can all lament that Ocean’s 8 is a bit sexist in its plot (women only become criminals if there’s dressing up involved or getting back at a tosser ex boyfriend) and not delivering much in what Sandra Bullock calls “banter”, but it’s kind of enjoyable, and why are we holding them to such high standards? Did you see a Tom Cruise film recently? Why are we asking for Chekhov for girls?
Amy Adrion is a filmmaker who was frustrated by not getting hired. She couldn’t put it down to being bad at her job, because it was also happening to all her female filmmaker friends – it was a struggle.
“I remember thinking, am I trying to do something impossible?” Amy says.
Is Debra Granik, the director who made a star out of J-Law, one of the most underrated of all the female filmmakers who have merited more attention?
Debra, a New Englander, made 2010’s Winter’s Bone, where a young Jennifer Lawrence got an Oscar nomination – a rare thing for a tiny independent. Debra also got an Oscar nomination for her screenplay, while the film was nominated for Best Picture.
Crystal Moselle manages to make life-changing walks through her native New York. A few years ago, the director was minding her own business on the Lower East Side when the family of boys who’d become known as The Wolfpack ran past her. That was her first documentary, released in 2015. More recently, a trip on the subway led to her bumping into a group of girl skate boarders, which Moselle explains “I had never seen before.”
Making a film about your own sexual abuse as a teenager –that’s something you don’t imagine getting pitched around many film studio boardrooms. But for experienced documentarian Jennifer Fox, making a narrative around a relationship she had with an adult man when she was 13 years old was a project she wanted to complete for years – despite most people trying to discourage her.
“There are few countries in the world where it is harder to be a young girl, where barriers between girls and their dreams and their rights are so high and so painful to experience and observe.” The words of Angelina Jolie as she unleashed The Breadwinner on the world – the second film she’s made within a year about the experiences of a young girl caught up in war.
Not since John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi has a heroine (not even Kill Bill’s Bride) slopped about in so much blood. But on the set of Revenge, Coralie Fargeat’s excellent debut film, she confesses that each day that they were worried they were going to run out of the fake stuff
In the rugged and varied landscape of TV medical dramas, you set the tone. Ever since those words were uttered by a world-weary Doctor Benton to the young and impressionable Doctor Carter on ER, the game was changed. Throughout the mid-1990s and beyond, County General in Chicago was the fictional place millions longed to visit each week, with its progressive scripts, innovative direction and complex characters that still evoke extreme emotional reactions (*that* episode involving Lucy and Carter in series 6, who’s with me?).
There’s a scene midway through Tully where Charlize Theron tears off her T-shirt in the kitchen and slumps at the table, wearing just her bra. It is the most realistic and justified reason for a woman to strip off in a film that I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s in the trailer for the movie as well and serves as a perfect calling card for why this film deserves to be seen by a wide audience, not just mothers.
You couldn’t make it up. A film about women getting their priorities all wrong also has its own priorites all wrong.
I Feel Pretty has been blasted by critics. Very little of said blasting is to do with the considerable talents of Amy Schumer – although she did choose to be in it. There are some funny moments in I Feel Pretty and those all belong to Amy. If only she’d grabbed the laptop off writer-directors Amy Kohn and Marc Silverstein and done it herself.
Men of genius, actress Samantha Colley explains, could never be attracted to emotional sponges. They want a woman on their intellectual level, a woman they can enjoy mind tussles with too. They don’t want dummies.
Unfortunately, when you are a woman of fire, spirit and talent in a relationship with a man of genius, it very rarely ends well. And Samantha Colley should know: she’s just played the partners of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in Seasons one and two of the Genius series on National Geographic.
It’s not funny, this debate we’ve had recently as to whether women can make an audience laugh as much as a man. Try telling Marti Caine, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters ,French and Saunders, Joan Rivers and even one J. Aniston that until Melissa McCarthy, Fey and Poehler came along there were no funny females on our screens.
But the superb British film Funny Cow, out this week in the UK, starring Maxine Peake, certainly shows what comediennes of the 1970s might have experienced on their route to the top.
“I am so bored with perfection,” Anastasia Griffith tells Electra. “I’ve just come back from Los Angeles doing pilot season and the pressure is absolutely there still to blow-dry your hair for every audition and I was told to wear more make-up and I just found for the first time, and maybe because of this show, I had the strength to say, ‘You know what, no’.”
At a time when women were often told their only place was in the home, Hedy Lamarr, a screen siren of the 1940s, was not afraid to show off her remarkable brain. Her passion to help the war effort led to her inventing the technology behind WiFi and Bluetooth, which she patented in 1942.
I, Tonya, to borrow ice skating analogy, is a triple axel of a film –nearly impossible to pull off well, breathtaking when it happens.
It features (in Electra’s opinion) the Hollywood performance of the year in Allison Janney, as the chainsmoking, chip-on-the-shoulder, fleabitten fur-coated, Cruella-de-Vill’d mother from hell – LaVona Golden, who gave birth to Tonya Harding...
From Cathy in Wuthering Heights to Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles, characters are inextricably linked to their landscape. It’s true too of film, and now The Selfish Giant creator Clio Barnard has created another woman who’s the product of her land, and intends to own every last acre of it – Alice in Dark River.
"There’s a dash of Mean Girls, the feel of Pretty in Pink, and you could even go as far as to whisper Dawson’s Creek with a nostalgic yearning for the way Pacey and Joey used to chit-chat in the glow of sun set. After all, Lady Bird is set in 2002..."
I completely support the reason behind so many women wearing black to the Globes. Historically, women have only had visual power – and that’s doubly true in Hollywood. But I think it’s a shame that the only way women can still get massive media attention is through their bodies.
The Post was supposed to be a film made just as Hillary Clinton came to office, a look at another pioneering woman in leadership. Instead it’s a clarion call of encouragement to a battered, Trump-resisting mainstream media. But it’s also a memoir to how the most unlikely, delicate hands can punch through a glass ceiling – and bring the whole structure shattering down.
63 year old Lili Fini Zanuck knows a thing or two about being judged by appearances. The third wife of one of Hollywood’s most successful producers (Rchard D.Zanuck was behind the original Jaws) she was disadvantged by three factors – she was younger than him by two decades, she was blonde, and she wanted to be in the film industry.
Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Degas –every artist has their muse. So too did Maud Lewis, one of Canada’s most famous folk artists, and now beautifully re-drawn by Sally Hawkins and Irish artist-filmmaker Aisling Walsh. Maud, was that rarity - a well known female painter, with a male muse.
I’m not sure Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled would pass the Bechdel test ( this is where two or more women are gathered, and discuss something other than a man, usually an indication that a film contains a “three-dimensional’ woman, not a fantasy female.) But who cares? Its contradictions help make it one of the most extraordinary films about women.
“ I was just thinking, I should give up this attempt at being a filmmaker. I was sure there was something else I could do. Just a normal job I could get.
Why do we know so much about Lawrence of Arabia, and still so little about Gertrude Bell – his contemporary in the Arab world, herself a diplomat and adventurer, and instrumental in the creation of the modern nation of Iraq?