The movie reference I carried for free solo climbing for many years was Mission Impossible 2 when a (much younger) Tom Cruise dangled from a precipice from one arm and with no harness. He made it look easy; with Free Solo you’re about to find out just how hard it is.
This documentary, released this week in the UK, follows super-elite pro-climber Alex Honnold as he climbs the 3,000-foot vertical rock face El Capitan in Yosemite without using ropes. He’s attempting to set a new record and fulfil his life’s ambition, and is tracked every painfully considered, chalk-handed step of the way by married directing partners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, not to mention another team of elite climbers and cinematographers.
Are women funny? Fans may remember a couple of years ago that opinion pieces on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer started appearing, expressing surprise that finally, there were funny women in Hollywood – almost as if giraffes had been spotted on Sunset Boulevard. Fortunately, our grandparents and great grandparents were less sexist than us in many ways – and an exhibition at the BFI Southbank in London now explores Playing the Fool – and the women of early Hollywood who entertained audiences with their comedic genius.
It’s 7.45am in Los Angeles when Bel Powley comes on the phone, 3.45pm in the UK. She begins by apologising into the ether to whoever she spoke to before me, because she hadn’t managed to down any coffee beforehand, whereas now she’s managed half a cup and is feeling considerably more awake. In those precious few seconds of sounding each other out before the conversation properly begins, there’s bonding over how frustrating it is when movie trailers give too much plot away (“I find it really annoying when you watch trailers and you think ‘well I’ve seen half the film now!’”) and how enjoyable it is to be surprised by what you’re watching (“I love going in to see plays when I know nothing about it”). With that no-spoiler spirit in mind, we come to White Boy Rick, the 1980s-set film based on the true-life drama of Richard Wershe Jr. and his family, where Bel shines as Rick’s troubled older sister, Dawn. It’s a riveting yet nightmare-ish story as the characters battle to survive trading drugs and guns as their main currency.
The subject of infertility has echoed down the ages, in history, in mythology, and in Shakespeare – of course. The modern quest to have a child is summed up by actress Kathryn Hahn succinctly in the vernacular.
“It’s a real fucking pickle,” she says.
Tricia Tuttle, Artistic Director of the BFI London Film Festival, has taken a little while walking the route to leadership in the British film industry. With a love of both film and music, while studying for an undergraduate degree in North Carolina, she says she briefly considered becoming a producer.
The obvious answer to what lies ahead for Thandie Newton, newly minted Emmy award winner for her acting work on Westworld, is anything she wants. The world is her oyster, as it should be for all of us. Except that’s not how things tend to go.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is the well-meaning tale of an average girl finding love. Its intentions are good, albeit questionably executed through tropes masquerading as lessons for teens in seeing people for who they really are.
It’s interesting to see how many meaty scripts featuring female protagonists are coming to fruition right now after nearly a decade of labour. The Favourite with Olivia Colman is one; Never Here, by Camille Thoman and starring Mireille Enos and Sam Shepard, another.
Getting a foothold on the ladder is the hardest step for any aspiring director –and lack of opportunity for women is consistently the explanation for the abysmal ratio of working male to female directors.
So – enter the Female Film Force, set up by social and dating app Bumble. After a nationwide competition, Bumble has granted five all- female filmmaking teams 20,000 each to make the short film of their choice. And Electra met a couple of the winning directors to see what the future face of filmmaking could look like.
There Is nothing remotely fluffy about Hayley Atwell – only her association with the softest, most lovable, clutch-your-teddy (and this is as an adult, I can assure you) film of the summer, Christopher Robin.
Producer Claire Jones was born to be an advocate. An advocate, that is, for the film business. She began her training as a City lawyer, when she realised that it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life.
“I would have been a good lawyer,” the producer of this summer’s British blockbuster, The Festival, says now. “But I wouldn’t have been a great one.”
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...