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?
‘Their Finest’ warms the heart one minute and breaks it the next. It’s a film of contradictions –a feminist story without a line of ‘feminist’ dialogue; a movie of an uniquely British national moment, directed by a Dane; a comedy set in the horror of the Blitz – trvialised for future generations by the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ meme.
The film Raw is a rare one (pun intended.) How often does a director manage to make a meal outof horror, comedy and drama, all in one sitting – and on her first attempt?
"Seven years ago there wasn’t a reality TV star in the White House. Obama was in power, there was no Syrian refugee crisis, no Brexit, no Donald Trump. The fact it’s so relevant today has taken us all by surprise and it’s a timely reminder of what happens when politicians use division to divide and rule to scapegoat one community against another."
Once upon a time lived a Sámi filmmaker, who drew upon her great-grandmother’s rich history of folk-telling to make the fairy-tale-like Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest, a gorgeous storybook that mingles history and animation.
"In an act of howling irony, the CBFC refused to classify Lipstick Under My Burkha on the grounds of, in their own words, lady orientated issues as well as sexual scenes, when the point of the film is to show four female characters struggling to find personal freedom in India’s patriarchal society."
"What did Emma Watson actually talk about in that interview? Does anyone know? Has anyone bothered to read what this actress, the most commercially successful British actress under 30, actually have to say about her career and her opinions, or even her life in general? "
Acting, Isabelle Huppert is quoted as saying, is a way of living out one‘s own insanity. Perhaps nothing she has made in forty years of working is quite as insanely good as Elle, Paul Verhoeven’s adaptation of Philippe Dijan’s novel Oh.
Did 2016 really change things for women working in the entertainment industry? The industry is very keen to say yes it did. It points at Arrival, at Jackie, at Miss Sloane – and shouts: Complex female characters! Lots of them!
Sometimes when so many women in one community have suffered so much horror and shame, it takes a fictional character to speak for them all. That woman is Pero, the Yazidi heroine of Reseba, or The Dark Wind, a Kurdish film that is the recipient of a UNESCO prize.
Otto Bell, a young filmmaker who left for Mongolia on a whim to make his first feature, is being hard on himself. The Eagle Huntress, a documentary about a thirteen year old female hunter, Aisholpan, is 2016’s most feminist film.
When I tell Amma Asante, director of A United Kingdom, the most recent statistics for non-white female filmmakers, she yelps. The figure, from the Directors Guild of America, is only at 1.4 percent, but her shout is one of delight. “It’s doubled!” she says.
Divines is the teenage girl buddy movie the world has been waiting for. Dounia and Maimounia, living in the banlieues of Paris, have their aspirations capped by the tower blocks around them. With swagger and a certain panache, they carry off supermarket stealing using a burka for cover.
Fragments of memory of that week in November 1963 are etched in America’s consciousness – the gunshots across the open motor cavalcade, the wife cradling her husband’s broken skull, the iconic pink suit spattered with blood.
Heard the one about the three hour German comedy that’s tipped for the Foreign Language Oscar? If not, meet Maren Ade and her film Toni Erdmann – all 162 minutes of it.
“It might be a bad time to be a humanitarian,” muses Danny DeVito, actor, activist – and long time Bernie Sanders supporter.