Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
There have always been powerful women, but women with power — not so much. With Hillary accepting the nomination tonight, we thought we’d dedicate this week to profiles of powerful women.
“Powerful” in the geopolitical sense. We knew the pickin’s would be sparse — but we were surprised to be reminded just how much so.
There were no female Roman or Chinese emperors, no female prophets in The Bible, and no female signatories to the American Declaration of Independence.
But now a woman is positioned to become the most powerful person on earth – and the rest is up to the American electorate. Let the great roulette wheel of democracy spin!
IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:
Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) plays an investment banker who is looking to carve out a
n even higher perch at her company by launching a digital IPO. When she discovers that there may be a fly in the pudding, she must choose which right choice to make – the one that is morally sound, or the one that will advance her career.
Notable because even though it’s set in the traditionally male world of finance and all the major characters are women – with the exception of a “homme fatale” played by James Purefoy – and it’s directed, produced and written by women, it’s not a “woman’s movie” in the traditional sense.
5 WORTH WATCHING:
As Hillary practices her speech, Theresa May sits in 10 Downing Street, the second female Prime Minister, having recently met with the most powerful leader in Europe, also a woman.
The foremother of this current crop of female leaders was, of course, Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, embodied here by master impersonator, Meryl Streep. Who, as it happens was also on the DNC convention stage a couple nights ago.
The structure of The Iron Lady is a fantastic set-up for a bravura performance by Streep. A senile Thatcher flashes back and forth to days of glory and power.
For better and for worse, Streep’s performance is the reason to see the movie. She pulls off Thatcher in power and in decline with equally astounding finesse.
What’s missing is a deeper portrait of what drove the human being in question. In an effort to make Thatcher sympathetic and accessible the filmmaker and scriptwriter –Phyllida Lloyd and Abi Morgan — do her a grave injustice. They neglect to give you a any insights into the personal and political forces that aligned to make Thatcher one of the most respected and despised leaders of the 20th century.
The headline here is: better than you think it’s going to be.
In ’63 the drama surrounding the production – astronomical overruns, Taylor’s illness, the scandalous affair with Buron—overshadowed the movie itself. The running time was slashed, the film was eviscerated, and even though it was the highest-grossing film that year, 20th Century took a staggering loss.
But if you’re willing to put in 4 hours watching Mankiewicz’ restored epic, it is truly an monumental achievement, and a tribute to the glories of non-CGI. This was the last of its kind, an epic where the massive crowds were actually crowds.
Is it satisfying in terms of personal insights? Here at The Thread suspect that the workings of Cleopatra’s mind are unknowable in modern psychological terms. But this 60’s interpretation is ambitious, entertainingly plausible, and worth watching.
Especially when you consider that for two millennia Cleopatra has represented one of the only great models of female power available – empire through seduction.
“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.”
Born the wrong sex at the right moment to one of the most flamboyantly patriarchal kings of history, Elizabeth I saw destiny coming and seized it to reign for 45 years over an era of British glory that was surpassed only by the lengthy reign of Victoria.
Our own era has found her irresistible – a complex character who preserved her power by taking “good counsel” in every area except her love life. We’ve been entranced by both the Glenda Jackson miniseries from the ‘70s and the revisionist Cate Blanchett portrait.
But Helen Mirren was born to play Elizabeth in middle age – weary, embattled and unbowed. This 2×2 hour miniseries that was made for the BBC and ran on HBO in the states, written by novelist Nigel Williams and directed by Tom Hooper (John Adams, The King’s Speech, Les Miserables).
Even though Elizabeth seemed to have a better sense of how to play the crowd, Hillary seems to be every bit as inscrutable. With a little time and distance history may come to regard her as complex and impenetrable as the Virgin Queen.
Too bad Mirren won’t be around to star in the miniseries.
A truly great award-winning performance that’s caught in the headlights of a head-shaking disconnect: Ingrid Bergman, in the last year of her life, as Golda Meier. Bergman plays the grandmotherly yet intractable Meir with scene-stealing dignity. The problem is that even under layers of age and character makeup, Bergman’s luminous beauty shines through, which stops us entirely believing her as the homely Meier.
This was a TV movie, made for syndication. Bergman died of breast cancer the year it was released, and received both an Emmy and a Golden Globe posthumously.
Like all of these women who were able to break every precedent and mold, what strikes you most about Golda here is how truly singular she was, riding a delicately balanced yet overpowering blend of ambition and accomplishment through a needle’s eye in history.
Once again the movie uses a frame – Meier telling the story of her life to students at her old school in Milwaukee.
The young Golda is played by Judy Davis, almost unrecognizable in her first big role. Her husband, Morris Meierson is a very recognizable Leonard Nimoy. Like Bergman, even though he isn’t miscast and does a credible job, the very fact of who he is keeps popping you out of the scene.
We consulted a bunch of Most Powerful Woman lists, and several included Madonna. We thought it was weirdly indicative of the state of female power – Margaret Thatcher and Madonna on the same list. But still, here we’ve got a Powerful Woman playing a Powerful Woman.
We’ve always wanted Madonna to be a more prolific actor (even though it’s obvious that just being Madonna is a full-time job). And we’ve always thought Evita is the pinnacle of her acting career (even though she was way too old to play the young Evita – even older than Patty LuPone).
And yes, it is a superficial treatment of a complex woman. But the reason we like the film are the parallels between Madonna and Eva (ambition, cunning at lost of hard work, all subsumed to the creation of an iconic image). And we also think it speaks directly to the part of American politics that Hillary doesn’t quite get, but Bill does – making it look easy peasy even after you’ve stayed up until 2:30 working almost every night of your life.
After all, we live in a world where Che Guevara is best known for how good he looks on a t-shirt.
The Oscars passed her over, but the ever clear-eyed Golden Globes gave Madonna a Best Actress award.