As those of us who grew up in the 1990s can attest, the thought of saying “Candyman” in the mirror five times is enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck even now. It was a terrible time for anyone with an overactive imagination who had a VHS player in their bedroom and a mirror anywhere in the house. Don’t get me started on “Bloody Mary”, which took the sleep out of plenty of sleepovers.
Last week, Candyman made history. The latest, a sequel/reboot, opened at the top of the box office chart in North America, making its director, Nia DaCosta, the first black female director to have a film debut at number one. The movie exceeded expectations, taking $22m (£16m) in its first week, which is just under its entire budget. I still don’t feel brave enough to watch it – I have at least three mirrors in my house these days and you never know – but it is a monumental feat.
Over at the Venice film festival, which you always know is happening because the papers are suddenly full of A-listers in entirely impractical evening wear on boats trying to avoid getting their velvet trims wet, Jane Campion was there to talk about her latest, The Power of the Dog. Campion is one of only seven women, in the 92-year history of the Oscars, to be nominated for best director (won this year by Chloe Zhao). She was asked what could be done for women to progress. “I think the girls are doing very well,” she said. “I think once you give them a chance, there’s not going to be much stopping them.”
The statistics remain sobering. According to last year’s Celluloid Ceiling report, women made up 16% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films, up from 12% in 2019 and just 4% in 2018, which shows growth, but if you do a simple rephrasing and present it as 84% of directors working in the top 100 grossing films are still men, then it is clear that there is much more work to be done.
“It’s a great loss for everyone that there aren’t feminine voices describing our world and who we are,” said Campion.
DaCosta’s next project, The Marvels, is a sequel to Captain Marvel and takes her into world of the superhero blockbuster, which has proved a surprisingly welcoming space for directors such as Cate Shortland (Black Widow) and Patty Jenkins (the Wonder Womans). I hope Campion is right and that these achievements lead to more. As she says, it is about the people who get to describe the world and we need to see that from all sides.
The Duchess of Cornwall: let them eat cake. Even with Nutella?
Is this how Italian people feel when other nations insist on slopping glugs of cream and chunks of bacon into a bowl of pasta and calling it a carbonara? Is this why the Spanish were so upset with Jamie Oliver for putting chorizo in a paella?
The Duchess of Cornwall shared her recipe for a Victoria sponge last week and at the end she included ideas for the filling. Take a moment to prepare yourself, because after a robust recipe for the sponges, she suggested the following: “Lemon curd or jam (with fresh cream, optional) or Nutella or your filling of choice.”
As people like to say whenever a new royal drama occurs, I look forward to seeing this play out on season 16 of The Crown. I can’t quite work out the level of sacrilege involved, given that the cake was named after her husband’s great-great-great grandmother, but the idea of putting Nutella into a Victoria sponge is very “panic about not standing out in the first week of Bake Off”.
I’ll take strawberry or raspberry jam, and even a few fresh berries, but chocolate spread moves this into a new realm and is a surprisingly anti-traditional move for a woman at the heart of the establishment. Yes, the sponge is plain enough to take it, but what is this, France?
Parker-Bowles released the recipe in support of Poetry Together, the charity that brings together children and care home residents to read poetry and chat over tea and cake. This should give them plenty to talk about.
It’s no wonder Jamie Demetriou is a hot property
I have my doubts about the onslaught of “content” that streaming services have brought with them, not least because there is now simply no way of watching all of the good television that is out there, but having these massive libraries of stuff at the end of a remote does relieve some of the time pressure, at least. You can come to shows whenever you like.
Which is why I can tell you, with absolute confidence, that Jamie Demetriou’s comedy Stath Lets Flats, which has won three Baftas since it first appeared in 2018, is really very good. In other news, has anyone heard of “banana bread”?
I finally got stuck in to Stath Lets Flats on All 4 on a bank holiday hangover and it is a far more suitable cure for self-inflicted woes than a fry-up. It is soothing, sweet and hilarious and I gobbled the whole thing up in fits of laughter that occasionally hurt.