Meet Oscar, the misogynist

Hollywood's leading women say movies tipped for Academy Award success are biased towards male actors

The women of Hollywood are not happy. A-list actresses are railing against a dearth of good roles, while commentators say women have been overshadowed in the Oscars race already. Many films tipped for the next round of Oscar success – such as Inception, The Social Network and 127 Hours – do not include any major female characters.

The British actress Minnie Driver said turning women's roles into something worthwhile requires a kind of alchemy: "It's like a magic trick. Your job as a woman in this business is to elevate material, because it isn't going to be there on the page." Hilary Swank, who won a best actress Oscar for her role in Boys Don't Cry, agreed: "I've been lucky. I've gotten great roles. But there aren't a lot of them."

"What do these movies have in common? None has female characters of any consequence. Some have no women at all," said Hollywood entertainment commentator Sharon Waxman, of the films tipped for Oscars.

She also criticised British actress Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech, saying: "I've never seen her look more like furniture."

The suggestion that women may be marginalised at next year's Oscars is especially disappointing for those who thought that Kathryn Bigelow's best director Oscar win early this year – the first for a woman – heralded real change. In 2009, women accounted for 7 per cent of directors, a drop of 2 per cent from the previous year. Driver admitted, "Male-driven movies make more money."

Commentators have noted that the line-up of summer films for 2011 is not just by men, but for men. Set to hit screens are the latest instalment in the X-Men series, X-Men: First Class, another Pirates of the Caribbean, the sequel to blokey road movie The Hangover, and superhero film Thor. But the film critic Barry Norman said: "They say if a couple go to the cinema, it's the woman who decides what they see. So maybe they don't want to watch women any more."

But other film experts say this a great season for female talent, and there are as many as 15 possible contenders for best actress.