The Oscar goes to….(anyone but the female director)!

3 Mar

In the year 2010, for the 82nd Oscars, the director Kathryn Bigelow won two Oscars–for the awards “Best Director” and “Best Film” for “The Hurt Locker.” These two awards were extremely significant, and not just because they were awarded to a film that demonstrated mastery in style, storytelling, historical relevance, and a highly crafted method of action film-making that Bigelow had been perfecting since the 1980’s.

Bigelow was the first woman to ever be rewarded with an Oscar for directing. In fact, she was only the fourth woman to ever be nominated! The Italian director Lina Wertmuller was nominated in 1975 for “Seven Beauties;” in 1993 the New Zealand director Jane Campion was nominated for “The Piano;” and in 2003 the American Sophia Coppola was nominated for “Lost in Translation.” (Coppola won an Oscar for “Best Screenplay.”)

Because of this massive historical, filmic, artistic, and cultural oversight, Bigelow was saddled with an enormous amount of projection regarding feminism, Hollywood limitations, and the expectations and opportunities surrounding both the former and the latter. Bigelow handled these fiercely blowing winds gracefully, attempting to retain the focus around her filmography, rather than her sex.

But in the following Oscars’ year, what’s changed? For the 83rd annual Oscars, no female directors were nominated for “Best Director,” despite the fact that two of the films in the (now 10 film) category of “Best Picture” were directed by women: Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” and Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids are Alright.” Granted, the “Best Director” category still possesses only five nominees, but it remains disputable as to whether these five (Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, Tom Hooper, the Coen brothers, and David O. Russell) are more worthy nominees.

I did not love “The Kids are Alright,” nor did I believe that it demonstrated a mastery in film-making; but I could apply these same doubts to any of the above-listed five male directors. With its cinematography, acting, ease of storytelling, editing, and overall emotional resonance, Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” definitively demonstrated the qualities demanded for a “Best Director” nomination.

So, where was she? And, what are the Coens doing there?

I realize my questions are based on subjective tastes and passions….but the Oscars are by no means the result of objective judgement and decree.

Let’s veer to the “Best Foreign Film” category, one that is renowned for its indecipherable willynillyness. This year, the Danish director Susanne Bier won for “In a Better World.” Bier has been crafting well-regarded melodramas for quite some time, and her award here is a wonderful recognition of her growing oeuvre. So, here’s a female director; now hopefully her films will be distributed in actual American theatres.


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