The nominees for the 84th Annual Academy Awards were announced this morning, and — for the 80th year — the Best Director category was 100% dudes. James Worsdale chronicles the accomplishments of five female directors he would have liked to seen nominated.
Come on, Academy. Not only did you drop the ball on the opportunity for a feminist alternative to serve as MC after Eddie Murphy backed out favoring instead 1992 relic - and the voice of Timon - Billy Crystal. Side note: why aren't there more Billy Crystal botox jokes? Is this because he is a man? Am I onto something? He seriously resembles Bruce Jenner in those horrendous Oscar promos, but really more Taran Killam as Bruce Jenner. Whatever, it's not like he can be any worse than last year's fiasco. But now: these nominations!
I really hope I don't have to do this every year. After this morning's announcement we feminist film enthusaists, once again, find ourselves frustrated at Hollywood and the Academy's gross oversight of the work of female directors. This year, the omission of women and people of color from the Best Director category comes as no surprise to most including the key players involved, the directors themselves. We thought maybe for a moment that Dawn Hudson's role as President of the AMPAS could push a move away from this tiresome trend and potentially make room for an array of cinematic voices, though it would appear to the contrary, business as usual.
Women were responsible and recognized for achievements in film in performing, costuming and, some in, writing and producing this year (Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig's Original Screenplay nom for Bridesmaids is particularly exciting.) But female directors have, again, gotten the short stick. Here are five films, directed by women, whose direction deserved more attention this year:
Directed by Vera Farmiga
With an ebb and flow of quiet and thundering catharsis, Farmiga's film about a woman's reluctant relationship with and faulty dependence on faith is a spiritual journey illustrating the doubt and disappointment that can come out of intellectualism and curiosity's interaction with organized religion. A feminist film enthusiast herself, Farmiga gives us much to look forward to on both sides of the camera.
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Reichardt, though an emerging genius, has hardly ever been considered (or been interested in being considered) an industry darling, preferring instead smaller audiences and smaller projects as not to sacrifice creative control. In fact even the existence of a list as such, let alone her inclusion on it, is something she would be likely to scoff at. But it's not like ambivalence or disdain has ever prevented the Academy from honoring figures before awards. Lindsay wrote about Meek's Cutoff earlier this year, and I'd encourage everyone to read that post (after watching the film, of course.)
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
I've been looking forward to this one for awhile, and it didn't disappoint. Visually this film is a compilation of bracingly intense reds juxtaposed with suburban dystopian imagery giving it an appropriately tense edge that you can't quite place the source of, a perfect adaptation of Shriver's terrifying novel. There is a likelihood that I'll write more on this and Ramsay's other work here later on, but suffice it to say, she deserves more by way of accolades for her grand return and to snub Swinton's acting a third year in a row, really is a travesty.
Directed by Dee Rees
"We'd go to pitch meetings and the moment we said, ‘black, lesbian, coming of age,' they would turn around, validate our parking and hand us a bottle of water," director Dee Rees says of their effort to garner distribution for Pariah in an interview with Colorlines. An obvious illustration of an obvious problem, this anecdote shows how limited opportunities are for contrasting representations within minority communities to become available to the public and to the communities who need to see them most, even after a very public shout out from Meryl Streep.
Directed by Jodie Foster
Yes, Mel Gibson is despicable, which is why it was so unfortunate for Jodie Foster's directorial return to be centered around a character played by him. The Beaver, though unfortunately named, is a sweet family dramedy that thematically reminded me a lot of 2007's Lars and the Real Girl, with misplaced affection and aggression onto inanimate objects as a coping mechanism. Clever and peculiarly tender, The Beaver was not nearly as bad as it was made out to be. They could have at the VERY LEAST given a supporting actor nod to the beaver puppet!
I'm beginning to think that a radical shift from this practice of the Academy nominating five white men is something of a pipe dream for me as a feminist and film and award show enthusiast. Maybe this, the Oscars, is nothing more than an antiquated ritual that is reliant on other antiquated rituals and standards to maintain its stature. Sasha Stone, head writer of Awards Daily, seems to grapple with this incongruence, a deep fascination in an institution whose values undercut your legitimacy and your work as a person by choosing only to honor a select demographic of voices, not including voices that artfully and accurately speak to your experience. Though even if this is the unfortunate case, I maintain that we continue to scrutinize these institutions rather than just ignore them because ultimately, on perhaps just a superficial level, they matter.
Want to see your work here? Email us!