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The Women – Best Director Starts to Take Shape


I really never thought I’d see the day when America had its first black President and women ruled the early phase of the Oscar race in the Best Director category. Yet, here it is, September, and already three female directors have films that are sure to be strong contenders for Best Picture.

Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion and Lone Scherfig are three such women, with films so good they don’t even have to be filtered with the albatross of being “women’s films” or even, films directed by women. While Campion has managed to rise above the general prejudice, others have not. The Hurt Locker, Bright Star and An Education are quite easily three of the best films of 2009.

The funny thing about Bright Star is that it started out with kind of lackluster buzz – that was if you’d read some of the early reports coming out of the festivals. People weren’t buzzing about Campion’s movie, that is, until it started getting reviewed here. That just goes to show you that you can’t always trust the early word from Cannes, especially when it’s written by people who are hurrying from one screening to the next, nearly without pause; how can one really have the energy or alertness to trust their own take on a film in that condition? And yet we often believe what we hear or read without stopping to question it. Thus, for me, Bright Star went from being an also-ran to a smoking hot contender. And that gets me excited about the prospect of at least two, maybe three women present in the Best Director race.

Yes, there are many films yet to come that will be directed by the usual DGA prototype – white, straight male. And they will likely dominate, as usual. Ryan and I were discussing the Best Director race earlier and were both surprised when we realized that, for the first time, there won’t be that wild card Best Director slot usually reserved for the one the directors liked but that didn’t make the Best Pic cut. Now, that film will likely be represented in the Best Picture race, with ten nominees. So no wild card pick.

If I had to list a top ten right now, in terms of nomination probability, not including those yet to come, I’d probably go like:

1. Jason Reitman
2. Kathryn Bigelow
3. Jane Campion
4. Lee Daniels
5. Joel and Ethan Coen
6. Lone Scherfig
7. Quentin Tarantino
8. Tom Ford
9. Neil Blomkamp
10. Nora Ephron

How would you rank them? Remember not to include those still to come.