What a difference a year makes. The slate of films in 2012, adult-oriented or otherwise, were nearly universally male-centric, and finding any female writers or stories about women was near impossible. (I know you are all getting tired of this subject but just bear with me a little longer). So far, in the first half of 2013, there are already three films written or co-written by women, starring those same women, in which the narrative arc turns on the female lead, or at the very least, shares it with a co-lead. None of these films require an overtly sexual woman to stand out. All of the women rely heavily on their smarts and creativity. It’s quite something to witness. I merely wanted to point it out at this phase of the Oscar race, at the very beginning, before the Big Oscar Movies arrive. Stories we Tell, Frances Ha and Before Midnight are films that seem to be, according to David Edelstein, referencing the French New Wave. He says that Frances Ha is Truffaut-like, while Before Midnight hits closer to Eric Rohmer. But they don’t strike me quite the same way. The main difference being that these women aren’t, say, Manic Pixie Dreamgirls — they don’t exist to inspire, transform, lift up the male lead. These new movies are driven by the energy of the women themselves, who represent a major force in guiding each story through production. Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater each provide creative impetus in Before Midnight, but there is no denying the equal strength of Julie Delpy, both as writer and star. Delpy, even more than Hawke, drives the plot simply by dint of what she thinks. She’s brilliant, complicated, neurotic — and refuses to defer to Hawke’s character. Likewise, Greta Gerwig shares credit with filmmaker Noah Baumbach, but Frances Ha is unlike any film he’s ever made — much of that influence must likely be credited to Gerwig. Finally, Sarah Polley doesn’t need to share credit with anyone. She’s single-handedly reinvented the biopic by turning the camera on herself. Funnily enough, the Sarah Polley she is as a character in the film is different from the woman we know is behind the camera. Polley never loses her grip on this story, toys with her audience, and ultimately delivers what will turn out to be one of the most moving stories of the year. But most surprising of all has been the critical reception. Check out how these scores: Of course, we have a long way left to go before year-end awards, but all three of these scripts ought to be seriously considered in the screenplay categories. Frances Ha and Stories We Tell for original, and Before Midnight in adapted (always hard to crack that category). What’s interesting is how all three of these stories are so different. Stories We Tell is a documentary-style exploration to solve the mystery of Sarah Polley’s own background. Frances Ha is a coming of age story not about “budding sexuality” but about who Frances wants to be when she grows up. And Before Midnight is about a woman in a marriage who is questioning whether or not she should have married. The unique angles of these stories is worth mentioning because all I ever do is bitch about how multifaceted films about women don’t exist anymore. And yet, here they are.