I have been slow picking up on Cinematical’s former MVP, Kim Voynar and her recent inclusion in Movie City News’ ever-growing cast of characters. She writes The Oscar Outsider, and the latest column is a lament about the lack of female filmmakers in the race, or Best Picture contenders driven by females. Off the top of my head I can think of two that are strong contenders that feature female characters quite prominently but we’ll have to wait a bit on naming those.
There have been years where women filmmakers have been featured in the Oscar race recently; this year isn’t going to be one of them. It might have been if Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker had been a 2008 release. Since it wasn’t, though, there is really only one female director around with enough to possibly land a screenplay nod, Courtney Hunt for Frozen River. Kim Voynar at MCN writes:
I want to see more films with strong female performances like Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein in I’ve Loved You So Long, Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy, Melissa Leo and Missy Upham (who people seem to largely be forgetting about) in Frozen River, Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky, all great films with strong lead roles — and two of them directed by women, too — and none of them are in serious contention at this point for Best Picture.
Well they might not be but these roles stand out nonetheless. Here is a great example of how the clusterfuck that is Oscar season can drive smaller movies, some of them starring women over 40 who look like they’re over 40, into the spotlight. If they’re being talked about, if they’re up for awards again and again leading up to the Oscars, even if they don’t make it to the big show they’ve already gotten three times as much exposure as they would have and because they’re relatively successful maybe more will be made next year. It isn’t all bad, this silly business.
Let’s examine the list of films that are front-runners for Best Picture this year. Twenty-three films on the Gurus of Gold Best Picture chart and of those, not a single damned one is directed by a woman. That’s just sad — both generally speaking, and because I’m rather shocked that Frozen River, at least, hasn’t managed to garner even a single vote in its favor. The only femme-helmed film even showing up on the Gurus’ Best Pic chart is … The Secret Life of Bees? Seriously? No offense to that film, but Dakota and the Bees above Frozen River? I honestly cannot imagine an objective version of reality where the former is a better film artistically speaking. And don’t get me started on the mostly dreadful Body of Lies being anywhere on that list when Frozen River is not. Oy.
Let’s start with this: there are no frontrunners this year yet. Forgot the Gurus chart. We are still in the phase of anything can happen. These predictions are not made in a vacuum. It doesn’t matter what a few people think — these pre-season charts are often just a barometer of how well publicists are doing their job in presenting their Oscar contenders. But they have little to do with reality. Why? Because most of the films haven’t opened yet.
Take it all with a grain of salt and you won’t be depressed so early.