Now that Lady Bird swept the National Society of Film Critics, winning Picture, Director and Screenplay it has much going for it heading into the Oscars and right now feels poised to become the frontrunner. It comes on the heels of media focus being on women, women directors and sexual harassment, etc. Its only competition heading into the National Society awards was Get Out but despite topping the Sight and Sound poll, despite topping the critics poll at Indiewire, Get Out lost to Lady Bird by just one vote, with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread pushing through.
I don’t think, at this point, anyone is going to get in Lady Bird or Greta Gerwig’s way. It is starting to looking like it will be a similar thing to when Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker – everyone pushed it along to make sure it won, to make sure history was made. The point with Lady Bird taking the lead will be very much about the fact that Greta Gerwig, the writer and director, is a woman. No film by a woman writer/director has ever won. When Bigelow won, Mark Boal won for Screenplay. Gerwig winning here would do it as an auteur, whose own voice is on display loud and clear. It’s a film about a female protagonist, written and directed by a woman. That’s quite significant.
Beyond that, I get the feeling that it’s going to be tough to overcome that kind of buzz and hype – look at how the critics reviewed it, making it the best reviewed film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes until one critic decided to dissent. Just one. That says that this whole community is prepared — from critics and perhaps the industry – to put their full weight behind this win, to make sure it means something. I never really thought the film had enough depth to win, or “gravitas.” Usually films that win Best Picture are “important.” But Lady Bird’s importance comes from the fact that it’s a woman writer and director – we all know that will mean a lot right now.
There are other women directors up for consideration, like Dee Rees who co-adapted Mudbound, along with Virgil Williams but she not only can’t seem to gain the same critical support (they seem to hold it against her that the film was distributed by Netflix) but they aren’t receiving the same celebratory ticker tape parade the way Gerwig is, certainly not from the critics. Greta Gerwig herself is emerging the biggest star of the season the way a charismatic male actor might – like Ben Affleck, for example. That’s easy for men, harder for women, harder even still for women of color who are almost completely absent this year, either as filmmakers or as celebrities or as leading actresses.
Lady Bird is expected to win at the Globes for Picture, Screenplay (maybe?) and Actress. It will then have to get a Best Director nomination from the DGA, which should be a cake walk. The Oscar race might very well be over after this weekend.