Yesterday morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pulled its annual dirty little trick on Hollywood. Anyone who is anyone in the industry had to be up (and in some cases, like poor little beautiful, talented young Emma Stone), pressed and dressed, and ready for their close-up . . . by 5:30 a.m., Hollywood time.
The Oscar nominations were broadcast live, and those of us on the East Coast (already well into our day at a more civilized hour) could hear the results at the same time as the celebrities. The hosts, Seth Macfarlane and the aforementioned “lovely and talented” Stone, were fresh and engaging, with clever quips and a lot of good-natured inside jokes about the Awards and the Awards process.
The biggest disappointment was that, despite critical acclaim (and much controversy), the film Zero Dark Thirty did not achieve a Best Director nomination for Kathryn Bigelow. It was nominated for Best Picture, but Bigelow, the only female Best Director winner in Academy history, was passed over.
This is nothing new.
As a winner, Bigelow is the sole member of an extraordinarily exclusive club. Even as a nominee, she can count only three others: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003). Not a whole lot of room for women at the top, apparently. Hollywood likes to think of a movie’s director as “da man.” Literally.
Meanwhile, this year follows an equally disturbing trend. Over the years, several movies have been recognized as Best Picture candidates without Best Director recognition for their female directors. These include Children of a Lesser God (1986), directed by Randa Haines; Awakenings (1990), directed by Penny Marshall; The Prince of Tides (1991,) directed by Barbra Streisand; Little Miss Sunshine (2006), directed by Valerie Faris (and Jonathan Dayton); An Education (2009,) directed by Lone Scherfig; The Kids Are All Right (2010), directed by Lisa Cholodenko; and Winter’s Bone (2010), directed by Debra Granik.
Ms. Bigelow is surely disappointed, but she is in damn fine company.
In all fairness, this year other—decidedly male—directors have been snubbed as well. Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck were passed over, although their films (Django Unchained and Argo, respectively) were given the nod for Best Picture.
Given that there are nine Best Picture nominees but only five for Best Director, this has to happen. It’s just that it would be nice to see the scales tip toward the women once in a while.
The good news for female audiences of a certain age lay in the Best Supporting Actress category, where two actresses over the age of 60 were named, and the average age of the nominees is nearly 50. They include Amy Adams (38) for The Master; Sally Field (66) for Lincoln; Helen Hunt (49) for The Sessions, and Jacki Weaver (65) for Silver Linings Playbook. The youngest is Oscar-favorite Anne Hathaway (30), but she should get extra credit for aging at least ten years—between starving herself, shearing her hair, and contracting consumption—onscreen in Les Mis.
On the other hand, it was a banner year for women of all ages. This year marked not only the industry’s oldest Best Actress contender, but also its youngest. Emmanuelle Riva was recognized for her moving portrayal of an elderly stroke victim in Amour. Riva will celebrate her 86th birthday on the day the Oscars are awarded (I can think of a very nice present for her, can’t you?). And diminutive Quvenzhané Wallis was recognized for Beasts of the Southern Wild at the tender (if rather explosive) age of 9. She was only 5 when she auditioned at a local library, beating out 4,000 other children for the incredible role of Hushpuppy. Other nominees include Jessica Chastain (35) for Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence (23) for Silver Linings Playbook, and Naomi Watts (44) for Impossible.
The 85th Academy Awards will air on February 24. We’ll be live blogging throughout the event—from red-carpet snarking through to the Best Picture at the bitter end. See you there.