Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globe nominations a mixed bag for female directors

By Sarah Sluis

Today the Golden Globe Nominations were announced, and, as usual, there weren't quite enough nominations to cover all the great performances (in particular, Nicolas Cage's crazy-amazing performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans). Inspired by New York Times critic Manohla Kathryn bigelow the hurt locker Dargis' recentdocumentation of the lack of female directors in Hollywood, particularly for studio films, I also decided to tally up the nominations for female-directed movies. Results and analysis follow.

The Takeaways

* Golden Globes reward more female directors, but this is because its picture and acting nominations are genre-specific: "Best Drama" and "Best Comedy/Musical." More females direct in the latter category, allowing them to rack up more nominations. When it comes to the Oscars, however, the majority of the nominees usually come from the more prestigious "Drama" category.

*Of the twenty films nominated for a form of Best Picture (Drama, Comedy/Musical, Animated, Foreign Language), three were directed by a female. Kathryn Bigelow recieved a nomination in the Drama category, and Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers were nominated in the Comedy/Musical category. This is slightly higher than the 60 females out of 600 directors (10%) that Dargis figured for 2009, but given the small sample size, this isn't significant.

*Zero of the ten "Best Actor" nominees were directed by females. Four of the ten "Best Actor" nominees were directed by females, including two directors not nominated in the "Best Picture" categories. Sandra Bullock was nominated for her performance in Anne Fletcher's The Proposal and Carey Mulligan for Lone Scherfig's An Education. This correlation is difficult to judge, but it could reflect a well-known Hollywood bias that female directors are only offered women's films.

*One female, Kathryn Bigelow, was nominated for "Best Director." She's running against her ex-husband, James Cameron (Avatar).

Bigelow, the sole director to receive a nomination for "Best Director," was highlighted by Dargis as an example of Hollywood's unequal treatment of female directors. Before Hurt Locker, she hadn't directed a film since 2002.

Dargis compares her to director Michael Mann, who was in a similar

standing to her at the time. Both directed films (Ali and K19: The Widowmaker, respectively) in the early aughts that underperformed.

Dargis writes, "What

did a $22 million difference in box office mean for the directors

of "Ali" and "K-19"? Well, Ms. Bigelow didn't direct another feature

until 2007, when she began "The Hurt Locker," a thriller about a bomb

squad in Iraq that was bankrolled by a French company and is said to

cost under $20 million." Mann, by comparison,

directed three big-budget movies, and produced several more--all a mix

of hits (Collateral) and misses (Miami Vice). She goes on to say,


imagine there are a host of reasons why Mr. Mann has been able to

persuade executives to keep writing such large checks. He's a dazzling

innovator, and big stars keep flocking to his side, despite his

reputation for difficulty. But Ms. Bigelow is one of the greatest

action directors working today, and it's hard not to wonder why failure

at the box office doesn't translate the same for the two sexes."

Dargis seems to have drawn the conclusion that women are held to higher standards than men, and have to be that much better in this position in order to succeed.

The other key to equality in film direction is making projects open to both

male and female directors. Lee Daniels directed a great film (Precious) with a female cast, just as Kathryn Bigelow has distinguished herself for her "testosterone" action film. Besides Bigelow, Scherfig (An Education) and Jane Campion (Bright Star) have been mentioned as the standout directors of the year, but their films' lack of nominations could push them out of the running. Bigelow's nomination for The Hurt Locker makes her chance of being nominated for Best Director at the Oscars that much more likely.

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