Friday, January 8, 2010

Regarding: For Your Consideration: Is Kathryn Bigelow a Female Director? - indieWIRE


For Your Consideration: Is Kathryn Bigelow a Female Director? - indieWIRE

Wow. Not even 24 hours later there are as Bill and Ted would say, "Strange things afloat at the Circle K" known as the internet regarding Kathryn Bigelow's chance at being the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director.

However, the article is not as controversial as the title suggests, but rather out there to controversially draw viewers into a discussion of the importance of gender in regards to the Best Director Oscar. Here is a snipit:
“The Hurt Locker” is an action film, a genre typically the preserve of male directors. Many critics have expressed delight that Bigelow is receiving such acclaim for a film that is so atypical to the type of films women are usually allowed to direct. Yet there are two sides to the story - film critic Caryn James recently suggested that “the many nominations for Bigelow play into the old idea that women get ahead by behaving like men, in this case making a movie voters might expect a man to have made”.
Undoubtedly, this person is not very familiar with Bigelow's history as a director. She has actually made a career out of directing non-chick flicks. She is one of the few female directors who regularly directs action films that star male protagonists. Her directorial resume includes: Point Break, K-19: The Widowmaker, and Strange Days. And why should she have to conform to the gendered norm that in film women direct comedies and "women's pictures" in order to be acceptable?

I take issue with the idea that her gender isn't important in regards to her possibly winning an Oscar for her work on The Hurt Locker because it is not a chick flick. While it is a film about men and therefore follows the tradition that to get ahead women "behave like men", there have been three women in the history of the Oscars to ever have been nominated for Best Director. Three. That. Is. It. If Katheryn Bigelow were to be the fourth and if she were to win that would be a huge deal for women in film industry.

But let us not loose site of the fact that the Oscars are a very prestigious award in the film industry, but they are also very biased in what they believe is a film worthy of acclaim. Generally, the major awards (Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress) go the works from the US that are in English. We can also get more specific and say that these films are usually feature-length narrative (non-documentary) dramas that are directed by a white American male and the main protagonist is usually a white male. Narrative shorts, comedies, documentaries long and short do not generally garner nominations for the "big" awards. Experimental films? Ha. They don't even have a category on the big night.

The truth is that the academy occasionally acknowledges great films, performers, and film craftsmen and women. However, there is this whole world of film and filmmakers that they also annually ignore, because they are a self-serving and conservative bunch. And, quite truthfully, there is a lot of great work out there past and present that has been snubbed by the academy just because it doesn't fall into their unwritten criteria of what is "Oscar" worthy. There have also been instances of blatant discrimination for films and performance that were nominated that were a little "out of the box". For instance, in 2006 Brokeback Mountain lost the Best Picture Oscar competition to Crash, because some academy members wouldn't even watch the film due to the fact that the story centered around two "straight" cowboys falling in love with one another. Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine, Academy members, even boasted publicly that they were proud of the fact that they did not watch Brokeback Mountain, because the content of the film "disgusted" them.

The topic of Oscar's tendency to discriminate against large sects of the filmmaking world based on content, form, and genre choice has, ironically, also been brought up at Oscar awards themselves. So I leave you with a link to the brilliant performance from Jack Black, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly from the 79th Academy Awards as I look forward to the very possibility of seeing just one more woman nominated for Best Director. February 2nd cannot come any faster!

P.S. In case you didn't know, the first three women to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar were Lina Wertmeuller for Seven Beauties in 1976, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993, and Sofia Coppola in 2003 for Lost in Translation.

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