Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Queen of the World, Baby!

Women nominated for Best Director Oscars:

Lina Wertmüller, Seven Beauties, 1976.
Jane Campion, The Piano, 1993.
Sophia Coppola, Lost in Translation, 2003.
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, 2010.

Winner, 2010:
Kathryn Bigelow
Best Director, Best Picture.

Four nominations, one lone winner — out of 164 awards in the two categories since 1928. The award is long overdue, meager, and encouraging only if this tiny step is the first of many.

As for Bigelow’s major 500-pound gorilla competitor: sometimes bows and arrows do prevail over nuclear warheads, after all. Look at the bright side, fanbois. The price of Avatar lunchboxes should go through the floor.

Image: Angela Bassett as the formidable Lornette “Mace” Mason in Bigelow’s unfairly overlooked Strange Days.

13 Responses to “Queen of the World, Baby!”

  1. Athena says:

    Interesting link, Eloise. Here’s the crux of the matter, because of the feedback loop it establishes:

    “After all female directors are typically confined to making romantic comedies and women’s weepies, while male directors are hired to helm action film, epics, horror films, and the latest blockbusters (read the films that receive financing, studio backing, and are heavily marketed so that girls – and the rest of the general public – know that these films even exist).”

    The Manohla Dargis NY Times article they mention is really worth reading. Dargis has made a point of discussing the issues of women actors and directors — and given the venue, her words may carry weight.

  2. Eloise says:

    I think it’s also revealing of a change in the industry that a woman action star (Angelina Jolie) has enough clout of her own to actually take over a role originally intended for Tom Cruise (Salt) and make it into a believable story (form the trailers, anyway). I know these cases are perhaps too few, but I don’t think this could have happened even a few decades ago. To paraphrase a famous explorer, “a small step for women, a giant step for mankind”.

    And I know it’s a marketing coup, but I can’t help but remember the “boyfriend trouser” Gap ad from a few years ago:
    Notwithstanding the context, it is, in mainstream culture, a pretty empowering message for women at large.


    Eloise 🙂

  3. Athena says:

    “a small step for women, a giant step for mankind”

    Very much so — as long as each of these (Bigelow’s Oscar, Jolie’s casting) is a start rather than a one-time anomalous event.

  4. intrigued_scribe says:

    Thanks for the links, Eloise. 🙂

    And as mentioned, the above phrase is highly fitting if the small step turns out to be one of the first on a progressive path.

  5. andy says:

    Excellent, but a shame it has taken this long. So much more progress still needs to happen…

    To be honest, the Hurt Locker isn’t a film that really appeals to me, I generally don’t like war films all that much. Strange Days is one I’ve been meaning to see for a while, from what I gather it is rather Philip K Dick-esque, but I might be totally wrong about that.

  6. Athena says:

    Andy, I agree — The Hurt Locker was interesting but not necessarily great, even in the war film category. However, it gave the lie to the mantra that women can only direct “chick flicks” (other women directors have also directed “manly” genres, but it obviously bears repeating). Among the films nominated for best, An Education was at least as good. But The Hurt Locker was far superior to Avatar.

    Strange Days is also not perfect — the ending is rushed and contrived — but I consider it to be much better than The Matrix in terms of concepts and, up to a point, execution (especially given the CGI available at the respective times of their making).

  7. Eloise says:

    Some further food for thought…


    Eloise 🙂

  8. Athena says:

    Having served briefly as a department chair, I concur that politics is the art of the possible and that recent US politics have lost all nuancing. However, there is at least one glib elision in this article: it has become increasingly apparent that people knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, even as they were presenting their case to the UN and other governing bodies. The Iraq war was something that Bush Jr. wanted to repeat/complete to show that he was as good as/better than his dad. He and his courtiers were itching for any excuse to embark on it.

    Incidentally, there’s another Iraq war film that showed shades of gray, but perhaps it came out too early to be properly appreciated: Three Kings, with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube. Furthermore, The Hurt Locker is not entirely apolitical — it’s just not preachy.

  9. Tom Pope says:

    Back to the idea of women directors. I think the progression from actor to director occurs as a natural path. But, with the limitations placed on women from the old boy’s club, that path has been denied to them. Only recently has the industry recognized that women older than 40 have a major place as actors. As the bias breaks down, the abilities of key women who want to direct will be noticed more often. Just another barrier to break.

    What do you think?


  10. Athena says:

    I think you’re essentially right, Tom, though there’s one additional wrinkle: the neglect of women over 40 (and the age is decreasing) is true for Hollywood. In other countries, women are cast in primary roles into their seventies, yet women directors are still a minority. So it may not be a coincidence that the first two women directors nominated for Oscars were not American and that countries like France, where actresses are a force to be reckoned with, had/have several women directors of international caliber.

    I think that an additional factor that lingers is how much capital women can command. Statistics show that box office success invariably correlates with budget. No woman I can think of immediately has directed a blockbuster: the backers simply won’t fund them. That’s a feedback loop custom-made to make the rich get richer — and to enable celebrity directors like Lucas, Spielberg and Cameron (who live surrounded by clouds of sycophants) to play with whatever toy strikes their fancy without much regard towards the audience’s intelligence, and such things as plot, characters, dialogue or message nuances.

  11. Walden2 says:

    An interesting look at a powerful woman of Medieval Europe that I bet not too many modern people know about:

    BTW, this is an excellent and very entertaining blog!

  12. Athena says:

    Eleanor was an amazing personality and a force to be reckoned with. She was ruler of Aquitaine in her own right and started the courts of love, which essentially brought the troubadours into existence.