Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oscar Consensus, or How whither the women?

[And no, the title of this post does not refer to a certain ill-conceived remake that should give its thanks to Ms Benning for making it not an entire waste of my time]

Over at My Stuff and Cr*p, Michael has used his spreadsheet magic and come up with the films/directors/actors, etc. who have been gaining traction from the precursor awards and after looking at the list I was struck by something: 2008 is a boys year.

Think of the 5 films currently ahead and most likely to garner a BP nom: Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E (which I'm thinking might get the shaft for something like Frost/Nixon), The Dark Knight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & Milk. (Should we add Doubt into the mix after its great showing in the SAG Awards noms? - let's not as it'll fuck up my theory)

How many of them are headlined/helmed by women? 

Sure. We're used to seeing a lineup of all-male directors (except a Coppola, a Campion or a Wertmüller here and there), but it strikes me that this year we might have a Best Pic lineup that so heavily skews towards the males it might actually be barren from also sweeping any Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress noms. The last couple of years had at least one or two BP films that centered on female characters (The Queen, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine). And yet, the more I look at past lineups, the more I realize they rarely celebrate films for/by women. 

That wouldn't be as surprising except in every 2008 wrap-up article, hits like Sex and the City: The Movie, Mamma Mia! and Twilight have help dub 2008 the year when Hollywood (finally? yet again?) realised women were a key demographic and that their voices had been heard. How sad that instead of acknowledging that, the Academy might keep the BP films in the hands of films that find only one top female headliner (Ms Blanchett in Fincher's film - or in the case Doubt gets in, we'll have Ms Streep) while the likes of Wendy and Lucy, Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky, Rachel Getting Married need to make do with critical praise and prizes (W&L just got honored by the Toronto Film Critics, FR got some love from the Indie Spirit Awards and the NBR, HGL got some Gotham/NYC online critics love and RCM keeps popping up as runner-up/winner in the critics prizes for Anne, Jenny Lumet's script and Demme himself). 

Another way of looking at this - to prove I am not being overly paranoid, or overly trite - is to look at the way the Actor/Actress nominations might go. If you truly don't believe me when I say the potential BP lineup is shaping up to look like a boys' club think of the Best Actress lineup: if indeed we are looking at a Streep, Winslet, Hathaway, Hawkins, Jolie combo we find that it shows none of them will come from BP nominees. And if, as in the Globes, Taraji P. Henson is snubbed, the Supporting Actress category is looking at the same trend. Indeed, it would seem only Fincher's film (from the above group of 6 BP possibilities, again excluding Doubt) might deliver an Actress nomination: I mean, does Rebecca Hall get anything worthy to do in Frost/Nixon? Maggie Gyllenhaal in TDK? Alison Pill in Milk? Freida Pinto in Slumdog? They are all adequate performances in adequate roles that don't go beyond "the girlfriend" (except for Pill, who from this list seems to have the more interesting, if limited, role). And then factor in that the Best Actor lineups with possible noms for Langella, Penn, Pitt, Ledger, Brolin, Patel and Franco (?) seem stuffed with those men involved in BP potentials.

This isn't news, I know - the predominantly white-old(er) Academy member is male and thus his "manly" picks shouldn't be surprising, but when a female director is ousted from a successful franchise and when a female co-director is not given equal credit in crafting the critical sensation of the year,  that - just as Ms Kidman tells Hugh in Australia - "just because it is, doesn't mean it should be"


Michael Parsons said...

I had not actually though about this year being a boys year. No wonder why I have been underwhelmed with the offerings thus far.

Hollywood is, for the foreseeable future, a boys town. Thanks for the shout out!

Jan_Huttner said...

Hey mB, Thanks for picking up my cry for help re SLUMDOG. Unless we all question things like this, nothing will ever change! I have several theories which I'm in the process of articulating. Here's a start:

I think young guys like you might well be best positioned to create change. Welcome aboard!

Jan Lisa Huttner