These Woman Directors Have Been Overlooked By The Academy

Tomorrow night is the Academy Awards and yet again, no women have been nominated for Best Director. In 85 years, only four women have received a Best Director nomination and only one — Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker — has won. Bigelow was overlooked this year for her film Zero Dark Thirty, along with numerous other women directors. The blog Women & Hollywood put together a video to highlight ladies in the director’s chair who have been ignored.

  • Brenda Chapman (with Mark Andrews) for Brave
  • Lana Wachowski (with Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer) for Cloud Atlas
  • Jennifer Westfeldt for Friends With Kids
  • Ava DuVernay for Middle Of Nowhere
  • Aurora Guerrero for Mosquita Y Mari 
  • Valerie Faris (with Jonathan Dayton) for Ruby Sparks
  • Sarah Polley for Take This Waltz
  • Lynne Shelton for Your Sister’s Sister

According to the 2012 statistics from the Center for the Study of Women in Television, women only directed 9% of the top 250 domestic grossing films. Clearly, the problem of women’s representation as directors is two-fold: they need to be hired to direct in the first place, then they need to be acknowledged and encouraged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their work. Otherwise the Oscars’ Best Director category will be the same sausagefest, year after year.  

Watch Women In Hollwyood’s video "To The Academy: Consider The Women" below: 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Trolling the Oscars: Why None of These Movies Deserve to Win Best Picture

Welcome to the internet, where all of my opinions are right. You know what’s so great about being able to log into a CMS account and self-publish my thoughts and ideas? No matter how I actually feel, everything I write online comes across as completely sincere and competent, even when the things I write are neither of those things! It’s a brave new world we’re living in, when tweets can be art and art can be criticized by any person with an idea for a clever hashtag. Naturally, it’s time to harness this power by showing you exactly why none of the nine nominees for Best Picture deserve to win a goddamn thing. Let’s go!

Amour

Oh, come on. You didn’t see Amour. You know how I know this? Because I didn’t see Amour. I didn’t see this movie because I could just call my grandparents and ask them to speak to me in French for two hours. At least the phone call would be free! And hey, maybe I’d get twenty bucks out of it or somewhere, whereas Amour would cost me at least thirteen dollars and bring with it a lot of emotional anxiety. Anyway, this movie should not win, but I kind of wish it would if only so I can quickly take screenshots of midwestern teenagers tweeting about how they don’t know what Amour is. That’s how blogging works!

Argo

Ugh, Argo. Argofuckyourself, indeed, Argo! The major point about Argo was that Ben Affleck can direct a movie, which comes as a surprise to literally no one because he has already directed two movies that people liked a lot. The other reason Argo was made was so Ben Affleck could take off his shirt in another movie. Oh, and you know another thing that sucked about Argo? The fact that none of the women in Argo were allowed to speak to each other on camera. Sorry, Clea Duvall; you get to be in a Big Motion Picture, but you may only open your mouth when in the presence of Victor Garber. And don’t you dare make eye contact with Ben Affleck! 

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I do love a movie with a precocious child as much as the next guy, but how awkward do you feel about the fact that some white people from New York City went down to New Orleans to make a movie about magical negroes? I’m surprised there weren’t any animated bears and foxes floating along the river, or that those giant titular beasts didn’t burst into "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." 

Django Unchained

This one is simple: Django Unchained should not win Best Picture because it is not Jackie Brown and Jackie Brown is the only Quentin Tarantino movie that deserves to win Best Picture. 

Les Misérables

A friend of mine described this movie with the following: "It was like in acting classes when one person started crying and then everyone else in class cried harder and louder and uglier." This is one of the few movies in which everyone was dead at the end and I thought, "You know what? I’m OK with this." That is until the ghost of Anne Hathaway showed up again with that chopped-off hair and sad dress, which made me depressed. I really hate that it’s a known fact that your apperance when you die is what you’ll look like in Heaven. Really sucks for people who get run over by trucks, huh? 

Life of Pi

Spoiler alert: Pi is the tiger, and the tiger is Pi, and the eggman is Paul, I think, and maybe we ought to remake Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band but with 3D CGI, but I’m getting distracted. Life of Pi is a cartoon movie for adults who are still making their way through Oprah’s Book Club.

Lincoln

Oh, I’m sorry, is this category called Best Way to Nap? Lincoln was terrible. Remember how fun TV miniseries used to be? They were long, yes, but they were campy as hell, had a lot of awkward sex not normally seen during primetime, and were stuffed with lots of recognizable people who were not really famous but still possessed a certain level celebrity that you’d still be excited if you saw them on the street. Lincoln was just a really expensive TV-miniseries, but without the sex. Or the fun. And with overwritten dialogue by Tony Kushner. I got a screener of Lincoln, and it’s best uses so far have been as a coaster and as a substitute for Ambien.

Silver Linings Playbook

I can’t for the life of me figure out why people love this movie so much. Is it because we’re so desperate to see Ben Stiller act in a dramatic performance that we could substitute in Bradley Cooper and just go with it? Is it because it’s nice to see Julia Stiles back in action? Is it because of Jacki Weaver saying "crabby snacks and homemades?" Is it because of Dancing With the Stars? Is it because As Good as It Gets was too subtle and we needed a subpar version of that to really hone in the idea of what mental illness is? Or is it because everyone is crazy? If everyone is crazy, no one is crazy. 

Zero Dark Thirty

JUST KIDDING! While you were all being emotionally waterboarded by the rest of what Hollywood had to offer, you guys completely missed the fact that this was the best movie of the year. Jessica Chastain! She could act circles around everyone else on this planet, and she wouldn’t be exhausted because she’s, like, a healthy vegan. And you know she’s on track for world domination. GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE. it doesn’t even matter if this loses to, say, Argo, because Kathryn Bigelow will have her revenge on all of you. Especially you, Ben Affleck. 

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‘Argo’ Wins BAFTA for Best Picture, Best Director

While you were watching the Grammys, the BAFTAs, the U.K. version of the Oscars, was aired on BBC America. And hoo boy, what a mess of an awards show. I didn’t watch it, so I can only imagine the British humour happening all over the place, but I can tell you that I’ve got a pretty stiff upper lip this morning as I look at the list of winners. Argo won Best Picture and Best Director. Ben Affleck. The best director. Of the year! Ben Affleck is a better director than Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, et al. None of those chumps can possibly live up to the magnificent director Ben Affleck. Also, both Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain lost out to Emmanuelle Riva for Amour. Christolph Waltz won for Django Unchained, and Daniel Day-Lewis surprised no one when he won another award for Lincoln. And, of course, little Annie Hathaway likely annoyed people in England, too, with her insincerity upon winning Best Supporting Actress.

The full list of winners below, via EW.

Best Film: Argo
Best Director: Ben Affleck, Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook
Best British Film: Skyfall
Best Film Not in the English Language: Amour
Best Animated Film: Brave
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Editing: William Goldenberg, Argo
Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Best Original Music: Thomas Newman, Skyfall
Best Make-Up & Hair: Lisa Wescott, Les Misérables
Best Visual Effects: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, Donald R. Elliott, Life of Pi
Best Production Design: Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson, Les Misérables
Best Sound: Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst, Les Misérables
Best British Debut: Bart Layton and Dimitri Doganis, The Imposter
Orange Rising Star Award: Juno Temple
Best Animated Short: The Making of Longbird
Best Live-Action Short: Swimmer

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Controversy Continues, Now Martin Sheen Is Involved

People sure can’t stop talking about the torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s excellent depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. After all, we have a nation of bloggers to employ, and they need things to argue about! Likewise, Academy members like Ed Asner (Ed Asner! OK, sure) have formed a protest condemning the film for its alleged pro-torture stance and suggesting that the film should not be honored with any Oscars at the end of February. (Would you do that to poor Jessica Chastain, Mr. Asner? Shame on you.) Martin Sheen, who has always been an outspoken political actor, has found himself in the middle of the whole mess, but he’d like you to know he didn’t hate Zero Dark Thirty.

It was all a goof, Sheen claimes.

…speaking by telephone Wednesday, Mr. Sheen said that through his own mistake, the actors David Clennon and Ed Asner had included Mr. Sheen in their opposition to what they saw as the film’s tolerance of torture. “It’s my own fault,” said Mr. Sheen, who explained that he had agreed to a statement about the film without fully understanding that it would condemn the movie, rather than simply condemning torture.

Speaking separately, Mr. Sheen said he shared Ms. Bigelow’s expressed opposition to the use of torture, and said that the film had “done great, great service to the issue” by bringing it to the fore. Mr. Sheen said he had watched the movie weeks ago and “was very moved and troubled by it.” The misunderstanding with Mr. Clennon, he added, occurred only because Mr. Sheen had failed to speak with him personally about the Zero Dark Thirty controversy, relying instead on communication through an assistant.

Well, good, glad that’s settled! Now, Martin Sheen knows he’s not the president, right? Just checking!

This Is an Alexandre Desplat Appreciation Post

Best Original Score, for most, is one of those categories at the Golden Globes (and, by proxy, the Academy Awards) that you just kind of gloss over. Many of the same names cycle annually as nominees (John Williams, Gustavo Santaolalla, the Danna brothers, etc.) and it usually falls by the wayside to its more popular, eclectic cousin, Best Original Song, this weird and wonderful space responsible for Oscars for “Blame Canada” and Three Six Mafia (and a lot of snubs we found unfortunate). Last night, Mychael Danna, who scored the tigers-and-shipwrecks tale Life of Pi, took home the Globe for his lovely score, but today, we salute another workhorse of film composition.

You know who had a great year in award-fodder movies? Alexandre Desplat. Sure, Danna got the win and the Oscars love John Williams and biopics so the big one will probably go to Lincoln, and it’s just an honor to be nominated what are these awards anyway etc., but dude was pretty much killing it this whole time, and it was about time he got his own appreciation post.

 For sheer volume of work alone, all the writing and rehearsing and recording for three of the most acclaimed movies of 2012, as well as some others. Did he sleep at all? Did he remember to bathe? Or was he just so immersed in quickening the pulse of Argo armed with ouds and beats and some a cappella that would have been tacky in most places but worked here? Or was he too busy cultivating that stomach-dropping, ominous feel for Zero Dark Thirty, or giving Wes Anderson another earworm of a leitmotif for Moonrise Kingdom? A score is everything, and for three of the most celebrated filmmakers of the year and the three most celebrated films, there was only one composer for the job.

Desplat has been nominated five times for Best Original Score for the Oscars and has gone 1-for-6 with Golden Globes. This may not be his year, but he’s a winner in our hearts. Listen to some choice selections from Moonrise Kingdom, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty below.  

 

Which One of These Old White Guys Will Win Another Oscar?

Happy Oscar Nominations Day! Did you wake up early to watch Seth McFarland and Emma Stone announce the nominees? Can you think of a quirkier couple to do so? Here’s the run-down: they only bothered to come up with nine movies to nominate for Best Picture, they figured Kathryn Bigelow didn’t need any more nominations (probably because of Bridesmaids solving feminism or something last year), and Jessica Chastain with the Julliard degree is up against a nine-year-old. But most importantly: five old white men are gunning for another Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category. Who will it be?!

Will it be Alan Arkin, showing his range after winning for playing a grumpy, foul-mouthed grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine with his brilliant turn as a grumpy, foul-mouthed film producer in Argo? How about Robert De Niro, who in Silver Linings Playbook gave us the best performance of an old man with OCD tendencies since Jack Nicholson won for As Good As It Gets? Then there’s Philip Seymour Hoffman, who famously raised his voice and twisted his eyeglasses a few times for his Oscar-winning turn as Truman Capote, this time playing L. Rob Hubbard (basically) with his natural, deep voice in The Master. Or will it be Chrisoph Waltz, bringing levity and humor to the American slave trade in the same way he made it OK to finally laugh at—and with—Nazis.

Personally, I think it’s going to be Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln. You see, he sleeps with his black maid (spoiler alert, I guess, although I still refuse to see Lincoln). Remember when he won an Oscar for The Fugitive and said, “I don’t care,” right before Harrison Ford jumped out of that dam? That was a good movie. Hell, just give him another one. Who cares.

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Director’s Guild Award Nominations Fall Short

Well, the Director’s Guild nominations have come in, and they’ve proved to be entirely predictable. Not a surprise in the house. And that isn’t to say the directors nominated aren’t deserving and that their films don’t merit acclaim but come on, there are so many brilliant films being made and so many talented people at work, that although awards don’t mean everything, it’s just slightly disheartening to see the scope of praise be so narrow.

The nominees are:
Ben Affleck, Argo
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

But aren’t we missing something? Sure, Django Unchained could have been about 40 minutes shorter, but Quentin Tarantino most definitely deserves accolades for his cinematic achievements. He knows how to craft something that’s universally entertaining while always staying true to his heavily-rooted obsessions and idiosyncrasies as a filmmaker, while coining his own take on an old genre. And what about David O. Russell? Silver Linings Playbook was a heartfelt and challenging film, and if we’re talking purely of directorial skill, he managed to get incredibly nuanced, passionate, and sincere performances out of his actors while crafting something wonderfully enjoyable. Um, not to mention P.T. Anderson for The Master, which was basically a master class on how to direct your actors and build a mise en scène.

I’m hoping the Academy Award nominations will provide a bit more excitement in terms of choices, but that’s always a toss up. The Director’s Guild Award winners will be announcement on Saturday, February 2nd at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

Valerie Plame Praises ‘Zero Dark Thirty”s Depiction Of Women In CIA

Zero Dark Thirty, the new film by Kathryn Bigelow about the 2001 capture of Osama bin Laden in the caves of Pakistan, has been the subject of criticism of late for its "graphic torture scenes" and whether or not the film is accurate. On the other side of the aisle, however, is former CIA agent Valerie Plame. She told the UK’s Guardian this weekend she is pleased with the film for its accurate portrayal of female CIA agents. 

In Zero Dark Thirty, a CIA agent named Maya (played by Jessica Chastain) uses brains instead of her bod to seek out bin Laden. For Plame, this is a much-welcome depiction for films about female spies. She said

"In popular culture, female agents are usually either highly sexualised or hugely physical – it is either using a sequinned dress or a gun. But actually the most important weapon you have is your intellect. [Zero Dark Thirty and the TV shows Homeland and Covert Affairs] are starts to getting the public used to the idea and concept that women can be significant players in the intelligence field."

Some of Plame’s arguments for why female spies are successful are rather gender-essentialist and may piss off feminists: she describes women in the CIA as being more "attuned" to "subteties" and able to read people better. The Guardian also quoted a former CIA agent who said he deliberately would hire female agents because "have an exceptional knack for detail, for seeing patterns and understanding relationships."

In addition to praising Zero Dark Thirty, Plame also revealed she is at work on a serialized novel entitled Blowback about women in the CIA that will be released in October 2013. "I was so frustrated with how female operatives are portrayed. I thought: ‘I could do better’," she explained.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Political Movie Not About Politics

Now that I’ve seen the capitalist critiques and murderous slo-mo ballets of Killing Them Softly, last on the cinematic agenda between now and Django Unchained would be Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicles the global manhunt for Osama bin Laden in what we all hope to be chilling detail. But don’t let that description confuse you: allegedly, the script has no agenda at all!

Okay, I see where director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal are coming from when they say things like: “This is a pretty naturally dramatic and exciting story. You don’t really have to put too much topspin on the ball.” Because there’s nothing worse than an on-screen sermon. It’s funny, though, that a movie about enhanced interrogation and state-sanctioned assassinations finds the political climate at large something toxic enough to distance itself from.

I get it, really. You’re trying to present the facts of history as objectively and entertainingly as possible. It’s not intended as a polemic—and neither was Bigelow and Boal’s Hurt Locker—yet to say neither has a political vantage point, a moral compass, some guiding humanistic principles, is to ignore their subtle and remarkable effect on the final product. As Aaron Sorkin will never understand, this type of commentary can remain unspoken.

So come on, you two—quit playing coy. You make political movies. DEAL WITH IT. No one’s forcing you to attend $1000-a-plate party fundraisers. Or worse, start collecting bumper stickers.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.