I sit here ruminating, fulminating and seething, thinking about how Kathryn Bigelow could have been overlooked for a second best director nomination. I’m pretty sure the people who thought Ben Affleck was also a sure thing are wondering how this could have happened to him.
Everyone is going to have thoughts on why Bigelow was left out. Is it the fact that she made a movie that has caused a lot of controversy and conversation including from many liberal folks, and that the controversy itself became the conversation rather than the accomplishment of the film? Is it because people just don’t like the movie? Is it because the subject matters is still so recent and so raw? Is it because there was a sexist conspiracy to undermine her abilities as a director?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. All I know is that by leaving out Kathryn Bigelow, a woman who has won many best director accolades through the awards season, including a DGA nomination earlier this week, we won’t get to see a woman in the best director race again. When Kathryn Bigelow was in the race for The Hurt Locker it changed the conversation. It gave girls the ability to see that a woman could make a film and compete with the guys.
Is there anything to the fact that she won the Oscar for The Hurt Locker a movie that didn’t star a single woman, but when she makes a movie that has a female leading character she gets snubbed? And let’s be clear this is a snub. If she had not been getting the recognition that she had over the last month since the film came out, it would just be another year that a woman didn’t get an Oscar nomination. But again, I repeat, she has been winning lots of the critics awards. She has won: The NY Film Critics Circle, the Vancouver Critics, The Women’s Film Critics Citcle, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Chicago Film Critics, Black Film Critics Circle, Boston Online Film Critics, Washington DC Film Critics, Boston Film Critics among others. And the film has made many writers top ten lists.
So it’s not like she wasn’t worthy or in the running, so they and by they I mean the mostly white and male directing branch of the Academy (according to a study done by the LA Times only 9% of the directing branch — which has 371 members — is female) did not deem her to be worthy of a second nomination. If I was a conspiracy theorist I would say that these sexist bastards feel that they have done their duty and let a woman in the club and now they are done. And going even further they would probably be thinking that there was NO FUCKING WAY they were going to let a woman in twice, even for a nomination. They want to shut down this thought that women could make films worthy of getting a best director nomination.
Even though Kathryn Bigelow is a producer of Zero Dark Thirty and so with the best picture nomination she is an Oscar nominee, we will still miss out on the conversation that we could be having about what it means to have a woman be nominated for best director. It would be moving momentum forward and now the conversation is all about a snub and momentum moving backwards. We also miss out on the conversation on what it means to have a woman be nominated for best director for a film that has a female leading character who plays a CIA agent and leader.
I am guessing that now we will be hearing a lot more from Mark Boal since he got a screenplay nomination and a lot less from Kathryn Bigelow since she did not get a best director nomination, and I implore the people strategizing at this moment to keep putting her out as part of the conversation because it is vital that we hear a woman’s voice in this process.
This year’s Academy Award is a reminder that we still have a REALLY long way to go. Even though there are the same amount of female and male directors in competition at Sundance, women still have a really hard time getting to the top place as seen by today’s nominations where there are no women directors nominated for best foreign film, no women directors nominated for best documentary, and one woman director (Brenda Chapman) nominated for best animated feature.