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The Year That Was

The Year That Was

Happy new year everyone.  Thanks so much for the great support over the last year.

As we start the new year, I thought it would be interesting to look at the narratives that dominated the conversation over the past year.   Would love to hear if you have any thoughts on other topics that dominated the conversations.

Here is what I came up with:

The success of Bridesmaids and the realization that women can be funny. (duh)

Winter’s Bone and The Kids are All Right get best picture nominations for 2011.

Women directors not being in the conversation for the 2012 Oscar.

The breakout success of Jessica Chastain

The Help polarizes yet still succeeds at the box office.

Patty Jenkins gets hired and fired from Marvel’s Thor 2.

Women make up only 33% of speaking parts in films and less than 10% of writers and directors.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson becomes the highest grossing women director with King Fu Panda 2.

I also reached out to a bunch of female colleagues and asked them to comment on the points and several of them had some really interesting thoughts especially about Bridesmaids.

Joanna Langfield in talking about Bridesmaids said:

In addition to being very funny (and one of the top grossing movies in a generally ‘down’ year), I think we should remember that this film does something else. It tells a truth about some women we may not want to hear. Some women aren’t so nice to one another. Jealousy and snobbish assumptions that can raise their ugly heads, even when the idea is support and sisterhood. The bravery to take this subject on, in a direct and honest fashion, without disintegrating into a bitchfest, made this not just one of the heartiest laughs of the year, but also one of the most surprisingly profound.

Jenni Miller adds:

Seeing it become a sort of cause among women to get women out there on opening weekend was fascinating in terms of social media buzz and also actualizing the message of putting your money where your mouth is…Maybe someday we won’t have to use those descriptors. That would be a nice world to live in. It’s not the same world that financiers and studios and marketing teams live in, though. The elevator pitch might always require something about the target audience. But will that descriptor now include smarter, better comedies simply because of Bridesmaids? And a more important question is whether or not Bridesmaids really deserves such scrutiny, such pressure to be more than what it is? And isn’t it somehow undercutting the talent of everyone involved to assure viewers that women can be funny, as if there haven’t been generations of hilarious women before us?

Indiewire blogger Caryn James wants to remind us if the women writers this year: 

I also think we shouldn’t overlook the important role of women screenwriters this year. Diablo Cody’s Young Adult may be the most painfully honest screenplay of the year, and I’m glad she’s planning to direct in the future as well. Abi Morgan had a spectacular year with The Hour and Iron Lady, and  what I consider the less-successful Shame. (I was very interested and not surprised to read in an interview that she wrote a fuller version of the story, but Steve McQueen took it in a different direction.)

Jenni Miller adds:

The movies that were women-centric seemed few and far between, but the ones that succeeded, succeeded mightily. Mavis in Young Adult and Eva in We Need to Talk About Kevin are standout characters because they address the thorny issue of the unlikable, unsympathetic main character. What’s outstanding about Mavis isn’t that she’s a bitch, it’s that she’s human, too. The subject of the reluctant mother, as broached by Kevin, hit a huge nerve among parents and non-parents alike. Eva is conflicted to the core, and whether or not you think that she’s responsible for her son’s savagery or if you don’t buy it at all doesn’t matter. The topic of a mother’s guilt, reluctance, even resentment of her children is not one that will appeal to many audiences, and making this film was absolutely a labor of love (pun intended). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of these parts were written by women.

Oscar follower Sasha Stone of Awards Daily talks about why we won’t see a woman director in 2012 as either a best director nominee or best picture nominee. 

In terms of the Best Picture race, women filmmakers, and genre films and films directed by people of color, were given more of a chance for recognition when the Academy had ten Best Picture nominees.  But because they are a profit-driven institution with little regard to making change happen in Hollywood but merely rewarding the status quo continually — films made by white men primarily ABOUT white men — women are generally the supporting figures.  With ten nominees we could have Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right even without a corresponding Director nomination.  Very few women have been recognized as Best Director of the Year, at the DGA or at the Oscars.

This year, the door has closed even tighter because they are now going by films that must have around 60 or so number one votes to be counted for Best Picture.  I can’t think of a single film directed by a woman that would qualify there.  

If the Oscars were judged last year the way they’re judged this year, neither The Kids Are All Right or Winter’s Bone would have gotten in.


The only problem with Bridesmaids, Young Adult and The Help, of course, is that in the post-Kathryn Bigelow Oscar race you’d expect that they might have been directed by women.  Diablo Cody is headed down that path with her next project.  So perhaps real evolution in this regard is coming, it just isn’t here yet.   But we’ll take what we can get.  

Next: some the narratives that we’ll be watching in 2012.  (If you have thoughts, please drop them in the comments.)

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