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The Movie That Directed Itself

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Dana Stevens on Gretta Gerwig being denied a nomination for Best Director nomination despite Little Women receiving a Best Picture nomination:

Little Women must be a wondrous motion picture indeed. When the Academy Award nominations were announced Monday morning, that august body saw fit to recognize the film for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Florence Pugh), Best Adapted Screenplay (Greta Gerwig), and Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran). Yet all this goodness must somehow have assembled itself without any guiding hand at the helm: Gerwig was left off the Best Director slate, which—as has been the case all but five times in the 92-year history of the award—was made up entirely of men.

I’ve long considered myself an awards-neutral critic, unable to get too worked up about “snubs” and “nods” and people or movies getting “robbed.” It’s the Oscars, Jake, and to bother getting publicly outraged about the injustice of any individual omission, it seems to me, is to be just a different kind of cog in the giant consensus machine that grants the curious institution of the Academy so much more cultural weight than it deserves. But come on, Academy voters—really? 2019 was a year in which the number of mainstream films made by women started to reach critical mass: Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Claire Denis’ High Life, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Mati Diop’s Atlantics were all either well-reviewed, successful at the box office, or both, and several of them were recognized in Monday morning’s nominations in categories other than directing. To respond to a year like that with the studious exclusion of anyone female from the award that above all others confers authorship and authority, the one that attributes a film’s success to the unifying vision of an individual, starts to look like nothing else but rank condescending sexism.

I haven’t seen Little Women yet. But I have seen Lady Bird, one of the best American pictures of the previous decade, so I’d be shocked if Stevens isn’t right.

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