The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Musings over the nominations from a female perspective

with 20 comments

It’s only appropriate that the most prestigious film award in the world has the name and the shape of a man. After all: that’s what most of the receivers are. It’s just a mirror.

With the exception of the actress categories dedicated to women, most of the Academy Awards this year will be awarded to men, particularly the classes that are considered important, such as the best director.

Women and Hollywood has made a list over all the female nominees. The vast majority of them are involved in categories that are considered “less important”, such as costume design, production design and make-up.

The Bigelow non nomination
If you like me wish that there were more women working in the film industry, it’s inevitable that you feel pessimistic and disappointed at a first glance. I haven’t seen Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film Zero Dark Thirty, so I can’t say if it’s fair or that she didn’t get a nomination for the direction of it, but nevertheless I’m a little disappointed. I think it’s a big deal and makes a difference when there are women among the nominated directors. It’s only when girls see that women can work and be successful as directors that they start to dream and plan to become one when they grow up.

This doesn’t mean that I suggest that the academy should appoint members using a quota system. Of course the directors that did the best job should be nominated, regardless if they’re men or women. Anything else is hurtful in the long run. The lack of women among the nominated is directed to the lack of women in the film industry. Looking at my own top list over 2012, I have a film made by a female director as my number one, We Need to Talk about Kevin (which is considered a 2011 movie and couldn’t be nominated for an award this year). I also have Wuthering Heights, Take this Waltz, Hysteria, Brave, Tomboy, Your Sister’s Sister and the Swedish documentaries Palme and For You Naked on my list. Counting, this is 9 films out of 55 or 16%. that are directed by women, a proportion that I hope will change in the years to come, even though it doesn’t go as quickly as I wish.

The lack of women needs to be addressed, but picking women over men for awards because of their gender is not the way to do it. So while it’s sad that Bigelow didn’t get a nomination, I address it and trust on that the academy knew what they were doing.

The film producers
But let’s leave the sulking for a moment and look what positive things there are about the nominations this year, from a female standpoint.

The “best picture” category actually offers a decent amount of women. This award is given to the film producers and five of the nine nominated films have at least one female producer in the team according to the list at Women and Hollywood. While producers aren’t talked about, they’re pretty important, powerful people, as far as I understand it. The director may be a man, but it’s as in the saying: behind every successful man is a woman.

Secondly there is a female director nominated for a full length film: in the category for best animated feature film we find Brenda Chapman, one of the two directors of Brave, which I think is a film that is a big step forward from a gender perspective compared to the Disney princesses we’ve experienced previously.

Thirdly there are a lot of women that are nominated in all of the short film categories, mostly the documentary, but also the animated and live action. Like with the feature films, the majority of the women work as producers, but there’s at least one female director in the lot. I admit that those categories aren’t as prestigious; they’re usually mentioned ever so quickly and without much ado at the Oscar award night. But it’s better than nothing.

A final note: I was really happy to see the nomination in the category for best actress with the age span from 9 to 85. It shows that it’s possible to make movies about other women than those that are 18-25 years old and sexy.

Written by Jessica

January 11, 2013 at 12:38 am

20 Responses

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  1. Excellent post.

    It’s great news on the producing front, even if Bigelow missed out. And your quite right to pay attention to those short categories, as that’s where the next batch of Hollywood bigwigs and future Academy members comes from.


    January 11, 2013 at 12:49 am

    • Thanks! I’m a fan of short films, though it can be a bit tricky to get to see some of them, If I’m lucky they may turn up at the short film festival in my city. I avoided to write something about short films being a step on th way towards long films since my impression is that while this is the case for some, it’s not true for everyone. Shortfilms is a genre in itself and some directors prefer doing those.


      January 11, 2013 at 7:58 am

  2. I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty so I can’t really complain yet, and I don’t have any other female directors from the year that I’d really be pushing. I suppose Ruby Sparks, which is co-directed by a woman, though the real slight there is in the Original Screenplay category where Zoe Kazan definitely should have been nominated, breaking up the all male slate there.


    January 11, 2013 at 3:48 am

    • I really liked Tomboy. It could have been a nomination for best foreign language film in my world. I’m also a fan of Your Sister’s Sister. Not sure which categories to fit it into though.


      January 11, 2013 at 8:03 am

  3. Since I have seen so few of the movies in question, what about content? How many of them would stand their ground in a Bechdel-test for example?


    January 11, 2013 at 6:06 am

    • I’ve seen almost a few as you have I’m afraid. About the ones I’ve seen: Amour: barely applicable. It’s mostly in one apartment with a woman talking to a man. A Royal Affair: can’t recall any woman-woman talk, though it might have been there. It’s mostly about one woman and two men. Life of Pi: boy and tiger. Not many women around what I think. Argo: not a lot of women in that movie. It’s based on a true story, so not much he can do about that. For the rest: it remains to see. I have no idea.


      January 11, 2013 at 8:17 am

      • Reading this post again, I almost feel that content is more important than the person behind the movie. What use are more female directors and producers, if they continue to make the same genderbiased crap that we all know and love? Note however that I’m not saying that it is unimportant with equal opportunities for men and women to be able to make a career out of movies that will be appreciated by the Academy


        January 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm

        • It’s defiitely so. Being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean that you make less gender stereotypical movies.


          January 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

  4. While it’s always disappointing to not see women nominated for major film awards, nominations should be about the quality of work you’ve done compared to your peers, not gender or race. I get really annoyed when people point out there were no women nominated for certain things. It’s just that the film industry is a very male dominated arena. There could be something deeper involved there, but in my eyes, it is what it is. Sure it’d be great if there were more women in the film industry, maybe in a few years there will. But right now, there aren’t, so statistically, there will be less women nominated in the major film awards.

    A couple of years ago, there was a bit of an uproar here with Sports Personality of the Year, when there were no female athletes in the final nominations. To me, that just meant that there were no female athletes who were “worthy” of the award. Nothing to do with gender bias. Maybe it’s a bit of a naive POV.


    January 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

    • While I agree that nominations should be given for the quality of your work, not your gender, I think there’s nothing wrong about discussing the lack of women in film industry. I do that on a regular basis because I wish for a change in this area. Pointing out that there are sadly few women among the nominees isn’t the same thing as asking for a quote system.


      January 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

  5. I’m not really busy with the male/female directors. I didn’t even know that my favorite movie of last year was made by a woman. Let the movie speak for itself 🙂


    January 12, 2013 at 12:20 am

    • I think about those issues. It’s not as if I judge a film differently depending on if it’s a woman or a man that has made it. But I think it hurts the film industry that it’s so dominated by men. Particularly the stereotypes in the films are old and sad. I wish there were more strong grown up women portrayed in film. And I think that more women present in the business would help that.

      But I dream of the day in the future when this is no longer a problem and there’s no reason to think about it anymore.


      January 12, 2013 at 11:04 am

    • This is an opinion I agree with – I would rather worry about the film itself as opposed to who directed/produced or was otherwise involved. Too much focus is put on the “who” as opposed to the “what” when it comes to film – human nature, I guess.


      January 13, 2013 at 1:22 am

  6. Lovely post (as usual!) – thank-you!

    Not sure if you follow the Wellywood Woman blog, but I thought this recent post, about a new/renewed movement to promote screenplays in Hollywood that pass the Bechdel test, might interest you:

    • Thank you Melissa! I’ve never heard of tat blog before, but I’m definitely going to check it out. Thank you fr pointing me there!


      January 12, 2013 at 11:04 am

  7. Great article, Jess. Once again, raising issues I’d not thought of. I guess the whole “boys club” mentality of Hollywood stems back to its foundations, when women weren’t as directly involved in film-making as the men. Women were – by and large – to be seen and not heard back in the early days of cinema. It’s sad that nowadays, in 2013, we’re still seeing a lack of female directors in Hollywood, but I disagree it’s such a problem as to work to the detriment of the industry. There’s plenty of powerful female producers (Gale Anne-Hurd is a name I came up with without Googling) in the industry doing tonnes of great work. They might not be directing, but there’s plenty of women involved in a variety of ways….

    A good story, a good character, a good work of fiction, will always transcend the battle of the sexes. That said, I’d like to see a more balanced ledger come Awards season, and I think Bigelow and those who aspire to join her are going a long way to breaking the “glass ceiling” of Hollywood…..


    January 13, 2013 at 1:27 am

    • Thanks Rodney! Sometimes I feel as if I’m repeating myself, bringing those issues up over and over again. But since things are moving so slowly, I think it’s necessarily to keep being vocal. Still: what will make the biggest difference towards a change isn’t a post like this. It’s action – women like Bigelow setting standards, showing the way, proving that making a good action film hasn’t got to do with your gender and isn’t a particularly male thing to do. I hope she’ll get many followers in the years to come as young upcoming female filmdirectors feel empowered and inspirated by her success.


      January 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

  8. […] Just about every writer on the Internet has weighed in with their personal opinions on this year’s Oscar nominations revealed last Thursday. But Jessica from The Velvet Cafe provides a truly unique perspective. […]

  9. […] Musings over the nominations from a female perspective […]

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