Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Rabu, Mei 13, 2009

#425. Up Close And Personal: Women Directors

Some women directors are making waves--and money--in Hollywood. But the coveted Best Director Oscar continues to elude them. A hugely successful year for women's movies at the box office doesn't necessarily translate to Oscar gold for women.

Five years ago, the Academy Award nominations were hailed as particularly female-friendly. Sofia Coppola was nominated for Best Director for Lost in Translation, the first for a woman since Jane Campion had been nominated for The Piano a decade earlier.In all, there were 11 women nominated in 2004 who worked either as directors or screenwriters on films that were nominated in the eight major award categories. Industry watchers hailed the long-time-coming recognition.

This year? Not so much.

"I find it staggering and rather depressing when you look at the Oscar list," says Phyllida Lloyd, who directed last year's smash hit Mamma Mia!. For Lloyd, it's not just about the "lack of female directors," it's that "the stories are all so male-driven, even with the independent films. It's quite a bleak canvas."

In the eight major categories--Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Actress--there are only four women who worked as either a writer or director on a nominated film, script, or performance. And of those women, only two were themselves nominated: Robin Swicord for her writing work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Courtney Hunt, the writer and director of Frozen River. Loveleen Tandan was co-director of Slumdog Millionaire but not nominated alongside director Danny Boyle; Jenny Lumet wrote Anne Hathaway's Oscar-nominated role in Rachel Getting Married but was not nominated.

Hunt is this year's only female Best Original Screenplay nominee and her movie's lead, Melissa Leo, is up for Best Actress. Hunt was not nominated for Best Director, a category that has only seen three female nominees in the 81-year history of the Academy Awards. (Besides Coppola and Campion, Lina Wertmuller was nominated for a Best Director award in 1977.) Documentarians fare better: This year, five women are nominated in the two documentary categories, the same number as in 2004.

The dearth of female nominees dovetails, somewhat ironically, with a particularly successful year for female films at the box office. Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, written by Melissa Rosenberg and based on Stephenie Meyer's teen vampire novel, has grossed $360 million worldwide, making it the seventh-highest grossing U.S. film of 2008.

Mamma Mia!, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Catherine Johnson, has banked $585 million, three-quarters of that from overseas. Sex and the City, written and directed by Michael Patrick King, but based on the columns of Candace Bushnell and with an all-female cast and an overwhelmingly female audience, banked $415 million.

Awards are not necessarily quick to follow.

Nominations tend to go to films that receive a mix of respectable reviews blended with not-embarrassing box office numbers sprinkled heavily with industry popularity and stirred by behind-the-scenes get-out-the-vote campaigns. Taking into consideration the ineffable combination of ingredients that goes into getting an Oscar nod, it's not surprising that women, who directed only 6% of 2007's top 250 highest-grossing films, are rarely acknowledged. The odds are simply stacked against them.

All of which begs the question: Why are there so few female directors?

Where Are the Women?
Part of the problem is that most mid- to big-budget films are made for a 14- to 25-year-old male audience. Conventional wisdom is that adult women don't go to the movie theater, says Jane Fleming, president of Women in Film, a Los Angeles-based group that promotes women filmmakers. There's also a perception--even among female studio heads like DreamWorks' Stacey Snider and Sony Pictures' Amy Pascal, as the Los Angeles Times revealed last year--that women do not want to direct big-budget, male-dominated, male-targeted films.

But that may not be true.

Take director Catherine Hardwicke. Last year, she told the Los Angeles Times in the same article that she would love to direct a "superhero" movie.

"Did anyone call me with one?" she asks. "No. I got radio silence."

Even after the financial success of Twilight, the studios "are still not throwing money at me," she says.

While Hardwicke is currently up for the job of directing a big action film with a female protagonist, she will not be helming the Twilight sequel, a fact that hasn't gone over well with women in Hollywood. Hardwicke says the reason for this is that the sequel's quick turnaround schedule doesn't mesh with her desire to make a quality film--but that hasn't stopped constant speculation in the press that Hardwicke was cut from the franchise for being a difficult personality. (In a town that produced James Cameron, Harvey Weinstein and Michael Bay, who knew that could be anything but an advantage?)

And of course, some female directors do prefer stories with strong roles for women, so Hollywood's predilection for "male" films could also be part of the problem.

"I've always gravitated toward projects that give good roles to women," says Phyllida Lloyd, who, after the smash success of the female-driven Mamma Mia!, is getting away from offers of "jolly, frothy" musicals by coming to Broadway to direct the political thriller Mary Stuart.

Director Julie Taymor, on the other hand, argues that the films she makes are suitable for a young male audience. "Across the Universe was a big summer popcorn movie. It was for everybody," says Taymor. But the studio, she continues, thought it was too "artistic" to sell to a wide audience that would include old, young, male and female.

Taymor, like Lloyd, comes from a theatrical background, and is also heading to Broadway, where she can take on male-driven material--in this case, a rock opera scored by Bono and based on the Spiderman series--and make it her own.

There's also the perception that a woman simply can't direct a big, male-oriented film: "People have literally said to my face that I can't do action," says Hardwicke, who has worked as a stunt coordinator as well as directed the action-packed Lords of Dogtown and put her signature action stamp on Twilight. "That does make me mad. There's a lot of stuff they would never say if I were a guy."

Source : Forbes Women [Power Women] http://www.forbes.com
Author : Kiri Blakeley, 02.19.09, 11:00 AM EST

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