Diversity Theme Crops Up Once Again in Hollywood Awards Season
The 77th Golden Globe nominations are finally revealed, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has made a few bold choices when it comes to their top picks for film and television from 2019. To no one’s surprise on the television side, Netflix’s “The Crown” and “Unbelievable” led the race along with HBO’s “Chernobyl,” each program receiving four nominations. Likewise, when it comes to film, we had the usual suspects in each category; “The Irishman,” and “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” respectively nominated for best drama and best comedy; Joaquin Phoenix and Brad Pitt respectively for best actor and best supporting actor; Scorsese and Tarantino for best director; “Frozen II” for best animated feature; and many more noms that don’t raise any eyebrows.
What is more conspicuous, however, is what was left out of the running this year. While Christian Bale received a nomination for his performance in “Ford v. Ferrari,” his co-star Matt Damon was stubbed. Likewise, right on the heels of Adam Sandler’s NBR Award for “Uncut Gems,” the actor was ignored by the HFPA. Even De Niro did not get a leading nomination for “The Irishman,” while Joe Pesci and Al Pacino both got supporting nominations. Jordan Peele was similarly left out of the best director and both best picture categories for “Us,” as was Tom Hooper for “Cats.” Meanwhile, HBO’s innovative new “Watchmen” series also missed the cut.
The most egregious absence comes on a larger, more systemic scale, though. In all of the nominations for best director and best picture, there is not a single female filmmaker on the ballot. And this is a year when women made a number of quality films.
Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” came out this month. It is a compelling film focusing on the relationship between women and art, and despite receiving high praise from critics and audiences, it got little love from the HFPA. It’s only nomination came in the Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture category for Saoirse Ronan’s performance. The same situation occurred for Lorene Scafaria’s “Hustlers.” Even though the film made a riot at the Toronto Film Festival, its only nom was for Angelina Jolie as Best Supporting Actress.
Moreover, although this was an enormously successful year for Netflix—earning four Best Picture nominations and “Marriage Story” achieving the most recognition of any title—the HFPA overlooked the streaming service’s female led productions. Particularly, it ignored Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” a highly important race-focused miniseries about the Central Park Five. Directed by a black woman, this commended show was completely shut out, not earning a single nomination in any category.
Glass Ceiling Not So Easy to Break
Adding insult to injury, several of the most nominated pictures in this year’s running are not just man-made, but they are also highly man-centered. The two most talked about nominees, “The Irishman” and “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” are practically devoid of complex female characters. Through their respective focuses on the mafia and Hollywood stardom, the two films portray distinct images of patriarchal institutions. The same goes for “Joker,” which paints mental illness through a jadedly masculine lens, and “1917,” which spotlights wartime fraternity.
Ultimately, not much room is made for feminine movies like “Portrait of a Lady On Fire” from director Céline Sciamma, which only got nominated in the Forgiven Language category. Set in 1770 France, this underrated yet captivating period piece employs a nearly all-women cast to tell a uniquely female story. It delves into sorority, lesbianism, art, and feminism to share two ladies’ experiences during a highly patriarchal time in history. Sciamma getting ignored in the best director category could almost be forgiven if it weren’t for the brilliant cinematography, costumes, sets, and performances that she brought to her work—validating the film as a powerful art piece, and not just a piece of feminist propaganda.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement and remaining concerns about gender inequality in Hollywood and beyond, it is imperative that female filmmakers get the recognition they deserve. Of course, the HFPA choses its nominations not based on politics, but on artistry and talent. Nevertheless, just as those in the studio executive chairs ought to start listening to broader ideas, those in the critics chairs should also learn to see the value in female-centered releases and consider feminine themes on the same level as the masculine themes that we’ve been applauding in movies for the past seventy-seven years.
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