Oscar is Still Such a Dude: Where are the Films about Women's Lives?

BlogHer Original Post

The nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards were announced this week, and despite a whooping 10 films nominated for Best Picture, once again Hollywood proves to be no country for old women. Or young women, really. Or at least the Best Picture nominees show us that as far as the content of Oscar-caliber films goes, the stories of women's lives don't tend to be made and don't tend to be celebrated in equity with stories about men's lives.

This year's nominees for Best Picture include an amazing triumph for a woman film director. Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker, is receiving much-deserved accolades for her small-budget war drama set in Iraq. Her milestone nominations in nine categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, stands as a rarity in the boys' club that typically dominate these categories. (Interestingly, the coverage of her coups tends to mention that she is divorced from fellow contender James Cameron -- much more often than coverage of Avatar's director tends to mention his relationship to her.)

Women in leadership, with budgets (even small) to wield is certainly one of the reasons so few Oscar-quality movies are made about women, where the story of the film has a distinctly female perspective. Only a few films featuring women's lives have take the Best Picture award throughout the years (most recently, Out of Africa in 1985, Chicago in 2002, Million Dollar Baby in 2004). Best Picture nominees, and therefore the wins, have traditionally been male-centric.

Three of the ten films nominated for Best Picture in 2010 -- Precious, An Education and The Blind Side -- are driven by female characters and female plot lines. But do they have a chance at winning? They are running against some megaliths: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air.

Of the three, Precious is the most serious contender. An Education is a fine film, and an interesting slice of a life in a young woman's coming of age, but it was certainly not ambitious enough to bring home Oscars. The Blind Side showcased a richer Sandra Bullock than we've seen before, and is a solid, crowd-pleasing story, but no one is taking it seriously as a Best Picture contender.

I wish we could do some gender swapping and see what sort of stories would emerge. What if, at some point, someone said that Up in the Air sounded great -- but let's make the George Clooney character a chick, and see what happens as she confronts the aggregate of her life choices while mentoring a younger women in this compromised workforce!

I loved Up in the Air, but I want to see that movie, too.

What if Up featured a grieving widow, inspired by her (voiceless) adventurous husband?

What about A Serious Woman instead of A Serious Man? An ordinary woman trying to find balance and understanding in the world. I know a few of those. My RSS feed is full of them. I want to see those movies.

The Hurt Locker is amazing, and I am grateful to know that story, and thrilled Bigelow was able to make it. But I also know women soldiers, and I want the world to see their stories, too. A recent email from my friend Kristen Rouse, a first lieutenant in the National Guard and veteran of the war in Afghanistan who has founded Veterans for Afghanistan, reminded me of a whole gender's stories yet untold about that conflict.

I love the Academy Awards and admire our legacy of quality filmmaking. I'm just still surprised, and also a bit surprised that I am still surprised, year after year, that more movies about women aren't made and aren't celebrated. Doesn't it seem as though we're past due for the real million-dollar baby: equity of attention

Some blogger takes on Hollywood this week:

Melisa at Suburban Scrawl has thoughts on the nomination of 10 Best Picture nominees: Here's What the Academy Awards Have to Do With All The Little People. And Bloggers.

Consider the way we cultivate young female talent in Hollywood with Maria Young's BlogHer post on a recent Vanity Fair story: Young (White & Thin) Hollywood

Dorothy Surrenders on why Hurt Locker is a woman's film and minority directors, clearly a huge piece of this problematic puzzle: My Weekend Crush

BlogHer poll:  Who is your pick for Best Picture?

Contributing Editor Deb Rox blogs at Deb on the Rocks.  She'll be right here on Oscar night, wearing borrowed jewels and chatting via BlogHer Chatter about the wins, losses, injustices and questionable fashion of the night.  You gotta be there, too!

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