I know that she is proud of her Best Picture nomination, and I know that she is proud of the Best Song nomination and in the work that everyone did on her film. As well she should be. But as a long-time observer of the Oscars -- and the difficulty for women to break through -- the fact that DuVernay did not get nominated is devastating.
Remember way back in the fall, when people (by which I mean Oscar pundits who talk about movies that were seen by a tiny group of people or not at all) were talking about Angelina Jolie as a Best Director candidate and Unbroken as a frontrunner for Best Picture? But once that movie came out, it faded from the Best Picture and Best Director race quickly. It just didn't have the prestige points to get to the finish line. Frankly, I don't think anyone at Universal cares, because it is doing fantastically at the box office.
But Selma had the reverse path. It is a small, indie movie financed overseas with a (then) unknown African-American female director. And when that movie was shown at AFI (unfinished), it exploded. (Let's also remember that American Sniper, which got 6 nominations today, also screened at AFI -- to a muted response.)
Selma is a stunner in a lot of ways, but especially because it parallels what is going on in this country. It speaks to us and what we are seeing in our streets and in our courts. People are being disenfranchised all across the country based on their race and class. This movie is about now. You used to be able to watch movies because they gave us commentary on our culture and on our world. They spoke about where we were, where we hope to be, and how we can be better. I'm thinking of films like The Accused, Kramer vs. Kramer, The China Syndrome, and Network.
Selma is that powerful. And yet, its director was overlooked. This snub feels like a kick in the teeth to women directors everywhere. She ticked all the boxes. Made a movie about a historical figure whom people know. Made a movie about a man. Great reviews. Great lead performance. I don't know what else Ava DuVernay could have done. It is soooo hard to play in the Oscar game. There have only ever been four women who managed a Best Director nomination -- and only one has won. Movies that women direct don't usually get the studio financial support of millions of dollars to compete in the Oscar race. Selma did. It played hard. But the LBJ partisans played harder and clearly, they won. They knocked down a movie of towering significance, and quite frankly it makes the Academy members look like idiots.
The Academy did itself a huge disservice today by not nominating DuVernay. She has made three terrific movies. And yes, her first two movies were about women, so the guys of the directing branch probably did not see them. Today, the 388 members of the directing branch proved that they are a bunch of insular, petty, out-of-touch people, and in more ways than one. The 2015 ceremony will also be the whitest Oscars since 1998.
It's not that anyone is asking for special favors here. DuVernay made a movie worthy of a nomination. But still, she was shut out.
And let's remember that it is not only DuVernay who was shut out. Women were shut out across the board. Gillian Flynn was shut out for her adaptation of her book Gone Girl. Not a single woman writer was nominated out of 10 adapted and original screenplay slots. Not a single woman composer was nominated. Not a single female cinematographer was nominated.
And most especially, out of 8 nominations, not a single one of the Best Picture slots are movies about women. I am still reeling at how Wild got shunted aside so quickly. It is making money in theatres, so that's encouraging, but it never gained any traction in the Oscar race, which makes me so angry. I am convinced that it is because it is a movie about a complicated, strong woman that was feminine and feminist -- even though it was directed by a man. It feels like the Academy folks are afraid of movies where the leads are people with vaginas.
This is a day when I want to take up the challenge my friend Kate Muir has talked about before. We need our own awards -- one that is well funded and celebrated and taken seriously. The lack of women nominated in the highest-profile categories is palpable and anger-inducing -- but not surprising. I wish I was more surprised.
Even though this day is devastating, it is not a day for resignation. Instead, it is a day for affirmation -- of the continuing need to keep on pushing for gender parity in the entertainment business. These stories are our cave drawings. They are what resonate all across the world. They are what we will leave behind -- and women must be included in our culture and our cultural legacy. Onward!
Here are the women nominated for the 87th Academy Awards:
Performance by an actress in a leading role
- Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
- Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
- Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
- Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
- Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
- Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
- Laura Dern in “Wild”
- Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
- Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
- Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”
Achievement in costume design
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Milena Canonero
- “Into the Woods” Colleen Atwood
- “Maleficent” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
- “Mr. Turner” Jacqueline Durran
Best documentary feature
- “CitizenFour” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
- “Last Days in Vietnam” Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
Best documentary short subject
- “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
- “Joanna” Aneta Kopacz
Achievement in film editing
- “Boyhood” Sandra Adair
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
- “Guardians of the Galaxy” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
- “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights,” Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
Best motion picture of the year
- “Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
- “The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
- “Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
- “The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
- “Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers
Achievement in production design
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
- “The Imitation Game” Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
- “Into the Woods” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
- “Mr. Turner” Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts
Best animated short film
- “The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
- “Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
Best live action short film
- “Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
- “Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
Achievement in sound editing
- “Unbroken” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro