The Academy Snubs Kathryn Bigelow for History Making Second Best Director Nomination

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by Melissa Silverstein
January 10, 2013 10:58 AM
12 Comments
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I sit here ruminating, fulminating and seething, thinking about how Kathryn Bigelow could have been overlooked for a second best director nomination.  I'm pretty sure the people who thought Ben Affleck was also a sure thing are wondering how this could have happened to him.

Everyone is going to have thoughts on why Bigelow was left out.  Is it the fact that she made a movie that has caused a lot of controversy and conversation including from many liberal folks, and that the controversy itself became the conversation rather than the accomplishment of the film?  Is it because people just don't like the movie?  Is it because the subject matters is still so recent and so raw?  Is it because there was a sexist conspiracy to undermine her abilities as a director?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions.  All I know is that by leaving out Kathryn Bigelow, a woman who has won many best director accolades through the awards season, including a DGA nomination earlier this week, we won't get to see a woman in the best director race again.  When Kathryn Bigelow was in the race for The Hurt Locker it changed the conversation.  It gave girls the ability to see that a woman could make a film and compete with the guys.

Is there anything to the fact that she won the Oscar for The Hurt Locker a movie that didn't star a single woman, but when she makes a movie that has a female leading character she gets snubbed?  And let's be clear this is a snub.  If she had not been getting the recognition that she had over the last month since the film came out, it would just be another year that a woman didn't get an Oscar nomination.  But again, I repeat, she has been winning lots of the critics awards.  She has won: The NY Film Critics Circle, the Vancouver Critics, The Women's Film Critics Citcle, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Chicago Film Critics, Black Film Critics Circle, Boston Online Film Critics, Washington DC Film Critics, Boston Film Critics among others.  And the film has made many writers top ten lists. 

So it's not like she wasn't worthy or in the running, so they and by they I mean the mostly white and male directing branch of the Academy (according to a study done by the LA Times only 9% of the directing branch -- which has 371 members -- is female) did not deem her to be worthy of a second nomination.  If I was a conspiracy theorist I would say that these sexist bastards feel that they have done their duty and let a woman in the club and now they are done.  And going even further they would probably be thinking that there was NO FUCKING WAY they were going to let a woman in twice, even for a nomination.  They want to shut down this thought that women could make films worthy of getting a best director nomination. 

Even though Kathryn Bigelow is a producer of Zero Dark Thirty and so with the best picture nomination she is an Oscar nominee, we will still miss out on the conversation that we could be having about what it means to have a woman be nominated for best director.   It would be moving momentum forward and now the conversation is all about a snub and momentum moving backwards.  We also miss out on the conversation on what it means to have a woman be nominated for best director for a film that has a female leading character who plays a CIA agent and leader. 

I am guessing that now we will be hearing a lot more from Mark Boal since he got a screenplay nomination and a lot less from Kathryn Bigelow since she did not get a best director nomination, and I implore the people strategizing at this moment to keep putting her out as part of the conversation because it is vital that we hear a woman's voice in this process.

This year's Academy Award is a reminder that we still have a REALLY long way to go.  Even though there are the same amount of female and male directors in competition at Sundance, women still have a really hard time getting to the top place as seen by today's nominations where there are no women directors nominated for best foreign film, no women directors nominated for best documentary, and one woman director (Brenda Chapman) nominated for best animated feature.

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12 Comments

  • noyfb | January 17, 2013 8:58 AMReply

    She said the movie was accurate in continuity, after that even senators andmilitary officials said she got it wrong. She based it apon her alleged encounters with seal team six members that would break oaths and laws for her movie's plot? Doubtful. her torture scenes were extremely exaggerated which was one of the controversial points in the film.the discovery channel did a more accurate telling of the bin laden take down than her "accurate" depictions.

  • Greene | January 17, 2013 12:10 AMReply

    You know, lets divorce gender from the conversation and just look at the movie for a second because thats what is going to endure when we're all dead:

    What is zero dark thirty? a really good police procedural movie in the vein of other great directors.

    Good movie? Absolutely.

    Is it truly a good piece of movie journalism the way that opening black screen purports? A dubious proposition at best.

    Best director good? Eh

    i dont think it deserves the best picture nom either but thats just me.

  • Marta | January 15, 2013 2:58 PMReply

    It's so funny, you describe it as if there's a darker agenda. It's mostly old white guys voting. They don't get together and "choose" the directors in a sequestered room. They watch the movies and they vote. If you think they have time to sit around and plot who is going to vote for whom - and rig the voting - then make a case for it and take it to the board members. But you know what - they don't have time to sit around and plot. The producers campaign and then the members watch the movies (supposedly) and then they vote. Just like an election. The voting members didn't vote for it. Until The Academy admits more women into the voting process it will be this way. Guys making sure their guy friends are successful. Over and over and over again... two words for that - bore-ing.

  • mimi337 | January 11, 2013 12:58 PMReply

    I have to say I was one of the few who was truly disappointed by ZDT. Jessica Chastain made no sense to me, as a character and an actress -- i.e. the film takes place over the course of ten years and yet she doesn't look older, tougher, or physically affected by the moral and professional stress she's experienced. In addition Bigelow decided for some odd reason to skip over one of the most spectacular and interesting stories about the Bin Laden raid and that was the five months spent training in an exact replica of Bin Laden's compound. Why would anyone skip over that? Listen, she might not have been nominated but it's not as if the film has been lost in the shuffle. It's a HUGE movie both critically, culturally and politically and to me it isn't sexism that left Bigelow out of the race. Finally, I must say I don't think Chastain deserved her nom. She was completely miscast. Frances McDormand would have been amazing in that part.

  • Allison | January 11, 2013 10:07 AMReply

    I think you might have a point that Bigelow got shut out because ZDT starred a strong female character, whereas The Hurt Locker was totally male-centric. I think it's too much for Hollywood to have a female director of a movie with a strong female protagonist get nominated for a second time.

  • Alan B | January 10, 2013 8:44 PMReply

    Why are you celebrating Brenda Chapman's nomination for 'Brave'? She developed the project, was kicked off it and then a male director beefed up the action quotient. Her concept was marginalized and cheapened into a film that had no clue what story it wanted to tell or what it wanted to be. That's your idea of a win for feminism? See, that's the problem with your approach: you just look at the macro and make no attempt to discern the micro of why this things occur.

  • Alan B | January 10, 2013 8:39 PMReply

    "If I was a conspiracy theorist I would say that these sexist bastards feel that they have done their duty and let a woman in the club and now they are done." If?

  • marta | January 15, 2013 3:06 PM

    It's a numbers game. A voting game. She didn't get enough votes. Period. It's not a conspiracy. It's sad, and boring, but they are voting on the movies they like. They are experienced directors who understand how to make films - they aren't intentionally sexist - they're just in their mental rut. It takes a different campaign approach to appeal to them before they vote and unfortunately, ZDK campaign didn't work. Too bad.

  • Bill | January 10, 2013 6:27 PMReply

    Melissa, you sound like a black person, mad about whoever black got annually skipped over. I tell you the same thing I tell them: Learn how to play the game, get over it and move on.

  • Jaquay | January 11, 2013 3:55 AM

    Ha Ha Ha...always love how one throws in their assumptions of what "sounds" like a black person...so sad Bill

  • Casey | January 10, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, The Master, Les Miserables and Django Unchained all did poorer than expected today. Zero Dark Thirty even underwhelmed in the technical categories too. Clearly, the AMPAS just didn't dig the movie as much as the critics did. Paul Thomas Anderson won a bushel of critics prizes for writing/directing/producing The Master, yet he got COMPLETELY shut out today. Blaming Kathryn Bigelow's omission on sexism is just paranoia and persecution complex run amok (particularly since she ALREADY HAS TWO OSCARS).

  • Simon | January 10, 2013 11:40 AMReply

    It's certainly disappointing, but maybe there's hope next year for either Lynne Ramsay or Susanne Bier.

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