By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood March 3, 2014 at 12:01PM
I don't know about you, but things felt a bit different last night. In fact, let's be honest, they've felt different for some time now. It's not just one thing. It's Tina and Amy at the Globes; it's Catching Fire becoming the top grossing film for 2013; it's the torrent of gender posts about the movie business leading up to the Academy Awards from outlets that never before gave a shit about gender; it's Cheryl Boone Isaacs' ascendency to the top role at the Academy. It's all these things and more that makes me hopeful for a true paradigm shift in addressing the gender disparity in Hollywood.
The Academy Awards is the crown jewel of awards season and usually is a dick fest. Not this year. Yes, men still won the lion's share of the awards (and that has to change) but with Ellen DeGeneres in the drivers seat I felt confident that the show wasn't going to be offensive to anyone and everyone. Personally, I liked Ellen a lot. People are so accustomed to these award events being biting, snarky and mean, I believe that they were never going to like Ellen. Ellen does likable. Ellen is going to be funny and she is going to make you feel good. She addressed racism in the opening monologue, and she had a couple of good bits including the selfie photo and the pizza bit. She engaged the people in the audience, the stars who we really only see on the carpet being asked stupid questions, and she made them enjoy themselves and in turn gave us a glimpse into these people who we sometimes forget are people. Who doesn't love Meryl Streep exclaiming that she has never tweeted before or Ellen telling the pizza delivery guy (was he a real pizza delivery guy?) to give a slice to a very pregnant Kerry Washington.
I will take comfortable and inoffensive over offensive every day of the week.
It was a special night for those of us who have spent so many years raising awareness of issues regarding the gender disparity in Hollywood. You know something has clicked somewhere when the woman who wins the best actress Oscar gets up and uses her short time to address the fact that movies about women make money and that they should be more of them.
You gotta give it up to Cate Blanchett who has returned to Hollywood in a big way after several years of running the Sydney Theatre Company with her husband Andrew Upton. Her comments were the high point of the night.
...perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.
(Sidenote 1 - let's not forget the elephant in the room of Blanchett win -- Woody Allen. That this man is one of the only people getting these movies made is very disturbing. We need more roles for women written by a diversity of writers.)
(Sidenote 2 - the heroes sections were full of male heroes which reiterates the point about how we need more movies about women.)
Maybe I am just the eternal optimist but the show felt like a celebration of potential and of the future especially with the win for 12 Years a Slave and Lupita Nyong'o. I have nothing against Jennifer Lawrence, in fact I love her, but there is no way she should have won for American Hustle, and some of the best news of the night for me was the shutout of that film. It felt that the 6,000 people in the Academy are realizing that yes, the world is round and that they can stand in front and be a part of the change that is coming or they can be left behind. The Oscar voters who are still majority white, male and older, took a step forward last night towards the future.
But at the same time I don't want to get too excited. The numbers for women are still awful across the board. We still only have a couple of women directed films opening wide this year. We still only have a couple of women centric movies opening wide this year. I'll feel like this means something when I read about Lupita's next job and when I read about Cate Blanchett's next starring role.
Last evening felt like a start. Now let's build on it.