Thursday, January 22, 2015

Luck Will Not Be A Lady Tonight

Heard anything interesting lately about the nominees for this year's Academy Awards? Nope, me either.

Oh, right, major psych.

Since the nominees were announced last week there has been nothing BUT commentary. Who was picked and who wasn't has been causing quite a stir.

Apart from making jokes about/surprisingly supporting Jennifer Lopez's typical Vegas Showgirl look, the entertainment sphere of news was dominated by a single word - snub.

It's the time of year when that four letter word is feared most by everyone in the movie industry. Well, unless it is in regard to The Razzies.

Snubs causing ranting and raving about the Oscars is usual behavior, but this year isn't just annoyed bitching, it is criticism that speaks to a larger social issue.

Anyone who saw a set of nominee photos could see  how white and manly that lineup is.

I understand the rage - I loved David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. just as much as the next person. He fully embodied that mans powerful presence when he made speeches and also all the quiet struggles he had within himself over his attempts to seek justice. Selma is an incredibly powerful movie from beginning to end. It's too bad more people didn't seek it out over this special and fitting holiday weekend.

Back to the actor nominations, because here lies the truth - there are only five spots in each of the categories other than Best Picture. Not everyone can make the cut, which is where it all gets tricky. Are the five men who were selected not deserved of recognition?

Having not been nominated for any other major award this year, Bradley Cooper's nomination came out of nowhere, which could explain Oyelowo's omission. Even if he had been nominated instead of Cooper,  I would still be rooting for Michael Keaton and his lovely comeback. It's not the same, but at least Selma received a couple other nominations, including Best Picture. Although, that fact didn't seem to settle any of those restless hearts.

To add to the embarrassing lack of varying racial representation generally throughout all of the nominees, there was another under represented group that stood out. Hey, Academy, where are all the women?

This question is even entirely separate from the fact that there are no female nominees in the directing (sorry Ava DuVernay) or screenplay categories, among others. What I'm talking about is something that occurred to me in a moment of clarity somewhere between losing my mind during a football game over the weekend.

Let's look at what all the Best Picture nominees have in common. We've got Alan Turing, a Birdman, Stephen Hawking, the life of a boy turning into a man, an American legend/saint/icon, the lobby boy/his male mentor, a scary music teacher that yells at his student who is the same sex,  and a lethal sniper who's a dude. Do you see the same pattern that popped into my head like an exploding balloon?

That's right, out of all the Best Picture nominees, eight of the alleged best movies of the year, not a single one has a female as the protagonist.

Shocking! I would start singing the chorus of Hollaback Girl right now, but I hate that song, so I'll just say - that fact is bananas and cuckoo.

Some might say, who cares! Why does this matter? Actresses have their own category, don't they?

I'm not that great at math, but when there is not a single female focused tale recognized as being the possible Best Picture of the year, it blatantly screams that there is a very poor ratio of movies based around women. Try searching the list of movies released in 2014 and you will find a lot of Katniss or that girl from Divergent, but only a few others (Maleficent, Annie). In 2013, it was reported that only 15% of movie protagonists were women.

I think we can all agree that we have enjoyed movies starring both men and women, but the lack of the latter is hard to ignore. There are just as many significant stories to tell about women as there are about men. Think of all those adventures yet to be told!

This got me wondering - are lead female characters always this underrepresented in Best Picture nominees?

Now that definitely piqued my interest and I couldn't stop doing research. After a little digging through endless lists of nominees, anyone could see that every year before this there was at least one Best Picture contender where the main focus of the story was a female character.

Broken down more specifically - I counted any movie where almost all the scenes featured a woman with the main story focused around her and she didn't just pop up as a supporting role to another guy. Yes, I took this seriously.

Last year Philomena and Gravity were up for best movie. The Help, Black Swan, The Kids Are Alright, Winter's Bone, An Education, Precious, The Reader, Juno, The Queen are also a few other examples from recent years.

Any Oscar buff would recognize what else seems off about that list. Even with those nominations, none of the above listed movies (many of which I note as favorites) ended up taking the top prize.

What was the last female dominated movie to win the Best Picture, you ask? Sheesh, so many questions! I'll walk you through the possibilities.

Some could argue The Artist, but we all know that movie belonged to Jean Dujardin. Or maybe, Million Dollar Baby, yet in the end, that's actually more about Clint than Ms. Swank. So, I think under my established parameters, we'll toss the last female focused Best Picture winner way back to 2003 - the year Zellweger and Zeta-Jones sang and danced while donning flapper dresses in Chicago.

That's farther back than it should be, but, truth be told, there hasn't been many others in history either.

By my calculation, My Fair Lady, The Sound Of Music, Gone With The Wind, Mrs. Miniver, All About Eve, Gigi, Terms Of Endearment, Out Of Africa, and Titanic would be the only winners in history to fall into that female focused category. [Tagged it!]

This year has especially found Reese Witherspoon endlessly working to flip these statistics around and I applaud her for it. Had Wild (which she stars in and also produced) or the wonderful Into The Woods received the Best Picture nominations that were expected, this outrageous discussion wouldn't even need to be happening. Even in that alternative universe, only including two flicks that have women leads out of eight nominees is still rather dodgy...

Even though it didn't fall into the Best Picture category, there is one extraordinary movie that is completely focused on a gal's story and it is up for Best Foreign Language Film. Anyone who after reading this is really jazzed about supporting movies starring women, look no further than Ida. Be in the mood to soak up gorgeous atmosphere all while taking in a tale about a girl who thinks she wants to be a nun but instead gets involved in a tragic story that sidetracks her from taking those vows.

Ida is proof that exciting, well made movies about women are out there, there's just not enough of them. Let's all champion the fight. But maybe don't bring Tammy along as a shining example. 

Until next time.
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