Sun, Feb 27, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Breaking the glass ceiling at the Academy Awards

Kathryn Bigelow may have ‘opened doors’ for female directors last year, but this year’s nominations show the awards remain dominated by men

By Hadley Freeman  /  The Guardian, Los Angeles

Kathryn Bigelow, director of the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker.

Photo: Bloomberg

Few cities are more practiced in the garish arts of public exposure than Los Angeles and at no time of year is this put to better use than Oscars week.

This year, however, the biggest debates in the runup to today’s annual evening of backslapping and schmoozing have revolved around who could do with a bit more recognition.

After Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to be given the best director award at last year’s Oscars, there was hope that a traditionally male-dominated barrier had been broken at last.

This looked all the more plausible because of the number of lauded films directed by women, notably Winter’s Bone, by Deborah Granik, and The Kids are All Right, by Lisa Cholodenko. Yet while both movies have been nominated for best film, and feature actors who have received nominations, their directors have been ignored.

“Kathryn opened doors so I was particularly disappointed that Lisa didn’t get a nomination,” says Celine Rattray, producer of The Kids are All Right.

Notably, the subject matter of Bigelow’s film, The Hurt Locker, was war and there was only one woman in the cast, raising the question of whether a woman might be able to win a film award so long as she makes a very masculine film.

“I think the nominations this year in general were for flashy movies and maybe The Kids are All Right was just a little too heartfelt,” Rattray suggests.

Others have claimed that Bigelow’s triumph was not so much the breaking of a ceiling but a mere blip.

“After Kathryn Bigelow’s supremely satisfying double win for best director and best picture last year, it’s particularly disheartening to see Winter’s Bone and The Kids are All Right, both made by women, relegated to ‘great film-who directed it again?’ status,” Dana Stevens wrote on

Another demographic notably more absent from this year’s nominations are non-Caucasians. Last year Mo’Nique won best supporting actress for Precious. This year there is not one non-Caucasian face in any major category.

It prompted John Farr to pen a tribute to Sidney Poitier on the Huffington Post in protest. He described Poitier as “an authentic groundbreaker” but a lot of old ground remained firmly intact, judging by this year’s nominations.

One person who is both underexposed and overexposed is the British artist Banksy, whose film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, has been nominated for best documentary feature. Banksy has become the object of deep fascination to the Hollywood community, enthralled by what they see as his nigh on perverse dislike of being recognized.

Various celebrities, including Will Arnett from the cult TV show Arrested Development, have spent the week putting up photos on Twitter of street art in LA that appears to be made by Banksy, indicating that he is in town. The question of whether he will turn up to the ceremony has arguably made the best documentary feature the most talked about category.

The only nominee more talked about is the all too visible James Franco. Not content with being both the host of the ceremony and a best actor nominee, he opened an art exhibition entitled Unfinished, as advertised by giant billboards across the city, all emblazoned with Franco’s face.

And just in case that still is not enough he joined Twitter, posting a link to a video of himself as his debut tweet, thereby slaking the thirst of anyone who hadn’t seen his face for more than two seconds.

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