The Oscars nominations have been announced and once again the Academy has found only male directors deserving of the directing award. Spike Lee was nominated for “BlacKkKlansman,” Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War,” Yorgos Lanthimos for “The Favourite,” Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma,” and Adam McKay for “Vice.”
The announcements come after the “Year of the Woman” brought political and cultural attention to the abuse and discrimination many women face in the media industry.
The many snubbed favorites include “Leave No Trace” directed by Debra Granik, “Can You Ever Forgive Me” directed by Marielle Heller, “Destroyer” directed by Karyn Kusama, “You Were Never Really Here” directed by Lynne Ramsay, “The Rider” directed by Chloe Zhao, and “Mary Queen of Scots” directed by Josie Rourke.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me” earned Melissa McCarthy and her co-star, Richard E. Grant, a nomination for acting.
Documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi has been nominated for her work on “Free Solo,” a documentary feature about Alex Honnold. She co-directed the film with Jimmy Chin. Feature length documentaries have a separate category than films in general, but it remains the only instance a woman’s directorial work has been honored in 2019.
In the 93 year history of the Oscars, only five women have ever been nominated. Out of those five, only one has ever won. Lina Wertmuller became the first woman ever nominated for the honor in 1975 for her work directing “Seven Beauties.” It took almost twenty years for another woman to be nominated when Jane Campion was nominated for “The Piano” in 1994. Sofia Coppola was nominated in 2003 for “Lost in Translation.” Kathryn Bigelow was nominated and won the award in 2009 for “The Hurt Locker.” Greta Gerwig broke another eight year shutout last year in 2017 when she was nominated for “Lady Bird.”
Other categories fair even worse. Rachel Morrison is the only woman ever to have been nominated for Cinematography for her work on “Mudbound.” No women of color have been nominated for either honor.
According to the advocacy organization Time’s Up, women make up only 4% of directors of all the top studio films in the last decade. While the lack of women directing is oft cited as a reason for the lack of representation of women in directorial awards, it is also evidence of a gross lack of inclusion in the industry.
Tessa Thompson and Time’s Up initiated the 4% challenge to industry leaders– commit to working with a woman director in the next eighteen months. Several stars tweeted support for the challenge, including JJ Abrams.
This challenge comes after a spirited Best Actress acceptance speech by Frances McDormand last year where she called for more stars to request inclusion riders. An inclusion rider is a commitment to racial and gender diversity in hiring on films. McDormand closed her thank you’s with the note, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider…We all have projects we need financed,” she continued. “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties… Invite us into your office in a couple days or you can come to ours.”
Many actresses are beginning to start their own production companies in order to have more control over who is hired on their projects. An interview last fall about inclusion with Gabrielle Union, Gina Rodriguez, Ellen Pompeo, and Emma Roberts went viral, in which Pompeo called out the lack of diversity in the room. In it, Rodriguez and Union revealed they have begun their own production companies, each with a focus on increasing diversity, especially behind the scenes.
So far, Natalie Portman’s bold introduction of the “all male nominees” applies to 2019 as well. Here’s hoping for change next year.