Oscars Shut Out Women in Best Director Category Again

After a historic year for women directors, the Academy Awards have followed the regressive path established this awards season by the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and the BAFTAs by not nominating any women for best director. 

Despite having been shut out in the run-up to the Oscars, “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig was still considered a frontrunner for an Oscar nomination, especially with the movie surpassing the box office milestone of $100 million worldwide. Lulu Wang, the director of “The Farewell,” was also thought to have a shot at a nomination.

But the Academy’s director’s branch thought otherwise.

Little Women received six nominations overall, including for best picture. Gerwig did receive a nomination for best adapted screenplay. John Cho and Issa Rae announced the nominations early Monday morning in Los Angeles, and after reading adapted screenplay, Rae commented, “Greta done slipped in there.”

Instead, the Academy went with all men, nominating Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman,” Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite,” Sam Mendes for “1917” and Todd Phillips for “Joker.”

Congratulations to those men,” said Rae, after reading those nominations.

Rebecca Goldman, Time’s Up’s Chief Operating Officer, issued a statement to Variety following the shutout: “This is why TIME’S UP exists — to ensure women in entertainment and across industries get the opportunities and recognition they deserve. And we won’t stop fighting until they do.”

The percentage of women directors was on the upswing in 2019 — and will be again this year — as calls for sweeping change in the entertainment industry after the Harvey Weinstein reckoning of 2017 have produced tangible results. Beyond Gerwig and Wang, women directed a number of the year’s notable films, including “Hustlers” (Lorene Scafaria), “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Marielle Heller) and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Céline Sciamma). For the first time, two movies co-directed by women, “Frozen 2” and “Captain Marvel,” were among the top five box office performers for the year. Anna Boden directed the latter with Ryan Fleck; Jennifer Lee directed the former with Chris Buck. (“Frozen 2” was notably — and surprisingly — not nominated for best animated film.) 

A sidebar press release issued by the Academy Monday morning pointed out that overall, “a record 62 women were nominated, almost one third of this year’s nominees.”

Throughout the history of the Oscars, only five women have been nominated for best director: Lina Wertmüller (in 1976 for “Seven Beauties”), Jane Campion (in 1993 for “The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (in 2003 for “Lost in Translation”), Kathryn Bigelow (in 2009 for “The Hurt Locker”) and Gerwig (2017’s “Lady Bird”). Had Gerwig received a nomination for “Little Women,” she would have been the only woman ever to be nominated twice. 

Bigelow is the sole woman to win best director in the Oscars’ 91-year history.

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