/ 4 March 2011

The white boys’ club

Few cities are more practised in the garish arts of public exposure than Los Angeles and at no time of year is this put to better use than during Oscars week.
This year, however, the biggest debates 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,” suggests Rattray.

Others have claimed that Bigelow’s triumph was not so much the breaking of a ceiling as 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 Slate.com.

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”.