In the 82-year history of the Academy Award only four – yes, four – women have been nominated for best director. None – yes, none – have ever won. This is a shameful legacy for an institution that at its core should exalt excellence at its most unadulterated, unbiased form. Artistry knows no gender. But this, of course, is not what has happened. Over the years the awards have been subject to politics and popularity. The winners have been a seemingly endless parade of white men. In 2005, Ang Lee became the first, and so far only, minority to take home the prestigious honor. (That, as if we need reminding, was the year “Crash” stole the award from “Brokeback Mountain.” Boo! Hiss!) This year Lee Daniels becomes only the second black filmmaker to be nominated for best director. Clearly, Oscar has a long way to go.
But this year, in a race with two historic nominees, it’s the woman who just might finally break into the exclusive boys clubs. Make no mistake, “Precious” is a wonderful film filled with rich portrayals and strong stories. But when it comes to sheer visceral energy and grand passionate filmmaking, no movie matched “The Hurt Locker” this year. Kathryn Bigelow is, quite simply, a great director. Not a great female director, though she is one. But just an amazing auteur. Throughout her career she has made intense, heart-pounding fare that defies expectations. Women make movies about falling in love, the conventional wisdom goes. Well, sure, some do. Others make movies about sky-diving, Presidential mask-wearing surfers who rob banks on the side. Look, there’s nothing wrong with making movies about love, but that’s clearly not all we can do.
So this year, when they open the envelope and say “And the Oscar goes to…” let them finally right 82 years of folly by saying “Kathryn Bigelow.” Show the boys how it’s done, Kathryn. Happy weekend, all.