By all accounts, 2019 was one of the best years we have had for movies in a while — and also one of the best years for women in filmmaking.
In the face of endless superhero franchises, an encroaching Disney monopoly, and struggling indie releases, we still managed to get Booksmart, feature film directorial debut by Olivia Wilde, Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria’s instant hit starring Jennifer Lopez, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Marielle Heller, and last but not least, Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Besides being directed by women, all of these films are also shining examples of the very best of modern-day American cinema.
But they also share a disappointing-yet-unsurprising detail: a snub by the Golden Globes, one of the biggest players in the film industry’s awards season. In fact, this year is yet another instalment in a long series of the Globes doggedly ignoring female directors.
For the fourth year in a row, in all of the top film categories — best director, best drama, best musical or comedy, and best screenplay — the Globes announced an all-male shortlist.
This year is particularly hurtful, not just because of the quality of the material that was produced by women filmmakers in 2019, but also because we have been at exactly the same point last year, with exactly the same players.
Greta Gerwig was overlooked both in the writing and directing categories for Lady Bird in 2018. Marielle Heller was similarly snubbed for her critically acclaimed Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy. This year, her Mister Rogers feature, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, earned supporting star Tom Hanks a nod, but Heller was shut out yet again.
Lulu Wang and Celine Sciamma both landed nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category, for The Farewell and Portrait of a Lady on Fire, respectively, but neither was nominated for Best Director — incredibly undeservedly, in my humble opinion.
Perhaps most pointedly, Ava DuVernay was also completely excluded from this year’s Globes. Five years ago, Selma landed her a Best Director nomination — the last woman to get one to date. But this year, her Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, was entirely bereft of nominations despite recognition from the Emmys and Critics Choice Awards.
Over the 75-year history of the Golden Globes, only five women have ever been nominated in the directing category. And only one actually won: Barbra Streisand for Yentl.
As a side-note, it is worth pointing out that these shocking numbers are almost exactly the same at the Oscars: five nominees and just one win, which was Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker in 2009. But while the Oscars at least appear to be trying to tackle the issue, the Globes seem blissfully unaware of it.
In fact, their abysmal statistics fly in the face of the long and substantive campaign to increase women filmmakers’ profile in the industry. Just two years ago, Natalie Portman created a media storm when she used her onstage moment to call out the all-male nominees during the 2018 ceremony. And yet, nothing seems to have changed for the Globes.
Perhaps the reason for this continuous exclusion of women creators from the most highly acclaimed categories is buried in the way the Globe’s nominating committee, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is organised. Members of this organisation are chosen through an arcane selection process that requires living in the greater Southern California area, publishing in a non-American publication at least four times, and two letters of recommendation from current H.F.P.A. members — which clearly seem to select mostly for people who are just like the previous H.F.P.A. members, that is, old, white, and male.
But the time has come for the Globes and the H.F.P.A. to finally make it into the 21st century. There is no need for it to remain such an exclusive club when they are clearly and continuously excluding half of the talent in Hollywood. In a year that saw Greta Gerwig, Lorene Scafaria, Marielle Heller, Claire Denis, Celine Sciamma, and Ava DuVernay, amongst many others, publish new projects, all-male shortlists are a sign of incompetence rather than a display of skill in the film-making industry.
While we are on it, all-male shortlists shouldn’t even have made it into the 2010s. But now that we are here, let’s finally draw a line under them. Hopefully Hollywood can leave them behind as we make it into the next decade of filmmaking.
The Oscars, meanwhile, won’t announce their nominations until mid-January. Here is to hoping that they are paying attention to women’s talent this year around.