The Academy has done it again! In a move, that can be seen as just another way to seek out their own irrelevance, the Academy didn’t find a single female director worthy of a nomination for ‘Best Director’ this year. This, despite 2019 being the year which saw the highest number of releases of films by female directors in Hollywood history, many of them at the helm of prestige projects in the studio system. Many of these even broke out of festivals, and have earned a reasonable audience over the year. And yet, the Academy held Todd Phillips in higher regard than these new, edgier voices.
These 10 films by female film-makers are legitimately some of the best reviewed films of the year, and yet not a single woman made it to the ‘Best Director’ list.
1. Hustlers by Lorne Scafaria
Starring Constance Wu and (a splendid!) Jennifer Lopez as the film’s two leads, Hustlers follows the lives of a group of out-of-work strippers (following the 2008 recession), who drugged and stole from a large group of Wall Street brokers & CEOs. Based on an article appeared the New York Magazine, the film humanises these women and chooses not to make villains out of them.
2. Little Women by Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic from the 19th century, is one of the best reviewed films of 2019. And yet, Gerwig, who won a nomination for her directorial debut, Lady Bird, didn’t make the cut for Best Director. However, the film has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Florence Pugh), Best Adapted Screenplay (Gerwig) and Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat).
3. The Farewell by Lulu Wang
Lulu Wang’s film about a Chinese-American rediscovering her roots in China while tending to her ill grandmother, broke out as one of the finest films from last year’s Sundance. Awkwafina’s Golden Globe win for Best Actor did nothing for the Academy, that didn’t nominate this film for anything.
4. The Nightingale by Jennifer Kent
The Babadook writer/director showed why she was being hailed as one of the most exciting voices, with this film about a young woman seeking revenge for a terrible act of violence committed against her family. Having been on the festival circuit, none of the excellent word-of-mouth did much to move the needle for the Academy.
5. Honey Boy by Alma Ha’rel
Alma Ha’rel’s stirring film based on Shia LeBeouf’s childhood and his relationship with his father, where LaBeouf plays his own father, descended into oblivion with no mention from the Academy. Picked up by Amazon after glowing reviews from worldwide festivals, the film was absolutely not worthy of any recognition by the Academy.
6. Booksmart by Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, starring Kaitlyn Dever & Beanie Feldstein, opened to glowing reviews at the SXSW (South By Southwest). The film is about two high school girls breaking some rules and partying on their last days of classes. Feldstein’s Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) didn’t translate to nomination from The Academy.
7. The Souvenir by Joanna Hogg
Joanna Hogg’s remarkable follow-up to Archipelago, this one follows the life of a young woman attending film school and her destructive relationship with an older man who encourages her ambition. Premiering at Sundance, the film was showered with nominations at the British Independent Film Awards but no recognition from the Academy.
8. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire by Celine Sciamma
Celine Sciamma’s love story between an aristocratic woman and the girl commissioned to paint her portrait, has been widely regarded as the best film at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It went on to win the Queer Palm, making it the first such film to win by a woman director.
9. A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood by Marielle Heller
Marielle Heller’s fabulous film is based on Fred Rogers and a journalist, whose life changed after he was given the job to profile the beloved TV icon. It didn’t get a nod apart from Tom Hanks winning a Best Supporting Actor nomination for playing Rogers.
10. Atlantique by Mati Diop
Mati Diop became the first black woman to be a contender for the Palm d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where she went on to win the Grand Prix (runner-up) for Atlantique. The film made it to the short list of the Best Foreign Film category, but no further.