Why Kathryn Bigelow’s Win Is Great for Film Nerds
The stretch between 2006 and 2010 marks a great moment in discussion of movies. Why? Well, it takes a little explanation.
For years, whenever the Oscars ran, there was always a contingent of annoying assholes who latched onto whoever won Best Director that year and said the following in a snooty, whiny tone:
“Well, I guess the Academy thinks [INSERT DIRECTOR HERE] is a better director than Martin Scorsese!”
And we were supposed to acknowledge this as some sort of profound insight into how crappy the Oscars were, even in a year when Scorsese hadn’t released a movie. It was facile and stupid, as if we’d all agreed that Scorsese was automatically the Best Living Filmmaker EVAR; it proved they didn’t think about movies, but nothing could ever shut these assholes up.
Then, 2006. The magic year. The year Scorsese finally won Best Director and Best Picture. OK, so it was for The Departed, which is not Scorsese’s best movie ever, although it is pretty damn good. And suddenly, once and for all, these people had to shut the fuck up. In one fell swoop, the Academy had stripped them of their way to seem like a high-falutin’, above-it-all asswipe.
And now, 2010. Kathryn Bigelow wins. And we never, ever, EVER have to hear from the same class of asshat about how the Academy hates directors with vaginas ever again.
Why there aren’t more female directors is actually a very complicated and complex issue that deals with industry sexism, gender roles, personal preferences, and how our society treats women who leave the workforce to raise their families for a while. We really can’t chalk it up entirely to “Hollywood hates vaginas,” because it doesn’t. Women are all over Hollywood, but as a rule, they’re not directors. The truth is, nobody really knows why. Figuring out why is really hard and might actually require societal change a lot deeper than just telling Hollywood to hire the director with tits.
None of which has stopped a certain kind of person from insisting that it’s just because Hollywood hates women and Hollywood is sexist and it’s not faaaaa-aaaaaaiiiirrr!
What’s especially galling about this bullshit is that these are the same kind of people who can’t be bothered to A) support what female directors are out there working, or B) go out and actually make a goddamn movie themselves. The above is a billboard designed, commissioned and paid for by a group calling themselves the Guerilla Girls, an anonymous group of artists who make flyers to protest for women’s rights. This has been a hobby horse of theirs for years.
If this were the ’70s, it’d be one thing. Time was, making a film independently would be expensive, difficult and painful. But we’re in the twenty-first century. More to the point, technology has advanced to the degree, with digital video and high-definition, that if, say, a group of artists who can afford a billboard in Los Angeles decided to instead put that money towards a digital camera and giving a female director the freedom to tell the stories she wanted to tell, they could. Hey, GG. I know no less than THREE female directors who really could have used the five-figure cost of that billboard.
Look, your author has been making movies for a DECADE using this technology. It’s neither hard to use or expensive to buy; I recently built an editing system vastly more powerful than anything those ’70s auteurs could dream of by clicking a couple of buttons on a website and having it shipped to my house, and it cost me less than what they paid for film. There are cameras on the market right now that would have been utterly unimaginable five years ago at a price most people would have labeled you insane to claim would ever exist. This is probably the single most exciting time for filmmaking in the history of the medium.
So what are these groups doing? Sitting on their asses and whining. But it gets worse.
There’s one thing that’s true about Hollywood: it is sexist in how it views female audiences. But can you blame Hollywood? They put out a steaming turd like Valentine’s Day and it’s a license to mint money. They work with an auteur like Jane Campion, she makes something that isn’t a fluffy rom-com piece of garbage, and women run away screaming.
So you’d think all these people looking for genuine female auteurs and directors would back any woman showing skill or at least promise, right? Wrong.
Take Bronwen Hughes. Hughes turned out a truly great action movie you should go see, called Stander:
It was well-made, it was awesome, it was an announcement that Hughes could make movies beyond Harriet the Spy. Did women rally around her and push her so she’d become an action movie big-dog?
Fuck no; they ignored her. Hughes wasn’t making sensitive, touchy-feely feminist movies, you see; she was making what she wanted to make, so fuck her. Currently she’s directing TV, while Michael Bay still gets work.
And you know what? The same thing happened to Bigelow. It wasn’t because sisters came together and supported women that she won. It was because she worked her ass off and spent years in the wilderness trying to put together movies she wanted to make. The one time she tried to play to that audience, with a movie called The Weight of Water, they ignored her and the movie rotted for two years.
Bigelow has always been seen in the indie world as some weirdo because she likes movies where shit blows up instead of movies where women cry about their feelings.
So, in short, 2010 was the year all the people whining about how a woman never won Best Director not only had to shut up, they got served a big steaming cup of STFU by the kind of woman they did their best to keep down. And, from all the people who genuinely care about movies to you…
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! SUCK IT LOSERS!