Female Best Director nominations: part two

My best friend and I were having a discussion about the films for which a female director had received an Academy award nomination. Her favorite film (not just for this purpose, but for all-time, essentially) is Lost in Translation. Lost in Translation is her jam, she says. She’s lived in Japan, so she can relate to that aspect; she loves the actors; she just flat-out adores the whole movie. Except…she’s not sure Sofia Coppola deserved that nomination for best director.

I get it. It’s about trying to determine what’s actually an award-worthy feat of direction. Coppola’s self-penned screenplay was so personal, it can’t have been that hard to direct, right?

The argument—even just the perception of it—is enlightening. It makes sense and yet it doesn’t. Who’s to say that getting your own written word to work on the screen is easier than getting someone else’s to? I’ve never directed a film, so I don’t know.

What I do know is that up until Kathryn Bigelow’s nomination this year, all of the women who’d been nominated for best director had done so directing self-penned, original (not adapted) scripts. Lina Wertmüller wrote Seven Beauties, and Jane Campion wrote The Piano. As a kind of comparison, in the 2000s, out of 50 nominees for best director, only six (including Coppola) had written their own original screenplay. It’s interesting to ponder: perhaps the nature of Hollywood “glass ceiling” means that in order to get the job as director on a worthy script, a woman usually just has to write it herself? I feel like there’s some truth to that, and it makes me feel even more strongly that a win for Bigelow would be very significant for women directors in Hollywood.

Oh, and one more fun fact: the last time someone took home the best director award for directing their own original, not-adapted screenplay? That’d be James Cameron, for Titanic.

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