January 11, 2013
The Oscars and tokenism
When Kathryn Bigelow won her Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, I felt pretty sure that she won because she did the best directing job of the year, and not because the Academy decided to check "women" off the diversity to-do list and congratulate itself on being so broad-minded and progressive.
Fast forward to yesterday's Oscars nominations. Zero Dark Thirty is, in my opinion, even better than The Hurt Locker, and certainly represents a more ambitious and dazzling feat of directing in terms of actors and story and all the technical stuff. So I was disappointed that she didn't get a nomination (though ZDT got a Best Picture nomination,) but more than that, I was sad to realize that her nomination and win back in 2010 was probably more about the Academy deciding it was time to let a girl win than I had hoped. She deserves the Oscars she has, even if they turned out to be tokens.
On the other hand, it was nice to see some surprise inclusions: Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Michael Haneke for Amour were both wildly unlikely long shots. I guess this proves that the Academy loves heartwarming fantasies about adorable children, and also old people. Amour was one of my favorite movies of the year, but the directorial style pretty much defines "minimal": hire two of the world's greatest living actors, turn the camera on, and then don't do anything else. It's a great movie, but it's super small. For an Academy that typically equates "best" with "most", this is a really weird category of Best Director nominees.
I'm not going to discuss all the nominations Silver Linings Playbook got because I'm too bewildered and upset, but my main consolation is knowing that it has basically no chance of actually winning any of the big awards. The one exception might be Robert DeNiro, which I can live with. Let's just remember that David O. Russell last made a really good movie in 1999 with Three Kings and try to get on with our lives.
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