Monday, February 23, 2009

Thoughts on the Oscars

Let me admit right up front that I watched a program on Fats Domino rather than the Oscars last night, but I did look at the list of things that had already been awarded before I went to bed. And I had two questions.

I noticed that Slumdog Millionaire was nominated in all sorts of categories, though none of the acting categories. It won the best picture award (I learned this morning) without a single performance "worthy" of a nomination? I wonder how often that happens? (And I bet a movie buff could tell us within minutes.)

It makes me wonder if there wasn't a subtle (or not so subtle, but probably not really conscious) racism in play among the nominating voters. Racism doesn't always take a big systemic organization; sometimes it's the result of lots of little racist decisions, many of which aren't even consciously racist.

Then I noticed that among there was little overlap in the best picture and best actress/best supporting actress nomination fields. I think Kate Winslett/The Reader was the only overlap I saw.

I'm guessing there's not at all subtle sexism at work throughout the industry that makes fewer good roles for women because what "counts" as a good film is very masculinist and tells male stories. What sells isn't necessarily a great female actor, but male-centered films which often valorize violence and patriarchal values.

I wonder what sorts of roles Katherine Hepburn or Myrna Loy would find these days? I don't mean to be nostalgic, because it's not like Hollywood was ever a hotbed of feminism, but it seems ever more masculinist. We need more female producers, directors, and writers, don't we? (Though, to be honest, there would also have to be more women controlling disposable income spent on going to films, and I'm guessing most adult women have less time to go to films than most 13 year old boys. And do we really want to spend that much of our disposable income at films when there are bikes to be ridden, snow to be skied on, and books to be read?)


  1. Anonymous6:26 AM

    I don't think the racism is subtle at all.

  2. I'm not doubting that there's racism, but there might have been another problem with Slumdog Millionaire. The adult actors were only in about half the movie, or maybe less than half. The main characters were 2 different sets of children, and the adults only toward the end of the movie. It might have been weird to nominate Dev Patel for best actor, and even weirder as best supporting actor (although it was also weird that Philip Seymour Hoffman was in the best supporting actor category, since I don't think there's another main male character in Doubt.)

  3. Look at this link to Shakesville and a discussion of the top 25 (male) directors:

    "So, in fact, not a single one of the most recent films made by "the 25 Greatest Active Film Directors" has a female protagonist who doesn't play second fiddle to a male lead or get sexually assaulted in the course of the film."


  4. And how about the fact that Danny Boyle received the Oscar for Director? In all the press for the film, he is listed as the co-director-- along with female co-director, Loveleen Tandan. But both the Golden Globes AND the Academy opted to nominate (and award) Boyle alone.
    I was also appalled to read the transcript of Boyle's acceptance speech, as he seemed to completely omit mentioning her name.

  5. at least sean penn got a bright moment, calling the academy a bunch of "commie homo-loving sons of guns" when he got his.

    as usual, the women seem to be relegated to the annual festival of dresses: whose was fabulous, and whose was so awful that the embarassment should be carved on her tombstone. yawn.