Can I just say...
...that I will be sad if James Cameron wins the best director oscar for Avatar. Not because the directing wasn't great. But because of Kathryn Bigelow. And because the rundown would be frustratingly similar to the '93 and '03 situations. I'm referring, of course, to the two other recent years when a woman was a viable candidate for Best Director. In both years, the woman had directed a smallish, critically acclaimed indie film that she had also written. And in both years, she was up against a PHENOMENON: a huge film that had swept the board and literally couldn't lose. And what's happening this year? Yeah, the same thing.
1993: Jane Campion (The Piano) vs Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List)
Win: Spielberg (Campion wins best original screenplay)
2003: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) vs Peter Jackson (LOTR)
Win: Jackson (Coppola wins best original screenplay)
2009: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) vs James Cameron (Avatar)
Round 3. What will happen?
For all the similarities, it is worth noting that there's a lot that's different about this year.
For one thing, the woman (Bigelow) has literally nearly swept the board of directing honors (so far), to a greater extent than either of her predecessors, I believe. Meanwhile, Cameron (as a director) has won nothing. This bodes well for Bigelow to win, unless the late-breaking phenom that is Avatar starts cleaning up at Golden Globe and DGA time (a distinct possibility).
Also, Bigelow has no consolation prize category to win, as did Campion and Coppola. This could be a factor. I think the fact that Campion and Coppola could be honored elsewhere helped voters feel less bad about denying them the big prize.
ALSO, Cameron has already won. And it was for the most recent film he made (Titanic, 12 years ago). So he's not "due" in any way. In previous years, the men in the race were very highly regarded industry giants who'd never won, despite whole careers of brilliant work. This year, Bigelow is the one with the career that demands attention.
Plus, all the other major films directed by women this year - Bright Star, An Education, Julie & Julia, It's Complicated, Amelia (in rough descending order of significance) - have caused many onlookers to declare 2009 "the year of the woman." There's a definite feeling in the air that "it's time." Everyone seems to feel that a woman should win.
But will she? Or will Avatar just become too big to ignore, as Schindler and Return of the King did before it? And how will the "ex" factor play into the race? You know what I'm talking about.
The dynamics of all three awards years ('93, '03, '09) actually have striking parallels to the recent Hillary/Obama primary war. Isn't that funny? Art imitates life, as film awards imitate politics. Every time a woman comes along and directs a film (or runs a Presidential campaign) that would've won in any other year, she has the bad luck to be up against a once-in-a-generation phenomenon who's simply unbeatable. Them's the breaks, it seems.
Bottom line: This is shaping up to be a very exciting contest, the likes of which we haven't seen for quite a while. All may become clear soon enough, but I, for one, hope there's plenty of suspense right up through the big night. It should be fun.
Labels: awards season 2009