Projection: Oscar – The Boys Club


With the overall lack of current eye-popping news coming out of the Oscar circuit, I initially set out to break down the Supporting Actress candidates. As I took a fresh look at the possibilities, though, I was reminded of that frequent nagging problem I have long noticed, and not just this year: the female categories are so much less crowded than the male categories. Generally, Oscar rewards male-centered stories…but the buck doesn’t stop with Oscar. After all, the Academy can only award what Hollywood churns out. The fact that there is such a distinct lack of films about women – further, the fact that there is a clear lack of roles for women – is not merely an Oscar problem…it’s an industry problem. The Academy Awards – and Hollywood at large – is a boy’s club.

Let’s use this year’s slate of potential nominees as an example. Taking stock of the Best Actor hopefuls, the category is about as crowded as usual. A generously inclusive grouping of potential nominees renders a total of about 40…and even if you take out the long shots, you are left with about 20 dudes with legit Oscar potential. And I’m not talking about someone like Paul Giamatti in Win Win or some other performance that people love but doesn’t stand a chance. I’m talking about real contenders. There are simply too many to know what to do with…and that is pretty normal for the category. Move over to the Best Actress category and it’s a different landscape altogether. Adding in the furthest outliers, you arrive at a total of 20 – that’s including ridiculous flights of fancy like Kristin Scott Thomas in Sarah’s Key and Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre…and also including three potential Rachel Weisz contenders. Take away the significant portion of performances that will obviously be left on the outside looking in, and you’re left with a group that runs, at most, 10 deep. This, too, is normal for the category.

How about the supporting categories? Best Supporting Actress is generally a much more open category than Best Actress, filled with a wider swath of potential nominees. This year it’s no different. A liberal listing of Supporting Actress hopefuls yields somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 performances. Narrow it down to just the essentials and you’re left with 20, no less than double the total of serious Best Actress candidates. But think about the nature of that comparison. Walking away from this particular dissection, the sunniest possible outlook is that Hollywood has a somewhat wider acceptance of female as helpmate than female as hero. And for the sake of perspective, consider the Supporting Actor category when put under the same scrutiny. A generous listing yields no less than 60 possibilities. Trim the list way down and you arrive at 30, still more than the group of Supporting Actress hopefuls.

Want to talk Best Director? I would say, “Don’t even bother,” but this is such a tragically staggering disparity it’s almost amusing. A rough listing of every possible Best Director hopeful would run about 50 deep. Of those 50, five are women. Of those five, let’s consider their chances. There’s Lone Scherfig for One Day, but the movie garnered some pretty negative reviews and non-existent box-office; it’s a non-starter. Next is Phyllida Lloyd, directing Meryl Streep’s potential Oscar-winning role in The Iron Lady. The only other major feature to her credit is…Mamma Mia! So…it’s a no. Next there’s the director of W.E., Madonna…nuff said. Sarah Polley would be an interesting long shot…except her film, Take This Waltz, is still without a U.S. distributor, thus making her a really, really long shot. Finally, there’s Lynne Ramsay, whose We Need To Talk About Kevin has garnered raves since its Cannes debut and is fronting serious Best Actress candidate Tilda Swinton. But the deep, dark film is a near-impossible sell for Academy members; it will be an uphill climb just to get Swinton’s performance recognized, let alone anything else.

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Jason McKiernan

I married into the cult of cinema at a very young age - I wasn't of legal marriage age, but I didn't care. It has taken advantage of me and abused me many times. Yet I stay in this marriage because I'm obsessed and consumed. Don't try to save me -- I'm too far gone.