For women directors in Hollywood, a sign of hope on the horizon
Despite the lack of female director nominees from this year's Oscars, it's set to be a big year for women filmmakers at the movies
When Issa Rae was announcing the Oscar nominations Monday morning, she summed up the feelings of many after reading the names of the all-male pool of nominees: "Congratulations to those men," she snarked.
It was similar to the 2018 Golden Globe Awards when Natalie Portman was announcing the Best Director category and quipped, "and here are the all-male nominees." And while Hollywood seems to be singing the same old song when it comes to this story, there is good news on the horizon for women film directors.
Several — nay, most — of this year's biggest blockbusters-to-be are helmed by women. And a handful of prestige female directors have projects lined up that could make an impact at next year's Oscars, so we're not stuck seeing a sequel or reboot to this year's pool of all-dude director nominees next January.
A recent survey of Fandango users found the year's most anticipated releases are all directed by women. That poll questioned 2,000 film fans, and its top four films — the "Wonder Woman" sequel "Wonder Woman 1984," the Scarlet Johannson-starring "Black Widow," Marvel's Angelina Jolie-starring "The Eternals" and Disney's live action "Mulan" remake — are not only all made by women (Patty Jenkins, Cate Shortland, Chloé Zhao and Niki Caro, respectively), they star women.
Same goes for the poll's No. 7 film, next month's "Birds of Prey," directed by Cathy Yan. Those films are set to make major waves at the box office, while elevating the profiles of their directors which should, in turn, open the doors for more women directors behind them.
Elsewhere, Sofia Coppola has a movie coming out this year, "On the Rocks," about a young mother who reconnects with her father on a trip through New York. It stars Rashida Jones and Bill Murray.
Dee Rees ("Mudbound") is directing "The Last Thing He Wanted," which premieres later this month at the Sundance Film Festival, with Anne Hathaway as a Washington, D.C., journalist who gets caught up in a story she's reporting on and which is based on Joan Didion's book.
And Liesl Tommy is making her feature film debut with the Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect," which is due out in October. It's insanely early, obviously, but "On the Rocks," "The Last Thing He Wanted" and "Respect" could all play a role in next year's awards season.
There's still a huge mountain to climb when it comes to women directors in Hollywood; only five women have ever been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director — Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker," Lina Wertmüller for "Seven Beauties," Jane Campion for "The Piano," Sofia Coppola for "Lost in Translation" and Greta Gerwig for "Lady Bird" — and only one, Bigelow, has won.
Gerwig was on the outside of the nomination pool on Monday, as her "Little Women" — which was nominated for Best Picture — didn't land her a nomination. "Little Women" is a hit, having collected $74 million since its Christmas release while earning universal praise from critics (it has a 95% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes), but Gerwig failed to break through, as did "The Farewell's" Lulu Wang, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood's" Marielle Heller, "Hustlers'" Lorene Scafaria, "Booksmart's" Olivia Wilde, "Harriet's" Kasi Lemmons and "Queen and Slim's" Melina Matsoukas.
The good news for Gerwig, et al., is that Monday's lack of female nominations made more noise than it would have had Gerwig made the cut. And with plenty more noise to be made by women directors this year — mostly the clinging of cash registers, which is Hollywood's favorite sound effect — that old familiar tune is finally starting to change.