Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Great Work, Greta Gerwig and Dee Rees!

The spirits of the late Dorothy Arzner and the late Ida Lupino must be looking down on Greta Gerwig and Dee Rees and smiling with illuminated joy.  Those two women not only cracked the glass ceiling of Old Hollywood's dome of movie directors, they made a hole in it wide enough for future female directors to enter.  To enter and to make history.  Today, Greta Gerwig got Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
 Her film, LADY BIRD, is also an Oscar nominee for Best Picture.  A few women in Academy Awards history have directed a film that received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  An even fewer number of women have received a Best Director Oscar nomination for directing that Best Picture Oscar nominee.

CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986), directed by Randa Haines
AWAKENINGS (1990), directed by Penny Marshall
THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991), directed by Barbra Streisand
WINTER'S BONE (2010), directed by Debra Granik
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2010), directed by Lisa Cholodenko
ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012), directed by Kathryn Bigelow

All those above-mentioned films were Oscar contenders for Best Picture but the women were not nominated for Best Director.  Kathryn Bigelow had previously been nominated for THE HURT LOCKER.  It won for Best Picture and she won for Best Director, making Bigelow the first woman to claim that victory.  But the second film she directed that became a Best Picture Oscar nominee did not bring her a second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Actor Mel Gibson directed two films that were Oscar nominees for Best Picture -- 1995's BRAVEHEART and 2016's HACKSAW RIDGE. He got a Best Director nomination for each film.
Saoirse Ronan is a Best Actress Oscar nominee and Laurie Metcalf is a Best Supporting Actress nominee for LADY BIRD.
Dorothy Arzner was the first female to direct an actor to an Oscar nomination.  She directed Ruth Chatterton to a Best Actress Oscar nomination for 1930's SARAH AND SON.

Greta Gerwig is also an actress who has done solid work in Woody Allen's TO ROME WITH LOVE (2012) and as Frances in the 2012 indie comedy film, FRANCES HA.  I loved her dramatic supporting work opposite Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in the tragic bio drama, JACKIE, about Mrs. Kennedy's remaining days in the White House immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy.

Ida Lupino was one of the best actresses on the Warner Brothers lot in the late 1930s and 40s.  She showed her impressive acting chops in Warner Bros. films like THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, HIGH SIERRA, THE HARD WAY, THE MAN I LOVE and DEEP VALLEY.
In the 1950s, she continued to act and also took charge behind the camera,  Ida directed several low-budget gritty dramas that did quite well at the box office.  She was also a screenwriter and producer. She added TV to her plate and became one of its most prolific directors when that field, too, was dominated by men.  Ida directed TV westerns, medical dramas, thrillers, cop shows and sitcoms.

As an actress and director, she opened the door for future women like Greta Gerwig, Penny Marshall, Barbra Streisand and Jodie Foster to also to show their chops in front of and behind the camera.
And Dee Rees.  Wonderful Dee Rees.  She did not get a Best Director Oscar nomination for her terrific film, MUDBOUND, but she did get a nomination for Best Screenplay.  She directed Mary J. Blige to an extremely well-deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  Mary J. is a dramatic revelation as the mother of a Mississippi Delta family dealing with all sorts of hardships in the America of pre and post-WWII. Click onto this link to see a trailer.

Dee Rees may be the first African American woman director to direct an actor to an Oscar nomination.  All sorts of history was made with today's nominations.  I am so thrilled.  Keith Price discuss more Black History and Women In Film History in our new podcast episode of MOCHAA.  Check out this link:


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