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Beverly Wettenstein

Beverly Wettenstein

Posted: March 8, 2010 10:17 PM

Kathryn Bigelow Is "Queen of the Film World"

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Kathryn Bigelow is "Queen of the Film World," becoming the first woman to receive the "Best Director" Oscar for The Hurt Locker. She is the fourth woman -- and second American woman -- to be nominated in the Academy's 82 years. Previous nominees were Lina Wertmuller, Seven Beauties, 1996; Jane Campion, The Piano, 1993 and Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation, 2003.

Referring to her awards, Bigelow explained, "This really is...the moment of a lifetime. First of all, I hope I am the first of many. And of course I'd love to just think of myself as a filmmaker and I wait for the day when the modifier can be a moot point. I've been making films for about 30 years. So when I say don't give up, I mean it." Her film took six Oscars, including "Best Picture," of nine nominations.

Bigelow was also the first woman to win "Outstanding Director in Motion Picture" from the Directors Guild of America and the British Academy Film Awards.

"The time has come!" "First Female Fatigue" or "First Female Fervor?"

The prospect of Bigelow's "first female Best Director" win was the prevalent story line in the media during the awards season leading up to the Oscars ceremony. This particular narrative pleased me because I was told there might be "first female fatigue" in response to my promoting the importance of "first female" achievements in women's history in a PBS interview.

As a populist women's historian, journalist, advocate and spokesperson, my mission is to popularize women's history and to record, report and remember women's accomplishments, notably "first female" facts. The point that we still have "first female" records to make proves that we have challenges ahead. Ideally, I hope we have "first female fervor" to empower girls and women to continue to break barriers. My message is: Make more milestones!

"Well, the time has come," Barbra Streisand exclaimed when she pronounced Bigelow as "Best Director." And she should know. Streisand won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Song Composer. The three films she directed received 14 Oscar nominations.

Making Whoopi, Halle, Hattie and Kathryn Unforgettable in Oscar's and Women's History

March is "Women's History Month." Appropriately, this year's Oscar winners thanked trailblazers in their acceptance speeches. Mo'nique paid homage to Hattie McDaniel "for enduring all that she had to do so that I would not have to." She was the fifth African American woman to win an acting Oscar, 70 years after McDaniel won for Gone With The Wind, 1940, as the first African American performer to win an Oscar. Mo'nique was the sixteenth African American "Best Supporting Actress" nominee. McDaniel could not attend the film premiere in a segregated Atlanta theater and was omitted from the souvenir program. Replicating McDaniel's appearance at her Academy Awards ceremony, Mo'Nique wore a blue dress and a gardenia in her hair.

Halle Berry was the first African American to win "Best Actress" for Monster's Ball, 1999. In her acceptance speech, she said, "This moment is so much bigger than me. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance tonight because the door has been opened." The other African American actresses to win an Oscar were McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost, 1990, Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls, 2006 and Mo'nique. Eight African American women have earned "Best Actress" Oscar nominations: Dorothy Dandridge, the first for Carmen Jones, 1954; Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Angela Bassett, Berry and this year, Gabourey Sidibe, in her debut film, Precious.

Whoopi Goldberg was not included in the Oscar's 80th anniversary host montage tribute in 2008. She discussed her disappointment on "The View" and told Jet magazine: "It wasn't so much a snub. If you are going to talk about the show, you can't forget that I am the only woman, before Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted it solo in 1994; and the only Black woman and the only Academy Award winner to host it. How do you not put me there?" Indeed! The producer responded that it was an "oversight." Goldberg also hosted in 1996, 1999 and 2002. She was nominated for The Color Purple, 1985 and won for Ghost.

After 38 films, Sandra Bullock won her first "Best Actress" Oscar nomination, against Meryl Streep's record 16th nomination and the most of any actor.

Is Vanity Fair Unfair to Women...Again?

The March Vanity Fair cover spread of nine up-and-coming actresses to herald the "New Hollywood" sparked debate for its all-white cast. At first glance, I was pleased to see women on the 16th annual cover. Because I took issue with the Vanity Fair November 1998 cover with Brad Pitt and inside Special Report on "America's Most Influential Women: 200 Legends, Leaders and Trailblazers."

"The report truly represents some sort of milestone for the women's movement. It is a portfolio of American women...who have come to wield uncommon power and influence in the US." But the 200 most influential women did not merit a cover photo? My annual "Women and Major Magazines Cover Stories Monitor" shows how rare it is for women to be the cover story subject.

Critics are speaking out about the lack of diversity on the "New Hollywood" "bright ingenues" cover. Perhaps it should be called Vanilla Fair. What about Gabourey Sidibe; Zoe Saldana, star of blockbusters Avatar and Star Trek and Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire? Whoopi Goldberg noted, "There's not a black actress on it," when asked about the cover in a New York Times interview.

Interestingly, future Oscar nominee Angela Basset was featured on the first "Hollywood" issue cover in 1995. Future Oscar winners Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow and nominees Uma Thurman and Julianne Moore were also prescient choices for the inaugural cover.

In reel life, women are far from calling the shots. The percentage of women directors on the top 250 movies has been about 7% for more than a decade.

In my ongoing effort to recognize women on stage and backstage, I applaud Gina Tuttle, the announcer this year, on her fourth Oscars telecast. Brava.

Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI) is a global network of 40 Women in Film chapters worldwide and over 10,000 members dedicated to advancing women in all areas of film.
www.wifti.org

New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) membership includes more than 2,000 women and men.
www.nywift.org