Friday, Soraya Chemaly posted a passionate cri de coeur urging us to boycott Sunday's Oscar broadcast.
Soraya, I felt your pain! Furthermore, the situation was even worse than you described it. Not only was the only female contender with buzz swiftboated (making this the 81st year out of 85 in which all Best Director nominees were male), but this year, only one woman was nominated for her screenplay and she became an "invisible woman." Furthermore, the winner of this year's Best Actress Oscar wasn't even playing a lead role, and the Best Picture Oscar went to a film that has no major female characters at all.
So yes, in my heart-of-hearts, I also wanted to boycott this year's Oscar ceremony, but even if I had -- even if we all had -- that would have been too little, too late. So if you are concerned about women's issues, I urge you take any or all of these three positive steps right now:
1.) Go to Google, find a movie theater showing Zero Dark Thirty, and purchase a ticket for one of this week's screenings. As of today, gross domestic revenue for Zero Dark Thirty is $91,539,075. So if enough of us do this, we can put Zero Dark Thirty over $100 million and make Kathryn Bigelow one of the very few women directors in history to cross this critical financial barrier. But we must act quickly because by Friday, my bet is it will be gone.
(You do not have to feel any guilt whatsoever about this. At this point, there has been so much debate about the assertion that "Kathryn Bigelow endorses torture" that it is at least open to challenge. Me, I have seen Zero Dark Thirty four times, and I do not believe "Kathryn Bigelow endorses torture." So I walked my talk and bought a ticket online for last night's 10:15 p.m. screening at my local multiplex, the UA Court Street 12.)
2.) Go to Facebook and send Lucy Alibar a "You Go, Girl!" message on her Facebook page, so she will know that you know she is Hushpuppy's Mama.
3.) Make plans to celebrate International SWAN Day on March 30, 2013. SWAN stands for "Support Women Artists Now," and International SWAN Day, now in its sixth year, is a day for all of us to walk our talk by using our "power of the purse" to effect positive societal change.
And with that, I'm sending a big cyberhug to Soraya Chemaly and friends of women filmmakers all around the world. Hang in there! Women hold up half the sky and we are on the right side of history!
Best Screenplay Contenders?
The name of this year's sole female contender in either screenplay category (Best Adapted Screenplay/Best Original Screenplay) was Lucy Alibar. Alibar wrote a play called Juicy and Delicious in which she created the character of "Hushpuppy," a southern child who transposes concern about the imminent death of a parent onto an imaginary battle with monstrous aurochs.
But the media became so enamored with director Benh Zeitlin (Hollywood's new "Boy Wonder") and star Quvenzhané Wallis (Hollywood's new "pixie") that Alibar's very existence was been completely eliminated from all the pre-Oscar hype about this year's Indie phenom Beasts of the Southern Wild, even though she was the credited co-writer of the screenplay. And then in a sad aftermath, even young Quvenzhané was dragged down into the sexist mud by the "jokesters" at The Onion.
Best Actress Contenders?
As expected, the winner was Jennifer Lawrence, an actress I love. But let's be clear here: In Silver Linings Playbook, she plays a supporting role, not a lead role. She has no independent arc or separate POV, and she has no scenes of her own that don't also include lead actor Bradley Cooper.
Be honest, now: We all know the difference. We've seen Jennifer Lawrence carry the lead in both Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games. So let's hope this very talented young lady now gets all the genuine lead roles she truly deserves in future.
Best Picture Contenders?
The Internet Movie Database's Argo page shows 114 names listed in the top category "in credits order," beginning with Ben Affleck as "Tony Mendez." More names appear below these in the category called: "rest of cast listed alphabetically."
Of these 114 names, 24 are women, including women with names like "Cora Lijek" (one of the American diplomats) and "Pat Taylor" (the wife of the Canadian Ambassador), plus nameless women like Angry Woman, British Airways Flight Attendant, Lady with Radio, Persian Dancer and Swissair Gate Agent. The last name on this list belongs to Taylor Schilling as "Christine Mendez," the wife of the male lead.
In other words, only 20% of the characters in this year's Best Picture are female, and none of these women plays a major character. This is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. My all-time favorite film is Lawrence of Arabia, which has no female characters at all. But in combination with the other details provided in this post, this should be a sobering fact.
I used to joke that if Super Bowl Sunday was the planetary holiday on Mars, then Oscar Bowl Sunday was the planetary holiday on Venus. But this is no longer funny. In both cases, women have been relegated to spectators who are expected to applaud decorously while the men-and only the men-battle for the prizes.