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Women in Hollywood: The Critics, the Directors, the Actresses, the Oscars and Where are the Female D.P.s?


It's Hollywood's loss. To keep women out of the nominations and awards for the Oscars. To ignore female film critics. To pretend women directors of photography do not exist (I once heard a male DP say that women did not have the backs to carry heavy cameras in a harness... yet we can carry a baby for nine months!). To label great films "chick flicks" drives many audiences away from certain films, all because some seventeen year old male ball of angst who is considered to be the most important marketing subject for Hollywood did not like a certain movie. It was not sexy nor violent enough.

Even when a woman director makes a very successful film in terms of box office (Phyllida Lloyd's Mamma Mia! or Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight) someone tries to take the credit away from her! When a well-known (read money-making) female actress steps out of her typical role and makes something different, re-defines herself (think Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! of the wonderful performance by Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married)... you can feel the male execs worrying about how they will repackage their beloved money-making female stars who have decided to change direction in their careers. Yet male actors can do this no problem! Remember Robin Williams taking on serious roles after defining himself as a comic actor, same with Bill Murray. Why does it bother the entertainment establishment to have a woman who can play a suffering Holocaust survivor in Sophie's Choice, jump on a bed and do the splits and sing in Mamma Mia!? Why can't a woman who is no longer twenty-four be the star of a love story? Heck, women have love stories and enjoy their sensual lives until they are on their deathbeds!

Part of the problem comes from the fact that a lot of men have a hard time believing that women can indeed be many things all at once. We can be sexy and be mothers. We can cook well and be successful executives. We can be great life partners and be independent! We can carry heavy cameras up cliffs and be giving, soft and gentle! This is 2008, let's move on with out ways of thinking about women's roles... and that includes in Hollywood where, unfortunately, the reality of that town, is that women are often objectified, it is still a boys club, even though women are more and more present.

Where are the new Pauline Kaels? It's not they they don't exist... they simply are not given the spotlight. When studios claim that they are not going to make films with female stars, who are they kidding? Did they not see Mamma Mia!?

No women DPs have ever been nominated for an Oscar ever. Only 2 have ever been nominated for Best Director and none, zero, have ever won! Only five female producers have ever won for Best Picture.... five! There are many many female producers working in Hollywood! Women have won a few Oscars in the areas of art design, costumes and editing (arguably a form of sewing and one of the few jobs given to women throughout Hollywood history)... but nothing close to the number of men who have won. In terms of Honorary Academy Awards for Lifetime Achievement, the number is again "0". Sherry Lansing is one of five women to win the Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar... but that is less about being recognized by the industry for actual films under her supervision, than for raising money for charities!

On one blog from 2006 here is the information I found about how the Academy works, and who is voting:

"Nominations for each category, only come from members in that category. So only directors nominate for "Best Director" and only actors/actresses nominate for best actor/actress. The exception is best picture which all members are elgibible to vote on. When you consider that fields like directing, cinematography, editing, and producing are such male dominated fields, and that acting is the only category in which there is anything close to an equal representation of women, it would be safe to assume that the academy is resoundingly dominated by men. So the lack of nominated picture about women cannot be blamed on the women members of the academy, since they likely comprise a very small percentage of academy members as a whole."

What that means is that the Academy needs more female members in every category. When many people think of women in Hollywood, they tend to think of actresses or one of a handful of women executives from the studios. But the reality is something else. Here is a recent list of the Power 100 Women in Entertainment.

You don't have to be a raging feminist, nor do you need to accept the silly labels given to strong women in Hollywood such as : "brash," "bitchy," "hysterical," "controlling"... ironically I would argue that all of these terms to could be used just as well for powerful men in Hollywood! But I am going to remain optimistic and believe that things are getting better for women in the industry... just as I believe the United States is ready for change with Obama...I mean even Christy Hefner quit that job! It was a bit odd, even if her dad started the company, that a smart woman would be in charge of an empire which humiliates women!

(Martha)Lauzen, a professor in the School of Communication at San Diego State University, is the author of the school's annual 'Celluloid Ceiling Study' which have quantified opportunities for female filmmakers for over a decade.

'We have to be realistic about our expectations and about how quickly Hollywood can change," Lauzen told Women's eNews. "However, every time a film directed by a woman does well at the box office and/or her film achieves critical acclaim, it helps women directors overall because it raises their profile. People become aware of the fact that women can be successful, and for some people in Hollywood, that's still an open question'.

'If you change media messages, you change the world,' Lauzen added."

Read more here.

Let's go for some changing of the world by including more women's perspectives and celebrating and awarding their contributions in the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences... the planet could do with some media messages which help us evolve! And don't forget, Hollywood is the strongest entertainment industry around, so our messages are heard by the rest of humanity. Let's bring in more women, honor them and listen to what they have to say and to show us on the silver screen.

Follow Vivian Norris de Montaigu on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vivigive