Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Memo to the Academy (AMPAS) Pick a Woman for the Honorary Oscar

Lately I have been reading a lot about women, or the lack there of in film.  This is a simplistic way of saying women are de-valued in front of, and behind the scenes in the film industry.  I think the Academy Awards can play a big role in working toward changing this, but where is the root of the problem?  I have preached on this subject numerous times, but there were two articles which I have read recently, which highlight the flaws in the system, from critics to the Academy.

The first article comes from theweek.com, entitled  "Girls on Film: The Heat breaks new ground by not being groundbreaking" by Monika Bartyzel.  What I love about this article, and the film, is that The Heat is not meant to be a film that breaks the mold its meant to put a twist on the "buddy cop" genre using two women in roles that would be played similarly by men.  Critics have been trashing this film because it did not break new ground, but is merely a funny film with two women in more gendered male typologies.  Bartyzel states "The Heat strives to level the playing field and abolish the notion that women are so different than men — which makes it a window to an audience still applying gendered expectations to women behind and on the screen."  

Bartyzel makes an excellent statement within this article that critics are angry because women are basically not living up to their gendered roles, proving once again that even in the male dominated world of critics women are intended to be viewed from a specific vantage point.

The second article comes from Balder & Dash, and is entitled "DearHollywood: Hiring women directors could rescue could rescue the superhero movie. Love half the human race."  This article is written by Susan Wloszcyna, and highlights one of the most interesting facts about super hero films.  Today super films have Sundance, and obscure auteurs who started in independent film like Marc Webb.  Webb directed The Amazing Spider-Man, but his first film, and most memorable to many is (500) Days of Summer.  In this article Wloszcyna highlights if Webb can break through why can't women like Patty Jenkins (Monster).  Oh wait, Wloszcyna, points out the fact Jenkins was set to direct the sequel to Thor, but was replaced for "creative differences."

Like Wloszcyna I call bull, and there are numerous women out there who could handle a super hero movie, Sarah Polley, Debra Granik, Kathryn Bigelow, Lynne Ramsey, to name a few.  Women are notoriously put off, but it's time to change things, and the Academy can break the mold.

This year the Academy worked toward changing their demographics, and while this has helped with improvements on all levels from gender to race, there is a lot of ground to cover.  One area where they could up their female support (and honestly for people of color) is within the Lifetime Achievement or Honorary Oscar section.  Over the entire history of the Academy the only actresses to win an Honory Oscar (not including juvenile or choreographing Oliver) were:

1954-Gretta Garbo
1970-Lillian Gish
1975-Mary Pickford
1977-Margaret Booth
1981-Barbara Stanwyck
1990-Sophia Loren
1990-Myrna Loy
1993-Deborah Kerr
2009-Lauren Bacall

These women are icons of the screen, but surely the Academy can recognize other icons within this category.  Who are women who made a significant impact on film in the way these women did?  Some of these women have not won Oscars, so who would fit within that category, women like Angela Lansbury, Gena Rowlands,  Shirley Temple, Catherine Deneuve, and of course Doris Day.  There are also women who have won Oscars in this group like Loren, so someone like Julie Andrews, and Barbara Streisand might make sense.  Either way this category is long overdue for a women.

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