Can you believe that only five women have nominated for Best Director at the Oscars? (See who made the cut in our photo gallery above.) Despite a strong slate of female-helmed films, it looks as though the 2018 slate will be another male-dominated one. Yet if anyone can break up the boy’s club, it could be critics darling Debra Granik for “Leave No Trace.”
Granik scored an Independent Spirit nomination for directing this character study about a PTSD-afflicted veteran (Ben Foster) living off the grain with his daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) in the woods of Portland, OR. She was, in fact, one of three women cited in that category, alongside Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”) and Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”).
In addition, Granik won the prestigious Los Angeles Film Critics Association prize for Best Director, which in the last decade has had a surprising overlap with the academy lineup. Only three out of the last 12 winners — Olivier Assayas (“Carlos” in 2010), Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”) and Luca Guadanigno (“Call Me By Your Name”) — failed to at least be nominated at the Oscars.
Perhaps working most significantly in Granik’s favor was a recent op-ed penned by Jane Campion — herself a former directing nominee for “The Piano” (1993) — advocating on her behalf. When it comes to Oscar campaigns, it sometimes helps to have friends in high places.
Granik has her own track record at the Oscars. Her last narrative feature, “Winter’s Bone” (2010), brought her a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the film also contended in Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Supporting Actor (John Hawkes). Funny enough, it competed in the top category against Lisa Cholodenko‘s “The Kids Are All Right,” which was also snubbed in Best Director.
In 90 years of Academy Awards history, only five women have ever contended in Best Director: Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties” in 1976), Campion, Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation” in 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker” in 2009), and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird” in 2017). Of that handful, only Bigelow managed a history-making victory.
In addition to “Winter’s Bone” and “The Kids Are All Right,” seven other films made by women — Randa Haines‘ “Children of a Lesser God” (1986), Penny Marshall‘s “Awakenings” (1990), Barbra Streisand‘s “The Prince of Tides” (1991), Valerie Faris‘ (and Jonathan Dayton‘s) “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), Lone Scherfig‘s “An Education” (2009), Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), and Ava DuVernay‘s “Selma” (2014) — all managed to earn Best Picture bids without bringing along their directors, despite DGA noms for Haines, Streisand, Faris, and Bigelow.
To say that women have gotten the shaft with the director’s branch is perhaps an understatement. In a post-MeToo era, it seems outdated; in a year filled with acclaimed films by Jenkins, Ramsay, Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Karyn Kusama (“Destroyer”) and Chloe Zhao (“The Rider”), it looks downright ridiculous. Will Granik help the academy continue its slow march into the 21st century?
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.