Most Oscar observers know the 93rd Academy Awards will be far from routine this year. But I am wondering whether some possible contenders that are directed by a woman could benefit somehow from this extended season. Given the push back last year when no female made the cut in the director’s race, including Greta Gerwig for her Best Picture-nominated remake of “Little Women,” perhaps the rather unusual circumstances this year will allow more of a spotlight be put on woman filmmakers. Only five women have ever been a directing nominee, with Gerwig being the most recent candidate for 2017’s “Lady Bird,” while Kathryn Bigelow is the lone female winner for her 2009 war film “The Hurt Locker.”
The good news is that there are at least 10 notable lady filmmakers whose work could turn out to be awards worthy when nominations are announced on March 15, 2021. Take the poll below and pick who you hope might make it into one of the five directing slots.
— Kelly Reichhardt (“First Cow”): This lauded director of such indie films as “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Certain Women” showed this bucolic buddy pic set in 19th-century Oregon at 2019’s Telluride Film Festival. The title was given the honor of being the first screener sent to academy voters.
— Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”): This follow-up to Beijing-born Zhao’s acclaimed “The Rider” will have the privilege of showing at fall festivals in Venice, Toronto and New York. It stars two-time Best Actress winner Frances McDormand (see above) as an older American worker who travels the country in a camper while seeking for employment after the 2007 Great Recession.
— Sofia Coppola (“On the Rocks”): The third woman and first American filmmaker to be Oscar-nominated for 2003’s “Lost in Translation” has reunited with that movie’s leading man, Bill Murray, for a story about a young mother (Rashida Jones) who reunites with her over-the-top playboy dad as they spend an adventurous day in the Big Apple.
— Eliza Hittman (“Never Rarely Sometimes Never”): This Sundance title about a pregnant 17-year-old girl who goes through a maze of roadblocks as she attempts to get an abortion in New York City. Hittman’s sensitive drama has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and won the Silver Bear Grand Jury prize at the 70th Berlin film festival.
— Regina King (“One Night in Miami”): The supporting actress Oscar winner for 2018’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” makes her feature directorial debut that is based on a play with such historical figures as Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown gather to celebrate boxer Cassius Clay’s surprise title win over Sonny Liston in a Miami hotel room in February of 1964. The Amazon-backed drama will premiere at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.
— Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman 1984”): The D.C. Comics follow-up to 2017’s “Wonder Woman” is again directed by the filmmaker behind 2003’s “Monster” that won Charlize Theron a lead actress Oscar. If “Black Panther” can be nominated for Best Picture, why can’t the academy celebrate feminine fortitude on the big screen. After countless delays in opening, plans are it will drop in theaters in October 2, 2020.
— Liesl Tommy (“Respect”): Jennifer Hudson, supporting Oscar winner for 2006’s “Dreamgirls” takes on the Queen of Soul in this biopic that also features fellow Oscar winner Forest Whitaker for 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland” as her preacher father. Tommy was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, and moved to Massachusetts when she was 15. She has trained as an actor and directed stage performances across the United States.
— Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Old Guard”): The director of 2000’s “Love & Basketball” and 2014’s “Beyond the Lights” makes a smooth transition to action thriller territory with this Netflix release about a quartet of immortal superheroes headed by Charlize Theron.
— Miranda July (“Kajillionaire”): The quirky indie director behind 2005’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know” got good notices when it had its world premiere at Sundance. Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins are a con artist couple who have taught their daughter (Evan Rachel Woods) the tricks of their trade. But then her parents bring a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) to help pull off their next scheme. It is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2020.
— Niki Caro, (“Mulan”): Disney has been quite protective of the live-action version of its 1998 animated feature about a young Chinese girl who disguises herself as a male warrior. The battle epic had its premiere in Hollywood in early March and was originally scheduled for a wide theatrical release. But the studio decided to instead place it on its streaming service Disney+ on September 4 for an extra fee. New Zealander Caro, who first found fame with her 2002 coming-of-age film “Whale Rider,” has the honor of bringing to life the most expensive film ever made by a female director with a budget of $200 million. Little wonder that the family film is probably best seen by parents and children in their own homes.