erik lundegaard

Oscar Reaction: Cieply and Barnes, Seemingly Disconnected

It's been a while since I voiced disagreement with the New York Times' resident movie-industry writers Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes but they had a line in their latest piece about the Academy Award nominations (“Nine Films Vie for Best Picture”) that stopped me cold:

“In a seeming disconnect, only one best actress nominee, Viola Davis of 'The Help,' appeared in a film nominated for best picture.”

Really? A seeming disconnect? The Academy is male dominated and tends to nominate movies that are male dominated. Best pictures have historically featured leading men, not leading women. Don't they know this? I wrote the following for MSNBC seven years ago:

In the first 15 years of the Academy (roughly 1928-43), the woman who won best actress appeared in that year’s best picture three times: Luise Rainier for “The Great Ziegfield” in 1936, Vivien Leigh for “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, and Greer Garson for “Mrs. Miniver” in 1942. ...

Did women’s stories suddenly seem silly and unimportant after D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge? Perhaps. Because the next time a best actress appeared in a best picture wasn’t until 1977: Diane Keaton for “Annie Hall.” During that same period, 15 best actors starred in best pictures, and to this day, best pictures tend to be testosterone-filled enterprises: “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” and the like. It’s the Academy’s way of telling women their stories don’t matter. I’m surprised there’s not a bigger outcry over this.

True, I'm discussing winners and Cieply and Barnes are discussing nominees; and true, in the previous two years, with best picture nominees swollen to 10, more of the films of best actress nominees wound up among the best picture nominees: three in 2010 (“Black Swan,” “The Kids Are Alright,” and “Winter's Bone”) and three in 2009 (“The Blind Side,” “An Education” and “Precious”).

But these are historic anomalies. The previous year, only one best actress nominee, Kate Winslet, had her film, “The Reader,” among the best picture nominees. In 2007? One again: Ellen Page for “Juno.” 2006? Helen Mirren in “The Queen.” 2005? Zilch. Nada. Bupkis.

It is a seeming disconnect that women's films are ignored in this manner. But Cieply and Barnes should know that it's been a seeming disconnect since around World War II.

Meryl Streep as Maggie Thatcher

Meryl Streep may look shocked, but she knows, as Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes apparently don't, that the films of best actress nominees tend not to garner nominations for best picture. Of the 14 films for which she's been nominated best actress, only one* has been nominated best picture.

*Answer in the comments field below.

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Posted at 11:28 AM on Tue. Jan 24, 2012 in category Movies - The Oscars  
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