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“The All-Male Nominees”: Here’s What Natalie Portman Was Talking About

Natalie Portman made her feature-length directorial debut two years ago with A Tale of Love and Darkness, an all-Hebrew adaptation of Israeli author Amos Oz’s autobiography. Very few people know this film even exists, but those who have seen it regard it as being a sign of better things to come for Portman as a director. Several years before that, Portman went to bat for Patty Jenkins to be the director of Thor: The Dark World and thus become the first female director of a big budget comic book movie. When that fell through due to “creative differences,” Portman more or less became a contract hostage on the film. The Dark World ended up being so bad Marvel later made a sequel that openly mocks it. Patty Jenkins made Wonder Woman. I think you know how well that worked out.

It is with all of that mind that I cue up the following insta-viral clip from last night’s Golden Globes:

Portman just said on live TV what the internet had been screaming about for a month. In a year with more worthwhile female nominees for Best Director than usual, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association saw fit to nominate five dudes. Sorry Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Dee Rees (Mudbound), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit). Not a single one of you did a better job than Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Steven Spielberg (The Post), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World), or Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Apparently.

Which…fine. In any other year, this could be dismissed as simply the Globes being the Globes and written off in the “why should we bother getting worked up about the stupid Golden Globes anyway?” tone we always seem to forget. These awards simply reflect the subjective opinion of a bunch of random foreign journalists. Plus, to be fair you can make a fair argument for all 5 of their nominees just as you can for the women (and men; sorry, Paul Thomas Anderson and Edgar Wright) they snubbed. That’s simply the nature of the awards season.

However, in the past when awards have been all white or all dudes or both the argument has been to point the finger back at the industry producing the product. Awards shows celebrate the best of the best, and if women and people of color aren’t given a chance to make movies then the awards can’t celebrate their work. That doesn’t mean the awards bodies can’t try harder, as the Academy has with its historic push to diversify its membership post-#OscarsSoWhite. But, in truth, there’s only so much they can do.

But then Jordan Peele made Get Out. Greta Gerwig made Lady Bird. Patty Jenkins made Wonder Woman. Kathryn Bigelow made Detroit. Dee Rees made Mudbound. You can’t just rubber stamp all of them because they fit a socially conscious quota for your awards show. The work has to warrant the recognition, which is why Will Smith’s truly mediocre Concussion went mostly ignored two years ago. But the steadily growing numbers of critics awards and nominations flowing Get Out, Lady Bird, Wonder Woman, Detroit, and Mudbound’s way validates their work. Heck, Gerwig was named Best Director for Lady Bird by both the National Society of Film Critics and National Board of Review mere days before the Globes last night. If nominated by the HFPA, she still might have lost to Guillermo del Toro, who delivered a lovely speech and is as worthy a nominee as anyone for Shape of Water, but she would have at least been at the table.

Then there’s this: As Barbra Streisand called out before giving the Best Drama award to Three Billboards, it’s been 34 years since a woman won Best Director at the Golden Globes (which she did for Yentl in ‘84). Including Streisand, there have only been five women nominated in the 75-year history of the show. They are, in chronological order:

  • Streisand (Yentl and The Prince of Tides)
  • Jane Campion (The Piano)
  • Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Ava DuVernay (Selma)

That’s at least more progressive than the Academy, which has only seen fit to nominate 4 women for Best Director since 1929:

  • Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties)
  • Jane Campion (The Piano)
  • Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) – the only winner

The Directors Guild of America hasn’t been substantially better, nominating just 7 women for Best Feature Film Director since 1948:

  • Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties)
  • Randa Haines (Children of a Lesser God)
  • Barbra Streisand (The Prince of Tides)
  • Jane Campion (The Piano)
  • Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)
  • Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, along with co-director Jonathan Dayton)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) – the only winner, for Hurt Locker

So, basically, it’s been the same exact women for the same exact projects except Lina Wertmuller was snubbed by the HFPA, Valerie Faris by the HFPA and Academy, ditto for Randa Haines, Streisand by the Academy, and DuVernay by the Academy and DGA.

If you expand beyond Portman’s gender-specific dig, the Globes don’t have a great history with nominating black directors either, just Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), DuVernay and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), none of whom won. Snubbing Jordan Peele looks especially egregious in that light, especially since the HFPA oddly decided to categorize Get Out as a comedy.

Worth remembering: The Globes don’t “predict” the Oscars. SAG, the Producers Guild, and DGA do. So, Peele and Gerwig are still considered serious contenders for Best Director while Jenkins and the rest are long shots.

Who would you nominate for Best Director this year, regardless of race or gender? Because, personally, I don’t understand why there hasn’t been more love for Edgar Wright’s spectacular work on Baby Driver. And what did you think of Natalie Portman’s dig and Ron Howard’s poor, awkward laugh? Let me know in the comments.

Source: TIME


  1. To be honest, I thought it was totally uncalled for. What Natalie said was absolutely right, but that just wasn’t the right place to show her dissent. It made it feel as if the five nominees were nominated because of a misogynistic jury, rather than their talent

    1. As the clip I included highlighted, it did make the five men look particularly bad through absolutely no fault of their own. This is the thing in this new age of woke award shows: how do you rage against systemic sexism and racism without also making the white or male nominees/winners look as if they are somehow guilty by association? Chris Rock failed that when he hosted the #OscarsSoWhite year and made it an entire whites vs. blacks issue, skipping over gender entirely and turning a historic moment like a Mexican director winning two years in a row for the first time ever into something that same director felt he had to defend himself about after the show rather than celebrate.

      What Natalie Portman did, though, was in keeping with the Times Up tone of the night. After all, various other female presenters like Geena Davis used their platform to admonish the men in the acting categories for the gender gap and making so much more money than them. Whereas past decorum would dictate Portman should politely read names and hand out an award this year she said what was on her mind and drew attention to an issue which will now forever overshadow the specifics of who actually won or what they said in their speech. It did exactly what she wanted it to and will certainly be remembered by DGA and Academy members deciding who to vote for.

      I think we also have to remember that Portman and Howard were trotted out mere seconds after Oprah’s epic presidential speech. Normally they would have gone to commercial after Oprah, but instead, they plowed forward with the show. It’s entirely possible Portman said what she said because she’d been so inspired by Oprah’s empowering speech, which had just ended literally seconds earlier. I could be wrong. She might have planned it along or been on the fence until hearing Oprah’s words. But who knows what being in that room listening to Oprah’s speech from the sidelines would do to you.

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