Why Was Kathryn Bigelow Snubbed? Jessica Tholmer

By now we have all heard the Oscar nominees, I am assuming? Perhaps you have already begun to hone in on your Oscar bets, watching all of the movies and studying those fantastic Oscar blogs (or my fantastic Oscar posts) and preparing for your Oscar parties. I start thinking about the Oscars in like, August, so by the time the nominations are announced, I am totally prepped for the season. I get so anxious the few days before the noms are announced – this time perfectly performed by host Seth MacFarlane and America’s newest sweetheart Miss Emma Stone. I have no shame in admitting that I burst into tears as I heard the five Best Supporting Actor names called out. I waited a few minutes to allow them to correct their mistake in forgetting Leonardo DiCaprio, but…alas. DiCaprio and I will have to wait another year, sigh.

I am so sorry, this is not about that. Did you guys feel any extreme sadness when the noms were announced? Anyone you were hoping to hear named, to no avail? It always takes me a few minutes (except for with DiCaprio) to realize someone I love, or thought deserved a nomination, was snubbed. After processing my DiCaprio sadness and checking my scribbled notes about the nominations, the first thing I noticed was the Best Director category. To be honest, I was totally shocked by the nominations! I would have bet money, or at least a chocolate chip cookie or something, on both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow‘s nominations this year–and neither of them made the cut.

I have not seen Life of Pi yet, but for some reason, I did not really think of it as earning a nomination, nonetheless for Best Director. (Though I love Ang Lee something fierce, thank you so much for Brokeback Mountain, good sir.) In my personally loud and Oscar-full opinion, the only shoo-in in this category was Steven Spielberg because he is Steven freakin’ Spielberg and he made a movie about “the greatest President ever known,” with the “greatest actor in our generation,” so. Duh. Every other nominee (save Lee and Spielberg), I had to wiki to read about their lives and past work. Say what?

Everyone seems more upset about Bigelow’s “snub” than they do about Affleck, I have begun to realize. Is it because Zero Dark Thirty was a more well-made movie than Argo? Is it because Bigelow is a previous Best Director, so she clearly knows how to make a great movie? Is it because Bigelow is a woman, and women barely get recognized on Oscar night? All of the above?

I will not speak on Affleck versus Bigelow, because it ends up that they are both in the “snubbed” category anyway. However, I will share my opinion with you guys. (Hold onto your hats! This is new for me, I know.) I do not, for once, think Bigelow’s snub has anything to do with the fact that she is a woman. First of all, it was quite recent that Bigelow earned the honor of being the first woman to ever win the Oscar in her area of expertise. Though this is an incredibly weak argument, there are always a ton of “bigger” movies directed by men in any given year of movies. Though there are some fantastic films directed by women (I shamefully did not know Cloud Atlas was directed by a woman, and I quite enjoyed that movie), the ones that are in the spotlight are typically directed by men. I am absolutely in no way condoning this; perhaps we should attempt to make a change and support female directed films in a bigger way? Challenge your local movie theaters to playing the movies that maybe get little to no attention because we as a society are not demanding them? I know my local theater is incredible and perfect and I love it and I have faith that the Pickford would show a movie that our community requested to see, especially for a reason like a more conscious effort to support women.

But I digress. This is not about Bigelow being a woman. Long before Zero Dark Thirty was released (just released nationwide on Friday, January 11th), there were plenty of rumors that the film depicted torture in a glorified manner. Any film coming out so “soon” after Osama bin Laden was killed would have to be able to withstand criticism from various sources on its delivery. Classified situations, as in the case of bin Laden, are not, and should not, be taken lightly, and sometimes depictions in a film are hard for some of us to separate from the reality of the situation, especially when it is still in our recent memory. Do Bigelow and the other producers and actors involved with Zero Dark Thirty know all of the details of bin Laden’s capture? Probably not, though there are rumors that the filmmakers somehow gained access to confidential CIA files–which seems highly unlikely. When creating a movie that is received as a hard pill to swallow, no matter how well made the film is, there is a risk of the controversy outweighing the accolades.

The Academy Awards are extremely political, as all art tends to be. I do not think our society is always aware of how often film, and the reception and honor of those films, reflect the current state of the world. In an especially rough and tragic year (many shootings, most notably Sandy Hook, a heightened election year, gun control, and equality issues under question), sometimes the Academy will, consciously or subconsciously, award films accordingly. Without giving much away about any of the movies that were nominated in the Best Director category, I can simply say many of them were inspiring, and left me feeling a little warmer than I felt at the end of Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, or even Django Unchained, (a movie also not recognized by its director).

Maybe by definition, Bigelow was snubbed, but with only five slots of recognition to fill, I do not mind saying I am happy to see the names of some directors that helped us through a tragic year in our country. Sometimes, we need a little less war, a little more, well, amour.

Image via shutterstock

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  1. A relevant article that was recently published in The Guardian. “Should ‘true story’ films such as Zero Dark Thirty and Argo be rated L for lie?” http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/17/zero-dark-thirty-argo