Oscar nominations show awards not committed to real, ongoing change

Old white guys dominate Best Director picks

Oh, Oscar, we wanted to believe you when you claimed you had learned from #oscarssowhite and the #metoo movements about the fundamental misogyny that infects Hollywood as well as the Academy Awards.

Last year was the Penance Oscars, with many BIPOC winners and even a rare Best Director win for a woman (Jan Campion for The Power of the Dog). There was even a Black host, the slap-attracting Chris Rock.

Tuesday’s nominee announcements suggest reform at the Oscars was a one-and-done thing. Perhaps emboldened by the ongoing Golden Globes fiasco, the recent tokenism-riddled efforts at reform further reducing the Globes to irrelevance, Oscar has decided to take its foot off the “woke” gas in 2023.

The show is backtracking to the perfectly fine — and safe — Jimmy Kimmel as host, and a look at the prestigious and career-altering Best Director nominees best illustrates the default to old ways.

Not a single woman is nominated in yet another year when female filmmakers made some of the best work. Sarah Polley’s directing of Best Picture-nominated Women Talking — our pick for best film at TIFF this year — is groundbreaking not only for what appears on screen but for how Polley ran her sets and her entire filmmaking process.
And one of the box-office smashes of the year, The Woman King, was masterfully directed to blockbuster glory by Gena Prince-Blythewood. Her success is also groundbreaking, with a woman at the helm of a major action flick. The scenes of masses of female Agojie warriors battling slavers are stirring and unprecedented. Nominating Prince-Blythewood would’ve allowed Oscar to check off boxes for two unrepresented groups, since not a single Black person was deemed worthy of a Best Director nom either.

Only eight women have ever been nominated for Best Director in the academy’s almost 100 years of award giving, with only three wins ever for women. And the Academy seems okay with that.

In 2023, Oscar gives us a nominee list of old white guy directors — with the pleasant exception of Daniel Kwan, for Everything Everywhere All At Once. Does Stephen Spielberg really need another nomination — ever — especially for The Fabelmans, his self-referential, self-indulgent tribute to himself? And wasn’t last year’s nomination for his ho-hum West Side Story his gimme?

When considering any list of nominees devoid of female or BIPOC creators, it’s simple that list needs to be sent back. Nominators have to try harder and dig deeper. Though, in this year’s race for best directors, deserving female choices couldn’t be more apparent.

Tuesday’s list is another reminder that progress is a constant process of demanding better and not being satisfied with one-off gestures of appeasement. It would appear that in 2023, #oscarsosexist.