Women will make more Oscar history in two major races

You may recall that Chloé Zhao made history twice at the Academy Awards in April, becoming the first woman of color to win the directing award and only the second woman to ever win that prestigious Oscar. Zhao won for directing “Nomadland” and joined Kathryn Bigelow, who came out on top in 2008 for the war drama “The Hurt Locker”.

That’s two women in 93 years, a success story that looks … well, it looks terrible, but compared to the history of the film academy in recognizing women cameramen, it’s downright progressive. Only one female cinematographer has ever been nominated for an Oscar – Rachel Morrison for Dee Rees’ sprawling drama “Mudbound” from 2017. (Morrison deserved consideration for “Black Panther” next year as well.)

So it’s remarkable that this year we could revisit the story with another director and camerawoman from the same film – filmmaker Jane Campion and cameraman Ari Wegner from “The Power of the Dog”. After the Telluride Film Festival, I found that Campion won her second Oscar (she won the 1993 Original Screenplay Award for The Piano), a thought that has now solidified after the rest of the films have been shown. Could Wegner join her? Let’s take an early look at the two races.


Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Denis Villeneuve, “Dune”
Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

Next up: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”; Joel Coen, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”; Reinaldo Marcus Green, “King Richard”; Guillermo del Toro, “Nightmare Alley”

With: Siân Heder, “CODA”; Adam McKay, “Don’t Look Up”; Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Prodigal Daughter”; Pedro Almodóvar, “parallel mothers”

Also this year there will be a fixed number of 10 nominees for the best film, which means that there will be at least five different possibilities to shoot the “Did this film yourself direct?”. sue after nominations are announced.

Why at least five? Since the directors’ voters have shown their willingness to be more adventurous in their decisions than their colleagues in the entire academy, they nominated the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg at the last Oscars for the moving dark comedy “Another Round” and the Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski 2019 for the resonant love story “Cold War”. These two films were nominated for the international feature film, but did not achieve the best cut.

That scenario could be repeated this year with Hamaguchi and his acclaimed, gripping drama “Drive My Car”. I firmly believe that if enough academics see this film, it will be nominated for Best Picture. It is a masterpiece. But it also runs just over three hours for a minute, which leads me to doubt that a sufficient number of voters will see it and, equally important, will watch it non-stop for the film to have its full effect.

I hope it will prove otherwise.

Who would Hamaguchi encounter? Of course not Campion. Villeneuve will get love and respect for making a GREAT blockbuster film that is not tied to brands and market research. Anderson should get enough votes from the Academy’s dominant LA line-up, which is set to groove into a laid-back story in the past San Fernando Valley with lots of nod to the movie industry. (Will “Licorice Pizza” lead Jon Peters’ ballot?)

So … maybe Spielberg will be given up? He was not nominated for “Bridge of Spies” or for “The Post”, the nominees for the best picture. Branagh has directed several dozen films – good, bad, and somewhere in between – over the past 30 years. He received a nomination for his first attempt at the 1989 Shakespearean adaptation “Henry V”. I would think he was on the shaky ground of likely nominations, but the movie Twitter needs some gripe on the morning of the nominations, and a nomination for Branagh probably is.


Greig Fraser, “Dune”
Bruno Delbonnel, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
Ari Wegner, “The Power of the Dog”
Janusz Kaminski, “West Side Story”
Dan Laustsen, “Nightmare Alley”

Next up: Haris Zambarloukos, “Belfast”; Claire Mathon, “Spencer”

In the mix: Eduard Grau, “Passing”, Robbie Ryan, “C’mon C’mon”; Michael Bauman and Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”; Robert Yeoman, “The French Dispatch”; Andrew Droz Palermo, “The Green Knight”; Linus Sandgren, “No Time to Die”

Three of the nominees I have would likely pair up with their directors. And it wouldn’t be hard to believe that Coen or Del Toro, both Oscar-winning directors, could deserve nominations themselves. Nightmare Alley has not received particularly friendly reviews, but even the harshest of critics praise the beautiful, glossy visual design.

As for five-time nominee Delbonnel and his blatant, mind-blowing work that creates all these shadows in “Macbeth”, I’d say he’s probably finally expecting a win … but the competition is too tough to announce now.

Wegner is, of course, one of the frontrunners for her careful collaboration with Campion in creating the great, dusty, sun-bleached world of “Dog”. She also made the bold “Zola,” so she’s had a pretty good year. Wegner is only 37 and a rising star.

Given the Academy’s history in this category, suggesting that two women receive nominations could be radical. But Mathon deserves a spot after her stellar work on Portrait of a Lady on Fire in 2019 (honored by Los Angeles and New York Film Critics Groups and the National Society of Film Critics). “Spencer” brings Diana’s view of an upside-down claustrophobic fairytale world very close. For Mathon it is another special portrait of a lady who is trapped but not inclined to surrender.

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