Tuesday, December 5, 2017

AWARDS SEASON: A Battle of the Sexes?

Is Lady Bird our frontrunner?

Awards season is now upon us and it's turning out to be a real "battle of the sexes." While men in the film industry have come under increased criticism in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it's no coincidence that women have come to the fore in record-breaking ways. This summer, "Wonder Woman" was a major box office success for director Patty Jenkins, while the fall season brought Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird", now the best reviewed film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes. Fresh off a big win from the New York Film Critics, this beloved coming of age tale has now soared to the top of the current Best Picture rankings:
  1. Lady Bird
  2. The Post
  3. Call Me by Your Name
  4. Get Out
  5. Dunkirk
  6. The Shape of Water
  7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. The Florida Project
  10. Mudbound
Of course, the race is still far from over. But an interesting narrative is starting to form around Best Picture and the associated Best Director categories. If Gerwig's film were to be nominated for both, she could join Jordan Peele ("Get Out") and Dee Rees ("Mudbound") in what would be a watershed moment for the newly diverse Academy. Having a Best Director lineup comprising only two white men may seem far-fetched to seasoned awards fans, but they are definitely in the running. 

Aside from Gerwig and Rees' achievements behind the camera, there are also a number of female-led films in Best Picture contention. These include "The Post" with the legendary Meryl Steep, "The Shape of Water" with the exquisite Sally Hawkins, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri" and its dynamite Frances McDormand and "The Florida Project" starring the pint-sized phenom Brooklynn Prince. After years of "women's pictures" being ghettoized as Best Actress contenders only, such a female-centric Best Picture field would be a welcome change.

To come out on top in this battle of the sexes however, these films will likely have to fend off the challenge of a pair of films centered around perhaps the most masculine of topics - war. Indeed, Christopher Nolan and Joe Wright will certainly count on the Academy's affinity for World War II stories - in addition to an "overdue" awards narrative - to ensure their films "Dunkirk" and "Darkest Hour" will be announced in January. But do they represent a brand of prestige cinema that is losing its appeal with the Academy? A year after the "Moonlight" victory, a masterful LGBT love story like "Call Me By Your Name" may be more to their liking. It's certainly my favorite of the year so far, and I think AMPAS voters will respond to it too. 

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