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Will Kathryn Bigelow Be the First Woman Ever to Win an Oscar for Best Director?

By March 1, 2010

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If you need any proof that there's gender bias in Hollywood, just look at the list of Best Directors who've won Oscars over the years. Not a single woman among them.

But Women & Hollywood blogger Melissa Silverstein thinks that the trend is about to end. Writing for the Women's Media Center, she observes:

[C]hances are very good that for the first time a woman--Kathryn Bigelow--will have won the best director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Three other women (Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola) have been nominated in the 82 years that the Academy has held its awards, but with due respect to them and their films, none of them had a shot.

This year is different....the consensus is that Bigelow is at the front of the pack to win the award.

Silverstein notes that Bigelow's rise -- and her success with The Hurt Locker, the film that earned her the Best Director nomination -- is as bizarre as a movie script. If she wins, she'll beat out Avatar, a high-budget film that's broken all box office records and was directed by her ex-husband James Cameron.

But in "Oscar's Sexist Plot Against Kathryn Bigelow," Nicole LaPorte at the Daily Beast worries that if Bigelow wins, it'll be because she's a woman:

[T]here's no denying that Bigelow and her film are being viewed through a distinctly sexist lens. Her admirers in the so-called industry, in applaudingHurt Locker, give Bigelow kudos for making a "man's movie"....The Los Angeles Times' Pete Hammond hassaid, "She made a movie that looked like it was directed by a man."

Which, in the context of the Oscar race, is a back-handed compliment drenched in machismo that essentially boils down to: How cool is that? Achick made adude flick!

But does that mean that had Bigelow madeUnder the Tuscan Sun she wouldn't have been nominated? And does it explain why--sigh, is there no better phrase than chick-flick?--directors such as Nora Ephron and Jane Campion have yet to win?

Hollywood reflects what the corporate sector once required of women -- that they be as masculine and as tough as their male counterparts. Women had to 'act like a man' to play a man's game..or so it was believed.

If Bigelow wins Sunday night, it'll be a personal victory and a symbolic one for women working in the film industry. And women need all the encouragement they can get after years of fading into the background within the Hollywood power structure.

Want to see who the other Academy Award-nominated women are this year? Included in Jane Fonda's commentary, "Show Me the Women...in Hollywood" for the Huffington Post is a video that acknowledges and honors the women who brought us some of the greatest moments in film in 2009.

Photo of Kathryn Bigelow Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Related article: Hollywood Doesn't Get Female Directors or Female Audiences


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