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The Golden Globes Nominations Prove Hollywood Still Won't Recognise Women's Achievements

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman © Warner Bros

2017 has been hailed as a watershed moment for women in Hollywood. In the wake of harrowing allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, there’s been a sea change in conversations about the culture of harassment and misogyny that’s endemic in the film industry. On screen, we’ve seen films directed and fronted by women become critical and commercial hits. Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age directorial debut, sat with a 100 percent approval rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes. Wonder Woman broke box office records, made Patty Jenkins the highest-paid female director in history with her deal for the sequel and gave little kids an indisputably brilliant role model who just happened to be female. Mudbound, a sweeping historical epic set in the Jim Crow-era South, generated Oscar buzz for filmmaker Dee Rees (who’d be the first black woman to earn a Best Director nomination). So far, so good, you’d think – and with a new awards season just around the corner, the opportunities to celebrate female film talent (and make an implicit mission statement in favour of a more progressive Hollywood in the process) are manifold.

You’d think. Yesterday, the nominations for the 75th annual Golden Globes ceremony were announced, and while plenty of talented women received their nods, they received them – of course – in the categories which are explicitly sign-posted as female. In a year that’s seen women filmmakers achieve so much, the Best Director category is a particularly woeful affair. Of the five nominees, all are male, and all are over 40: Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water, Martin McDonaugh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the two grand old(est) men of awards season, Ridley Scott (All The Money In The World) and Steven Spielberg (The Post). Non-white filmmakers don’t get much of a look-in, either: Jordan Peele, who is neither old nor white, was also majorly snubbed by the Globes. His film Get Out was arguably this year’s most talked-about: contrast that to Scott and Spielberg’s offerings, neither of which have been seen by anyone outside the most rarefied of critical circles.

Alongside Mudbound, Lady Bird and Wonder Woman (which wasn’t nominated in a single category), 2017 also saw new releases from major players like Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow (who’s still the only woman to win Best Director at the Academy Awards). The fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the Globes’ voting body) has failed to recognise this clutch of brilliant female-fronted, female-directed films can’t help but feel especially egregious – and tone deaf – at the end of 2017. A nomination or two in a category which is both highly respected and historically male (the only woman to take a Golden Globe for Best Director? Barbra Streisand) would make an important stand for the importance of female story-telling.

Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird © A24

Instead, voters have firmly aligned themselves with an XY-chromosome status quo: by refusing to question the dominance of male filmmakers, it’s as if none of this year’s important conversations about Hollywood’s toxic boys club ever happened. Sigh. It seems as if these women are trapped in a lose-lose scenario. If they fail with a film, it’s definitive proof that female directors are box office poison, and the perfect excuse to deny other women a chance in the future (see Patty Jenkins’ unwillingness to take on Wonder Woman at first: ‘If they do [the film] with a man, it will just be yet another mistake that the studio made. But with me, it’s going to look like I dropped the ball and it’s going to send a very bad message,’ she told the Hollywood Reporter). And if they succeed? The top tiers of the industry still reject that success by denying it awards recognition.

It’s worth noting that the HFPA has become known for its curveball nominations, a trend which they’ve certainly honoured this year: no disrespect to a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, but has anyone heard of – let alone actually watched – The Leisure Seeker, a tepidly-reviewed drama which sees the Dame taking a road trip in a campervan? So, while it is the first major skirmish in any awards season campaign, the Globes aren’t always the most reliable sign-post for future successes or failures. That’s an argument that cuts both ways, though: if ever an awards show was likely to take a gamble on a less ‘establishment’ option (because for the film industry, female stories are always a gamble, however loudly the box office receipts shout the contrary), it’d probably be this one.

You could say that awards like the Golden Globes and the Oscars don’t really mean anything outside of the fancy theatres in which they’re awarded, and you’d be right. But for better and for worse, the film industry is one of the most visible in the world: awards like these can act as a mirror, reflecting what’s seen as valuable and worthy of recognition on a wider scale. Here, as in so many cases, women and their stories have been overlooked, deemed unworthy of proper attention. So what can we do? Get out to the cinema to catch female-directed films in their opening weekend, the days that can make or break a production; stream them legally or buy a digital download, rather than resorting to a pixelated torrent. Progress is slow but money talks, and a successful box office for one woman translates to better opportunities for female film-makers. And think of all the times you’ve left the cinema feeling like you can do anything in the world.

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