Women and the Oscars

I didn't watch the Oscars last night. The time difference between the UK and LA is brutal, and a scroll through my Twitter feed this morning, along with links to things such as "9 Sexist Things That Happened at the Oscars" and general disgust over Seth McFarlane as presenter, quickly convinced me not to both watching this morning. It seems to me that the women are there to model the fashions (and be praised or torn apart for their efforts) and the men are there to represent the serious side of the industry and win the serious awards. And that's reflected in everything about the awards, from the "jokes" made by the presenter, to the intense criticism of everything that female stars do (overwhelmed Anne Hathaway is too enthusiastic, while walking-in-crutches Kristin Stewart is not enthusiastic enough), to the nominee lists themselves.

Because, to be frank, it's lucky that there are separate categories for "best actress" and "best supporting actress." Otherwise, it hardly seems like women would appear on the list at all.

Here's the list of all the Oscar nominees, in categories where individuals are nominated, and the award isn't gender-exclusive. All female nominees are in bold.

Best Director

Ang Lee - Life of Pi Michael Haneke - Amour David O Russell - Silver Linings Playbook Steven Spielberg - Lincoln Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild

(5 male, 0 female).

Best Original Screenplay

Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino Amour - Michael Haneke Flight - John Gatins Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola Zero Dark Thirty - Mark Boal

(5 male, 0 female)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Argo - Chris Terrio Beasts Of The Southern Wild - Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin Life Of Pi - David Magee Lincoln - Tony Kushner Silver Linings Playbook - David O Russell

(5 male, 1 female)

Best Cinematography

Life of Pi - Claudio Miranda Anna Karenina - Seamus McGarvey Django Unchained - Robert Richardson Lincoln - Janusz Kaminski Skyfall - Roger Deakins

(5 male, 0 female)

Best Sound Mixing

Les Miserables - Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes Argo - John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia Life Of Pi - Ron Bartlett, DM Hemphill and Drew Kunin Lincoln - Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins Skyfall - Scott Millan, Greg P Russell and Stuart Wilson

(15 male, 0 female)

Best Sound Editing

Skyfall - Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers Zero Dark Thirty - Paul NJ Ottosson Argo - Erik Aadahl and Ethan van der Ryn Django Unchained - Wylie Stateman Life Of Pi - Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

(7 male, 1 female)

Best Original Song

Skyfall (Skyfall) - Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth Before My Time (Chasing Ice) - Music and Lyric by J. Ralph Everybody Needs A Best Friend (Ted) - Music by Walter Murphy, Lyric by Seth MacFarlane Pi's lullaby (Life Of Pi) - Music by Mychael Danna, Lyric by Bombay Jayashri Suddenly (Les Miserables) - Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

(8 male, 2 female)

Best Original Score

Life Of Pi - Mychael Danna Anna Karenina - Dario Marianelli Argo - Alexandre Desplat Lincoln - John Williams Skyfall - Thomas Newman

(5 male, 0 female)

Best Costume Anna Karenina - Jacqueline Durran Les Miserables - Paco Delgado Lincoln - Joanna Johnston Mirror Mirror - Eiko Ishioka Snow White and the Huntsman - Colleen Atwood

(1 male, 4 female)

Best Film Editing

Argo - William Goldenberg Life of Pi - Tim Squyres Lincoln - Michael Kahn Silver Linings Playbook - Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers Zero Dark Thirty - Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

(7 male, 0 female)

Best Visual Effects

Life Of Pi - Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R Elliott The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R Christopher White Marvel's The Avengers (UK title: Marvel's Avengers Assemble) - Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick Prometheus - Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill Snow White and the Huntsman - Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

(20 male, 0 female)

Best Makeup

Les Miserables - Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell Hitchcock - Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

(5 male, 3 female)

Best Production Design

Lincoln - Rick Carter and Jim Erickson Anna Karenina - Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent and Simon Bright Les Miserables - Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson Life Of Pi - David Gropman and Anna Pinnock

(6 male, 5 female)

So, in the more prestigious awards, like best director, best screenplay and best cinematography, there's only 1 female nominee, out of 21 total. The only category where women outnumber men is in costume design, and the only category where the two come close to equal is production design. For the majority of categories, not a single woman is even nominated, not even when each nominated film involves teams of two or three.

And now I'm left wondering... is this a problem with the Oscars, where a team of almost exclusively old white men pick the winners, or a problem with the film industry, where women don't even get a chance at behind-the-scenes work on major films, unless it's in the costume department? I knew that female directors were pretty rare, but female anything? Or is it, as I suspect, a kind of self-feeding system, where mostly men get work on major films, so mostly men get recognition at awards like the Oscars, leading to more work, and so more recognition... those who are recognized with awards get work, and those who get work get recognized, and on and on. And meanwhile, no one pays attention to the talented women in the business, so without that recognition, they aren't able to progress.

If Wikipedia is accurate, only 4 women have ever been nominated for best director, and only one woman has ever won. It's enough to make me want there to be separate categories -- best male director, best female director -- like there are for performers, except that too is incredibly uncomfortable, as everyone knows that the "female director" one will be considered a lesser award, a pity award, and potentially only exacerbate the problem.

But how can this cycle of men-get-important-roles, men-win-the-awards be broken? I honestly have no clue.