Oscars 2012: Not the Best Picture for Women

Men, doing manly things, with other men

2012 culture film Oscars women

This year the Academy became a retroactive, conservative government. Last week’s 2012 Oscar nominations show an institution determined to wipe away the memory of their short-lived yet progressive predecessors. Long gone are the days when Kathryn Bigelow dominated nearly every category, with her 2009 film The Hurt Locker earning her a place in cinematic history as the first woman to win Best Director (the fourth woman in history to be nominated). Instead, the Oscars has reverted to its long-established trend of ignoring women working in the film industry, sweeping them back into their ‘natural’ positions within the Best Actress/Supporting Actress categories.

Consequently all the major categories are undeniably 'man-centric'. No entries for Best Picture have been directed by a female, and to make matters worse, most of the nominees revolve around men, doing manly things, with other men. There’s a film about soldiers (and a horse) set in World War I, another about a man plotting to make lots of money for himself by running a baseball team, a few dramas exploring relationships through a male protagonist, a man dancing around in silence, and oddly enough two films concerning the adventures of pre-pubescent boys. But what about The Help you ask? Whilst the nominee does have a mostly female cast, its sugar-coated and frequently patronising portrayal of hefty issues such as racial inequality and the plight of the oppressed fifties housewife seriously damages its integrity as a worthy representation of women in the film.

Lyne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk to Kevin, starring goddess-like Tilda Swinton, epitomises the brilliant work women accomplished this year… so it’s surprising that even the Academy, supposedly selecting according to critical and popular acclaim, completely disregarded it. How ignorant can they get? Both director and star embark on a novel expression of maternal truths, namely the (terrifying) consequences of a strained mother-son relationship. Thankfully the prestigious Critics Circle commended Ramsay’s achievement by placing the film not only in its Top 10 of the Year, but also handing it the Attenborough Award for British Film of the Year.

The only shimmer of hope is Kirsten Weig’s brainchild Bridesmaids, which comically plays with notions of friendship, relationships and casual sex; all from the perspectives of a fully fleshed-out hoard of women. The Academy has thrown two deserved nominations in Bridesmaids’ direction purely for being one the biggest box-office smashes of the year. In an alternate universe they’d win the awards and do a sequel; but I can’t help but presume that, given the conservative identity of the Academy, such a dream won't come true. No, the film would not be reprimanded because of frequent poo-gags and jokes about how daft penises look; the more likely reason would be that they are a group of intelligent females providing truthful representations of womankind – which is hard information for the men at the Academy to swallow.

Francesca Brasington