While presenting the Golden Globe for best director two ceremonies ago, Natalie Portman called out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for selecting "all male nominees." It was a bold move on her part but undeniably effective, as the message arrived loud and clear: For however talented these men were, there were numerous female filmmakers out there who deserved to be recognized, too.
In a year that will be remembered for several films directed by women — "Hustlers," "Little Women" and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," to name a few — the Golden Globes have shown no signs of improvement in this area. Not only were women shut out of the 2020 ceremony's best director race, but they were also snubbed for best screenplay and in both motion picture categories — despite ranking as several critics' favorites of the year.
"Little Women" writer-director Greta Gerwig's omission from the list — which consists of Martin Scorsese ("The Irishman"), Quentin Tarantino ("Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood"), Bong Joon-Ho ("Parasite"), Sam Mendes ("1917") and Todd Phillips ("Joker") — is perhaps the most surprising. While Gerwig wasn't nominated for directing her last film, 2017's "Lady Bird," she went home with the trophy for best motion picture, musical or comedy. That same award season, she became the fifth woman in Oscars history to land a best director nomination. (Only "The Hurt Locker's" Kathryn Bigelow has actually won.)
Gerwig's film did earn a nomination for lead actress Saoirse Ronan, as did Lulu Wang's "The Farewell" for star Awkwafina, Olivia Wilde's "Booksmart" for co-lead Beanie Feldstein and Lorene Scafaria's "Hustlers" for supporting actress Jennifer Lopez. Marielle Heller, whose film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" earned Tom Hanks a nod, was also overlooked last year despite her "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" actors Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant earning both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.
Solid performances are often the result of strong direction, as Ronan, who plays the fiery heroine Jo March in "Little Women," outlined in a statement shared with the Los Angeles Times.
"I am eternally grateful to Greta Gerwig for her guidance and partnership, and for her fierce perseverance that brought this incredible cast together and created an environment for us to become a real family and tell his very special story," the actress wrote. "My performance in this film belongs to Greta as much as it does myself and I share this recognition completely with her."
The lack of recognition for women working behind the scenes is not out of character for the Golden Globes, which have only nominated five female directors throughout the past 76 ceremonies. Barbra Streisand is the only woman to have won, which she did for 1983's "Yentl." Ava DuVernay, one of the other four women, was notably snubbed this year for her critically acclaimed miniseries "When They See Us."
While women are still extraordinarily underrepresented among the directors of each year's top-grossing films, USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which tracks such data, has noticed a slight improvement. Stacy Smith, founder of the initiative, wrote in a September op-ed for the Washington Post that it seemed as though at least 12 of this year's top 100 films would be directed by women — an "all-time high," and more than twice as many as last year. Rebecca Goldman, chief operating officer at the Time's Up foundation, included this statistic in a statement issued Monday afternoon: "And yet, as today's nominations show, women — and especially women of color — continue to be pushed to the sidelines by a system that holds women back, onscreen and off," she said. "The omission of women isn't just a Golden Globes problem — it's an industry-wide crisis, and it's unacceptable."
For what it's worth, most of the men nominated for best director have been praised by critics (and the inclusion of South Korean director Bong, whose film was nominated in the foreign language category, isn't nothing). The exception to that might be Phillips, whose "Joker" earned mixed reviews despite winning the Venice Film Festival's top prize. It did well at the box office, but then so did "Hustlers," which made more than $150 million worldwide, and "The Farewell," an indie that managed to top "Avengers: Endgame" while earning one of the year's best opening weekend per-theater averages.
Director Alma Har'el, whose film "Honey Boy" is considered an awards contender, took aim Monday at the structural issues underlying the all-male slate: "These are not our people and they do not represent us," she tweeted. "Do not look for justice in the awards system. We are building a new world."
Har'el named several female directors — Gerwig, Heller, Scafaria, Wang and Wilde, as well as Chinonye Chukwu ("Clemency"), Mati Diop ("Atlantics"), Melina Matsoukas ("Queen and Slim") and CÚline Sciamma ("Portrait of a Lady on Fire") — whose work this year "reached people and touched them."
"That's our awards," she wrote. "No one can take that away."