The brand spanking new Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society (LAOFCS) has released its inaugural year’s awards nominations. That in and of itself wouldn’t be a huge deal. It’s award season, after all, and we’re up to our eyeballs in best-of lists, contenders, nominations, speculation, and arguments of who-shoulda. What is unique, however, is the way LAOFCS laid out their categories.
The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society is pleased to announce that it is the first ever critics group to feature two Best Director categories; one for female and one for male. “There has been so much conversation about the power of female filmmakers and we wanted to embrace it,” said [LAOFCS co-founder Scott] Mantz. “There is a Best Actor and Best Actress category as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress, so why not have a Best Male Director and Best Female Director category?” asked Menzel.
We’re used to seeing Best Actor and Best Actress categories, even if we’ve moved away from referring to women as “actresses” outside of awards season. As Whoopi Goldberg once said: “An actress can only play a woman. I’m an actor - I can play anything.” I don’t know that I agree wholeheartedly with Whoopi on that — after all, regardless of what we call a woman who acts, she can still play whatever role she’s given — but it underscores the importance of language in how we describe the job of acting. Is there a fundamental difference in what men and women are asked to do when they act?
In the case of the LAOFCS, rather than doing away with the acting divisions and having one overall Actor category, they went full-tilt in the opposite direction by instituting separate Best Female and Best Male Director categories.
It’s an unprecedented and thought-provoking move. And to be fair, their whole list of nominations is defined by a unique sort of drilling-down into separate categories. In addition to the usual Best and Supporting Actor/Actress, there is also a “Best Performance By An Actor Or Actress Under 23 Years Old” category to highlight younger performers. In addition to the Best Picture overall category, there are numerous targeted categories including Best Sci-Fi/Horror, Best Action/War, Best First Feature, Best Independent, and Best Blockbuster. It’s an intriguing approach, and makes the gendered Director categories not seem completely out of place.
What is clear is that this sort of approach helps more films, and more talent, get recognized for their excellence by giving them more opportunities for nominations. And while that works with films, when it comes to actors and directors, there’s a really simple solution: just nominate more people in ONE category. Look, you’re already picking five men and five women for each. Just nominate TEN people, and make sure you’re looking at men AND women! After all, gender shouldn’t have anything to do with job performance. Let’s judge these people against each other, and let the best Director win.
At least, that’s what the idealist in me thinks.
But then there’s that practical part of me that recognizes the value in giving more attention to women, especially in the director’s chair. The fact is that there just simply are more men behind the camera than women, and it would be all too easy to nominate 9 dudes and Patty Jenkins this year. By making the effort to identify a certain number of women for nominations each year, it brings them to the forefront and gets them the kind of name recognition their male counterparts enjoy. And if the nominating body has to really dig deep to find 5 women to nominate? Well gee, that kinda highlights the whole fucking issue, doesn’t it?
If nothing else, at least this method guarantees that there will be one woman with a Best Director award every year. But someday I hope we can move beyond these “separate but equal” tactics.
If you’re curious, these are the directors they’ve nominated:
BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR
Dee Rees, Mudbound
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit
Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman
Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled
BEST MALE DIRECTOR
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Steven Spielberg, The Post