Our Favorite Oscar Snubs: 7 Films Directed By Women In 2019 To Add To Your Queue
New Decade, Not-So-New Oscars
In 2019, more than 10 percent of newly-released films were directed by women—more than ever before. Yet, for the third consecutive year, no women have been nominated for Best Director. While other social movements like #TimesUp and #OscarsSoWhite sprouted out of red carpets like these, this year’s nomination list (summed up by Issa Rae’s “Congratulations to those men” quip) disappoints. Here are just seven of these female-directed flicks we thought were unfairly snubbed the nom.
1. Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell”
Genre | Comedy, Drama
Where to Stream | Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes Review | 98%
Other Missed Nominations | Best Actress: Awkwafina; Best Supporting Actress: Shuzhen Zhao
Based on director Lulu Wang’s true story, this heartfelt indie flick follows a Chinese-American family as they gather from near and far under the guise of a wedding. In actuality, they want to spend time with their grandma, who, unbeknownst to her, has terminal cancer. As the protagonist Billi (played by Awkwafina) struggles with what it means to reconcile lies with love, the unhurried film artistically captures the immigrant experience, family tensions, and the communal love that binds together generations.
Wang’s execution of this film is poignantly familiar to second-generation Asian Americans who have crowded around family tables, wrapping dumplings during visits back to the “homeland,” and felt immediately transported. The story is nuanced and subtle, yet hits the nail on the head. Still, it seems like this “foreign film” (as dubbed by some) wasn’t enough for Wang to make the cut, despite Variety naming her one of 10 “Directors to Watch.”
2. Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women”
Genre | Drama, Romance
Where to Stream | Expected to release March 2020 on platforms including Prime Video, iTunes, FandangoNow, Google Play
Rotten Tomatoes Review | 95%
Other Missed Nominations | Thankfully, “Little Women” was nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh were nominated for their acting roles. It was Gerwig’s snub that was the biggest slap in the face. This movie is a near-perfect masterpiece.
We’re still thinking about Greta Gerwig’s thoughtful take on Louisa May Alcott’s classic, “Little Women.” The story is iconic in its own right, but Gerwig retells the beautifully-nuanced story of the four March sisters, determined to “live life on their own terms” during the Civil War. By showing vignettes of each sister’s life, Gerwig provides a generous, smart, and heartfelt symmetry of Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March as they grow into women.
Gerwig’s direction is a “homage to female ambitions, appetites, and irrepressible will,” as the Washington Post calls it. Gerwig’s Oscar snub is one of the most controversial this season, and a pity for female filmmakers and women everywhere.
3. Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Genre | Biography, Drama
Where to Stream | Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes Review | 95%
Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” was the breath of fresh air we needed in 2019; it was a reminder of Mr. Rogers’ timeless encouragement in divided times. Spanning across generations, this Tom Hanks-led film depicts the true friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.
Likewise, Heller is bold in her direction: she takes risks in her approach to the narrative and structure by choosing to mirror the movie like a typical Mr. Rogers episode. She invites the viewer into the main tension of the movie, questioning Mr. Rogers’ authenticity the same way that Tom Junod did (spoiler: his goodness ultimately wins everyone over). If this movie was good enough to end Tom Hanks’ 19-year Oscar-nom dry spell, we’re not sure why Marielle Heller didn’t also get a nomination.
4. Lorene Scafaria’s “Hustlers”
Lorene Scafaria is bringing big, neon-pink energy to the big screen. “Hustlers” tells the daring story first published in a viral The Cut article—one where female strippers took back power from their Wall Street clientele. This movie has a star-studded line-up with none other than JLo, Keke Palmer, Constance Wu, and even a cameo by Lizzo. It’s not an easy film—Scafaria juggles a myriad of themes, characters, and moods. But she delivers a flick that balances backstories, humor, crime, and the dark underbelly of Wall Street. And the fact that she does it on a budget (a scrappy $20 million for a large release) makes her direction all the more astounding. Apparently, she did too good a job because the Academy forgot about it.
5. Anna Boden’s “Captain Marvel”
Finally, a female superhero flashes her cape. “Captain Marvel” is the latest in the cult-followed Marvel movie saga, and is co-directed by dynamic duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Without giving away too many spoilers, Captain Marvel finds herself in the middle of an intergalactic war between two alien races—all while having flashbacks to a past life as a U.S. Air Force pilot. Money talks, and with Boden’s artistry on this film, it seemed to shout: the action film grossed over $1 billion, making Boden the first woman to direct a live-action film with those accolades. It fit right into the Marvel universe, but even then, it wasn’t good enough for an Oscar.
6. Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart”
Acclaimed actress-slash-producer Olivia Wilde has been called a modern renaissance woman, and her 2019 directorial debut gives you a hint why. In this feel-good movie, two academic superstars (read: nerds) realize the night before their high school graduation that they haven’t been smart, they’ve been…booksmart. Panicked by the thought that their peers worked hard and played hard (and got into Yale, like them), the two best friends set out to party like they never have before.
The movie is wildly funny. It’s relatable. And, under the guise of a familiar storyline, it’s surprisingly fresh. That’s not to mention Wilde’s pulse on the “modern Millennial” is accurate to a T. With sprinkled references of homages to RBG and Michelle Obama, “Booksmart” captures the spirit of a coming-of-age story about young female friendships. Why Wilde wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for this film, we’ll never know.
7. Melina Matsoukas’s “Queen & Slim”
Genre | Drama, Thriller
Where to Stream | Available to stream on Prime Video on Feb 18, 2020
Rotten Tomatoes Review | 82%
Other Missed Nominations | Best Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Kaluuya
Melina Matsoukas forces you to look at America’s complicated history with the police, but in a way that’s electric, compelling, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. After a first date between protagonists Queen and Slim goes wrong, resulting in the killing of a police officer, the now-fugitives hit the road as they try to stay alive.
Matsoukas’ story is a subtle protest. It’s beautifully built and keeps you engaged right until the very end. When asked why she ultimately didn’t make the Oscars cut, she states that the voting committee likely doesn’t “value the stories that represent all of us…those stories are so often disregarded and discredited, as are their filmmakers.”
Alice is a California-grown writer thinking on the things shaping urban living, the modern woman, and living a conscious life of impact in light of a bigger world. A graduate of Northwestern University’s j-school, she spent time abroad working with a microfinance project in Peru before transitioning into a 9-5 in the global development sector. When she’s not daydreaming about opening a social impact coffee shop, you can find her traveling, plié-ing at the barre studio, or curled up with a good book. Follow her latest creative endeavors and musings at The Kind Citizen or on Instagram at @alice.zhng.