Debra Granik, Lynne Ramsay, Rachel Morrison… it’s a long list

The Oscar nominations are out, and there’s plenty that’s noteworthy about this year’s crop of nominees: Black Panther became the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture; astoundingly, this is Spike Lee’s first Oscar nomination for directing (for BlackKklansman); Lady Gaga became just the second person (after Mary J Blige) to be nominated in both acting and song categories in the same year; and Yalitza Aparicio, star of Roma, is the first indigenous Mexican actress nominee.

Also noteworthy: the absurd lack of women across most major categories, including directing, screenwriting and cinematography.

Just as at the 2018 Golden Globes, where only male directors were up for the Best Director award—a fact scathingly called out by Natalie Portman—this year the Academy nominated five men: Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee, Paweł Pawlikowski, Alfonso Cuarón and Adam McKay. Women were similarly shut out of many other key categories. Aside from Nicole Holofcener (who was nominated alongside Jeff Whitty for Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Deborah Davis (nominated for co-writing The Favourite with Tony McNamara), they were absent from both screenplay categories, as well as from cinematography. Read on for all the incredibly deserving women the Academy overlooked this year.

Debra Granik, Leave No Trace
You may know Debra Granik’s name from when she directed Jennifer Lawrence to an Oscar nomination for 2010’s Winter’s Bone, securing nods for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay too. Her next feature—yes, eight years later–is Leave No Trace, a quiet and haunting film about a father and daughter living off the grid in a forest in Oregon, who are forced to reintegrate into urban life. The film holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and also made it to Barack Obama’s list of his favourite films of 2018.

Rachel Morrison, Black Panther
Rachel Morrison was the first (!) female cinematographer to be nominated for an Academy Award for the 2017 film Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees. She first collaborated with director Ryan Coogler on his debut feature Fruitvale Station back in 2013, and continued that partnership with last year’s Black Panther. How she was overlooked for her work on this ambitious film is mind-boggling, because she brought a fictional world to life with richness, texture and an exacting eye for detail. Oh, and she’s also the first female cinematographer the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever had.

Josephine Decker, Madeline’s Madeline
In what world does a film hailed by critics as “one of the freshest and most exciting films of the 21st century,” and “the most originally and boldly edited film… seen in a while” fail to generate Oscar buzz? In our world, that’s where. This film by Josephine Decker (with an all-female team, to boot) is about a young theatre artist whose personal and theatrical lives begin to careen dangerously towards each other. Starring Miranda July, Molly Parker and newcomer Helena Howard, whose work the New Yorker’s Richard Brody deemed “one of the great teen performances in film history,” the film is exhilarating, complex and wildly inventive.

Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Marielle Heller’s debut film The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) was a refreshingly frank (and hilarious) coming-of-age story starring Bel Powley, Kristin Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard that premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance. Her latest film, based on a true story, stars Melissa McCarthy in a rare dramatic role as an acerbic, friendless, struggling writer who gets into forgery to earn a living in mid-90s New York and Richard E. Grant as her unscrupulous, game-for-anything partner in crime. The result is a deeply moving narrative motivated by morally-dubious impulses but with heart, humour and human complexity at its core.

Gillian Flynn, Widows
This film—starring Viola Davis alongside a crew of formidable women including Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki—may have crash-and-burned at the box office, but its intricate plot, full of twists and turns, was superbly adapted for the screen (from a novel) by Gillian Flynn and director Steve McQueen.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen, A Quiet Place
How does a movie without dialogue manage to create an atmospheric world for audiences to lose themselves in? Through visuals and sound effects, both of which are handled deftly and lovingly in John Krasinski’s cult hit. Rather than a bleak, dystopian vision, the film contains a richness and warmth, the better to convey the intimacy between the family at the centre of the narrative. Shot on 35mm film, we get both stress-inducing close-ups of the terrified family as well as wider shots of the lush countryside in which this nightmare is unfolding. (While we’re on the subject, it’s criminal that Emily Blunt didn’t score a nom for her wordless but heart-stopping performance.)

Chloe Zhao, The Rider
This under-the-radar film made the Top 10 lists of dozens of film critics in 2018, including those at Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, Vulture, the Atlantic and NPR (and also Barack Obama’s). Directed by Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao, the film tells the story of an injured rodeo cowboy in South Dakota’s Sioux community. Based on real-life events—specifically the lives of the Jandreau family living on the Pine Ridge Reservation—the film is a quasi-documentary, with the actual Jandreau family members playing fictionalized versions of themselves. “[Zhap] blends narrative with documentary seamlessly, giving the audience a glimpse into a way of life rarely seen on the big screen, without exaggerating its difficulties,” writes David Sims for the Atlantic.

Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here
This big-screen adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novella received a seven-minute standing ovation at Cannes, earning its writer/director Lynne Ramsay a Best Screenplay award and its lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix, a Best Actor prize. Ramsay—whose last feature was the harrowing We Need To Talk About Kevin in 2011—has crafted a disqueting psychological thriller about a hitman who rescues girls from sex trafficking. “A stark, sinewy, slashed-to-the-bone hitman thriller,” concluded Guy Lodge for Variety; “brutal, brilliant,” proclaimed Peter Travers at Rolling Stone.

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