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"The curse of Little Women and the Oscars can be traced back to one group of men."

This week I am suffering from the type of fatigue that no amount of coffee or hours of sleep can fix.

Fatigue around the fact that the Academy Award nominations for 2020 have been released and predictably the nomination ballots are devoid of many deserving women’s names, particularly in the all-important Best Director category.

This question around diversity and inclusion that seems to spin aimlessly around us in circles each year, while also failing to progress towards any sort of resolution, is enough to tempt even the most avid moviegoer to give up hope of frequenting the cinema and resign themselves to an eternity of The Big Bang Theory re-runs.

This year the discourse around the curse of women being left out of pivotal Oscar categories became hooked on the narrative of celebrated filmmaker Greta Gerwig and her work on the critically-acclaimed film Little Women.

Watch the trailer for Little Women below. Post continues after video.

When Gerwig first stepped up to the starting line, the deck certainly seemed more stacked in her favour more so than any other woman who had helmed a film that year. After all, she is one of just a handful of women, five in total, who have ever been nominated in the Best Director category, in this case for 2017′s Lady Bird, which she ultimately lost.

Coupled with that fact that Little Women was met with favourable reviews from both fans and critics alike, and that the film had been an overall passion project for her to the point where she also adapted and wrote the screenplay, Gerwig seemed prime to at least get her name on the ballot.

But once awards season began in earnest, any chance that an Oscar nomination was in her future was quickly diminished as she failed to be nominated at the Golden Globes and much more importantly from a voter point of view, her direction also went unnoticed at the Directors Guild Awards while the Screen Actors Guild Awards ignored Little Women completely.

And while Little Women has certainly been present across other Oscar nominations released today, notably in the Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and even Best Picture categories, there’s no momentum around the film or any kind of early reports that suggest it will walk away with a statue at all come Oscars night.

However, it has slowly become apparent that the question here is not whether or not Little Women was a good enough film to warrant more accolades for Gerwig and her team, but more so, did the right people in power even see the film in the first place?

If you ever needed more proof that there is a curse upon women who vie for Oscars glory, look no further then the group of film critics who initially gave Little Women their time and attention.

According to Little Women producer Amy Pascal, the movie’s distributors and awards-season strategists first began to worry about the film’s fate during initial audience and critic screenings, noting that the attendees were overwhelmingly female.

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Which would have been fine, except for the fact that awards show voting bodies, in particular, the Academy, are most definitely not. In fact, according to The Hollywood Reporter, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a male-dominated entity, with an overall percentage of women in the Academy being around 31 per cent.

According to Little Women producer Amy Pascal, the majority of male film critics and industry officials, this group of men who hold so much of the power when it comes to the Oscars fate of a movie, simply chose not to watch the film.

Pascal noted that RSVPs for the first Little Women screening in October 2019, as well as many others that Sony Pictures hosted around Los Angeles, were skewed about two to one in favour of women.

“I don’t think that men came to the screenings in droves, let me put it that way,” Pascal told Vanity Fair. “And I’m not sure when they got their screener DVDs that they watched them.

“It’s a completely unconscious bias. I don’t think it’s anything like a malicious rejection,” she also added.

Which of course seems to be the cause behind the Oscars curse, as no one is suggesting that male Academy voters bypass female-led movies and stories out of pure spite, but more the fact that they don’t engage with them at all. Thanks to being so used to living in a world where ‘worthy’ films depict their own lives and show their stories mirrored back at them.

With that in mind, how is a movie about a woman’s hopes and dreams supposed to realistically compete in this male-dominated arena?

In 202o in particular, female-helmed movies and stories have been particularly shut out of prestigious award show categories, and Greta Gerwig is not the only filmmaker to suffer.

Director Lulu Wang was also left off the Oscars list as was her critically-acclaimed and previously award-winning film The Farewell  (as was its Golden Globe-winning leading lady Awkwafina), while Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria was left to a similar fate.

Many Oscar commentators and critics had in fact tipped Hustlers to at least be in the mix, if not for direction and editing then at least for Jennifer Lopez in the Supporting Actress category thanks to her widely acclaimed role as stripper Ramona Vega, dubbed by many critics as her “career-best performance.”

But a glitzy movie depicting the lives of strippers was always going to be a hard sell for the Academy, particularly, as Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson and others have noted in the past, that some industry insiders found the film distasteful or chose not to see it at all.

It’s true that once upon a time there may not have been a wealth of female-helmed Oscar-worthy films available for voters to chose from, but in 2020 this is no longer the case.

For example, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy and Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, to name just a few, consistently ranked among the most critically acclaimed movies of the year. Yet there was always the understanding that they would never be let into the Oscar race.

The truth is that there is a curse upon the Oscars and no hope that it will be broken anytime soon.

Feature Image: Sony Pictures

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