Since the announcement earlier this week of the nominations for this year’s BAFTAs, ‘Film Twitter’ has been on lock-down. The critics are arguing amongst themselves in an attempt to make sense of the nonsensical, while the stans are venting ALL CAPS complaints into the social media void.
The reason? It’s all because BAFTA have shown a staggering lack of diversity and representation, and have snubbed the mighty Greta Gerwig from their list of Best Director nominees. Now we sit in wait to see if this year’s Oscars nominations — out on Monday (January 13) — will right this wrong. Little Women is one of the best films of recent times, a stellar effort by Gerwig following her directorial debut Ladybird in 2017. Starring Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, this adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic pulls the period piece into the 21st century with a quick-witted script, picturesque cinematography and feminist social commentary.
Gerwig joins many of the industry’s highly praised, non-gammon talent in being given the cold-shoulder by BAFTA. Lupita Nyong’o’s chilling performance in Us? No nomination. Lulu Wang’s poignant direction in The Farewell? No nomination. In the year of Blue Story and Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of Harriet Tubman, BAFTA’s omission of praise for excellent, diverse British storytelling is a stain on its reputation.
On BBC 4’s Today programme, BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry defended the all-male Best Director shortlist, citing Gerwig’s nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. “If you look at the director category, where I hoped we would see at least one female director, that is an incredibly strong list when you have people like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino and Sam Mendes, who have got multiple nominations in the past,” she commented.
Two years ago, the Frances Ha star was riding high with nominations across the board for Ladybird and she picked up many a Best Director nomination in all the major award ceremonies. But fast forward to Little Women and her directorial chops are evidently not as appreciated as they once were, with no nomination at the Golden Globes and little love from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. So is Little Women not as well directed as other films around? Let’s look at the contenders.
Todd Phillips’ Joker leads the pack with 11 nominations, including Best Director. Two of Hollywood’s greatest auteurs, Scorsese and Tarantino, are not far behind on 10 nods, competing in many of the same categories for both The Irishman and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
In different ways, each of these films are flawed. In Joker the titular character is deranged, immature and unpredictable, which is reflected in Phillips’ directing style. While Phoenix’s performance is a revelation, he did not merely elevate the film’s standard — he dictated it.
The Irishman is also blessed with great acting; however, it is weighed down by a stupidly long runtime and dodgy CGI. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is Tarantino at his most self-indulgent: it’s all bark with no emotional bite.
Each director rested on their laurels — or, in Phillips’ case, rested on Joaquin Phoenix — showcasing the same techniques they’ve used and abused before. How are they any more deserving of Best Director than Gerwig?
In comparison, Greta Gerwig challenged herself. As a cinematic work, Little Women is an exercise in restraint. Gerwig adapted to the conventions of the period piece; modernising and improving on them. Little Women will be viewed as the creative pinnacle of her career to date. Can the same be said of Tarantino and Scorsese this year?
Over to you, Oscars…