The film at SIFF’s closing night gala this year is The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola. I’ve known that women have been underrepresented as filmmakers, but when I stumbled upon this infographic recently, it was eye-opening: women directors have been nominated for an Oscar only 4 times in 85 years (Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties, Jane Campion’s The Piano, Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker). Here are some other notable women directors whose films have earned praise.
Lisa Cholodenko earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for the screenplay to The Kids are All Right (2010). Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a lesbian couple raising two kids when Paul (Mark Ruffalo), their biological father who anonymously donated his sperm, enters into their lives. The film excels when the controlling Nic, the flailing Jules and the wayward Paul engage in some of the funniest and sharpest dialogue (especially their arguments) to reveal three well-drawn characters.
Although not one of Julie Taymor’s most popular films, I’ve always been a fan of Titus (1999). Based on Shakespeare’s tragedy Titus Andronicus, the film stars Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Alan Cumming in a brutal tale of power and revenge. Visually stunning and violent, this film received mixed reviews from critics; many scholars consider it one of Shakespeare’s least successful works, and many film critics found Taymor’s direction messy and bordering on camp. However, it’s an audacious piece of work that left some indelible images burned in my mind.
Penny Marshall directed a number of successful movies in the ’80s and ’90s, and Big (1987) is my all-time favorite. Josh is a 12-year-old who wishes he were big, and wakes up the next day to find himself in a 30-year-old body (Tom Hanks). It follows Hanks as he finds himself working as an executive at a toy company and dealing with adult problems, all the while trying to find the machine that will change him back to a 12-year-old. Marshall found the sweet spot and directed a touching film that charms the whole family.
The 80s are known for teen sex comedies, but Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) rises above the rest. This year in the life of Southern California high school students has siblings Brad (Judge Reinhold) and Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) at its core, but boasts a supporting cast that includes Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Nicholas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and, of course, Sean Penn as stoner Jeff Spicoli. Heckerling’s direction, alongside the screenplay by Cameron Crowe (who also wrote the book, which is sadly out of print), reveals itself to be a smart comedy that addresses some serious issues, and has earned a spot on the National Film Registry.
With upcoming films from Lynn Shelton (Touchy Feely) and Kimberly Peirce (Carrie), along with forays into television (Jane Campion’s critically acclaimed Top of the Lake), lets hope we’re turning a corner to see greater representation by women behind the camera.