These days original and creative films seem all the more rare with sequels and remakes galore. Not only that, but the director’s perspective in most major movies is that of a heterosexual male. Sometimes I want something different. Women don’t get to take on directing duties as much as men, but I’m hoping the landscape is slowly equalling out. If Michael Bay is going to show me slow-mo shots of actress bodies’ during his action films, I’d like an alternative to cleanse my palate. If I’m still in the mood for action, that alternative is Kathryn Bigelow. Here’s a list of female filmmakers I keep tabs on for future projects, since I love their perspective and movies.
1. Kathryn Bigelow (lead photo) is a pioneer of women directors, as she is the first one to ever win the Academy Award in the Best Director category. She won for her great work on The Hurt Locker two years ago. She’s also a pioneer of females directing action films – something studios have admitted to being wary about. I’m not sure why the big-wigs think a lady can’t handle large shoots and action shots, but at least Bigelow set them straight. As you can see in the clip above, she does it with style. Next up, apparently Bigelow is working on a film about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, due out next year. In the meantime, check out her ’90s undercover surfdude classic Point Break while you’re at it!
2. Sofia Coppola has so many wonderful-looking films, I love them all. From The Virgin Suicides to Lost in Translation, she has a very individual perspective and I think it showed most in Marie Antoinette. The Kirsten Dunst-starring film was not exceptionally received by critics and audiences, but I think her shots and the story of the young queen were great! Coppola also wrote or adapted all the scripts to her films. In 2003 for Lost in Translation, she became the third woman to ever be nominated for Best Director by the Academy – she won that year for Best Original Screenplay.
3. If any female director should have won an Oscar before Coppola, it would have been Jane Campion. She was nominated for 1993′s The Piano – one of the most stirring movies I’ve ever seen. She also received acclaim for her 2009 film Bright Star (shown in the clip above), and I happen to love her little-seen movie In the Cut starring Mark Ruffalo and Meg Ryan. It’s a thrilling detective story, but unlike any I’ve seen before or since. There is stark beauty in nearly all her shots – whether it’s a young Anna Paquin hugging a piano on a desolate beach while men scurry around her or Abbie Cornish listening to her lover through the wall and answering his knocks.
4. Mary Harron took on the task of adapting a script from Bret Easton Ellis’ dark satire American Pyscho and filming it. I think the result surpasses the book, and nowhere is that more evident than in this brilliantly scripted and filmed scene where the men compare their business cards. She gets the dark humor just right. (Also, yep, that’s Justin Theroux in the clip!) She also wrote and directed I Shot Andy Warhol and The Notorious Bettie Page.
5. And finally, I believe Lena Dunham is the next writer/director to watch out for. Last year, I went to the theater to see her movie Tiny Furniture without knowing much about it. I laughed through most of the movie, and loved Dunham’s quick witted script, directing, and acting. Word on the street is that Judd Apatow saw Tiny Furniture and then personally asked her to write and direct a tv show he was developing for HBO. The show is currently filming, and it’s called Girls. Can’t wait for more of this 25-year-old filmmaker - until then, check out the clip above from Tiny Furniture!
I also enjoy these women filmmakers: Lone Scherfig (An Education), Nicole Holofcener (Please Give), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Miranda July (The Future), Drew Barrymore (not kidding, Whip It was a great movie!) and Julie Taymor (Across the Universe).
Doing my own assessment of films I’ve seen this year, I’ve only seen one in theaters directed by a woman (Miranda July’s interesting indie The Future). My three favorite films of 2011 so far are all directed by men – but there’s room out there for some female contenders in the upcoming years.
If you’d like to explore more information about where women stand as filmmakers in Hollywood, I always go back to this great 2009 New York Times article by the renowned film critic Manohla Dahrgis. I think there’s a lot of hope for more female directors and differing perspectives in mainstream film – I’m eager to witness the continuing shift!
What do you think? Do you love any female filmmakers I didn’t touch on here? Do you love the works of these directors? Have you seen any female-directed films in theaters this year?