December 9, 2019 2:19 pm

Why did Golden Globes nominations shut out female directors?

Female directors shut out of Golden Globes nominations
Credit: The Irishman official image

“Everybody just yells and screams at each other — nobody’s CIVIL anymore!” That line from Joker rings true after Monday’s Golden Globes nominations snubbed female directors.

It’s no secret women don’t get top directing gigs at nearly the clip men do. And looking at the Golden Globes nominations list on the surface, it’s easy to be upset. It’s been something of a banner year for female directors, yet they’ve been shut out.

But can we have a nuanced discussion as to why this is? This is 2019, when everyone is supposed to be more compassionate, inclusive and open to the opinions of others.

Streaming, creative freedom and precedent


How does this apply to our cord-cutting work here? Well, streamers are becoming a vehicle for auteurs to have their creative visions fully realized.

Big studios are notorious for not taking risks. It makes sense. Their producers and executives have a lot riding on each film. They want to maximize their chances of profit.

Streamers are zigging where studios are zagging. So, look at one Golden Globes nominee for Best Director: Martin Scorsese. He could almost be a considered a lock any year he makes a film. The Irishman is arguably his most ambitious work — a 3.5-hour epic starring prior Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

Netflix allowed Scorsese to play jazz while all major studios passed on him. Part of the reason is The Irishman‘s lengthy running time restricting the amount of theater screenings. Now, Netflix may become the first streamer to win a Best Picture Oscar.


How about another nominee? Another plenty-proven genius, Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Like Scorsese, Tarantino is in the running for Best Director at all major awards when he puts something out.

But despite releasing his passion project through Sony, he’s capitalizing on Netflix’s willingness to entertain a fuller form of his work. After converting his prior film The Hateful Eight, to a longer miniseries on Netflix, Tarantino reportedly has similar plans for this one.

Legends like Scorsese and Tarantino put out some of their career-best work in 2019. It’d be one thing if their movies didn’t merit consideration, but they do. If they’d been left out, it’d be due to politically-correct inclusion, rather than a reflection of true directorial quality.

Diversity that isn’t gender-driven

One of the most acclaimed foreign features in recent years is Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. It’s South Korea’s highest-grossing domestic movie of all-time, and has a whopping 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an audience rating in the 90s.


For someone who ranks No. 13 on Metacric’s list of best film directors of the 21st century, what casual moviegoer had heard of Bong before this year? It’s a landmark occasion that he’s included, as he arguably got shut out for his work in 2013’s Snowpiercer.

Let’s keep going: with 1917, the Golden Globes nominations gave Sam Mendes a nod. But are we trying to say he doesn’t deserve it, too?

Buzz around the World War I flick has been strong. One of the big reasons is how it’s uniquely, stylistically diverse. What does this mean, exactly? Minor spoiler alert: the two-hour thriller was filmed with such craftsmanship that it plays like one long, continuous take.

To pull that off is no easy feat. It’s a testament to Mendes’ mastery and incredible artistry. How could 1917 not be deserving of a Best Director nod?

In defense of Todd Phillips’ candidacy

If you read the original screenplay for Joker, co-written by Phillips and Scott Silver, it’s wildly different than what ended up in the final film. Phillips did many rewrites on the fly, and the whole plot, structure and story changed.

Much of this can be attributed to the unique work Joaquin Phoenix brought to the title role. He’s a favorite for Best Actor at the Golden Globes and the Oscars. However, let’s not overlook what Phillips did.

Many comic book movie fans have decried the lack of inclusion during awards season. Phillips pitched a highly original take never before seen in the genre. It’s an incisive commentary on mental health, cancel culture and other extremely salient societal themes.

Phillips built a movie around one central character. He pulled a career-defining performance out of Phoenix and adapted to the actor’s work. Joker became the highest-grossing R-rated film ever at over $1 billion.

By being inclusive of comic book source material, the Golden Globes nominations are diversifying in that way. Alas, no one’s catching more grief for his achievement than Phillips.

PS: Joker‘s female composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir, is a front-runner to win Best Original Score at the Golden Globes and the Oscars. She’d be only the third woman ever to take home that Academy Award.

Patience is a virtue

All that said, there are plenty of acclaimed films from female directors this year. Would it be outlandish if any of the five men got shut out over one of the female directors? No, of course not. On the other hand, the Golden Globes aren’t ignoring those projects. They’re just recognizing them for other categories.

Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed Little Women earned two nominations. Lulu Wang’s The Farewell did as well. Tom Hanks scored a Best Supporting Actor nomination as Mr. Rogers in Marielle Heller’s fantastic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Jennifer Lopez’s turn in writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers earned a Best Supporting Actress bid.

What do all these directors have in common, besides being female? They’re all relatively new to directing feature films.

Little Women marks Gerwig’s second solo movie directing gig. The same goes for Wang on The Farewell. Heller’s latest is her third full feature, and Scafaria has directed thrice, too.

Don’t forget Booksmart, one of my favorite movies of the year, now streaming on Hulu. It was Olivia Wilde’s directorial feature debut. Beanie Feldstein scored a Lead Actress nomination for it — deservedly so.

Sure, it’s fair to argue these women deserved opportunities sooner. But their films’ recognition in other categories suggests that they all figure to have more chances in front of them.

There’s been such a long precedent of male directors that these trends won’t course-correct overnight. The industry is moving in the right direction in terms of being more inclusive of female directors, though.

It’s only a matter of time before there’s a bigger breakthrough. Let’s just not pretend the five guys who got Best Director distinctions didn’t merit such praise.

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