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9 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Women Take Charge at the Oscars

Women Take Charge at the Oscars

Meryl Streep sitting in the front row, occupying the royal spot that used to be reserved for Jack Nicholson. Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph taking the stage in Ugg slippers: Enough with those high heels. Jane Fonda likening the kaleidoscopic Oscars set to the Orgasmatron from her ’60s-era “Barbarella,” which has long been scorned as being retrograde to women. Major actresses skipping Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet; Kristen Anderson-Lopez talking about gender parity. Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra delivering a powerful Time’s Up call to arms. Frances McDormand throwing down the gauntlet for show business with two words: “Inclusion rider.”

Yes, men still made up the vast majority of winners on Sunday (March 4) night at the 90th Academy Awards. But the evening will go down in the Hollywood history books as the moment when women — finally, forcefully and, they dearly hope, forevermore — seized the film industry’s reins and made it clear they would be doing and saying and being anything they wanted.

It was a bookend of sorts to the #MeToo moment that was ignited by allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and other powerful men in the film industry. But it also served as a galvanizing moment for women in Hollywood and how they can chart their own paths going forward.

“It doesn’t end here,” McDormand said backstage after winning the best actress Oscar for her I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore character in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” “The whole idea of women trending? No. Not trending. African-Americans trending? No. Not trending. It changes now, and I think the inclusion rider will have something to do with that. Right? Power in rules.”

With that, she charged forth into the official Oscars after-party. “Oh my god, mac and cheese,” she said, as a waiter handed her a serving. After temporarily losing possession of her Oscar, her next stop was the Vanity Fair party, where she would commandeer an entire bucket of fried chicken. Don’t like it? Too bad.

Inclusion riders — stipulations that A-list actors can place in their film contracts that gender and ethnic diversity be reflected among cast and crew members, with studios required to pay fees for failing — represent something specific that stars can do to make sure that Time’s Up is more than a moment. Asked at the Vanity Fair event if she planned to begin demanding inclusion riders, which she said she heard about for the first time at a dinner on Friday night, McDormand replied: “Oh, yeah. Majorly. We’re not going back.”

But some Hollywood women were less optimistic.

“How many times have we felt, ‘Oh, there’s going to be change,’ only to turn the corner and be let down?” Sam Taylor-Johnson, the director of films like “Nowhere Boy” and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” said at the Vanity Fair party. In the end, however, she felt hopeful. The reason? She said her daughter, a student at Stanford University, had told her that she believed things were actually moving in a positive direction.

Laura Dern, a two-time Oscar nominee (“Wild,” “Rambling Rose”) and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors, said that the challenge now would be to maintain the momentum. “It’s changing,” she said, hesitantly, adding that the fight had to continue every day.

Talk alone won’t fix an industry that remains overwhelmingly male and white, everyone seemed to agree. It will take sustained, specific pressure from inside the system. Even public shaming by academics, who have released blistering reports detailing the exclusion of women and people of colour in Hollywood, have not had much luck nudging the movie factories to reassess their hiring practices. Last week, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, released their fifth annual Hollywood diversity report and noted that, for the most part, very little had changed.

“Areas where women and people of colour saw sustained progress were rare,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, an author of the study.

The big winner at this year’s Academy Awards was “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy about a mute janitor who falls in love with an imprisoned sea creature. Positioned by Fox Searchlight as a story about giving a voice to the voiceless, “The Shape of Water” collected Oscars for best picture, del Toro’s directing, Alexandre Desplat’s score and Paul Denham Austerberry’s production design.

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” was the second-most-honored film, winning for sound editing (Richard King and Alex Gibson), sound mixing (Gregg Landaker, Gary A Rizzo, Mark Weingarten) and film editing (Lee Smith). Jimmy Kimmel hosted the ceremony.

“Most of the winners were white men, and most of those men thanked everybody on their crew, and there was very little politics really discussed — and I thought that was a missed opportunity,” said Rachel Morrison, who was the first woman nominated for best cinematography in the history of the Academy Awards. Morrison, nominated for her work on “Mudbound,” lost to Roger A Deakins, who won his first Oscar out of 14 nominations, for his work on “Blade Runner 2049.”

 “Why can’t a man get up there and talk about some of the same issues that we’re all facing?” continued Morrison, who also served as the cinematographer for “Black Panther,” the Marvel smash hit. “The tidbits that we got were through the video, the presenters. It was in the actual structure of the show, but not in any of the actual speeches. Except for Frances.”

And perhaps Anderson-Lopez, who won best song with her husband, Robert Lopez, and said from the stage: “I really want to take a minute to look at this category of incredible nominated songwriters tonight. Not only are we diverse, but we are close to 50-50 for gender representation. When you look at a category like ours, it helps us imagine a world where all the categories look like this one.”

Still, one of Hollywood’s most aggressive advocates for diversity, Ava DuVernay, praised the 90th Oscars as an important marker of change. “Dear @Academy, Inclusion looks good on you,” DuVernay wrote on Twitter on Sunday night. “Well-done. More to come.” n



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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