The 93rd Academy Awards recognized Nomadland as the Grand Prize winner for 2021. Directed by Chloé Zhao, the film received three statuettes: Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Actress. In this way, he became a milestone in the history of the Oscars. The list of reasons is long, and the most obvious, as the first Asian woman to win Best Director’s Statue (and the second woman overall) to be the least profitable work to win first prize since 1950.
In addition to tackling economic precariousness, as previous year’s winner Parasita (2019), Nomadland exhibits a rare feature among Hollywood Film Academy nominees and winners: he has only one woman. as the protagonist of the story. According to an article by journalist Dan Kois of Slate magazine, only six films devoted to the lives and stories of women have won the award for best film in 93 years.
From 2015 to 2021, of the 59 nominees for best film, only eight titles told stories of women. To get an idea, Saoirse Ronan was the heroine of three of them: Brooklyn (2015), Lady Bird (2017) and Lovely Women (2019). In 2015, none of the eight selected met this requirement. This year only two matched the case: the semi-realistic tale of the journeys of a nomadic woman in her van and a promising young woman seeking justice in a severely damaged society.
Unlike most Oscar winners, Nomadland is about a middle-aged woman and no one else. In the article Slate, the author makes a comparison with the female characters of other Oscar winners for the best picture, through which one perceives the lack of focus on the stories of women in major productions. It should be noted that some productions would not even pass the Bechdel test.
Oscar winners and women
For example, Fern (Frances McDormand) is no longer a wife (Rebecca, 1940), nor has she ever been a mother (Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979); he has no mentor (Menina de Ouro, 2004), nor a wise driver (Conducting Miss Daisy, 1989), let alone a cannibal enemy (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991). Neither is she the muse (Shakespeare Apaixonado, 1998), the lost love (Neurivo Groom, Nervous Bride, 1977) or the lover of a condemned man (The English Patient, 1996). Even less a young woman “inserted into society” by a lucky man (Minha Bela Dama, 1964, and A Noviça Rebelde, 1965).
Following a different dynamic, the protagonist of Nomadland does not interfere with a problematic romance, like the protagonists of Amor, Sublime Amor (1961), Casablanca (1942), Titanic (1997), Gigi (1958) and The Shape of Water (2017). The closest to a romantic relationship is an invitation from kind David (David Strathairn) to settle down with her. Despite being a nice guy, the character rejects the offer to live on the road. Here, the actor plays the role of “girlfriends on narrative crutches”, common in several films, for example Kristen Stewart in Na Natureza Selvagem (2007).
The six winners with stories of women
Following Dan Kois’ research, Nomadland joined the small group formed by Rosa da Esperança (1942), A Malvada (1950), Laços de Ternura (1983), Entre Do Amores (1985) and Chicago (2002). Unlike all those mentioned, Nomadland is the only one written and directed by a woman. In fact, the team of five producers is made up of three women: Frances McDormand, Mollye Asher and Chloé Zhao; and, furthermore, the screenplay is based on the book written by a woman, Jessica Bruder. In other words, it is a multiple victory to try to change the patriarchal structures of Hollywood.
The world’s largest film industry awards at Nomadland can go a long way in convincing producers to invest in more stories like Fern’s. Here we have only analyzed the Oscar winning works for the best picture, maybe it is worth looking at the same criteria for those selected in other categories, such as foreign films, animation, documentary, etc. If you can remember a movie that focused on female stories and their trajectories, comment.
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