Women in Need of an Honorary Oscar

It’s no longer International Women’s Day here in Miami at 12 am, this post having been delayed from once again my heavy workload outside of Motorbreath (I seriously feel like I need a secretary), but regardless, it’s not like there’s ever a bad time to recognize that we need more women working in the industry beyond just costume design and being an actress. We don’t get enough of a female voice in the industry and there’s many factors more than just that the boys don’t want the girls to play with them, but that doesn’t allow us to ignore that severe depletion.

So, as my first delayed I.W.D. post, I want to recognize the women who I feel stand-out amongst other cinematic legends, on-screen and behind the camera alike and hope that one day they might get the Honorary Oscar that’s coming to them.

Elaine May
Yeesh, talk about being blackballed. Based on the unfortunate one-two turn-out for The Heartbreak Kid and Ishtar (which I have personally never seen), it seems like all of Hollywood has outright forgotten how much of a real comedic talent May still is. Constantly cracking social and cultural norms with her screenwriting while giving it enough wit and humorous charm to soften the blow, May still keeps on kicking (having garnered two Oscar nominations in her career) even if the studios aren’t as quick to buy her anymore.

Setsuko Hara
More likely than not Hara would not show up to collect. Since 1963, she had lived a life of seclusion and never acted again in her life, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is inarguably not-up-for-a-fucking-debate the most internationally famous actress in Japan and that comes from being the muse of one of the most humane and grounded filmmakers of our time: Ozu Yasujiro. In Hara, Yasujiro’s themes of devotion, optimism in the surroundings of tragedy, and bittersweet living while grabbing the heartstrings of the viewer. The fact that she has not been publicly seen since just adds mystique to her screen persona, but what an unforgettable persona.

Doris Day
Sure, we could just recognize that she is a hell of a singer – undeniably legendary. Or how much of a hit maker she was once she got into the motion pictures. But I’d also like to just mention how very devoted she was to the welfare and treatment of all animals. I mean, that’s the main thing I remember her for… her activism off-camera. What can I say? I like animals.

Sally Menke
I’m really cheating with this one (women who are deceased are unfortunately disqualified for an Honorary Oscar). But anyone who has seen a Quentin Tarantino film between 1992-2009 has seen the pinnacle of her work and knows that, as much as most of Tarantino’s effect is “stealing” from other films, it’s also just as much her sharp intuition on when to stop lingering on a pretty interesting conversation to the next jive shot and keeping the pace as cool and collected as it needs to be before turning it into a ballet of violent shots. Her talent and brilliant collaborative chemistry with Tarantino’s directing style is sorely missed (don’t tell me you don’t feel Django Unchained is 30 minutes longer than it needs to be) and if she were still alive, I’d still be gunning for that Honorary for her.

Kathleen Kennedy
You want to talk about upward mobility? How about the woman who co-founded Amblin Entertainment so that Spielberg could make his greatest hits like Jurassic Park and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? Or how about the fact that this same woman is now sitting as the head of LucasFilm (and honestly if it ain’t George, I’d rather it’s Kathleen. And if it is George, I’d still rather it’s Kathleen, but George can hang around)? Yeah… give Kennedy some.

Liv Ullmann
I’m too crazy about Bergman for anyone not to have expected Ullmann to have been brought up here, but she’s more than just Bergman’s muse. She’s a fantastic actress – hypnotizing in performances like Cries & Whispers and Persona – that Bergman was lucky to catch… I have no doubt that even without being under the direction of maybe the greatest male director an actress could have had, Ullmann would have stood out. That being said, we can’t forget how much of a jack of all trades in the business Ullmann became, taking over producing and directing duties for herself and earning the attention of many prestigious accolades from competing for the Palme d’Or to BAFTAs. She’s a Swedish treasure of cinema.

Chantal Akerman
She’ll say it wasn’t necessarily her design. She’ll claim it’s not meant at face to be read so. But that doesn’t matter to me. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is undeniably a shocking and seat-stirring look into the dullness of roles that a woman is expected to play in society and whether Akerman accepts it or not, her film spearheaded the concept of feminism beginning to take a presence in international cinema from a female standpoint. And then there’s her avant-garde aesthetic and, boy, am I sucker for avant-garde.

There’s also a recognition I’ve been seeing on The Film Experience (the page that I lifted this idea from) for Gena Rowlands and Agnes Varda. I’m going to be frank. I have not seen Cleo from 5 to 7 or A Woman Under the Influence yet (It’s kind of hard for me to try to stomach Cassavetes since I had seen Shadows), though they have been on my watchlist for years now and since I have Hulu now, I intend to watch them tonight since I might as well see what all the rage is about. I have nothing I can really say about either artist without sounding like I’m talking out of my ass… since I actually would be doing so. But I guess their influence is no joke whatsoever – especially when Varda herself is an artist of the French New Wave and, motherfucker, the French New Wave is not something that just happened to cinema and left as quick – and so I’m going to give them hype at least.

I mean, I have seen The Notebook but I doubt anyone (let alone Rowlands) wants to be remembered for The Notebook. I just imagine John talking to Nick going “Son… I am disappoint”.


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