5 Female Directors Stir Oscar Nomination Buzz

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Annie Dorval stars in the futuristic Quebecois drama "Mommy."

Credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

(WOMENSENEWS)– On Jan. 15 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will reveal its nominees and this year five films directed by women–all previously cited in this column–are attracting considerable buzz and landing on many industry-watchers’ top-10 lists.

Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” is likely to get Oscar nods for best film and best director, several for best performance and several more for technical categories such as editing and cinematography.

Amma Asante’s “Belle” features an extraordinary performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who’s likely to receive an Oscar nod for best actress.

Other contenders: Angelina Jolie’s second feature, “Unbroken,” Gillian Robespierre’s first feature, “Obvious Child,” and Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook.”

There are also some outstanding performances by women stirring talk: Amy Adams in “Big Eyes,” Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” and Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night.” All in all, this awards season promises to reward film feminists.

Meanwhile, the first fresh movies of the new year are starting to run and there are a couple you should be sure to catch.

Opening Jan. 9

“It’s All So Quiet,” an exquisitely moving film by Dutch filmmaker Nanette Leopold presents a compelling intergenerational family drama in which a man shepherds his father, a traditional Dutch dairy farmer, through the infirmities of old age and, simultaneously, teaches a newly hired young farm hand how to work with the animals and the land. The film is quiet and introspective, and invites meditation about life, loyalty, respect and personal responsibility. It’s beautiful. In Dutch with English subtitles; limited release.

Opening the same day, “Preservation” is a femme-centric thriller that – yet again – revolves around a female victim. In this tried and tired scenario, she is a brainy, professionally established doctor who accompanies her husband and his brother on a hunting trip. When they’re deep into the woods, they are assailed by other mysterious hunters, who focus on her as a trophy. She fights back. You don’t need to see it.

Jan. 16 Opener

“Paddington,” an adventure that mixes live action with animation, features the famously popular stuffed bear in London, in search of a home. Plenty of slapstick for the kids combines with a hearty message about social integration. Charming performances by Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters and Imelda Staunton add appeal. There’s also Nicole Kidman as an evil taxidermist intent on trapping the rare talking bear.

Jan. 23

“Song One,” writer-director Kate Barker-Froyland’s first feature, stars Anne Hathaway as a very independent and career-oriented doctoral candidate who is called home by her difficult mother (Mary Steenburgen) to care for her estranged brother, a street musician, who is in an accident-caused coma. Seeking clues about how she might help him, she delves into his music and approaches his musical idol (Johnny Flynn). Love happens. That’s not a spoiler. You figure it out the moment you see her lay eyes on him. The film is heartfelt but sadly predictable. But it does have some nice performances, touching moments and lovely music.

Fresh off the festival circuit, “Mommy” is a timely and futuristic Quebecois drama. The film stars Annie Dorval as a 40-something widow who chooses to remove her teenage son from a juvenile care facility where he’s been institutionalized for violent outbreaks due to ADHD. She then faces the difficulties of raising him. She enlists the support of a reclusive, depressed woman (Suzanne Clement) who lives next door. The three bond intensively, and they all heal each other in various and very surprising ways. The characters are beautifully developed, more is revealed about them with each twist in the tale. Written and directed by Xavier Dolan, “Mommy” is a gem. Don’t miss this film.

“The Boy Next Door” is also about a single mom (Jennifer Lopez) who gets involved with her neighbor. In this film, however, he’s a teenage boy. After a lusty fling he becomes obsessed with her. The plot involves his constant harassments and threats; her terrified reactions. We’ve seen Lopez in this role before; several times. We don’t need to see her at again.

Opening Jan. 30

Closing the month, French filmmaker Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood” is a magnificently crafted coming-of-age narrative that chronicles the overwhelming difficulties faced by a black teenage French girl who lives in a housing project and has only her gang of similarly disenfranchised girlfriends to turn to for guidance and support. As grim and tough as her character’s fortunes may be, Karidja Toure’s performance is filled with a captivating mix of strength and vulnerability that has universal appeal and gives this compelling film global relevance. A must-see.

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