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Female directors and producers may have received relatively short shrift at the Academy Awards over 84 years -- for those of you keeping score, only seven women have won Best Picture, while that number famously drops to one for Best Director. Within the Academy itself, however, they get a little more respect: following yesterday's announcement of their rejigged Board of Governors, women occupy two-thirds of the spaces in the director and producer sections.
One of them is also one of six new governors: Lisa Cholodenko, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of "The Kids Are All Right," joins recent Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow and Michael Mann at the directors' table. Mann returns to the board after a hiatus, while Bigelow retains her place (and also holds a spot in the documentary field, making her the only governor doing double duty).
As someone whose indie-centered work hadn't invited Oscar attention prior to "The Kids Are All Right," Cholodenko's a pleasingly fresh choice for the board, and her presence alongside Bigelow -- plus industry stalwarts Kathleen Kennedy and Gale Anne Hurd at the producers' table -- sends a more positive message to women in the industry than the awards themselves tend to.
Also newly elected to the board is Bill Condon, who, of course, produced the Oscar telecast to warm reviews three years ago. He's been elected as a writer -- the capacity in which he earned an Oscar for "Gods and Monsters" and a nomination for "Chicago" -- though he could as easily represent the directors. Other first-time governors include former Disney chairman Dick Cook, twice-nominated cinematographer Dante Spinotti, sound mixer (and four-time Oscar champ) Scott Millan and Oscar-winning VFX artist John Knoll.
The actors' representatives, meanwhile, remain unchanged, with Tom Hanks, Ed Begley, Jr. and Annette Bening (who is surely delighted for her "Kids Are All Right" director) all retainings their places on the board.
The new Board of Governors' first major task is just around the corner: in a fortnight's time, they will convene to elect a new Academy president, as current chief Tom Sherak's three-year reign draws to a close. As Sherak's now served three straight terms on the board, Academy laws dictate that he step down. Personally, however, I think his time was up anyway: with the number of rule changes, particularly relating to the elastic Best Picture category, Sherak hasn't projected a terribly confident face for the Academy, while the three Oscar telecasts produced under his watch have been clunky at best, with last year's Hathaway-Franco fiasco a now-infamous nadir.
Variety reports a wide-open contest for Sherak's replacement, naming Kennedy, Hurd and Cook among the favorites for the position, alongside writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, producer Hawk Koch (whose father, Howard, headed the Academy in the late 1970s) and marketing exec Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is already producing this year's Governors' Awards ceremony.
For my money, I can't think of someone more fit for the job than Kennedy, a super-producer who has used her powers to bring both immortal blockbusters (many of them, of course, with Steven Spielberg) and trickier arthouse propositions ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") to our screens, landing seven Oscar nominations along the way. It's been a while since a true industry titan was the face of the Academy -- meanwhile, a woman hasn't held the position since Fay Kanin stepped down in 1983. (The only previous female president, one Bette Davis, resigned after only two months back in 1941.) Just my two cents.
The current Board of Governors is listed below.
Ed Begley, Jr.
Annette Bening (Oscar nominee: "The Grifters," "American Beauty," "Being Julia," "The Kids Are All Right")
Tom Hanks (Oscar winner: "Philadelphia," "Forrest Gump")
Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar winner: "The Hurt Locker")
Lisa Cholodenko (Oscar nominee: "The Kids Are All Right" -- as writer)
Michael Mann (Oscar nominee: "The Insider," "The Aviator" -- as producer)
Bill Condon (Oscar winner: "Gods and Monsters")
Frank Pierson (Oscar winner: "Dog Day Afternoon")
Phil Alden Robinson (Oscar nominee: "Field of Dreams")
Gale Anne Hurd
Kathleen Kennedy (Oscar nominee: "E.T.," "The Color Purple," "The Sixth Sense," "Seabiscuit," "Munich," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "War Horse")
Rob Epstein (Oscar winner: "The Times of Harvey Milk," "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt")
Michael Moore (Oscar winner: "Bowling for Columbine")
Dante Spinotti (Oscar nominee: "L.A. Confidential," "The Insider")
Anne V. Coates (Oscar winner: "Lawrence of Arabia")
Mark Goldblatt (Oscar nominee: "Terminator 2: Judgment Day")
Jim Bissell (Oscar nominee: "Good Night, and Good Luck.")
Jeffrey Kurland (Oscar nominee: "Bullets Over Broadway")
Charles Fox (Oscar nominee: "The Other Side of the Mountain," "Foul Play")
Arthur Hamilton (Oscar nominee: "Madron")
David L. Newman (Oscar nominee: "Anastasia")
Scott Millan (Oscar winner: "Apollo 13," "Gladiator," "Ray," "The Bourne Ultimatum")
Craig Barron (Oscar winner: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button")
Richard Edlund (Oscar winner: "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Return of the Jedi")
John Knoll (Oscar winner: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest")
Short Films/Feature Animation
Jon Bloom (Oscar nominee: "Overnight Sensation")
Bill Kroyer (Oscar nominee: "Technological Threat")
John Lasseter (Oscar winner: "Tin Toy," "Toy Story" -- special award)
Cheryl Boone Isaacs
For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.
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