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No Women Nominated For Best Director Oscar


No women were nominated for best director for this year's Academy Awards. Women directed many remarkable films in 2019. We want to take a moment to highlight some of their work. Joining us to do that now is our own Linda Holmes of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Linda, so good to have you back. Thank you.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Good to be here.

SIMON: Let's start, please, with the women that many thought would, in fact, be nominated for best director and the movies they directed.

HOLMES: Yeah. So let's do some higher-profile ones first. Greta Gerwig, of course, directed "Little Women," which is a "Little Women" adaptation. "Hustlers" is directed by Lorene Scafaria. It's about a group of strippers, including one played by Jennifer Lopez, who developed a scheme to drug and rob some of their Wall Street clientele. There is "The Farewell," which was directed by Lulu Wang, based on her "This American Life" story about a family where the grandmother in China is dying of cancer, but they decide not to tell her. So they have to go gather and say goodbye to her, but she can't know that that's why they're all there.

"A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood" was directed by Marielle Heller, and that is Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in the story of a friendship between Rogers and a journalist who interviewed him. And then "Booksmart" is a kind of out-all-night high school comedy - very, very charming - that was directed by the actress Olivia Wilde.

SIMON: And what about films directed by women that were featured on streaming services or just weren't in theaters very long?

HOLMES: Well, there are - this is where you kind of get into the ones that you have to look a little harder for, but it's very, very rewarding. One is a film on Netflix called "The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open."


ELLE-MAIJA TAILFEATHERS: (As Alia) So you think it's going to be a boy?

VIOLET NELSON: (As Rosie) Probably. He is always in my dreams.

TAILFEATHERS: (As Alia) You got a name?

NELSON: (As Rosie) I guess we'll find out when he comes.

HOLMES: It's directed by a woman whose name is Elle-Maija Tailfeathers. And it's about two women - she plays one of them - who meet in a - kind of a chance way in modern-day Canada. And they just spend a couple of hours - you know, one tries to help the other who she finds in some distress. It's a really interesting story of these two women who are both Native Canadian, these characters, and they are living very different lives. One's quite a bit more affluent than the other. It's a fascinating film, and it's on Netflix.

And then there's one called "Queen & Slim," which was directed by Melina Matsoukas, who directed the Beyonce "Formation" video. She's done a lot of very prominent music videos. And that one is about a young black couple that goes out on a Tinder date, and they have a fateful encounter with a police officer and wind up having to kind of go on the run together when they don't really know each other.

"Portrait Of A Lady On Fire" came out briefly in 2019. It'll be coming to theaters in February. And that's about two women in a - kind of a love story about portrait painting. There's one called "Fast Color," which is a very unusual superhero movie. It's about three generations of black women with superpowers. It's directed by Julia Hart. It stars the wonderful Lorraine Toussaint and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a mother and daughter who have had this long and difficult relationship that is related to these powers that they have.


GUGU MBATHA-RAW: (As Ruth) Look; I know you're angry.

LORRAINE TOUSSAINT: (As Bo) Angry? You told me to pretend you were dead.

MBATHA-RAW: (As Ruth) There's nowhere else for me to go.

TOUSSAINT: (As Bo) What is that supposed to mean?

HOLMES: And then the last one I wanted to mention is called "Atlantics," which is directed by Mati Diop. It's a - she's a French-Senegalese director. It's about young people in Dakar.

SIMON: And the film isn't in English. It's in Wolof, right?

HOLMES: Yes. Well, some of it is, yes. So that's a great one, too. And they're all really interesting, and they're all a little harder to find than some of the ones we talked about - "Little Women" and others.

SIMON: Linda, a lot of people use the occasion of award nominations - and not just the Oscars - as a kind of prompt to see certain films while they still can. Is that a good guide?

HOLMES: It is up to a point, right? Everybody knows the Oscars are not a reliable indicator of quality. They sometimes make great choices and sometimes not so great choices. But what I do like about awards season is it is an opportunity to kind of take stock and seek out what you haven't seen. And the problem with the tendency of the nominations to reward the same kinds of films is that they don't necessarily give people those prompts to go seek out something like "Fast Color" or "Atlantics." And that's a real loss because in the age of streaming, it's all out there, and you just have to find it.

SIMON: NPR's Linda Holmes of Pop Culture Happy Hour, thanks so much for being with us.

HOLMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.