Movies directed by women, unfortunately, are a rarity in Hollywood. Lina Wertmuller was the first woman nominated for an Oscar for her powerful film Seven Beauties (1976) which found favour with the Academy after rave reviews from the nations major critics. It would seventeen years before Jane Campion was nominated for her stunning visual epic The Piano (1993), and then ten more before the first American female director Sofia Coppola was nominated for Lost in Translation (2003). And then of course Kathryn Bigelow won the academy Award for her tension filled war film The Hurt Locker (2009) ending a standing sore spot within the Academy.
Though much has been made of the fact Barbra Streisand was not nominated for either Yentl (1983) or The Prince of Tides (1991), the real victim in snubs has been Penny Marshall, best known still as one half of televisions Laverne and Shirley, but a superb director in her own right. Her first major hit was Big (1988), but two years later her film Awakenings (1990) was a Best Picture nominee though Marshall was not a Best Director candidate. Two years after that she made one of the years very best films, the baseball film A League of Their Own (1992), possibly the best baseball film ever, was snubbed for film and director.
More recently Kathryn Bigelow was passed over for Zero Dark Thirty (2012) an absolute masterpiece of direction, a film that exists almost entirely BECAUSE of its direction and Sarah Polley for the haunting love story Away from Her (2007), a more subtle brand of direction, but equally deserving. Polley further proved her mettle directing the startling documentary Stories We Tell (2012), a penetrating, brutally honest doc about her search for her birth father. The film won countless awards for Best Documentary Feature but was snubbed by the Academy. Here is the list of top movies directed by women ever, in my opinion, and again there are many left off the list to whom I apologize.
1. THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (LENI REIFENSTAHL; 1935) — Arguably the greatest propaganda film ever made, easily among the finest documentaries ever made, this extraordinary film was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to celebrate Germany’s rise from its worst depression ever to a world super power, all of course under the leadership of Hitler himself. He is shown descending on a plane from the heavens, God-like, being marched and celebrated through the streets, and hailed as a man just short of a deity. What is frightening is that watching him speak, you cannot take your eyes off of him and we gain an understanding of why they followed him. Riefenstahl uses bold camera angles, startling close-ups and long shots to suggest size and scope, and presents Hitler as a Messiah and extraordinary man. Unique in every way and terrifying in what the under tone truly was. Fir this generation it is difficult to explain how important the film is, how a documentary can be as important as this, but the film gave great insight into Hitler, into the state of Germany at the time and to later generations would make clear that blind faith in anyone is dangerous…especially a man setting himself up to be short of a God.
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