Oscar 2010: Best Picture Nominees—They Came From…..How Many Women Directors?

Unlike last year, in which there was some healthy suspense, real tension, regarding the winner of the Best Picture Oscar, this year seems to be tame and predictable.


Hurt Locker Vs. Avatar: David Vs. Goliath?

Last year, we were not sure whether Kathryn Bigelow, who previously had won the top kudo from her colleagues at the Directors Guild of America (DGA), would also win the Best Director Oscar.

We hoped but we were not sure that Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, which had swept most of the critics groups kudos, would emerge the final winner.  Indeed, for months, it was a tough and competitive two-way race between an artful Iraq war movie like “The Hurt Locker” and a big-budget, effects-driven sci-fi spectacle such as “Avatar.”

Almost every industry member, not to mention the Oscar gurus (a group I belong to) concedes that “The King’s Speech” is a mortal lock for Best Picture.

Mark your ballots: Unless there is a major upset (which I doubt), Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” should win the Best picture Oscar and other major awards, such as Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Original Screenplay for David Seidler.

Best Picture: Origins and Sources

However, it’s legitimate and poignant to ask where do god movies, including the 10 Oscar nominees, come from?  What are the sources and origins of the Best Picture contenders?  Which festival(s) did they play?  When did they open theatrically?  Did they enjoy strong critical support?

The one conclusion that emerged out of our survey is that festivals are crucial in displaying and/or elevating the Best picture nominees.

Sundance Babes?

The role played by the Sundance Film Festival is particularly significant in this year’s Oscar race.  The Six of the ten directors whose films are nominated for Best Picture, have begun their careers at the Sundance Film Festival, and thus could be nicknamed Sundance Babes

They are, in alphabetical order:

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan

His feature debut, Pi, played in the Dramatic Competition of the 1998 Sundance Film Fest, where it won the Best Director kudo.

Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right 

Her directing debut, the terrific High Art, debuted in the Dramatic Competition of the 2000 Sundance Film Fest.  (I had the honor and pleasure of giving Cholodenko her first review, in Variety)

Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

The first film made by the Coen brothers, the terrific noir “Blood Simple,” world premiered in 1984 at the U.S. Film Fest, in Salt lake City, Utah, where it won the top award.  The U.S. Film Fest became Sundance, when the visionary Robert Redford took it under the wings of the Sundance Institute in 1986.

Debra Granick, Winter’s Bone

Debra Granik had made her feature debut with “Down to the Bone,” which put Vera Farmiga on the map, and premiered at the Sundance Film Fest.

Chris Nolan, Incpetion

His breakthrough film, “Memento,” a follow-up to his noir debut “Follow,” played at the 2000 Sundance Film Fest.

David O. Russell, The Fighter

The critics darling of the festival circuit, David O. Russell made his splashy debut with the courageous comedy, “Spanking the Monkey,” which world premiered in the Dramatic Competition of the 1994 Sundance Film Fest, where it won the Audience award.

Best Picture Contenders: They Came From….

This year’s Best Picture nominees are (in alphabetical order):

127 Hours

The movie played at the Toronto Film Fest in September

Black Swan

Black Swan world premiered as opening night of the 2010 Venice Film Festival, then played at Toronto

The Fighter

The Fighter was the surprise feature at the AFI Film Fest, in November


The bib-budget Warner movie opened in the summer and immediately became a much-discussed sci-fi thriller, going way beyond summer popcorn entertainment

Kids Are All Right

The serio comedy world-premiered at the Sundance Film Fest, in January of 2010, then served as opening night of the L.A. Film Fest, in June, before opening commercially in July.

King’s Speech

The tasteful and middle brow movie world premiered at the Toronto Film Fest, before getting a platform release by the Weinstein Company in late November

The Social Network

David Fincher’s brilliant movie served as opening night of the 2010 New York Film Festival, and was released by Sony one week after playing the festival.

Toy Story 3

The Pixar animated film, which opened in the summer, is one of the best reviewed pictures of the year.

True Grit

Paramount was smart in its decision not to send Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western to any fall festival.  The enjoyable Western served as the opening night of the 2011 Berlin Film Fest, but that was last week, in mid-February, after nearly exhausting the domestic market in the U.S. with an impressive gross of over $160 million.

Winter’s Bone

Debra Granik’s social drama won the top jury prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Fest.

Two of Ten Nominees by Women

It is noteworthy that two of the ten Best Picture nominees were directed by women, which is some kind of record for gender representation at the top.