It what way isn't this dumb? Just for starters, consider Mike Pesca's sad presentation at Slate.
His presentation was part of a Monday afternoon podcast; you can listen to it here. Oscar nominations had been released several hours before, and Pesca ran with the script.
We'll include the podcast's sub-headline. His assessment started as shown:
PESCA (1/13/20): Snubbing female directors is bad businessSnubbing Little Women? It's just what the Oscars do?
And now, The Schpiel.
The Oscar nominations were announced today, and like every year for the last, I think six, the celebration of the glories of cinema became a grumpfest about the paucity of female or minority nominees.
Here was ceremony host Isa Rae after the Best Director nominations were announced.
[Audiotape] "Congratulations to those men."
Hustler’s Lorene Scafaria, snubbed. The Farewell's Lulu Wang, snubbed. Greta Gerwig, snubbed.
Snubbing Little Women. It's just what the Oscars do.
In fact, Little Women had just received a Best Picture nomination. Did Pesca not understand that fact? Did he decide he'd just vent anyhoo?
Increasingly, our public discourse is narrative all the way down. Facts no longer seem to matter. Here's where Pesca went next:
PESCA (continuing directly): In 2015 and 2016. the Oscars were labeled as "so white," #OscarsSoWhite. There was a protest over the lack of minority acting nominees.Did Pesca have even the slightest idea what he was talking about?
In 2018, Greta Gerwig was once again left off the Best Director list, causing Natalie Portman to say, "And here are the all male nominees."
In 2018, Gerwig was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director, for her film Lady Bird. Portman did make that snarky remark that year, but she was snarking about the Golden Globes, not about the Oscars.
To appearances, Pesca understood the tribal script, but hadn't bothered acquainting himself with even the most basic facts. Overall, how dumb was the tribal complaining in response to the Oscar nominations this week?
Overall, it struck us as very dumb.
Consider the front page of yesterday's Style section in the Washington Post. It contained one report about who received the nominations, plus two reports (2) about the various folks who got "snubbed."
As almost everyone understands, the question of whether someone got "snubbed" involves highly subjective assessments. In this high-profile report, the Post assembled four youngish female "pop culture" reporters—that's the way they're described by the Post—to run down the long list of alleged snubs.
Needless to say, the "most glaring" such exclusion seemed to involve Greta Gerwig, who didn't get a nomination for Best Director this year.
Should this exclusion be seen as a snub? Consider the history here:
In 2018, Gerwig's debut film, Lady Bird, was nominated for Best Picture. She herself was nominated for Best Director and for Best Original Screenplay. Two of the actresses she directed received nominations as well.
This year, Gerwig's second film, Little Women, was nominated for Best Picture. She herself was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay—and yet, we're told it was a "snub," one apparently based upon gender, when she didn't get nominated for Best Director.
(Saoirse Ronan was nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Little Women.)
Gerwig has been showered with Oscar nominations for her first two films. Why should her failure to get a Best Director nomination be seen as a "snub" at all, let alone as a snub based on gender?
Back at Slate, Dana Stevens pretended or possibly tried to explain. Unfortunate headline included:
STEVENS (1/13/20): Does the Academy Think Little Women Directed Itself?There's a word for those paragraphs: dumb. Here's why:
Little Women must be a wondrous motion picture indeed. When the Academy Award nominations were announced Monday morning, that august body saw fit to recognize the film for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Florence Pugh), Best Adapted Screenplay (Greta Gerwig), and Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran). Yet all this goodness must somehow have assembled itself without any guiding hand at the helm: Gerwig was left off the Best Director slate, which—as has been the case all but five times in the 92-year history of the award—was made up entirely of men.
I’ve long considered myself an awards-neutral critic, unable to get too worked up about “snubs” and “nods” and people or movies getting “robbed.” It’s the Oscars, Jake, and to bother getting publicly outraged about the injustice of any individual omission, it seems to me, is to be just a different kind of cog in the giant consensus machine that grants the curious institution of the Academy so much more cultural weight than it deserves. But come on, Academy voters—really? 2019 was a year in which the number of mainstream films made by women started to reach critical mass: Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Claire Denis’ High Life, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Mati Diop’s Atlantics were all either well-reviewed, successful at the box office, or both, and several of them were recognized in Monday morning’s nominations in categories other than directing. To respond to a year like that with the studious exclusion of anyone female from the award that above all others confers authorship and authority, the one that attributes a film’s success to the unifying vision of an individual, starts to look like nothing else but rank condescending sexism.
As Stevens knows, the Oscars nominated nine films for Best Picture this year. But under the rules of the game, only five Best Director nominations are offered each year.
Nine Best Pictures, five Best Directors! Under the rules of the game, at least four directors of Best Picture films would therefore be unable to get Best Director noms.
Stevens never mentioned that fact as she vented and raged about the rampant sexism involved in Gerwig's exclusion. Instead, she listed all the other nominations Little Women received, asking if the wondrous film had somehow "directed itself."
She failed to mention an obvious fact—the other eight Best Picture selections got multiple nominations too. The list shapes us like this:
Total Oscar nominations:If we're going to choose Best Director by counting a film's total nominations, Little Women was tied for fifth place with three other Best Picture films.
The Irishman: 10
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: 10
JoJo Rabbit: 6
Little Women: 6
Marriage Story: 6
Ford v. Ferrari: 4
As it turned out, Parasite got the fifth Best Director nomination. Should the Korean guy have been kicked to the curb in favor of the privileged American woman? Is that what the apparently racist Stevens says?
Needless to say, Stevens found another way to complain and call people names. Once again, this pseudo-analysis is just pitifully sad:
STEVENS: Here I am, falling into exactly the fist-shaking pose toward the Academy that I just wrote off as counterproductive and pointless. Little Women is a box-office smash that’s made more than 100 best-films-of-the-year critics’ lists and seems destined to become a beloved classic. Gerwig is a brilliant young artist with a great career in front of her; directing nomination or no, she’s had an extraordinary year, and she will get to sit at the ceremony and see her writing, her fine cast of actors, her exquisite eye for costume design, and her movie itself honored by the industry. So why did Monday morning’s announcements have me muttering curses into my coffee?Tomorrow, we'll show you how Stevens answered her own question. For today, consider this:
Little Women made more then 100 "best films" lists? Yes, it actually did, and it may have deserved them!
But all the other Best Picture nominees made lost of these lists too! In support of her misleading statement, Stevens linked to this MetaCritics page, which shows that Parasite was vastly better reviewed than Little Women was.
(According to that Metacritics page—the very page to which Stevens linked—Little Women was chosen as the year's best film by five critics. Parasite was chosen by 77! The page seems to show Little Women as the past year's seventh best-reviewed film.)
Should Gerwig have received a Best Director nomination? We have no idea.
That said, we do know this. Pesca's podcast was an insult to Slate readers. Thanks to all her ranting and name-calling, Stevens may have been worse.
Over the past two years, Greta Gerwig has been showered with Oscar nominations. This year, she wasn't given The Full Ginsberg, so out came the tribal script.
Our team is increasingly very dumb, especially concerning any issue involving gender and race.
The Others are able to see us engaging in this type of #BehaviorSoDumb. They've seen us do this for a fairly long time, and it tells them to vote for Trump.