Subject of Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures” (2016) dead at 101

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Best Supporting Actress nominee Octavia Spencer co-stars as mathematician Dorothy Vaughn, and Janelle Monae, as engineer Mary Jackson. (Image Courtesy: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

NASA scientist Katherine Johnson, who was played by Taraji P. Henson in Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures (2016), has died at 101 years old, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of the first black women to work as a NASA scientist, almost no one outside of the agency knew who she was until the release of Hidden Figures, even though Johnson helped calculate the trajectory for spaceflights during the 1960s space race with Russia, including the moon landing. Hidden Figures was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Johnson received a standing ovation when she appeared onstage with the cast.

President Trump condemns South Korean film’s history-making Academy Awards

At a campaign rally in Colorado Springs on Thursday night, United States President Donald Trump criticized this month’s Academy Awards, where Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture, according to The Washington Post. Citing American trade disputes with South Korea, Trump asked, “Can we get Gone with the Wind back, please,” in reference to Victor Fleming’s 1939 Best Picture Oscar winner which has long since fallen out of favor in critical circles for its representation of black Americans. Trump would later go on to admit he doesn’t know whether Parasite is good or not.

Rose McGowan criticizes Natalie Portman’s Academy Awards protest

In a Facebook post, Rose McGowan has condemned Natalie Portman for wearing a dress to the Academy Awards embroidered with the names of female filmmakers who were passed over for Best Director nominations, including Greta Gerwig and Lulu Wang, according to The Guardian. Calling Portman a “fraud,” McGowan says all activists should take offense at the Oscar winner’s “lip service,” even going so far as to accuse Portman of not working with enough female filmmakers or hiring them through her production company, Handsomecharlie Films. Portman responded to McGowan’s statement, saying, “I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave.’”

No women nominated for Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards

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Only five female directors have been nominated a total of five times for the Academy Award for Best Director, and only one – Kathryn Bigelow – has won. (Image Courtesy: The Hill).

Even though Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019) was nominated for Best Picture as well as Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards, the filmmaker herself was not nominated for Best Director, nor were any other women, according to The Hill. 2020 marks the third year in a row no women have been nominated in the category, despite the fact that more than ten percent of the top films in 2019 were directed by women, the most in more than a decade. Women of color are even more underrepresented; out of two hundred seventy-three nominations over the last thirteen years at the Golden Globes, Oscars, Directors Guild of America, and Critics’ Choice Awards, Ava DuVernay was the only female director of color to be nominated.

The ten films that made the Academy Award for Best International Feature shortlist

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Back in May, Mati Diop became the first black woman to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for her Atlantics (2019), which lost to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019), but won the Grand Prix; if Parasite or Atlantics are nominated at the Oscars, they will be the first for South Korea and Senegal, respectively. (Image Courtesy: The Seattle Times).

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday their Best International Feature shortlist, the name for the category having been changed from “Best Foreign Language Film,” according to The Seattle Times. The ten shortlisted movies are: Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird (2019, the Czech Republic); Tanel Toom’s Truth and Justice (2019, Estonia); Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables (2019, France); Barnabas Toth’s Those Who Remained (2019, Hungary); Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov’s Honeyland (2019, North Macedonia); Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi (2019, Poland); Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole (2019, Russia); Mati Diop’s Atlantics (2019, Senegal); Bong Joon-ho’s  Parasite (2019, South Korea); and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory (2019, Spain). The nominees for the Ninety-Second Academy Awards will be announced January 13, and the ceremony will be held February 9 in Los Angeles.

This year’s Best Picture race

The male-dominated Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019) and the female-led Jay Roach’s Bombshell (2019) and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (2019) are all Best Picture contenders, according to The New York Times. If so, then Gerwig may be competing with boyfriend Noah Baumbach and his Marriage Story (2019), which represents Netflix alongside The Irishman as well as Fernando Meirelles’s The Two Popes (2019). Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019), Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019), Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit (2019), and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (2019) will be up against the as of yet unreleased Sam Mendes’s 1917 (2019), Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell (2019), and Tom Hooper’s Cats (2019).

Honorary Academy Award recipient asks for female Oscar named “Anna”

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In a video tribute, Jodie Foster said Lina Wertmüller taught her women could be directors, too. (Image Courtesy: WTHR).

While accepting her honorary Oscar at the Academy’s Eleventh Annual Governors Awards, ninety-one-year-old Anna Wertmüller, the first female Best Director nominee for her Pasqualino Settebellezze (1975), called for a female Oscar named “Anna,” according to WTHR. Only five women have been up for Best Director in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and two of them, Jane Campion as well as Greta Gerwig, were in attendance at the untelevised dinner event. Cherokee actor Wes Studi also became the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar last night, alongside the prolific David Lynch and Geena Davis.