Was 2009 a Bad Year for Women in Hollywood?

A recent article in The Hollywood Reporter points out an interesting contradiction in this year's movies: It was a great year to be a woman director, and a bad year to be a woman actress.

Looking at the Oscar pool, reporter Steven Zeitchik notes that three women have a strong shot at a Best Director nomination -- Lone Scherfig for An Education, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker , and Jane Campion for Bright Star. This is big news because it's never happened before; only three women have ever (ever!) been nominated for Best Director in the history of the Academy Awards. None of these women is exactly a shoo-in (Bigelow has the best shot, in our opinion), but the fact that their movies are getting buzz bodes well for the future of women in Hollywood.

Or does it? That same article claims that pickings for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress are unusually slim this year, because there weren't enough juicy roles for women. Sure, there were a few: Meryl Streep got the year's best role in Julie & Julia. Gabourey Sidibe made a big impact in Precious. Carey Mulligan got raves for her Audrey Hepburn-esque turn in An Education, Emily Blunt received good notices in The Young Victoria (a bigger hit in the U.K.), Abbie Cornish made an impression in the little-seen Bright Star, and Penelope Cruz showed star flair in Broken Embraces. Hilary Swank had a plum part in Amelia. But beyond that, Zeitchik argues, there were few memorable female parts in 2009. His theory is that the most talented women get overlooked for roles in their prime, because they're already considered over-the-hill, while older men -- George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Viggo Mortenson, Morgan Freeman, Daniel Day-Lewis -- rack up one lead role after another.

It's a sound theory, if a sad one. But Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical just posted another take on the issue: The Academy isn't looking hard enough. Bartyzel points out that there were some great women in the movies this year whose performances were too subtle, or too brief, or too quirky, to merit the Academy's attention. She draws our attention to Anna Kendrick (costar of Up in the Air, who holds her own with George Clooney) and Rachel Weisz (for The Brothers Bloom). Commenters chimed in on the site, suggesting Kristen Stewart (for either Twilight or Adventureland), Ellen Page (for Whip It) and Melanie Laurent (for Inglourious Basterds).

The discussion isn't over yet -- a few new women-centric films will be released before Oscar nominations are announced, including Nine and The Lovely Bones.

Plus: Check out our holiday movie guide!

What woman do you think deserves an Oscar? Chime in below!

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