Is a Female Director Oscar-Bound?

On Tuesday, the New York Film Critics Circle voted Kathryn Bigelow, 58, best director of 2009, and awarded her war movie, The Hurt Locker, best film. Why does this matter? Because the 23 men and 8 women (myself included) who comprise the circle rarely have the chance to vote for women directors, much less put one at the top -- and this bodes well for this year’s Academy Awards.

This recognition, along with that of the L.A. Film Critics Association, among others, is a big boost for Bigelow’s campaign -- and, yes, it is a campaign -- for an Academy Award for Best Director. There have only been three women nominated in this category in the past: Lina Wertmuller (for 1975’s Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (for 1993’s The Piano) and Sofia Coppola (for 2003’s Lost in Translation). Campion and Coppola both got the “boobie prize”: best screenplay.

If Bigelow makes it all the way to the nominations, she’ll be the second American female to do so. If she wins, it will be a major Oscar first.

What’s also interesting is that Bigelow has made her mark in a traditionally male genre: a war movie. And the movies she’s made -- Near Dark, Point Break, K-19: The Widowmaker -- could never have been labeled chick flicks. In the taut, tense bomb-squad drama The Hurt Locker, (which has only grossed $13 million), the largely male ensemble cast led by star Jeremy Renner (from TV’s The Unusuals) barely shares screen time with Lost actress Evangeline Lilly in a supporting role.

In the director’s chair, Bigelow has proved a willingness to take no prisoners. Her movies are kinetic, thrilling and muscular. Now the only question is: What’s the statuesque Californian going to wear on the red carpet?

Plus: Was 2009 a Bad Year for Women in Hollywood?

Are you surprised or not that a woman has never won a Best Director Academy Award? Chime in below!

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