While it seems like just a blink since we rang in the last New Year, 2009 is almost over. It was a speedy blur of 365 days, but it was also a year that boasted some pretty great moments for women in cinema.
I played with the idea of doing a Best Of for 2009 -- relishing in all of Hollywood's great moments for the female set -- but I tend to shy away from "Best." It's too subjective, too easy to forget something notable, and too hard to be definitive unless you rarely sleep and spend every waking moment watching all of the year's movies and reading film news.
Next, I flirted with the idea of sharing a handful of my favorite moments/aspects of 2009, but every bullet point I wrote would get edited and changed for another, and it kept evolving over and over again until I realized that trying to boil this year down to a slight list is an utter impossibility.
There's just too much to talk about, and too much that overlaps for anything but some stream-of-consciousness prose mixed with year-end love.
Leading the pack this year, by far, is Kathryn Bigelow. While she's yet to see a hefty box office take with The Hurt Locker -- a film shackled into a limited release -- she still managed to make a success out of the feature. There's not a Top 10 list I've read that doesn't list her or the film. She's earned a slew of awards and nominations (like 3 for the upcoming Golden Globes), but best of all, she's helped to inspire a discourse into the possibilities for women behind the camera. She's shown that female filmmaking doesn't have to be about the expected fare -- that just about any world or story can thrive in the hands of a talented woman filmmaker.
She's also one of the many female directors making waves. Instead of a lone womanly face here or there, we've got choice this year. 2009 could possibly give our first femme- director dominance at the Academy Awards, and maybe even a win. Bigelow is joined by Jane Campion, who got into historically wordy romance with Bright Star's look at the lust between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, and then by Lone Scherfig, who detailed coming-of-age in London's '60s suburbia with An Education.
I even find the failures and struggles noteworthy, because even those that flopped led to this wonderful thing called choice, and helping to open a sea of female talent -- both good and bad. Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama's Jennifer's Body may not have lived up to expectation, but it was a femme-centric feature that stayed on cinephiles' tongues for months, helping to sway notions of "female fare." Even Nia Vardalos' I Hate Valentine's Day can have its little moment. It might have been an utter failure at the box office, and nothing worth noting thematically, but it's also yet another female-directed feature for 2009. These days, numbers count.
While lonely women with a weakness for John Corbett is not my favorite sort of female characterization, 2009 really started to add a little diversity in the mix and -- joy! -- more relatable characters. The year might include embarrassments like Bride Wars and Confessions of a Shopaholic, but it also includes Rachel Weisz's one-two punch of Penelope in The Brothers Bloom and Hypatia in Agora, animated wonder-girls like Coraline and the all-too-brief glimpse of Ellie in Up, Meryl Streep's pitch-perfect Julia Child, a wonderful supporting role by Zoe Kazan in Me and Orson Welles, Zooey Deschanel's delightfully real romance in (500) Days of Summer, and of course – Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick's stint in Up in the Air. (And this is me being choosy. There are definitely more worthy of mention.)
For the first year ever, I found myself faced with a number of great portrayals -- on-screen women I could see parts of myself within, women that didn't force me to dig through a terribly clichéd characters to find that one little redeeming quality.
But the biggest joy, comfort, and impressive feat for me has been this column. Nothing really beats the response I've received about Girls on Film. When I came up with the idea, it was an area of Cinematical that needed more love, and one that I felt strongly about. But, at the same time, I approached it with trepidation. While I find the topic of women in cinema to be wholly important and interesting, I had no idea how it would be received.
To my happy surprise, it has surpassed expectations and initiated some killer conversations. You -- our wonderful Cinematical readers -- have made this column a joy to write, and I thank you. I thank you for reading, for contributing to the discussion, and for being interested in this all-too-important topic. As we look towards 2010, please share your favorite female-centric moments of 2009, and as always -- if there is anything you'd like to see this column tackle, please let me know.
Happy New Year!