Why Greta Gerwig Should Have Won an Oscar for Best Director


The Oscars are not known for heavily incorporating women into its list of nominations for the Best Director category. In the last 100 years, with the 96th annual Oscars occurring in March 2024, only eight women have ever been nominated for the Best Director award. In 2018, Greta Gerwig became a listed member of the women to be nominated due to her direction of the critically acclaimed coming-of-age film Lady Bird, which she also wrote.



Sadly, Greta Gerwig did not take home the Oscar that night, and instead, the winner was Guillermo del Toro for his direction of The Shape of Water, another critically acclaimed film. However, Greta Gerwig’s name was placed even more under the microscope when she was considered one of the biggest Oscar snubs of the 2024 list of nominees.


After directing Barbie, the biggest movie of 2023, and even coming out as the first and only female director to reach over one billion dollars at the box office, it was a shock to people everywhere that Greta Gerwig’s biggest work to date did not have her leadership as the director fully acknowledged by the academy. This is not to say that this year’s nominees for the category are not deserving to win or be nominated. However, between Greta Gerwig’s three phenomenal directing performances of Lady Bird, Little Women, and Barbie, she deserved the chance to win an Oscar for Best Director.


Giving Female Characters Significant Substance


Unfortunately, crafting female characters who are barely more than surface-level creations is still far too common, even if Hollywood has been working toward improving female roles in projects. However, when watching Lady Bird, Little Women, or Barbie, audiences cannot say that the leading women of the film lack a sense of substance or layered personality.

The Women Are Multi-Layered and Deep

Rather than one-note female characters who play their role and step back, Greta Gerwig crafts female characters who feel like real, well-rounded individuals rather than characters no one can relate to. She wrote the screenplay and directed Little Women, taking the essence of the book and crafting a world surrounding the film’s leading female characters in such a way that they talk to the soul of the story. Jo’s big speech, discussing the desire to be more important than a love interest but finding herself lonely, is an integral part of the book.


But, Greta Gerwig expands on it, writing in one final line that sums up the themes surrounding the movie, having Jo question if admitting to loneliness is also revealing that being alone also means being unwanted. In Lady Bird, the film’s leading protagonist is not just your average “not like other girls” main character. In Barbie, Barbie, Gloria, Sasha, and even the rest of the ensemble of Barbies all hold a significant role in the story. Sasha and Gloria must explain to Barbie the complications and intricacies of women and men’s outlook on women.


lady bird

Lady Bird

Release Date
September 8, 2017

Runtime
93


Stream on Fubo

She Has Previous Experience as an Actress


Years before Greta Gerwig would break out as a solo director with 2017’s Lady Bird, she spent years as an actress, with her first credits dating back to 2006. She appeared in several movies and television shows, even appearing as a voiceover series regular in the animated adult television series China, IL.

Greta Gerwig Understands the Hardships of Acting

Unlike directors who have never stepped in front of the camera themselves, Greta Gerwig has mastered the understanding of the energy the actors need, as well as the technical side of telling the story. Knowing what it means to act also helps grasp the best way to speak to and communicate with the actors.


Having been in their shoes, Greta Gerwig played to those strengths, encouraging her cast members to get used to being silly together and bonding whenever they could so that they had a strong foundation to work off of. As important as the technical side of directing is, there can certainly be a benefit to the actors if the director knows their side of the job as well.


RELATED: Barbie: Biggest Easter Eggs in Greta Gerwig’s Blockbuster

Character-Based and Emotionally Defined Set Design


Greta Gerwig knows how to bring a set to life, which is very well portrayed in all three of her major films. In Little Women, the film captures the essence of the period piece between the landscape, clothing, and background in each scene. In Barbie, Barbieland is a bright and wonderful explosion of pink. The upbeat set embraces the excitement and admittedly blissful ignorance of the real world.

The Sets Help Ground and Embrace the Story

Rather than Barbie living in an ordinary neighborhood with a sign that declares it Barbieland, Greta Gerwig made sure that Barbie embraced everything about childlike wonder. The bright colors directly connect to a sense of hope and happiness. When Ken’s version of the patriarchy takes over, there are certainly changes, but they exist to show how Ken thinks Barbieland would change, and all of his additions can be quickly removed.


The appearance of Barbieland is also strikingly different from how the real world looks, so it is almost impossible to confuse the two drastically different locations. In Lady Bird, Lady Bird’s discovery of her sense of self and what a coming-of-age story means helps portray her time in school and at home.

Greta Gerwig’s Writing Sets Up Her Directing Vision


Many of the most nominated or awarded directors are also those who write their films. There is a massive significance in directing one’s own work, which, in part, comes from being able to view the movie in your head and then being the person in charge of seeing that vision come to life. Greta Gerwig wrote each of the screenplays that she transformed into directing projects.

Writers Do Not Always Get Enough Credit

Actors and directors always receive high acclaim for their work in taking a script and bringing it to life. Unfortunately, writers, even when the script is written by the same person who directed the film, are not always recognized for the same acclaim. All of Greta Gerwig’s projects have surrounded multi-layered, substantial characters capable of humor and serious behavior. Lady Bird understood the emotional significance of aiming for individuality and trying to form a sense of independence.


Meanwhile, Barbie was an electric script with beautiful lines of dialogue that captured the complexities of being a woman and what it means to be human, while still finding time to be a funny and upbeat tale about iconic dolls coming to life.

Critically Acclaimed Projects


Many successful or Oscar-winning directors have a list of critically acclaimed projects. But, in Greta Gerwig’s case, all three of her solo directorial projects have brought significant success. All holding high scores on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer and with many solid and positive reviews from critics and audiences, Lady Bird, Little Women, and Barbie have all held a massive place in theatrical releases.

Barbie Was the Biggest Movie of 2023

The biggest theatrical event of 2023 was the mutual release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, nicknamed “Barbenheimer” by fans. However, while Oppenheimer was nominated for Best Picture at the 2024 Oscars and the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, was nominated for Best Director, Greta Gerwig was not given the same treatment for Barbie, even though the film also received a nomination for Best Picture.


Barbie was the clear-cut winner of the “Barbenheimer” race, as Barbie won at the box office and became a pop culture phenomenon, being complimented for a feminist tale and movie that appreciates women. The movie highlighted an important trend in Hollywood, that audiences wish to see more movies about women. So, if Greta Gerwig’s directing brought so much success and discourse conversation to the table, then it does not make sense that she was not at least nominated for 2024’s Best Director.


Barbie

Barbie

Release Date
July 21, 2023


Stream on Max


RELATED: Stephen King Reacts to Barbie’s Oscar Snubs: ‘Can That Actually Be True?’

Tackling Important Themes


While there may be many coming-of-age stories, Lady Bird is a unique tale, told through the perspective of a teenage girl searching for her own sense of identity, understanding relationships, and undergoing personal growth and development. Asking others to call her by a nickname, Lady Bird, rather than her birth-given name, follows the character’s desire for individuality.

Gerwig Encourages the Importance of a Woman’s Identity

Greta Gerwig’s portrayal of Little Women highlights the obligations of marriage in the 1860s. While Jo’s sisters search for husbands, Jo is searching for a way to forward her career as an author. Jo’s priority never falls to loving a man, but to holding her own sense of professional success. In a time when women working was not considered to be much more than putting a party together, Jo’s wish for a real career has her way ahead of her time. However, it is also a significant theme in the present, even though times have changed. Women are just as capable of working as men and deserve every opportunity that men have for a prosperous professional life.


In the 1860s, women were not always looked at as being more than a love interest, which is exactly the frustrating thought process that Jo spends so much time fighting against. Greta Gerwig tackles a more contemporary version of the patriarchy in Barbie, when Barbie and Ken’s visit to the real world has them see how different their experiences are surrounded by other people. Barbie grows to discover that being a woman is far more complex than she initially believed, and Gloria’s speech about the contradictions and impossibilities of being a woman helps solidify the film’s discussion.



Rent on Apple TV

She Has Tough Competition


For as talented as Greta Gerwig is as a director, that does not mean that she does not have tough competition in such a category. During Greta Gerwig’s 2018 nomination, her competitors featured winner Guillermo del Toro, along with Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele, and Paul Thomas Anderson. In 2020 and 2024, the competition was joined by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Todd Phillips, Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes, Justine Triet, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Jonathan Glazer.

Highlighting More Female Directors and Female-Centric Movies

While there are many acclaimed directors in the category over the years, there has only been one year when two women have been simultaneously nominated for Best Director. Meanwhile, several men make an appearance as nominees year after year. While Greta Gerwig has plenty of competition throughout a calendar year’s worth of movies, Greta Gerwig had a bigger impact on film in 2023 than any of the other nominees, including Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. Most of the films in the category are not even about women as leading characters.


Greta Gerwig’s rise as a filmmaker and writer allows her a significant place in Hollywood, and each of her solo directorial projects has been about the significance of women’s stories and women as leading characters. The Oscars should be celebrating that with honoring Greta Gerwig with an award for Best Director, based on how much she has pushed the envelope and how much her films have impacted and influenced the public.



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