THE 66th ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS : Campion Strikes Right Note With Academy


Two years ago, director Barbra Streisand was snubbed in the best director category while her “The Prince of Tides” was nominated for best picture. Penny Marshall found herself in the same boat the year before with “Awakenings.” Though Lina Wertmuller’s 1976 “Seven Beauties” made her the first woman nominated for best director, her film was not a best picture nominee.

The female jinx, however, has been broken. For the first time a woman--director Jane Campion--has scored in both categories for “The Piano.”

The element of gender was not lost on the New Zealander--only the second woman in Oscar history to be so honored. “I feel privileged to be in the company of such incredible, important filmmakers,” Campion said. “And, of course, I’m pleased seven of our eight (Oscar) nominations were for women.”


“The Piano,” which came into the Oscar balloting with a fistful of critics’ awards, also landed a best acting nomination for Holly Hunter, a best supporting nomination for Anna Paquin and an additional screenplay nomination for Campion. The movie’s female producer, costume designer and editor were also recognized.

“I think that trend is going to translate into a major upset in either the best picture or best director category,” said Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax Films, which distributed “The Piano.” “We will win one of those two categories. I think this is the year the women are going to push ‘The Piano’ over the top.”


Janet Yang, president of Oliver Stone’s Ixtlan Corp. and executive producer of “The Joy Luck Club,” believes that the female factor may actually have worked in Campion’s favor.

“I think people were quick to recognize this movie because it was directed by a woman,” she said. “For some, there’s the novelty factor, the feeling that, as a woman, she’s more worthy of recognition.

“Political correctness also works against us, though. We’re trying to line up Martha Coolidge to direct a movie about Johnny Spain--a half-black, half-white man sent to prison for murder--and we’re encountering a lot of resistance. People accepted her on a so-called ‘female’ movie like ‘Rambling Rose’ and she was offered ‘Little Women.’ But when it comes to movies with grit, women are still being pigeonholed.”

Others, too, caution against excessive optimism. No American woman has yet captured the academy’s best director nomination. Three out of this year’s best picture nominees--”Schindler’s List,” “In the Name of the Father” and “The Fugitive”--had virtually no substantive female roles. And Yang’s “The Joy Luck Club,” a critical favorite about three generations of Asian mothers and daughters, was overlooked entirely.


“We had three strikes against us,” director Wayne Wang said. “Our cast was female, ethnic and devoid of star power. Still, whether conscious or not, I think the academy is becoming more accepting of women. Campion’s nomination is a sign of progress . . . but it’s too early to send up any fireworks.”

Holly Hunter, who was also nominated for best supporting actress for her work in “The Firm,” agreed.

“The best actor categories were really packed,” she observed. “The competition was so strong there was no room for all the men who should be nominated. Among the women, though, they had to give me and Emma (Thompson) two nominations--a pretty strong indication that there were few female roles to be honored. They had to stretch it out to cover all bases . . . it was like using Hamburger Helper.

“Generating good parts for women, of course, isn’t the responsibility of the academy,” Hunter concluded. “It doesn’t start with them. It ends with them.”