SLUMDOG & “the Zeitgeist”

“Alongside every great man is a great woman…”

     People seem to be latching on to Kim Voyner’s comments in Movie City News to impugn my credibility, so it seems I need to address her post a second time.Let’s start here: “[Huttner] says she is both ‘stunned and shocked’ that Tandan was not co-nominated for Best Director. Why exactly is Huttner stunned and shocked?”

     Here’s the full context for the comment Voyner quotes above: “I’m a resolutely optimistic, ‘glass-half-full’ kinda gal,’ so I truly believed the zeitgeist would prevail. But alas, while people all around the world cheered Barack Obama’s Inauguration on Tuesday, on Thursday it was back to business as usual in Hollywood: for the 78th time in 81 years, five guys became contenders for the ’09 Best Director Oscar. Say it isn’t so!!!”

     To the extent Voynar has an actual critique of my post, it’s here: “Does [Huttner] point to a long history of the Academy recognizing co-directors in the nominations? No, she does not, because there is no such history.” In this way, Voynar implies there IS a significant history of co-director credits, but that’s precisely what’s at issue.  Co-Director is an extremely rare credit.  I didn’t create it.  All I did was notice it & begin asking questions.  Most of my colleagues didn’t notice it, but some did & when they did, they began asking questions too.  (I suspect this is the source of the enormously important article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL.)

     To make her case, Voynar then proceeds to attack Loveleen Tandan’s contributions to SLUMDOG, going so far as to lump her with the best boy and the gaffer.  In this way, she (& others) have tried to incite me to “fire back” by questioning Danny Boyle’s contributions, but as I’ve already said, that assumes a zero sum game in which “elevating” Loveleen Tandan’s contributions devalues Danny Boyle’s contributions.  I don’t believe this & I won’t say it!

     Danny Boyle was open & honest when I met with him face-to-face, & come what may, I will continue to believe the best of him in this context.  I see him in my mind’s eye as someone surfing a wave he never expected to be on.  Danny Boyle is certainly not personally responsible for 80 years of AMPAS rules &/or 80 years of Oscar statistics.  But then neither is Loveleen Tandan.  Neither of them had any input whatsoever into the rules that now deny her appropriate recognition for her contributions to this wonderful film.

     Which brings us to the Zeitgeist: In 2008, American almost nominated a woman Presidential candidate, succeeded in electing an African-American President, & made major statements at the Box Office (most notably by turning out in large numbers for three films that most male critics trounced & which are completely out-of-sight out-of-mind now that we’ve reached the awards season). I think the caption that accompanies this cover photo of Michelle Obama captures the Zeitgeist.  In the past, I suspect this caption would have used the word “…behind…” but now it uses the word “…alongside…”

     Me personally?  I think SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE has captured the heart of the world precisely because Loveleen Tandan worked alongside Danny Boyle (not behind him), & I think AMPAS should find a way to acknowledge this. Think of the upside of giving Loveleen Tandan an Oscar nomination as SLUMDOG’s co-director, & then ask yourself this: what’s the downside?  As humorist Nicole Hollander asks in her comment on one of my recent posts: “Will Oscar melt?

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