Forget the golden days of merely two years ago: there is no diversity allowed in the Best Director Oscar race.
Save a few extraordinary directors such as Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") and Jane Campion ("The Piano"), recognition of anyone who doesn't fit into the slim "older-white-male" demographic seemed nigh impossible for the Best Director voting body in the Academy.
When "The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow won the statuette in 2010, her victory was seen as a sign of changing tides in the white men's club that the Best Director race has always been. After all, in the same year, Lee Daniels ("Precious") was only the second African-American man ever to be nominated for the same award (after John Singleton). Unfortunately, in the years since, the Academy has reverted to what is familiar once again.
Last year, the overflow of white, male directors was acceptable simply because they were almost all young and ambitious. The winner, Tom Hooper, directed "The King's Speech," and while his film appealed primarily to older audiences, he is a young man. David Fincher, director of "The Social Network," and Darren Aronofsky, director of "Black Swan," are both incredibly ambitious and respected in film criticism circles. Even the veterans of the category, David O'Russell ("The Fighter") and Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit"), are a much different brand than the usual directing nominees.
This year is not an exception to the rule. Certainly, Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") are masters of their craft, and Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") and Terrence Malick ("The Tree of Life") are certainly ambitious, but they are very much the stereotype of a Best Director nominee. The youngest of the five is Hazanavicius at 44 - not coincidentally, he is the only first-time nominee. All the others have been here before; Scorsese and Allen have both won previously as well.
Why not nominate the young Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn for "Drive"? Or how about the female African-American director of the ambitious "Pariah," Dee Rees? There's nothing wrong with stacking a category with lots of experience - in fact, the Best Director race should theoretically reward experience more than any other. It is a little disappointing, however, that ambition and diversity can't be rewarded in equal measure. As far as the winner, look no further than Hazanavicius. The youngest will be rewarded thanks to his film's almost certain dominance of the show next Sunday.
This is the opinion of Kevin O'Keeffe, a sophomore screenwriting major from Austin, Texas. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.