The Academy Awards are on Sunday and while we’re all wondering if Viola Davis and The Help or George Clooney and The Descendants will take home big prizes, the approach of Oscar night got me to thinking about the need for more leading roles for women in big movies.
And I don’t mean where they just play the wife or the girlfriend or the hooker. I mean where they are the star in a quality movie and where the whole movie lives and dies with them.
So here's my list of five previous Oscar winning movies, and how they might have been even better with female leads:
NEW YORK, Feb. 24, 2012 People look at the Oscar statuettes displayed at an exhibition held at Grand Central Station in New York, the United States, Feb. 23, 2012.
True Grit: Not that Oscar winner Jeff Bridges wasn't great playing Rooster Cogburn. And how wonderful was the adorably steely Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, the young woman who hired Cogburn to avenge the murder of her father?
But think about this: how about Susan Sarandon as the only woman marshal in the old west? She's hired by a young man to avenge the murder of his father. Why doesn't he hire a man in the male dominated old west? Because none of the male marshalls will take him seriously. Just think about the fabulous dramatic tension as the kid wants to hire a man but Sarandon convinces him to hire her because she's after the bad guy for her own reasons. Her name: Henny Cogburn.
American Beauty: Not that Oscar winner Kevin Spacey wasn't great playing a man whose life in suburbia begins to unravel as his marriage falls apart and he lusts after his daughter's teenage friend (Mena Suvari).
But think about this: Geena Davis or Angela Bassett as a woman whose life in suburbia begins to unravel as her marriage falls apart and she lusts after her son’s teenage friend. The teenage son is gay and totally not interested but that doesn’t stop Geena/Angela from fantasizing about him floating on a bed of red rose petals.
Michael Clayton: Not that Oscar winner George Clooney wasn't great playing a high powered lawyer whose life spins out of control as he investigates the murder of his colleague (Oscar nominee, Tom Wilkinson).
But think about this: Rachel Weisz or Penelope Cruz as a high powered lawyer whose life spins out of control as she investigates the murder of her colleague. Her name: Michelle Clayton.
Jerry Maguire: Not that Oscar nominee Tom Cruise wasn't great playing a high powered sports agent whose life spins out of control as he tries to rebuild his career with a player no one else wants (Oscar winner, Cuba Gooding, Jr.).
But think about this: Hilary Swank or Halle Berry as a high powered sports agent whose life spins out of control as she tries to rebuild her career with a player no one else wants. Show her the money! Her name: Jenny Maguire.
The English Patient: Not that Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes wasn’t great playing a horrifically deformed patient in WWII France with a sad love story to tell his attentive nurse (Oscar winner, Juliette Binoche).
But think about this: Kate Winslet or Gwyneth Paltrow playing a horrifically deformed patient in WWII France with a sad love story to tell to her attentive male nurse.
See what I’m getting at? So as you watch this year’s Oscars, think about which films might have been better with a little gender switching.
The Academy Awards air on ABC, Sunday, February 26th at 7e/4p
Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute.