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Doing the write thing

In a 'freaky windfall,' four women earn their first nominations for solo screenplay work.

January 23, 2008|Jay A. Fernandez | Special to The Times

THIS year's nominations for original and adapted screenplay ask the question why -- as in, why do we need a Y chromosome? In an unprecedented surge of recognition for female creative forces, the academy chose to nominate four women for individual screenplay Oscars this year.

Diablo Cody ("Juno"), Tamara Jenkins ("The Savages") and Nancy Oliver ("Lars and the Real Girl") were nominated for the original screenplay award, while 29-year-old Canadian actress turned writer-director Sarah Polley ("Away From Her") received a nomination for her adaptation of the Alice Munro short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain."

"Yaaaaay!" cheered Cody from the London Hotel in New York City, where she was about to jump in the shower to get ready for an appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman." "Isn't it shocking that women can formulate original ideas on a piece of paper? I mean, next we'll be demanding equal pay! Can you imagine?"

On a serious note, Cody adds: "I am so excited about this. I hope it represents a change for the better."

It certainly marks a new chapter in Oscar history. There is no precedent for four women earning nominations as solo authors of such idiosyncratic, visionary features, let alone three original screenplays, in the 80-year history of the Oscars. The years 1988 and 1991 had strong total showings of women, but many were co-writers.

"That's pretty amazing," says Jenkins, who was up at 5:30 a.m. in her New York City apartment to watch the announcements when her husband, Oscar-winning screenwriter Jim Taylor ("Sideways"), reminded her that the announcements actually occur at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time. "I don't know if it's a sociological phenomenon, but it's amazing to be in the company of such a freaky windfall of all these women. It's a bunch of super-smart dames."

First-time nominees all, they're going up against some formidable repeat nominees and winners. Polley's nomination pits her against Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood"), Ethan and Joel Coen ("No Country for Old Men"), Ronald Harwood ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") and Christopher Hampton ("Atonement").

"I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime," says Oliver. "I'm so thrilled to be -- this year of all years -- among this group of really talented women. . . . I think it says volumes about the progress of the industry."

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