Spirit Awards: Aubrey Plaza Takes Jab at Oscars for Lack of Female Director Nominees

The host joked that the Spirit Awards are "so much cooler than the Oscars" because they "recognize female directors ... all two of them."

Though the year's best in indie film were honored Saturday afternoon during the 2020 Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, host Aubrey Plaza was quick to celebrate something else: diverse nominees and female directors.

Taking the stage for her opening monologue, Plaza explained why the Spirit Awards are "so much cooler than the Oscars": because they "recognize female directors." "All two of them," she said.

This season, several awards shows — including the Golden Globes and the Oscars — have received criticism for their lack of diverse nominees and failure to nominate any female directors. Despite women and minorities making historic strides at last year's Oscars, this year's nominees list was largely noninclusive.

Although Cynthia Erivo nabbed a best actress Oscar nomination for Harriet, 19 of the 20 acting nominees were white. Despite winning a Golden Globe, The Farewell's Awkwafina didn't receive a nomination for lead actress. Lopez was snubbed in the supporting actress category for her role in Hustlers, while Just Mercy's Jamie Foxx didn't land an expected nomination in the supporting actor category. And Lupita Nyong'o, who previously won a best supporting actress Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, was also snubbed for best actress for her role in Us.

"I'm so proud of how diverse this show is. Jennifer Lopez and I are both super-hot Puerto Ricans. I mention that because Puerto Rico is kind of like an independent film. It's beautiful, not enough people have seen it and its financing is always falling through," Plaza said as Lopez cringed.

Later on, when Idina Menzel and Alfre Woodard took the stage to present the award for best supporting actress, they applauded the Spirit Awards for making history. "For the first time, all five nominees in the acting category are women of color," Woodard said as the audience erupted into applause.

"Brilliant ladies, well done," she continued. "Because of your talent, especially your perseverance, young girls can look at creative, smart women up on this screen and in this hallowed tent and know they see people like them and they can strive in whatever industry they're in when they see you, the independent speakers in this community saluting these women."

After winning best feature honors for her film The Farewell, helmer Lulu Wang addressed the root of the issue: there are fewer nominated female directors because there are fewer female directors to nominate. "There are lots of women who are making films and want to make films and who are in film school. What women need is just the job. Just give them the freakin' job. Give them the money. … Don’t make them run through that many hoops." she implored.

Plaza also mused about how it's rare to see "sister director duos." "Which is crazy. You'd think this town would love to pay two women one salary," she joked.

The Independent Spirit Awards aired live on IFC from Santa Monica. Plaza hosted the ceremony for the second year in a row.

Feb. 8, 3:44 p.m. Updated with quote from Woodard.