2012: The highs and lows of women in Hollywood

women movies(CNN) — Katniss Everdeen emerged victorious in “The Hunger Games,” and it was Snow White (rather than a charming prince) who defeated her evil stepmother in both film adaptations she starred in this year.

Even Bella Swan, the formerly weak and needy protagonist of the “The Twilight Saga,” was confident and fearless in the franchise’s final installment.

This year’s influx of big screen heroines appears to be a leap toward equality, prompting praise from film critics such as A.O. Scott of The New York Times. Off screen, however, things were a little more complicated.

“Zero Dark Thirty” actress Jessica Chastain has garnered praise for her turn as Maya, the CIA agent — aka “the girl” — who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, Kathryn Bigelow’s success as the film’s director comes saddled with commentary that she, as Bret Easton Ellis pointed out via Twitter, is “a very hot woman.”

“Kathryn Bigelow would be considered a mildly interesting filmmaker if she was a man,” the author posted this month.

He has since apologized for the tweet, noting Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” “felt like it was directed by a man. Its testosterone level was palpable, whereas in Sofia Coppola’s work you’re aware of a much softer presence behind the camera.”

In the world of animation, while “Brave’s” heroine Merida trounced her suitors in an archery competition for her hand, Pixar replaced Brenda Chapman as the film’s director. (Mark Andrews and Chapman now share the directing credit.)

The ousted director opened up about her experience as a woman attempting to infiltrate…


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