February 10, 2011

The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Director

My continued attempts to legitimize this blog continue to progress in big ways. For my first year of taking part in The LAMB Devours the Oscars, I have the good fortune of being tasked with covering one of the most major awards, Best Director. Want to see my thoughts on the race? Take a leap.

Is it Oscar night yet? No? RAGE!!!! It seems that after the nominations come out, us filmic types have nothing better to do than sit around, twiddle our thumbs, and make the same predictions over and over again. It's always been like that, and this year is no different. Most of the awards are clear cut, the winner chosen, with everyone backing them. It's the tradition, and you know how much the Academy hates screwing with tradition.

However, the Best Director race this year is not as clear cut as one would have you believe. The past few weeks have seen the heavy front runner from the beginning of the season lose some steam, his competition slowly close the gap, and one major player dropping out of the race completely. While things are still expected to pan out as everyone's been guessing they would for the past few months, this year's Best Director race could provide something of surprise.

Sooooooooo... right. Here's your list of nominees.

Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan): In my opinion, the best director of the ones featured here, or rather, the best example of quality direction shown here. Aronofsky, through a clever visual tricks and a devilishly charming use of mirrors, elegantly crafts a portrait of dancer losing her mind, all in the name of perfecting her craft. It's not very often that a horror movie - and Black Swan is a horror movie - gets recognized for major awards, especially Best Director. Upon seeing the film, though, you realize the decision to nominate Aronofsky was an easy one. Black Swan is the best example of his talent to date.

So, Can He Win?: I believe that Aronofsky will be accepting a statue very soon, but not this year. The race is to loaded for him to have any real chance, and the controversial subject matter of Black Swan, lesbian cunnilingus aside, will no doubt give the traditionally right wing Academy pause. That being said, Black Swan is probably the most "directed" of all five nominees, with the most trickery on the part of the director himself. Maybe the Academy will bite. Who knows?

Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit): Well, it wouldn't be the Oscars if the Coens weren't recognized somehow. It seems that, no matter what they do, AAMPAS will eat it up! Case in point: True Grit! The Coens create an old fashioned western, with plenty of breathtaking images of a lawless America, with a one eyed, perpetually drunken Jeff Bridges to boot. Their off beat sense of humor is a bit muted here, but still used to good effect, and the performances that they get out of their actors, especially Hailee Steinfeld, are aces. Rather than make a western with all the bells and trapping of a full on Hollywood blockbuster, the Coens opted for a more archaic approach, with only a little bit of visual trickery. Their action, something the Coens haven't really done much of, is pretty good as well.

So, Can They Win?: Only if all the other nominees dropped dead before the ceremony. The Coens just won for No Country For Old Men, and let's be honest, True Grit could be the offspring of that movie. Honestly, I think the Coens were thrown in here because the Academy didn't want to nominate Christopher Nolan (more on that later). They did a great job with True Grit, no doubt about that. But they'll have to wait a bit longer for their next win. It's too soon.

David Fincher (The Social Network): The white stallion that all the other horses are trying to beat. Excluding the fact that The Social Network has been cleaning up shop all season, David Fincher deserves that Oscar, if only because it's incredibly overdue. In all seriousness though, The Social Network is brilliantly directed. Fincher has excelled in the past at making films about men possessed with the drive to accomplish something, whether it be setting the example by killing sinners, breaking free of a banal existence by way of anarchy, or overcoming a weird genetic condition to be with the girl you love. The Social Network doesn't have crazed serial killers or soap weilding maniacs, but that in no way dissuades Fincher from making the tale of the founding of Facebook as foreboding looking as he possibly could. I've never been to Harvard, but I don't think it looks that grim. Under his precise and calculating eye, The Social Network takes on the persona of a thriller rather than the boring biopic it would have become under anyone else, and it is much better for it.

So, Can He Win?: Barring an alien invasion, I'd say it's a damn certainty. Sure, Hooper has closed the gap, but it is hard to match this much momentum. DGAs be damned. It's not like the Academy pays attention to them anyway. Sorry, I promise I'll leave the rest of bitching about Nolan until the end. At this point, Fincher is the clear favorite, and the one you should bet on to be walking up to that stage.

Tom Hooper (The King's Speech): The odd one out, if you ask me. Let's just get it out of the way! The King's Speech is an actor's movie. The actors are the ones that are going to ensure its success. On any given day, the Academy wouldn't think twice about casting Hooper out. But, he did do enough interesting things as a director to warrant his nom. Rather than film it in a traditional, Hollywood way, Hooper instead makes some unusual choices with how to frame his characters. He pushes them to the side, extenuating the space, and giving that much more feeling to Bertie's dilemma. While I'm on the subject, that image of Colin Firth emerging from the fog with the headlights of the car behind him is all kinds of spectacular. And, let's give him credit, The King's Speech is the best acted movie of the year. We'd be lying if we said he had nothing to do with it.

So, Can He Win?: Well, if anyone is gonna challenge Fincher, it's gonna be this guy. He did just win a DGA, and that is usually a pretty good representation of who will win come Oscar night. Although, the Academy doesn't necessarily see eye to eye with the DGA, judging from their... sorry. He has gained momentum over the past few weeks, and the fact that The King's Speech leads the nomination pack with twelve only helps him. It's a risky bet, going for him, but you won't hear any blame from me if you do.

David O. Russell (The Fighter): When was the last time a sports movie was nominated for anything major? No, The Blind Side doesn't count! The Fighter succeeds because of O. Russell and the incredible amount of effort he put into making sure the film would overcome the cliches that plague the genre. The Fighter isn't about boxing. It's about how boxing, crack addiction, and everything in between tests the bond between brothers. The sport isn't the center piece of the film, Mickey and Dicky are the centerpieces. Treating a sports movie in this regard is fresh and exciting, and O. Russell handled it beautifully. It doesn't hurt that scenes of boxing are some of the most visceral and real of any ever put on screen. Filmed in the same format as HBO or ESPN, the fights are exactly like what you see on TV. But that leaves you detached from the pugilism, and forces you to focus more on the characters outside of the ring. It's a good job.

So, Can He Win?: No. Despite that Three Kings is beloved the world over, he's not well known enough to garner enough support. Also, from what I hear, the Academy doesn't like him. Apparently, he's a real prick, and kind of hard to work with, which can only hurt his chances. If he keeps up like he's doing, he'll stand a much better chance in the future. But, in 2011, the best he can hope for is a nom.

Ok, we're done there, so now onto my last point. WHERE THE HEMORRHAGING CLUSTER FUCK IS CHRISTOPHER NOLAN? Like, really? Really? This was his year. A win would have been a bit much to hope for, but a nomination seemed all but guaranteed. I mean, the man has three, count em', THREE, DGA nominations, and not a single Oscar nomination to rub together. Despite the fact that True Grit is a great movie, the Coens were playing a bit safe, and yet, they were nominated. Nolan didn't play it safe at all, and he is snubbed. Best Director nominees should push the envelope, make movies with new and interesting ideas and images. If Inception has anything to it, it has plenty of that. Damn it! When will the Academy acknowledge his achievements? Ok I'm done.

For those of you who desire to reignite the argument that "the Best Director race is sexist" you won't hear any major complaints from me. Ok, a lot of the arguments to that point were completely nullified when Kathryn Bigelow won last year, but this year is a return to form for the Academy. Not a single woman is nominated. I'm not at all surprised, since the best directed movies of the year just happened to be directed by men, but I wouldn't bat an eye if one of the women in contention slipped in. Both Lisa Cholodenko and Debra Granik deserved some serious consideration, and for all we know they got it. But, there can only be five, and someone had to cut. The Academy recognizes the talent. There's nothing in there about balancing the genders. It's unfair, but that's the way it is.

Well, that's about it. Oscar hands em' out on the 27th. I guess it's too much to hope for them to declare fraud and kick one of the nominees out in favor of Nolan, right?

That's what I thought. Oh well. Business as usual I guess. Peace!

1 comment: