OscarWatch: Best Director

24 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post I’ll tackle…

Best Director

I’ll give my Top 20 picks for best job at directing a film in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, I actually would stop calling it a race at all anymore. This award, no matter the outcome of the Best Picture one, will end up in David Fincher’s hands for sure.

Personal Top 20

  1. Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan) – Yes, the award will go to David Fincher, but Darren Aronofsky is my personal pick for an inch. And that’s because Black Swan was my favorite film of the year by so much more than an inch. This is a masterpiece, a magnificent triumph in filmmaking, and Darren Aronofsky did a perfect job handling the reigns of it.
  2. David Fincher (for The Social Network) – David Fincher is the real deal, you look at his filmography and the titled you see are spellbinding: Fight Club, Se7en, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac. This is a guy who has made some of the definitive films of the last decade and a half, and this may just be his crowning achievement, just an amazing job by him.
  3. Christopher Nolan (for Inception) – The smartest film of all 2010, the kind of film that had you really working to keep up with it, and craving a repeat viewing to see what you may have missed. This was all executed to perfection by Christopher Nolan, who also wrote the film and was in charge of making “Did it stop spinning?” one of the most asked questions of all last year.
  4. Derek Cianfrance (for Blue Valentine) – I kind of fell in love with this film when I saw it, and it had a lot to do with the two lead performances. And those performances were directed to perfection by Derek Cianfrance, who also co-wrote the film and crafted a gorgeous look at a painful marriage.
  5. Edgar Wright (for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) – I’m a massive fanboy of Edgar Wright, and I’m also a massive fanboy of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. When I first heard he was the one to be put in charge of bringing them to life I thought that if anyone was to succeed at that task it was probably going to be him. And sure enough, he created one of the most original and fun films of 2010 with a marked imprint of his very unique vision.
  6. Lisa Cholodenko (for The Kids Are All Right) – This is a wonderful film and it the woman handling the reigns, and also the one who co-wrote it, is at ease here, exploring very complex human emotions and situations. An exemplary piece of work.
  7. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (for True Grit) – I’m starting to think there should be a campaign to name the Coen brothers the definitive American filmmakers of our time. They always tackle very different topics, eras, and genres, and they always produce work of the highest of qualities. Here they go forth an make a western, the genre you’d never suspect would fit to their artistic sensibilities, and yet the wonderful language of the book they adapted, as well as the perfect group of actors they got made it look easy for them to craft a seriously great film.
  8. Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech) – This is probably the most prestigious film of 2010. Everyone loves it, it marries to perfection the historical biopic film aspects with mass appealing themes, and it has Tom Hooper sitting firmly on the director’s chair, working with a bunch of very talented and recognized thespians. He did a truly amazing job here, and if Fincher wasn’t such a lock to win the Oscar I’d call Mr. Hooper his biggest threat.
  9. Sofia Coppola (for Somewhere) – I’ll forever be a lover of everything Sofia Coppola does. And Somewhere is no exception, coming back from the larger scaled Marie Antoinette to return to the quiet, patient and beautifully observant films she does so well. Marie Antoinette was actually pretty amazing, but this is a return to her comfort zone, to where her aesthetic lies and where she can excel at telling small but beautiful stories.
  10. Ben Affleck (for The Town) – Here was the film that confirmed to everyone that Ben Affleck as a director is most certainly the real deal and not a one-hit-wonder who got lucky with the sublime Gone Baby Gone. He directs an all-star cast to some spectacular performances (I gave five of the film’s performances mentions in previos OscarWatch posts, including the one Mr. Affleck gave himself), and creates a bank heist movie that feels really fresh and doesn’t abuse any of the many genre clichés that would have been so easily to fall into for any lesser talented filmmakers.
  11. Danny Boyle (for 127 Hours) Slumdog Millionaire, his Oscar-winning previous effort, was going to be a tough act to follow. And Danny Boyle traded the very busy and loud streets of Mumbai and its many characters for a canyon in Utah in which his single character would be trapped for most of the film. And it paid off tremendously, with Mr. Boyle adding a very different and yet equally deserving film to his outstanding resumé.
  12. Debra Granik (for Winter’s Bone) – This was one very very cool cinematic experience for me in 2010, and how Debra Granik portrayed this very tough and very real region of the U.S. was just impeccable. Anchored by some awesome performances from breakout star Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes this was just a sensation film.
  13. Mark Romanek (for Never Let Me Go) – The music video director went back to feature films for the first time since One Hour Photo, and the result is the film that I have been calling the most underappreciated movie of 2010 in pretty much every OscarWatch post yet. This really was a beautiful adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, full of pitch-perfect performances and able to create a very unique and fitting mood.
  14. Lee Unkrich (for Toy Story 3) – Pixar keeps its perfect streak alive with Toy Story 3, as the film managed to tell a story about growing up, about the blows life may deal us with, about friendship and love. It had huge laughs, great adventures, tearful moments, and everything else one could have wished for.
  15. David O. Russell (for The Fighter) – I loved The Fighter, and a lot of it had to with how David O. Russell chose to tell this story. Not using the many familiar themes and motifs that were available to huge extents, but using them as a backbone to tell a story that we all knew how it would end and still making it exciting and getting amazing performances from every single member of his cast.
  16. Mike Leigh (for Another Year) – There’s probably not a single living director who’s better at exploring the human psychology during everyday tasks than Mike Leigh. And Another Year is another prime example of why that is, this is just one very very good film, with a trio of awesome performances and a great overall feel.
  17. Noah Baumbach (for Greenberg) – Noah Baumbach is a guy I think can do no wrong. Greenberg is an exquisite exploration of its main character, a guy who’s not that easy to love, but who’s actually very easy to relate to and really care for. The situations created and explored by Mr. Baumbach and his cast, all of whom are uniformly excellent (especially Ben Stiller and the lovely Greta Gerwig), are just terrific to watch.
  18. Clint Eastwood (for Hereafter) – I know some people didn’t love Hereafter, but I thought it was tremendous. And that was mostly because of Mr. Eastwood, who got some very fine performances from his cast and dealth with a very interesting topic in a very interesting way. Why some people weren’t so fully on board with this film is something I won’t ever really understand.
  19. John Cameron Mitchell (for Rabbit Hole) – This was a very difficult film to really manage. And yet the result was something spectacular, with John Cameron Mitchell dealing with the hard material wonderfully, directing Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart to some perfect performances in the process.
  20. Matthew Vaughn (for Kick-Ass) – Last spot in the rankings goes to Matthew Vaughn, who directed one of the funnest films in all 2010 and captured to perfection the graphic novel style of it all, crafting memorable characters and scenes, not to mention that this was what sparked Chloë Moretz’s career, so we have him to thank for that.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan)
  • David Fincher (for The Social Network)
  • Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech)
  • Christopher Nolan (for Inception)
  • David O. Russell (for The Fighter)

I think Aronofsky, Fincher, Hooper and Nolan are all 100% sewn up to get nominations. And the fifth slot is a battle between David O. Russell and the Coen brothers for True Grit, but with the latest precursors indicating that the former holds the advantage in that square-off.

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