Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not one but 3 dead people are getting a shot at the Oscars!

There are 14,000 directors who are registered with the Directors Guild of America and only 30 living people among them have won the most prestigious award in directing: A best director oscar. Two of those 30 people died last year and despite the fact that one started his directing career in the 60's and one started his in his 90's, the two were good friends and professional partners. Anthony Minghellia and Sidney Pollack co-owned Mirage Productions in addition to their directing careers and produced films such as Michael Clayton and more recently, The Reader together. The Reader, a courtroom drama/holocaust film/story about a passionate love affair (it has Ralph Fiennes in it and all Ralph does is movies that involve passionate love affairs. This is Ralph's second film this year in which he plays someone involved in some sort of unholy and sinful romantic relationship for those keeping score), was somewhat of a surprise to be nominated for best picture (if but the great thing about it, is that the academy just decided to stretch the rules a little to allow both Sidney Pollack and Anthony Minghellia to get the nominations for best picture, so Heath Ledger isn't the only dead guy to be competing. Last year Sidney Pollack got nominated for Michael Clayton, but Minghellia being the junior partner got left out of the festivities.

A quick background on who these guys are:
Sidney Pollack is a director, producer, and pretty well-known as an actor as well. You might know him as Will's dad from "Will and Grace" or his role in the film Michael Clayton as Michael Clayton's boss/friend/confidant. He also starred in a great PSA that played before movies in 2007 where he harrassed a guy on a cell phone and said, "I'm sorry, is my directing interrupting you?" Pollack's most famous films included Tootsie, Out of Africa and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (which imdb describes as a film about a deadly dance marathon). His best films were thrillers such as 3 Days in the Condor, Absence of Malice and most recently, The Interpreter. He was also well-liked and his funeral was attended by pretty much everyone in Hollywood, from what I read. His most frequently used actor was Robert Redford who wrote a tribute to him that I couldn't find with a quick google search unfortunately.

Anthony Minghellia is much different in style and background. Whereas Pollack started out as an actor before transitioning to dialogue coach and then director, Minghellia was a writer and was voted most promising playwright in the London theater. With his string of films English Patient, Talented Mr. Ripley, and Cold Mountain, he turned three best-selling award-winning novels and translated them into Oscar-contenders. It's true that a lot of Oscar winning films are adapted from books, but it's considerably harder to acheive this feat when the book is highly popular (i.e. Da Vinci Code) because everyone is always comparing it to the book. Cold Mountain was my favorite film of its year and because the director that beat him out for his 4th nomination, Fernando Meirelles, was ineligible (City of God was a 2002 film), it's good to see Minghellia finally get nomination #4. Pollack was in his 70's but because Minghellia was only 53 and had such a good track record of quality in his films, one has to wonder what movies he would have made or produced if he would have lived longer. Minghellia's favorite actor to work with was Jude Law who wrote a tribute to him here:

Recommended films:
They Shoot Horses, Don't They
The Slender Thread
The Firm
Out of Africa
The Way We Were
Jeremiah Johnson
Three Days in the Condor
The Interpreter
Anthony Minghellia:
Truly Madly Deeply
Breaking and Entering
The English Patient
Talented Mr. Ripley
Cold Mountain
Breaking and Entering
Arrested Development

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