Thursday, December 31, 2009

Judging best directors in the off-years

A quick informal post judging the merit of directors who got nominated for directorial nods without a Best Picture Oscar Nomination:

1998-Peter Weir: The Truman Show-I tend to think of Weir's strength as delicately structured epics with sweeping visuals. "The Truman Show" was certainly a shift for Weir but he's a great director, brought great performances in his cast, and this is one of the best films of 1998 period. With snubs for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress, I'm glad this film got rewarded somewhere.
Grade: B+

1999-Spike Jonze: Being John Malkovich is more of a Charlie Kaufman film than a Spike Jonze film. This was earlier in Kaufman's career, so the Academy probably wasn't aware that Kaufman was the genius who made it happen. It's also unfortunate that Frank Darabont got snubbed here for a film that's still highly regarded and when one considers that he also got snubbed for "The Shawshank Redemption." If they were going to snub "Green Mile", I would have preferred the Academy have gone with "Talented Mr. Ripley" and Anthony Minghella.
Grade: C-

2000-Stephen Daldry: Billy Elliot- I'm not too opposed to Lasse Holstrom getting snubbed since he got nominated the year prior and "Chocolat" is very much Oscar-bait film of the least deserved BP nom of the decade. But why Daldry? Rob Zemeckis, who's always quite innovative even if he's not recognized very widely for it, made "Cast Away" ring with great intensity despite the fact that it was a one man show. Cameron Crowe made a very personal picture in "Almost Famous" as well. The Oscars love Daldry as evidenced by "Hours" and "The Reader"'s accolades. On the other hand, "Billy Elliott" wasn't yet at a point where Daldry started getting overly sappy.
Grade: C+

2001-David Lynch: Mulholland Drive and Ridley Scott: Black Hawk Down: Both great directors who deserve nods so no complaints here. Still, it's too bad Todd Fields wasn't nominated for "In the Bedroom."
Grade: A-

2002-Pedro Almodovar: Talk to Her: This nod baffles me the most. First, I would have thought foreign film enthusiasts might have gravitated toward Alfonso Cuaron's "Y Tu Mama Tambien" or "Monsoon Wedding" or at the very least, there would have been a foreign film bote split. However, Alexander Payne, who was 3 for 3 with critical hits at the time, however should have been a strong contender for a directorial nomination, Then there's Todd Haynes' Sirk send-up "Far From Heaven", Sam Mendes' "Road to Peridtion" or critical darling Spike Jonze's juggling of two Nicholas Cages with a great ensemble in "Adaptation" and Alfanso Cuaron himself. I might be able to imagine Pedro Almodovar's body of work being rewarded but it was such a competitive year. The nomi
Grade: B

2003-Fernando Meirelles truly deserves a nomination but I was just baffled by the year in which it came. "City of God" was nominated for the Golden Globes, a BAFTA and the Broadcast Film Socety in 2002. How many voters would even assume it was still eligible the following year?
Grade: B+

2004-Mike Leigh already had a nomination for "Secrets and Lies" and while "Vera Drake" had a deserving accolade it seemed like not much more than a biopic. In the meantime, Bill Condon (Kinsey), Michael Mann (Collateral) or Mike Nichols (who's Closer was somewhat of a comeback) were waiting in the wings
Grade: D

2006-Paul Greengrass: United 93: This was was a pretty good pick for the alternate slot since he's Australian (not exclusively foreign-language), chopped his teeth with the Bourne Supremacy and made a hit picture out of an ensemble (not a single star in the United 93 cast)
Grade: B+

2007-"Julian Schnabel for the Diving Bell and the Butterfly": Another instance in the 2000's where the last slot went to a foreign director. This is a fairly good entry for a genre that's vastly overrewarded (see: "My Left Foot", "The Sea Inside", "Elephant Man", "I Am Sam"). There were a few other directors like Sidney Lumet, Ridley Scott, and  Tim Burton who would have been nice to see in this category as opposed to Schnabel who was essentially a newbie.
Grade: B-

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