It’s Oscar season, and over the weeks leading up to the awards, I’ll be rolling out nine blog pieces breaking down (what I consider) the eight major races – Picture, Director, both writing and all four acting categories.
Like with most things on this blog, this will be a mix of fact, popular opinion and my opinion – the three of which don’t often intersect. Then I’ll post a full list of my Oscar picks right before the show as best I can.
On to today’s posting: Director
“Birdman” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
“The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum
Who Will Win: “Boyhood” Richard Linklater
Who Could Win: “Birdman” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Who Should Win: “Birdman” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Who Should Be Here: “Interstellar” Christopher Nolan
For some reason, Oscar voters can’t seem to separate Directing from Best Picture. Allow me to explain. I see Best Picture as the best overall film experience of the year. I see directing as just that – a film where you can see a huge impact or decisions by the director that elevated the film above where it would otherwise be.
By that definition, Alejandro G. Iñárritu is the clear run-away choice for this year’s Oscar (as much as it pains me to say, given my love of Richard Linklater’s work). Birdman is what it is because if Iñárritu’s ballsy directing choices – extremely long takes, moving cameras and complete unwillingness to compromise on his artistic vision. The look and feel of Birdman is something that will be very difficult and improbable to see again.
Not to say that Linklater’s 12 year filmmaking experiment shouldn’t deserve Oscar recognition of its own. Both Iñárritu and Linklater created highly unique films, and it’s possible that Oscar voters could split between the two. It’s funny though, I almost see Linklater’s accomplishment as being more of a producer-driven one than as a director – organizing the annual reunion with his actors and continuing to keep everything straight year in and year out. Producers are the ones recognized for Best Picture, you know…
In distinct third but holding his own is Wes Anderson, whose distinct style certainly elevated The Grand Budapest Hotel to something it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Love him or hate him, it’s tough to watch an Anderson movie and not see pieces of him personally stamped in, from the “Lobby Boy” hat to the big pink hotel and the goofy punches.
Where Anderson was cutesy, Bennett Miller gave us creepy. In fact, outside of a horror movie, I might say that Foxcatcher is one of the creepiest films I’ve ever seen. Though much of this can be put down to the performances, the majority definetely comes from Miller. His choice of color made everything feel cold, his camera angles established dominance in each and every shot and his cuts were deliberately unsettling.
Rounding things out is Morten Tyldum, who has probably the most “normal” film on this list. The Imitation Game is a biopic, and biopics are wearing thin, but Tyldum hit each and every note just right throughout. He balanced the weight of the war against the drama of Turing himself, while also managing to engage the supporting cast as well. It’s unfortunate he’s up against some unique filmmaking – in a weaker year, he’d be in the Oscar competition.
Speaking of being in the competition – Christopher Nolan has been left off the Oscar list. Again. Interstellar was a huge achievement in filmmaking, with a fabulous look and feel, limited computer animations despite the time in space, and great pacing throughout to make a 2 hour, 40 minute film feel like it’s flying by. I don’t know whom I would cut to add him to the Oscar list, but it’s a shame that Interstellar has been ignored the way it has.