2018 Oscars: Director

Okay it’s February, which means it’s time to talk Oscars. The winter Olympics gives us an extra week this year, so my annual Oscar coverage will be coming to you Mondays and Thursdays from now until the big day on March 4. Then it’ll be time to put the blog on vacation for a bit and write something else for a while.

Next up…

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

Who will win: Christopher Nolan
Who could win: Guillermo del Toro
Who should win: Christopher Nolan
Who should be here: James Mangold, “Logan”

Let’s start with the (perhaps not-so-) obvious: Guillermo Del Toro would seem to have the inside track at winning the gold statue for his cold war fairy tale The Shape of Water. The film got the most nominations – 13 – and seems a favorite to win the top prize. In the last 58 years, the director of the Best Picture has also won the Director prize 46 times.

Side note: if Del Toro did win, it’d be the fourth time in five years that a Mexican born director won an Oscar.

So why does this writer think that Del Toro won’t hear his name called on Sunday night?

Okay, let’s start with the stats. Yeah, 46 of 58 times the Best Picture winner also gets Director. But 7 of those times have come since the turn of the 21st century, including the last three years.

Second, it’s no lock that just because Shape of Water got nominated for a baker’s dozen of awards that it’ll actually win all (or even any) of them. Over the last few years, the Best Picture competition becomes increasingly muddled with each passing year with no clear favorites, and this year is no exception. It’s quite possible that four or even five of the nine nominated films could be in competition for the big prize.

With Dunkirk sitting in the middle of the pack odds-wise for Best Pic, I see Christopher Nolan taking home the gold statue to this year. There’s a sense that, though he’s a first time nominee, that he’s long past due. He reinvented the super hero genre with his Dark Knight trilogy, and has both critical and commercial successes with films such as Inception, Interstellar and The Prestige. Many consider Dunkirk to be a modern war masterpiece and so it’s with all of this in mind that I see Nolan taking home the award.

Indeed, this year’s Director field is something of a rarity, with four of the five being first time nominees, including two nominated for their ever features (Gerwig co-directed one previous film). The only repeat nominee is Paul Thomas Anderson, who received his seventh and eighth nods this year (though only his second as a director, the others are as a writer and producer). There’s little discussion of Anderson winning the award, that comes as something of a surprise. His Phantom Thread was so meticulously crafted from top to bottom – everything from the little details and callbacks in the writing, to the staging, photography, acting. You get the feeling from watching that no stone was left unturned in making the film the best it possibly could be.

That isn’t to knock our last two nominees or reduce their own achievements. Gerwig’s Lady Bird blew a breath of fresh air into the coming of age film genre. I particularly enjoyed the storytelling choices she made – not lingering on any one thing within her story, but moving on out of the scene as soon as she could. Sure, that’s a writing choice but it’s also editing and directing that make up the pace of the film.

There’s little more I can say about Jordan Peele’s Get Out that hasn’t been written already, though quite frankly I’ve long thought the strength of that film is in its writing.

As you’ve no doubt gathered from my previous blogs, I consider it a damned shame that Logan hasn’t gotten more love, including James Mangold as director. Everything in the film was so well done, including the way the story was told, the photography, the pacing, even the sets.