Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oscar Watch: The Directors

The Oscars are just on the horizon. Now that we're in the thick of award's season, I can nearly taste it (figuratively speaking). I plan on doing a new edition of Oscar Watch each and every week from now until the Academy Awards, each week taking a look at a different category. This week, we kick things off with my look at my personal favorite category, that of Best Director.

Since this year the Academy has instituted the new rule expanding the Best Picture category from five to ten nominees, everyone is looking towards the Best Director category to see, had there been no rule change, what films are really deserving of their Best Picture nods and which aren't. The Best Director race always seems to have matched up with the Best Picture race just about every year in the past, while there were anomalies of times when the director was nominated but not the film, and vice versa, it is usually a perfect synch with the "real" top five for the Academy, so this category gets a bit of a boost in its importance this year. Let's get started.

This is actually what I believe to be one of the more competitive categories of the year, simply because every film that is gonna be up for Best Picture is gonna want to have their director up for this award as well, plus I could possibly see the Academy maybe throwing a curve ball in here somewhere.

The safe bets at the moment are Jason Reitman for Up in the Air and Lee Daniels for Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire. These two are pretty much guaranteed the nomination, Reitman having been in this situation before with his previous film, Juno, of course this time I believe Reitman is truly deserving of the award and isn't eclipsed by the film itself. As for Daniels, I really have no desire to see Precious, but from what I understand, the film is an auteur work through and through, and should get him in the race.

Other big hopefuls come in the form of Clint Eastwood for Invictus, Peter Jackson for The Lovely Bones, and Rob Marshall for Nine. I'm gonna go ahead and say Marshall will get the snub, cause from all the reviews I've read of Nine it doesn't do much to further his career artistically. While the same could be said for Eastwood from what I understand about his latest, Invictus seems to be solid enough to get good ol' Clint in the race again. As for Peter Jackson, I think his latest (which I wanna see real badly regardless of the mixed critical reception) will simply be seen as too daring, and a bit too out there for the Academy to even nominate him. Who else?

This seems to be the year of the blockbuster, with people talking up both James Cameron and J.J. Abrams for Avatar and Star Trek, respectively. Cameron has the slight edge over Abrams, simply because he has been to the Oscars before and he is forging into unexplored territory with Avatar, but then again the Academy might see Cameron as been there done that and might want to throw new-wunderkind, Abrams into the mix. Many in the industry are touting Abrams as the next Spielberg, so I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibility, and did I mention that I still think Star Trek is the best film of the year thus far?

Then comes the women, Lone Scherfig for An Education, Jane Campion for Bright Star, and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Out of these three, Campion is the least likely. After Cannes, Bright Star seems to have lost its luster in the critics circles, so I don't see her being much of a threat, and I see Lone Scherfig kind of being thrown into the mix simply because An Education is adored by so many critics. As for Kathryn Bigelow, I think this is the one out of the women that is the most legitimate threat, I think it is safe to say even that she might be the frontrunner right now in this category for The Hurt Locker. While I haven't seen it, and I don't mean to offend anyone, I think it's fascinating that this woman made the best war movie about the Iraqi war with a cast made up with a ratio of like 20:1 in regards to men and women.

Other possibilities, the Coen Brothers are always in the mix whenever they have a new film out, but I fear A Serious Man has lost its steam recently. Then there is some love for Quentin Tarrantino, but I feel if he gets the nom, if anything it will be for the Academy ignoring Pulp Fiction fifteen years ago in this category. After that there is Spike Jonze for Where the Wild Things Are, Tom Ford for A Single Man, Marc Webb for (500) Days of Summer, and Neil Blomkamp for District 9, which all four of these dudes have enough supporters to possibly squeak in there. But what are these supposed curve balls I was talking about?

There is no rule that says an animation director can't be nominated in this category. With so many animated films finding themselves high on many critics best of the year list, why not some love for the directors behind these masterworks, in particular three: Pete Docter for Up, Wes Anderson for Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the legendary Hayao Miyazaki for Ponyo. I think it's safe to rule Miyazaki out of the proceedings, since he has the double negative of being both a foreign and an animation filmmaker, even though if I had my way he'd walk away with the gold. I think the real contenders are Pete Docter and Wes Anderson, and actually Anderson a bit more so than Docter. While Docter's film will most likely get the Best Picture nom, Anderson's film is a more auteur work and one that I think the Academy will respect in regards to direction a great deal more than Up, which is a bigger threat in Best Original Screenplay than it is here.

So what do I see the five looking like at this point:

Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar

Till next week. So long.

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