The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Director

by Dylan · February 18, 2009 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 6 Comments

Editor’s note: Welcome to the nineteenth of a 24-part series dissecting the 81st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Nick of Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob.

When I started doing research on the Best Director award, I saw a question asked that is a very good one: If the director is in charge of making the movie as great as it is, why are there two separate categories for Best Director and Best Picture? If you’re the best director, shouldn’t that mean you’ve technically made the superior film? Especially in years like this, wherein the Best Director slots and the Best Picture slots share the same films.

But then there was a really good answer to go along with it… though I want to extend on it myself. The director is like the “author.” He or she is ‘god’ of the film, so to speak. Whatever he or she says goes. The director has control over everything, from getting the script to where he/she likes it to how the film is edited in post-production. And as an author, I can relate to that sentiment. However, I can also extend on it. Most people who write books (and I’m no exception) will tell you that there is a certain point where the characters just take a life of their own and write the story themselves. They take it in places you (as the ‘god’ figure) didn’t even expect the story to go. In essence, while the ‘author’ has the final say, it’s the little pieces that build themselves that make the work good or bad.

Now, to translate that into the movie realm, it’s the actors, actresses, set designers, etc… all of them working together to create things that even the director might not have expected (which you do hear quite often, especially in DVD commentaries). Actors are more phenomenal than the director first imagined. The costume or set designers or special effects teams create better visuals than even the director could have fathomed at the start. So in other words, just because you have a great director that formulates all this together into one work does not mean the picture is going to turn out the best.

But this also works vice versa. You can see In The Name of the King with a bunch of great actors and whatnot, but that still doesn’t make up for the fact that it was directed by Uwe Boll and turned into a complete mess. So that brings us to the Best Director category. The Best Director is somebody who not only works with excellent people, but uses those excellent people to create an excellent film. The director takes everything he or she is given and uses it to the best of his/her abilities. And then those efforts have to be better than the other four that they’re up against.

In the past, only 59 directors have also won Best Picture for their films (out of 80). That’s barely less than 3/4 of the count. And only three movies have won Best Picture without the director having also been at least nominated. And only two directors have won for films that were not nominated for Best Picture (which was back in the 20s). But as I’ve stated before, all the Best Directors and Best Pictures line up equally this year. So with all of that in mind, let’s look at this year’s nominees:

For specification, Previous Academy Nominations means how many times has the director been nominated as such for other films in the past for the Academy Awards. Previous Academy Wins is how many of those nominations were won. Direction Nominations For Current Film Elsewhere means how many other awards (Golden Globes, BAFTAs, etc.) nominated him for current film. Wins… well, that’s obvious. And then there’s percentage for winning the Oscar. And the numbers are just based on what I could find. So here we go.

Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon)
Previous Academy Nominations: 2
Previous Academy Wins: 1
Director Nominations For Current Film Elsewhere: 4
Director Wins For Current Film Elsewhere: 1
Percentage To Win Oscar For Current Film: 1%

In my review for this film, I noted that Ron Howard, as a director, didn’t do anything groundbreaking here. He made a great film, but the directing was nothing particularly special. He didn’t take any chances. I knew even before seeing the movie that it was going to involve juxtapositions with past news footage, because that would be the predictable thing to do with this kind of film. He also kept the same actors from the stage play. Nothing with the camera work or editing was special. Nothing with the music was mind-blowing. Good film it was. Best Director it isn’t.

Gus Van Sant (Milk)
Previous Academy Nominations: 2
Previous Academy Wins: 0
Director Nominations For Current Film Elsewhere: 5
Director Wins For Current Film Elsewhere: 1
Percentage To Win Oscar For Current Film: 3%

Gus Van Sant can be a pretty good director (except for Elephant, which was self-indulgent, pretentious crap. If you want a great movie on school shootings, watch Bang Bang You’re Dead. But I digress). I also have yet to see Milk as of this point due to where I live. But I can tell that if any of the movies were to give the forerunner a run for its money, it would probably be this one. But we still all know it’s not gonna win.

Stephen Daldry (The Reader)
Previous Academy Nominations: 2
Previous Academy Wins: 0
Director Nominations For Current Film Elsewhere: 4
Director Wins For Current Film Elsewhere: 0
Percentage To Win Oscar For Current Film: 1%

I haven’t seen The Reader, so I can’t comment on it much, especially Director-wise. I’ve also never seen Billy Elliot or The Hours, the other two films for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in the past. It doesn’t really matter anyway. We all know he’s not gonna win.

David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Previous Academy Nominations: 0
Previous Academy Wins: 0
Director Nominations For Current Film Elsewhere: 4
Director Wins For Current Film Elsewhere: 2
Percentage To Win Oscar For Current Film: 1%

I think everybody can agree David Fincher is a great director: Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac… okay, so Alien 3 wasn’t the greatest, but every director has at least one bad movie. But does Ben Button stand up with the aforementioned four, or is it in the realm of Alien 3? Most would say the latter. Personally, I enjoyed the film (and apparently so did the Academy with it’s insane amount of nominations for the film). But is it worthy of Best Director? Did Fincher know when to leave stuff in or cut stuff out? Did he know how to pace his movie so not to bore the mass population that saw it? Was he able to get the best performances out of all his actors, including Brad Pitt? Was he able to make something original out of the script he was given? Most will answer these questions with a resounding “No.” But the real question is: Does the Academy care what everybody else thinks?

Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Previous Academy Nominations: 0
Previous Academy Wins: 0
Director Nominations For Current Film Elsewhere: 23
Director Wins For Current Film Elsewhere: 22
Percentage To Win Oscar For Current Film: 94%

I really think the numbers say it all. Regardless of Ben Button getting the numbers in nominations, I think Slumdog is gonna run the gamut. Boyle had the film edited masterfully, keeping a great pace with numerous flashbacks and multiple things going on at once. He chose great music. He received great performances, even from his child actors with no experience. He found beautiful (or beautifully gritty) places to shoot his settings. He even got people to stay in their seats, enthralled, during the credits. There’s really no doubt that Boyle is going to walk away with the award this year. And what’s next for Boyle after winning an Oscar? Hopefully 28 Months Later…

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6 Responses to The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Director

  1. Anders says:

    You called Elephant self-indulgent, pretentious crap!?
    That makes me
    a sad panda…..

  2. Nick says:

    It *was* self-indulgent, pretentious crap.

    It was 90 minutes of about 5 long takes. Sure I give him props for pulling something like that off, but it just did NOT work.

    The movie wasn’t powerful. It didn’t do anything of consequence with the subject matter. The pacing was very poor. I felt nothing for any of the characters. None of the camera or editing tricks were used to any potential. There’s a 5 minutes segment of one of the characters playing classical piano while the camera circles around the room… add that in with the endless long takes (I’ve never seen a movie show the back of somebody’s head for so long), and yes–the movie becomes self-indulgent, pretentious crap.

  3. Interesting read. Though, I don’t know if I would say the director is like a god or whatever he or she says goes. Once you work in the film industry, you quickly realize that is not the case at all. Also, the reason the producers get the Best Picture Oscar is because the producers are usually the only people who are with the film from the very beginning to the very end.

  4. Srikanth says:

    Agree with your take on Elephant
    I never understood what was so great about it. They say that he shows us the events dispassionately, yet he dramatizes using multiple POVs and hand cams (inherently dramatic). They say he does not claim to give a psychological understanding, yet he shows us the kids kissing in the shower. I felt it was the classic Emperor without his clothes

    But I must also say that Daldry would be my pick (not prediction) for the best director among the 5

  5. noobie says:

    if boyle wins, the academy owes fernando meirelles for a better directed movie called City of God!!!!

  6. lillian says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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