Friday, February 8, 2013

LAMB Devours the Oscars: A Look at the Best Director Nominees

Well, here we are again kiddies.  That time of year where the fine folks over at the LAMB (The Large Association of Movie Blogs, for the initiated amongst you) take volunteers to write about the Oscars.  After writing on the Doc Shorts in 2011, and Art Direction last year, I find myself assigned to the Best Director category this time around - my first choice actually.  With that said, let us now delve into, what is probably the most controversial category this year.

By now, anyone who is anyone has heard of the great snub handed to both Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck.  I can understand, but not agree on one snub, while not understanding but totally agreeing on the other.  Bigelow, not getting nominated for the brilliantly brazen Zero Dark Thirty, is a real shame.  If I had a ballot, she would surely make my top five, but, in a way, her snub is understandable.  First, she is a woman in the manly world of Hollywood.  Yeah, she is the only woman to ever win the Best Director Oscar - for the Hurt Locker in case you didn't already know - but Hollywood is very much a boy's club.  Very much a boy's club indeed.  There is also the whole controversy over the film and its showing of American torture techniques.  I say get over it people, but I am sure this was a factor in her snub as well.

As for Affleck's snub, this is much more questionable a thing.  Affleck is loved in the industry.  His film Argo, though political as well, is set far enough in the past, as to not offend too many people.   This, and the fact that he has won pretty much every award for directing that has been given out this awards season.  I know I, along with just about every other Oscar postulater on the web, had Affleck  listed as a lock to get a nomination.  It was surely the biggest snub of this Oscar year.  Making it even more noticeable, is the fact that the Director's Guild nominated Affleck, Bigelow, Spielberg, Ang Lee and Tom Hooper, and then only gave Oscar nods to two of these (Spielberg and Lee), and then had the audacity to name Affleck the winner!?  Putting aside that the DGA and the director's branch of the Academy are extremely similar in their membership make-up, and therefore should nominate basically the same group of people, this is just crazy.  Then again, even though I like Affleck, and am a big fan of his first two films as director, I was not overly impressed with Argo myself, so Affleck not getting nominated is not that big of a deal to me.

Of course, all this snubbing and controversy has probably assured Argo the Best Picture Oscar - just for spite alone, if for no other reason.   And to answer any possible questions about the possibility of a write-in vote campaign, it is not going to happen.  Such a thing was once allowed, but after Hal Mohr "stole" the Best Cinematography Oscar, via a write-in campaign, back in 1935, the Academy changed the rules and disallowed any future write-in winners.  There have been a couple times in Oscar history when the subject has again been breached - most recently in 1988, when Michael Moore's Roger and Me failed to get a nomination for Best Documentary, and in 2008, when The Dark Knight was supposedly snubbed, the latter of which caused the Academy to up the ante to ten nominees for Best picture.  But no, it will not happen this year, as no write-in vote will be counted.  Perhaps we can all hope for a last minute reprieve (though not a big Argo fan, after all this craziness, even I want the guy to win now) but otherwise...not happening.  But enough of all this woulda coulda shoulda nonsense.  We are here to discuss the five nominees that are actually nominated.

Let's start out with the three nominees that really have no shot in Hell of winning come February 24th.  This, of course, is said with just a bit of trepidation, since I was so sure Affleck would get nominated back on January 9th, but here we go anyway.  First up, we have a pair of first time nominees.  Benh Zeitlin for his directorial debut, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and legendary world master, Michael Haneke, for his harrowing Amour.  Zeitlin's film has some beautiful moments in it - and it did make my Best of 2012 list (coming in at no. 20) - but neither he, nor his film, are likely to win here.  The nomination is his real award.  As for Haneke, he is one of those rarities - a Best Director nominee for a foreign-language film.  It has happened just twenty-one times in the Academy's eighty-five year history, most recently, before this year, was in 2007.  The two-time Palme d'Or winner (for The White Ribbon in 2009, and Amour this past year) finally joins that club this year.

Haneke, who incidentally is just the fifth Austrian-born nominee in this category (the others being Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Fred Zinnemann and Josef von Sternberg) and the first to be nominated for a film actually made in Austria (the other nominees were all already working in Hollywood when they were nominated), will surely win an Oscar on February 24th.  Amour will win Best Foreign-Language (he says with such confidence) and that Oscar will go to Haneke, but for Best Director, it is highly unlikely.  Then again, a surprise victory for Haneke is probably more likely (however miniscule a chance it is) than a victory for David O. Russell.  Sure, his film, Silver Linings Playbook, is up for eight Oscars (including one in each of the four acting categories - last done by Reds in 1981), and for a short moment in time, it was seen as a possible frontrunner for Best Picture (a long gone moment by now), but it just doesn't seem like that important of a picture to give the Oscar too.  Of course, don't tell that to star Jennifer Lawrence, who is probably going to beat out the much more deserving Jessica Chastain in the Best Actress category.  Russell, who was nominated once before, for 2010's The Fighter, is another one of those, like Haneke and Zeitlin, where the nomination is the award.  Still, it would be fun to hear Haneke's name called on Oscar night.  Maybe that would make Lars von Trier a sudden frontrunner for next year's awards.  Maybe not.  Anyway, let's get to the two nominees, that could actually win this bitch.

I suppose conventional wisdom would say that Steven Spielberg is the most likely to win (unless the Academy board of Governors come through on that last-minute stay of execution on Affleck and his write-in votes) but we should not count out Ang Lee just yet.  Until recently, and the snub factor for Argo's eventual win (and Affleck, being a producer on the film, will still receive an Oscar if it wins BP), Spielberg's Lincoln has been the frontrunner for the top prize, and that is likely to transfer over to a Best Director Oscar - Spielberg's third, if it does indeed happen.  But then you have Ang Lee and the seeming love for Life of Pi - nominated for eleven Oscars, second only to Lincoln's twelve.  Granted, Pi will most likely win a couple tech awards (Art Direction the most likely of these), but this love could transfer to a Best Director award as well.  Funny enough, both Spielberg and Lee have won Oscars, while their respective films did not.  Spielberg won Best Director in 1998, while his Saving Private Ryan was beaten out by Shakespeare in Love for the top prize.  Meanwhile, Lee took home the Oscar in 2005, for Brokeback Mountain, while the godawful Crash inexplicably took home Best Picture.  Barring a surprise victory by Haneke (seriously, I would love this to happen), this scenario will happen again this year for one of these two directors.

So, who do I think will win?  Right now I am leaning ever-so-slightly toward Ang Lee, but I won't be making my final Oscar predictions until the night before the Oscars, so who knows who I will eventually mark off on my ballot.   Well, I suppose that is it for now.  Hopefully the fine folks who run the LAMB, like my contribution to their .  Not that I would actually change it if they didn't, but it is nice to please people...sometimes.  Anyway, there ya go.  See ya on the 23rd, with my final Oscar predix.  Well, I'll see you before that, as I will still be posting new reviews and other such fun items, but you know what I mean.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great write up. I too think Lee will take it, but I would love to see Haneke surprise everyone. Also thanks for ragging on Crash, a terrible film that I love to trash every chance I get.

Kevyn Knox said...

Crash is always fun to rag on.

Blogger said...

Order a Sparkling White Smiles Custom Teeth Whitening System online and SAVE BIG!
* 10 shades whiter in days!
* Results Are Guaranteed.
* As good as your dentist, for a fraction of the cost.
* Same as dentists use.