I was truly disappointed, to the point of being shocked, that neither Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, nor Ben Affleck were nominated for a Best Director Academy Award this year. What makes the selections even more disappointing (if that’s possible) is that, given past history, it’s almost certain that not one of their three films (Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained and Argo) has a chance for Best Picture — even though they are all nominated.
Personally, Argo was my favorite film of the past year (I have Roger Ebert as company here). At the very least, if not a win, director Ben Affleck deserved a nomination. Zero Dark Thirty is a close second, making Bigelow’s omission almost as impossible to understand (other than for political reasons based on the controversy surrounding the film’s portrayal of CIA torture).
So who did get nominated for Best Director instead? There’s Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild and David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. Both of these were fine films. Actually, Silver Linings Playbook would be number three on my Best Picture list, so I’m not at all miffed to see Russell nominated. However, I would put Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow ahead of Zeitlin and Russell.
And I would put all of them ahead of Steven Spielberg, who got the nod for Lincoln. While there were a lot of things to admire about Lincoln (not the least of which was Daniel Day-Lewis’ spectacular turn in the title role), directing isn’t anywhere near the top of the list. The protracted, awkward and completely unnecessary ending (actually, series of endings) significantly lessened the overall impact of the film, almost ruining it for me. I totally agree with Samuel L. Jackson: Spielberg should have ended the film with Lincoln walking down the corridor. We all know Lincoln gets assassinated a short time later. The portrayal in the movie added nothing other than to dilute what came before. This by itself is enough for me to dismiss Spielberg from the Best Director category.
I haven’t yet seen Life of Pi or Amour, so I can’t directly comment on their merits. However, based on reviews, one could certainly make a good case for Bigelow or Affleck to replace Ang Lee as Best Director nominee.
Overall, this is about the most-misguided set of nominees for Best Director that I can ever recall.
But that’s how it goes. It’s a rare year that there isn’t some controversy about the Oscar nominations — whether it’s acting, documentary film, foreign film, or song. This year it’s the director award. Regardless, I’ll still be watching come February. It’s like the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter who’s playing; it’s the event itself that draws my attention.