As much as everyone likes to think the awards are about merit alone, the real truth is that you’re more likely to win a trophy if you’re popular and savvy with the judges than if you have merit. No, I am not still bitter about the annual 6th grade student of the year prize going to that teacher’s pet Katie Henried. No, not at all.
However, despite whatever…personal…misgivings anyone may have about award ceremonies, it can be agreed that with such a narrow field of available nominating slots, talent and quality is often overlooked. In the spirit of this, here are the Top 10 Directors That Were Not Nominated For An Oscar, But Should Have Been. Five of these movies are from this year. Five of them are from years past.
1. Ben Affleck for Argo
Yes, it is true that he did try and go the standard Hollywood Leading Man/Action star route after the success of Good Will Hunting. But Ben, you’re made of much better stuff than that! Also, it takes a certain kind of panache and charisma to give sincerity to lines like, “you make me want to be a better man.” Tom Cruise has got that. (Hey, he’s still making mega-blockbusters even after Oprah’s Couch Incident and Scientology). You, unfortunately do not.
After the disaster that was J-Lo and Gigli, it’s clear you stepped back and took stock of your career. You settled down with a nice gal (that other Jennifer), popped out a few kids and then started directing quality features in your homeland of Massachusetts accents. First, there was Gone Baby Gone. Then came The Town. Whispers started to happen of Ben Affleck, that talented new director. Then, finally, you branched out of New England and into Argo, an excellent feature about Hollywood, spies and terrorism. The acting is fantastic, the story is tight and the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s been a huge success, the picture has even been nominated for an Oscar, and you have also gotten one for Director, right? Because if you’re picture is nominated, you are…right?
Wrong? Well, Hollywood can hold a grudge. I suspect they still haven’t forgiven you for Daredevil. Sigh. There’s always next year, buddy.
2. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
Granted, I have no love for Jamie Foxx and I can only take my Tarantino in small doses. Still, even I thought Django was a ton of bloody fun. You got a great (if smarmy) performance out of Leonardo DiCaprio and I even thought Jamie Foxx was a badass, which must have been difficult to accomplish. Plus, the movie was nominated for Best Picture. You, Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow and Christopher Nolan should start an “I Hate That Guy Called Oscar” club. You can be the over the top, violent President, Bigelow can be the VP, Nolan can be Treasurer and Affleck can be the Secretary (because really, what else would Affleck be?)
3. Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, particularly when this woman’s pick for best movie of the year was subsequently not nominated for either Best Picture or Best Director by the Academy. I’ll allow the Academy some leeway in being the cowards that they are by shying away from controversy by not nominating Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), even though their films are nominated. But they have no excuse for Ben Affleck (Argo) other than cattiness and they’ve clearly lost their minds when it comes to Anderson and Moonrise. Yes, it is a very stylized film, but that’s what you get whenever you watch a Wes Anderson film. Besides which, the style actually worked this time in favor of the picture, unlike in, say, the Royal Tennenbaums (where it got annoying) or The Life Aquatic (which was irritating). A sweet, simple, witty picture that had great performances, especially from Bruce Willis, it told a tale of young love, imagination and adult disquietude. Moonrise is the kind of film I’d sell my past, present and future shoe collection to make. How is this a sacrifice? Well, some women have children. Others have cats. I have shoes. Do you understand now how much I love this film?
4. Joss Whedon for The Avengers
I know I’m going to be either loved, hated or “wtf is she thinking?” for this, but I don’t care. I think it is past time the Academy start to recognize superhero, sci-fi and fantasy films instead of the usual safe, boring choices it generally makes. And though The Avengers was no Dark Knight, Whedon took it and: (a) made it a fun, action packed movie; (b) avoided a clusterfrack; and (c) made it into a summer blockbuster. It was funny and it didn’t need to be. It had great fight scenes. It didn’t seem like anyone had too much or too little screen time, AND it had a breakthrough star: The Incredible Hulk, aka Mark Ruffalo, who, without doubt, is the best modern Hulk I’ve ever seen. And yes, that includes Edward Norton.
Academy, stop the hating! Nominate a great superhero comic film, because when done well, they make great stories, require excellent acting skills and have excellent writing. If The Avengers were set in 1940s Britain and had angry stuck Lords saving the world from the Nazis, it would’ve been nominated for sure. It must be the capes. Or the spandex. Hey, I can’t look as good as Chris Evans does in that get-up, but that doesn’t prevent me from honoring the awesomeness that is Captain America (and his backside).
5. Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
Admittedly, this was not a wide release. Also admittedly, the Bard isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (so to speak). However, I am an unabashed, unashamed, unequivocal lover of Shakespeare. Not only did this movie do justice to the language, not only was the context both relevant and had resonance, not only was Ralph Fiennes awesome in the title role, but my friend Bob understood it from the first viewing! And this from the man to whom I had to explain the plot of Romeo and Juliet.
Since he made it understandable to Bob and not just Shakespearephiles like me, I have to give Fiennes major kudos.
6. Christopher Nolan, Memento
A brilliant film about a man and his day that takes place backwards, Memento also had incredible performances from Guy Pearce and Carrie Ann Moss. Why Nolan was not nominated for this or other films, is just…wrong. Yes, he was nominated for best screenplay, but still. It takes a good director to not make that concept overdone. Instead, it was a taut, economical, excellently paced piece of filmmaking. Nolan, someday you’ll get that Oscar! Someday…
7. John Crowley, Boy A
This film is a masterpiece and I don’t say that lightly. A study of a boy convicted for murder and then released from juvenile prison, it asks hard questions about guilt, innocence and whether one deed can completely doom a lifetime, regardless of repentance. With stunning performances from Andrew Garfield and Peter Mullan, there’s not one line of dialogue that’s wasted and the lighting and composition are both wonderful. If you haven’t seen this movie, download and rent it now: it will literally change your emotional landscape.
8. Catherine Breillat, for any movie she’s made
Catherine Breillat is an unsparing French filmmaker who takes sexuality, femininity and the battle of the sexes and turns them on their head. Whether it’s taking an old story and turning it into a fable for a modern audience (Bluebeard) or examining the rivalry of sisterhood (Á ma soeur), Breillat asks all the hard questions without any of the answers. The fact that she doesn’t have answers isn’t annoying or a cop out: it’s a frank admittance that the lines between the sexes can be impossibly blurred. The fact that the Academy hasn’t nominated this brave director for anything isn’t surprising, since as she pushes the envelope, she also pushes buttons. However, it’s certainly undeserved.
9. Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
I don’t understand this overlook at all. Watch it and it will say anything I could, would or should have to say and better.
10. Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
It’s foreign, which didn’t help. It’s animated, which further damned it. And it’s about a controversial topic (the Islamic Revolution in Iran). It’s amazing that the Academy even bothered to nominate it for anything. It did get a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film, but it should have won more awards than that. When will the Oscar voters realize that is takes just as much artistry, dedication and vision to direct, write and make an animated film as it does one with humans, sets and costumes? (And yes, I do think that Wall-E was the best feature of its year and yes, it should have been nominated for Best Picture).