February 4, 2016

Who Deserves to Win Best Director at This Year's Academy Awards?

With the Academy Awards coming up at the end of this month, everyone is letting fly their Oscar predictions as to which artists will be taking home those coveted golden statues.

Even Fandor video essayist Kevin B. Lee has a few of his own -- or rather, a few reflections on the work of the 5 nominees for Best Director, Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant), Adam McKay (The Big Short), and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road).

Check out Lee's video below:

I'm not really in the business of trying to predict Oscar winners, but Lee brings a lot of great insight about what works and doesn't work in each of these directors' films. Spotlight, for example, hops on the prosperous TV train with its narrative -- ripe with a great story and dialog, but unfortunately rides that train a little too far with its repetitive (and eventually predictable and boring) shot-reverse shot cinematography, which is common in TV shows.

But hey -- I guess I'll take a swing at this predicting business.

The interesting thing about this year's nominees is that the film I adamantly refused to go see in the theater is the one I'm kind of rooting for -- Mad Max: Fury Road. My reaction nowadays to series, sequels, remixes, and reboots has become Pavlovian. "They're going to be horrible. They're going to ruin what I love. They are soulless cogs in the movie money-making machine." I wasn't willing to watch a movie that I assumed would put a modern (read: soul-stripping) spin on my beloved Road Warrior. (Yeah, I know The Road Warrior is a sequel, and yes, I get the irony. But hold on.)

But Fury Road surprised me quite a bit. It was -- good. Great even. It was full of soul, and reminded me of why I love The Road Warrior so much. And it's an action flick to boot -- those things rarely get nominated at all. (The Oscars are also genre-biasedThe choreography, the cinematography, the costumes -- outrageous, but near-perfectly so. The world that George Miller put us in didn't feel heavy-handed or ham-fisted (cough-Avatar-cough), in fact, it reminded me of those classic action movies from the 80s and 90s -- you know, the ones that didn't take themselves too seriously or rely on explosions to wow their audiences.

"Um...Fury Road is nothing but explosions, though."

Oh, sweetheart. There's a whole lot more. The explosions, the flames, the guitars -- the guitar that shoots flames atop explosions, are all just a part of the carefully choreographed chaos of the George Miller universe. The spectacle is in the rhythm of the film, not in the visuals.

Do I think Miller will win Best Director? I don't know. To be honest, my guess is that it'll go to Lenny Abrahamson for his impeccable work on Room, and it'd be well-deserved. But, Miller certainly deserves something for pumping so much life into the action genre, instead of just lighting a match, setting the fuse, and waiting to sift through the fiery debris for dollar bills once the explosions die down.

/Rant      

Your Comment

10 Comments

Denis Villeneuve for Sicario. There was no better story telling in 2015 than Sicario.

February 4, 2016 at 11:22PM, Edited February 4, 11:22PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
660

Yes.

February 5, 2016 at 1:03AM

1
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Samu Amunét
Director
409

Maybe in another year I might agree, but Inarritu is way too good to not win. His movies are technical perfection with unique storytelling. Same sad story for Deankins, who clearly deserves Oscar, but Lubezki again was better...Only director who might deserve Oscar as much as Inarritu is Miller, because Mad Max is kinda a breakthrough in terms of action movies.

February 5, 2016 at 12:11PM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1052

I'm with Gene on this one. Sicario was the closest thing we'd probably get to a Hitchcock cartel film.

While the revenant was good, it was much heavier on spectacle than story or substance. The spectacle was majestic but when the story is thin enough to give away in a 30-second tv spot, it kind of took the fun out of a 156-minute film for me.

I get the feeling that The Revenant would've been impossible to make without Lubezki, but I'm not entirely sure no other director could've accomplished it. Birdman was a wildly superior film in my eyes.

February 8, 2016 at 8:35AM, Edited February 8, 8:35AM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
550

Totally agree. Watching SICARIO the first time, I was on the edge of my seat pretty much the whole way through the film. It's probably the "tightest" film out there as far as storytelling and editing too.

February 11, 2016 at 9:31PM, Edited February 11, 9:54PM

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Drew Staniland
Actor/Videographer/Writer/Director
88

Ugh Sicario yes. So tense. Such intense, breathless direction.

George Miller's badass though.

February 5, 2016 at 1:10AM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1022

It will be again Inarritu & again he deserves it.

February 5, 2016 at 6:47AM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1052

yes he does, the revenant is perfect but i think I felt more of the technical side of it, such an amazing technical achievement, haven't seen anything like it since Gravity but it looked more like a film for filmmakers in my opinion. The visuals were so great that they ended up fighting with the story.

February 5, 2016 at 9:49AM

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Kelvin Nhantumbo
Director, Screenwriter
124

I've seen them all and for me it's a toss up between "Room" and "The Big Short" because they both felt cinematically fresh. Lenny Abrahamson did an amazing job at getting top notch, career defining performances from both his leads and used the camera to really tell that story effectively. He bordered the lines of melodramatic but I never felt anything but raw emotion and honesty and I truly felt for these characters. The Big Short was nothing like I expected and was told in a very unique, interesting way. The editing, comedy, breaking the 4th wall, characters, (especially Bale's) etc, all played into a very entertaining movie that I couldn't help but want to understand more. A lot of the terms and lingo were confusing and McKay did a good job trying to explain it and at the end of the day he brought such emotional depth to the story in a nuanced manner, making you really reflect on how big of a deal it all was.

February 5, 2016 at 10:03AM, Edited February 5, 10:03AM

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Brad Watts
Writer/Director/DP
11

Either Todd Haynes for Carol, or Spike Lee for Chi-Raq.

Both were exquisitely directed. Neither nominated, however.

February 12, 2016 at 9:05AM

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Balthazar
English Cinephile
105