Monday, February 18, 2013

Oscars 2013: Best Director

As Oscar Season draws to a close, “Argo” has all the momentum riding into Sunday nights. It has won the equivalent of Best Picture at basically every awards show held over the past two months. Prior to the Golden Globes, Las Vegas had put 7-2 odds on “Argo” winning the Golden Globe Best Picture. In fact, it has now passed “Lincoln” as the favorite (Probably. Gambling numbers are confusing) and is the most popular bet to grab.

All the attention and accolades really does beg the question, though, of how this happened. “Argo” was not a movie that was supposed to garner this attention. As previously mentioned in this very space, the film’s director Ben Affleck was not nominated for Best Director, a situation that has produced only three Best Picture winners in history. Clearly, when nominations were announced way back in the beginning of January, the perception of “Argo” was that of a good, not great, movie.

Historically, the movie that wins Best Picture has also won the Best Director. According to this site, that happens approximately 75 percent of the time and in those times when the winners do not match up, at least recently, history has not shown too kindly on the films that did win Best Picture (“Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain,” “Gladiator” over “Traffic,” “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”). This year, though, none of that will (likely) be of concern, unless Affleck wins thanks to some kind of absolutely massive and unprecedented write-in campaign.

Right off the bat, it is fair to eliminate Benh Zeitlin, who directed “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which opened to much fanfare in the spring but has hit an absolute brick wall with its momentum, and Michael Haneke, who directed a movie that no one has seen but somehow still got nominated for five Oscars. That leaves two former winners in Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”) and Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and David O. Russell, who seems to be always a bridesmaid but never a bride.

Because of his reputation of hating George Clooney (and being difficult to work with), Russell faces a steep challenge. However, his film earned eight nominations, including one for first-time nominee Bradley Cooper and the zombie of Robert DeNiro. Knowing that, a very convincing case could be made that he got the absolute most out of his cast and turned a run-of-the-mill story into a great picture.

Lee adapted a book that many people called “unfilmable” and turned it into a visually breath-taking feature while working with a first-time actor and a CGI tiger. Definitely no easy task. Lee previously won Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain,” which somehow lost to “Crash,” which JackNicholson still cannot believe.

Then, there is Spielberg, who directed a cast of all-stars and made a sprawling movie during the Civil War about America’s most beloved president, who was struggling to get legislation passed that would help the country. (As has been pointed out by basically everyone ever, many point to parallels to current times.) Spielberg also has experience winning Best Director for a film that didn’t win Best Picture, as he was on the wrong end of the “Shakespeare in Love” debacle. He also won Best Director for “Schindler’s List.”

After seeing the tale of the tape for these three men, will it be the rowdy upstart, the veteran who plays by his own rules, or the popular, grizzled veteran? When broken down like that, it becomes painfully obvious that Spielberg will be winning his third Best Director trophy while his star likely brings down his third Best Actor trophy.

“Lincoln” is the kind of film that usually gets rewarded by the Academy and Spielberg is definitely the kind of director that the Academy loves. Did he direct the best movie? Probably not. Will history look back unfavorably on his win? Doubtful. Really, though, does any of it really matter with the 2013 show looking like The Year of “Argo?”

How’d I do? Send me an email at or get at me on Twitter @TheTonyFiorigli.


Anonymous Verona said...

This is cool!

July 15, 2013 at 10:22 AM 

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