Being There

Ruminations on Music, Film and Culture


Waiting for Oscar: Best Director & Best Picture

Of the ten directors who have won Best Director over the past ten years, eight also saw their nominated film win the award for Best Picture.  The last three winners – Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Joel & Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) and Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) – all landed both Best Director and Best Picture wins. That tells you just how much investment a director has in the finished product.

The trend may continue this year. All eyes are on James Cameron and Avatar to sweep the two categories, but he faces some pretty tough competition, including ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.

The nominees for Best Director:

Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
James Cameron for Avatar
Lee Daniels for Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman for
Up In The Air
Quentin Tarantino for
Inglourious Basterds

Interestingly enough, that is probably what the Best Picture category would have looked like if they had stuck with 5 nominees.  Instead, they decided to expand the category to 10 films for the first time since 1943.

The nominees for Best Picture are:

Let’s take a look at each film one-by-one, starting with those up for Best Picture and not Best Director.  Frankly, I’m not convinced that a film that wasn’t nominated in the Best Director category could possibly win Best Picture.

District 9 is a perfectly engaging sci-fi film, but one that seems like an extremely random choice to nominate for Best Picture considering some of the other possible contenders.  When they first announced that the Best Picture category would be expanded to include ten films, many speculated that this measure was so that more films in the acting categories could be represented, but where are A Single Man, Crazy Heart or The Last Station?  Surely one of these would have made for a better Best Picture candidate.

A Serious Man is hardly top-tier Coen Brothers.  They already won a few years ago for the greatly superior No Country For Old Men and many have debated as to whether or not this is a film that can appeal to non-Jews in the same way that it appeals to Jews.  I think it definitely deserves acclaim in the acting and writing categories, but Best Picture?  Probably not, even if it was one of my personal favourites of the year.

Up is a fantastic film and if there was ever a Pixar title that should be up for Oscar’s top prize, this is definitely it.  However, it seems a bit redundant to nominate it for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature.  It’s the likely winner for the latter, but an unlikely winner for the former.

The Blind Side is what I’ve been calling the Seabiscuit of this year’s Academy Awards.  Hollywood loves inspirational stories with a heavy dose of the The South and football (or basketball or baseball), especially when they’re actually based on true stories.  I enjoyed this film.  But Best Picture?  Really?  The only reason Sandra Bullock is nominated (and will probably win) is because this is the first role in which she’s really acted.  She already received a Razzie Award this weekend for Worst Actress in All About Steve. Maybe she’ll prove to be both Best and Worst in the same year.  As for the film?  A very unlikely winner.

An Education is clever, articulate and feel-good all at the same time.  Of the five films that did not score a nomination for Best Director, this is probably the one that could have ended up sneaking in there if it hadn’t been for the tough competition posed by the next five films on the list.  The film is also up for Best Actress (Carey Mulligan) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Nick Hornby) and will probably win one of those awards before it wins Best Picture.

Now onto the five films that actually stand a chance in this category; those that are also up for Best Director.

When Up In The Air first came out, people went nuts, quickly citing it as the best film of the year.  But as time has gone on, people have praised the film in a more realistic way.  It’s simply a good film about a man who fires people for a living.  Of all the nominations the film received, it’s unlikely that it has a shot at anything other than Best Adapted Screenplay.

Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire already cleaned up this weekend at the Independent Spirit Awards.  The film relies on a mix of non-actors, comedians and musicians to tell a very harrowing, difficulty story.  Whether it wins or not, it proved that you don’t need to recruit Hollywood’s A-listers to make a great film that gets a lot of public attention.

Inglourious Basterds is a huge achievement for Quentin Tarantino.  It plays like a Tarantino film, full of music, gore, comedy and film pastiche, but it’s also the most mature and well-thought out movie the director has ever made.  People will continue to talk about Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but I truly believe that with Inglourious Basterds Tarantino has upped his game.  It still probably won’t stand a chance against our next two nominees, but it’s still my favourite film of 2009.

Avatar will probably win Best Picture and Best Director for the same reason that James Cameron swept the categories with Titanic more than a decade ago.  It’s big, shiny and pretty much epitomizes what moviegoing is all about.  It also signed Hollywood its biggest paycheque in years.

Another scenario finds the Academy putting critical acclaim ahead of commercial success and handing the top prizes to The Hurt Locker.  The film is the first high-profile picture to examine the current Iraq war and will probably be remembered for years to come.

Ultimately, I predict Kathryn Bigelow will win Best Director for The Hurt Locker and Avatar will win Best Picture.

Who will win: Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director; Avatar for Best Picture

Who should win: Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director; Inglourious Basterds for Best Picture

The upset: James Cameron for Best Director; The Hurt Locker for Best Picture


One Response to “Waiting for Oscar: Best Director & Best Picture”

  1. March 7th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Adam M. Anklewicz says:

    Cameron has to win for best Director. It’s his achievements as a director that made Avatar the success it is.

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