|Left to right: Ellar Coltrane and Richard Linklater|
With the Oscar nominations only one week away, now seems like a good time to take into account the various categories and share personal thoughts on what stands a chance and what will likely not make the cut. The following is a rundown of the performers who I feel will most likely make it to the final five in the Best Director race and who may be considered a potential threat for the category. Let me state that this isn't a prediction of who will win, simply who will get the nomination.
" * " indicates haven't seen
Richard Linklater - Boyhood
At this point, he is an unstoppable force and a sure bet for the prize. While there's some concern that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu may upset, it appears that voters are more interested in his technique that is very grounded and lacks any real flair. His down to earth style is likely a component of what has made Boyhood such an important movie to so many people and the reason why he is likely to win the big prize.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Birdman
This is where the calls begin to get tough. Both Birdman and Boyhood have been neck and neck for most of awards season. While the latter is more of a crowd favorite, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has one advantage in this case. His trick of making the film look like a single take has been a strong component of conversation and may help him to win the Best Director award. Don't forget that last year saw Alfonso Cuaron win for Gravity, which incorporated single takes into a space thriller premise that left an exhilarating aftertaste. However, if the Golden Globes are any indicator, he still has to do some kissing up.
Ava Duvernay - Selma
If any narrative is to be believed, Ava Duvernay's chances are high because she would be the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director. While this seems like forced equal opportunity, it is more of a pleasant sign given that Selma is a highly relevant film that is show so provocatively and causes a deeper understanding of the civil rights moment in the 60's landscape. Along with some louder moments, the film revels in solid direction of quieter moments and thus makes her film one of the most wholly confident ones on this list.
Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
A few months ago, it didn't seem likely to mention Wes Anderson and the Oscars remotely within reach of each other. After sweeping a lot of awards nominations, things are starting to seem more likely, especially after his Golden Globe nomination. It will be very interesting to see how The Grand Budapest Hotel does overall in the nominations bracket and a great curiosity as to how things may play out. While his previous film Moonrise Kingdom didn't do too well, this film seems to be resonating more with audiences, so anything is possible.
Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
True, the film is practically falling out of everyone's conversation. Still, I feel like the Academy has a soft spot in their hearts for Bennett Miller, who has been here before with Capote and Moneyball. While his latest is a little too bleak and didn't spark as much public conversation, it is hard to entirely write him off, especially since he manages to present a landscape of desolate, quiet and eerie characters coming to terms with a lot of unnerving consequences. The only question is if his lack of flair will do him any favors here.
Angelina Jolie - Unbroken
While the film has fallen out of the conversation, I do think that there's merit in giving Angelina Jolie a Best Director nomination. If nothing else, she manages to make the scope and beauty flow together nicely. It still is suspect if her being overshadowed had anything to do with becoming the "other woman" up for Best Director when Ava Duvernay hit the scene. There's only hope that someday this category can coexist with more than one novelty nominee. Though with the lack of conversation and awards surrounding Unbroken, it doesn't really seem like this is being taken as a personal offense.
James Marsh - The Theory of Everything
Don't give up the hope that this will be a surprise entry for Best Director. After creating the acclaimed Man on Wire documentary, he has been a name to watch out for. While the biopic nature may feel conventional, he manages to create a wondrous middle for the film to exist in a state of optimism, reality and dreamlike sensations. While it may seem too conventional and heavily more influenced by Eddie Redmayne's performance, there's a chance that this is the potential upset among these few.
Clint Eastwood - American Sniper *
Good old Clint Eastwood. One of the Oscar veterans who has already won this award twice and continues to show up every time he makes a really good movie. While I have yet to see American Sniper, I have some curiosity as to how it will play out. It may be too late for the movie to actually have a strong prominence in the Oscar conversation, but in the off chance that there has been unheard buzz, we may be looking at a potential upset, largely thanks to his pedigree and status as a director.
David Fincher - Gone Girl
Call me crazy, but I don't think that Gone Girl is going to have all that much luck at the Oscars this year. The film is too divisive and controversial for any major sweep. Also, the direction done by David Fincher may have an underlying charm to it, but for the casual viewer it can be perceived as a distraction. Not entirely impossible, but I don't exactly see this film that captured conversations back in September will do more than be an honorable mention.
Personal Favorites Not Likely to Make It
Damien Chazelle - Whiplash
No lie. The final 15 minutes of this movie is some of the best editing and direction that I saw in 2014. With ferocity and confidence, the film managed to play not only like an orchestra, but brought the sweating, pulsating energy of being on the verge of messing up into something of an art form. In a lot of respects, he is better than many of the names listed above. The only issue is that he isn't too high of a profile and will have to rely on J.K. Simmons for that nomination. Still, he has a very interesting career ahead of him.
Paul Thomas Anderson - Inherent Vice
It is true that he was someone of high contention a few years ago for The Master. However, as much as I like Inherent Vice, this is one of his sloppier and sillier films that isn't likely to pick up too much attention from awards season. In fact, it hasn't really. It simply exists as a great filmmaker making a silly crime film that has more expertise than you'd initially hope for. Well worth checking out, but in no sense a front runner of this or any category.
Justin Simien - Dear White People
While this film has made some appearances on indie awards lists, don't expect it to do too well with the big boys. I will admit that I love the film and find it to be more biting and relevant in a lot of ways than Selma. Of course, it is also too youthful and edgy in ways that won't appeal to older voters. Still, it is an impressive debut with a lot of ferocious energy with a lot to say about contemporary society.
Jonathan Glazer - Under the Skin
This film is just too weird to have stood a chance in almost every possible awards ceremony, though the BAFTAS gave it deserved recognition. Still, with stunning visuals and awe-inspiring shots, this psycho-sexual film about alienation and communication is one of the most unique and engrossing films for art house fans in 2014. Most of all, the shots are almost too impressively unique that almost nobody else could do it as effectively. It is a film that will likely grow in status as time goes on. For now, it is just a bummer that the Academy doesn't recognize truly out there films.
Gia Coppola - Palo Alto
I must admit that I have an unexplained soft spot for Coppola movies. With the latest director being Gia Coppola, I am proud to say that Palo Alto is another gem. This time tackling the meandering life of teenagers as they try and make sense of the world, she adds a meditative ambiance to the film that is full of beauty and wonder. I can only hope that her next film is going to be as great or better than this one.