Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Theory on Why Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Will Win Best Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
With the Oscars closing in, it's time to finalize the votes for who is likely going to win the top prizes. While I have already discussed the three pronged Best Picture race (SelmaBirdmanBoyhood), but now it is time to get into the other big categories. Over the next few days, I will be sharing quick pieces on who is likely to win in each of the major categories as well as any discussion of a potential upset. Coming up is a piece on why Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman) is pretty much going to walk away with the Best Director trophy on Oscar night.

Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
Richard Linklater - Boyhood
Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game
Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel

What makes the 2014 Oscars particularly exciting is that the Best Picture/Best Director line-up is rather unpredictable. While many would pit Birdman as the favorite, there's the familiar caveat of the split vote between these two categories. Consider the past few years in which the respective winners were 12 Years a Slave (Best Picture)/Gravity (Best Director) and Argo (Best Picture)/Life of Pi (Best Director). This is leading many to believe that there will be a split yet again, especially with Birdman and Boyhood being almost entirely in competition of each other until the very end. The only difference is that Birdman has gained the edge with more wins.

So how are things likely going to go down? There's plenty belief that the split will happen. In a perfect world, the award with split Boyhood (Best Picture)/Birdman (Best Director). However, things are way too different for this to be the likelihood leaving many to believe that Richard Linklater is a shoe-in for Best Director. For good reason as well. He brought realism to the coming of age drama in new and inventive ways. However, like I pointed out in a piece earlier this week, I feel like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's use of time is more innovative and the gimmick of the one take is something rather exceptional, even if the film is deeply flawed otherwise.

Here's where I end up thinking that Birdman is going to win both: showiness. For all of Linklater's achievements, there's little showy in it. The gimmick lies more in the passage of time and not the camera movement. Birdman is nothing but attention to camera movement and the singular take adds a particular hypnotic approach to everything. Hours can pass by within seconds within the frame. The direction is made clear at all turns. Why is this more important than competent yet humble directing? Because that's how the Oscars have awarded films the past few years. Consider Gravity, which  swept the technical fields as well as became notorious for its long takes and reinvention of the genre. Same could be said for Life of Pi in which the film mixed real life with CG animation in new and captivating ways.

This isn't to suggest that Boyhood isn't innovative. It definitely captures something worth applauding thanks to patience and landing the execution. However, Birdman feels like the direct successor to Gravity in terms of using camera shots to emphasize deeper and more resonating emotions. It plays technical tricks that forces the audience to adjust their expectations likewise. It is more implicit than Boyhood in this regards and thus is likely to win the category. It is showier and thus calls out for more attention. As stated, I would be fine if Boyhood in return won Best Picture, but the patterns show an antithetical statement to this.

I do honestly believe that the split theory is somewhat of a mislead this time around. While the Oscars overall have been more inventive than usual this year with a wide array of great films representing a larger portion of the year, there's still the chance for surprises. The thing is that while the indie community understands that Linklater is overdue for some nominations, Inarritu feels even more overdue if one is to play this game. His debut Amores Perros received a Best Foreign Film nomination in 2000 and Babel was a Best Picture nominee. His legacy likely feels more worth noting, or at least he is more recognizable to Oscar voters. While I do want to believe that there are "surprises" in store, this feels very likely. Much like Martin Scorsese winning Best Director for The Departed, this might just be a recognition Oscar for Inarritu's vast body of work.

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