Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars Predictions 2015: Best Director

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

2015 ACADEMY AWARDS PREDICTION:
ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

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1. BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Alejandro González Iñárritu

2. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Wes Anderson

3. BOYHOOD
Richard Linklater

4. THE IMITATION GAME
Morten Tyldum

5. FOXCATCHER
Bennett Miller

Should’ve been here: Ava DuVernay, Selma

As tradition this year, let’s begin with what isn’t here: the female director who more than deserved an invite to this party. Ava DuVernay helmed Selma beautifully, intelligently, and fiercely. It is absolutely shameful that she was snubbed.

If there’s one thing to be said about Bennett Miller, it’s that he commits.  Foxcatcher drowns in its unrelenting dour seriousness. It’s all muted colors and gaping pauses – like Pinter, but without any of the punch. The crawling pace is extraordinarily painful (almost as painful as Steve Carell’s nose, which I just cannot get over), and the lack of any kind of energy in a movie that revolves around a sport is confounding.  The Academy is a fan of Miller (he was previously nominated for Capote and Moneyball got a lot of love), but the Directors Guild wasn’t feeling it: Foxcatcher is the only Oscar nominee to not also receive a DGA nod. At any rate, there are flashier directorial concepts this year that give little chance for this (literally) dark horse to spoil.

The Imitation Game‘s great ensemble cast is what makes the film work as well as it does, and to an extent, that’s due to the efforts of director Morten Tyldum. But looking beyond the fine performances, the film falls apart. To create a biopic of Alan Turing’s life is to give equal time to all defining aspects of the man. Instead, Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore use Turing’s homosexuality (and related suicide) as a plot device that is hinted at throughout, but only really only comes into play in the final act of the film, and not very smoothly.

For all the sputtering about Wes Anderson finally getting his due from the Academy for a lesser of his films, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a perfectly measured, delightfully deadpan, complex caper. The opulent hotel and its quirky inhabitants exist in a world that only Anderson could imagine – that trademark detail and asymmetrical frames, that vibrant palette and dollhouse tableaux. He ever-so-precisely tells his story within a story within a story (did I get them all?), which eventually devolves with deliciously madcap abandon. This, his sixth nomination, marks his first for directing, and in another year, it very well could’ve been his.

Richard Linklater has been the frontrunner for sometime. There’s no denying that the 12 years he spent creating Boyhood is highly conceptual, innovative filmmaking. But the result is a masterpiece of editing more than anything else (and Sandra Adair will be rightly rewarded for her work). What’s more, Boyhood isn’t actually a film about boyhood. If it weren’t for the bookending scenes which showcase Mason, you could – and should – re-title the film Motherhood (or Parenthood, but I think we can all agree that mom’s got the better arc here). The film’s poignancy comes from the parents’ realizations about life, and even when they’re not physically present in a scene, they’re still there. Those kids-only scenes are filmed from an adult perspective; we’re never asked to view things through the child’s eyes, but always from mom or dad’s. Add to that some terrible acting that Linklater should’ve reigned in (good god, those husbands of Arquette’s), and this just isn’t his award. I know I often enjoy being the contrarian, but this is an instance where I dislike it. I admire Linklater a lot, and I wanted to love Boyhood, I really, really did. I respect it, and there are some truly sparkling, revelatory moments, but overall, the highbrow concept just isn’t enough. However, there is a very good chance Linklater will win. But I’m going with my gut…

And my gut says  Iñárritu. After all, he did just win the DGA for Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance). His work on Birdman isn’t perfect, but most of the dropped balls are in the screenplay’s court. Even though he falters somewhat as a writer (e.g., Is this play even good enough to succeed?), as a director, he’s dazzling in his excessiveness. From the illusion of a single long take (thanks to DP master Emmanuel Lubezki) in which the camera swoops and soars along with the cast to the delicious, gleeful over-acting, Iñárritu overstuffs his absurd tragicomedy with over-the-top characters and backstage antics. The intricate, perfectly-timed choreography of it all is flabbergasting – and unquestionably award-worthy.

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2 comments on “Oscars Predictions 2015: Best Director

  1. Haslyn Roberts
    February 20, 2015

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion of Boyhood. I think if you read Manohla Dargis’s review of Boyhood from New York Times– she points out several reasons why this film is a masterpiece.

    Like

    • Julie
      February 20, 2015

      Feel free to disagree with me. Everything I write on my blog is, of course, my opinion (which I go into further in the Original Screenplay and Director posts) – just as the NYT review reflect’s Dargis’s opinion. For me, calling it a masterpiece is more than a stretch.

      Like

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