Oscar prediction week marches on with the nominees for Best Director. This year it is entirely possible that the Best Picture will not have been directed by the Best Director. So this category is wide open.
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) – What a miracle this movie is. I recently read an interview with Steve Lawes the cinematographer from the BBC series Sherlock. He commented how when he goes to the movies it’s hard for him not to see “all the seams.” But his experience with Gravity was different. He said, “I go and see Gravity and I’m aware of this long shot at the beginning and after about 10 minutes I’m just engrossed in this world of Sandra Bullock and it’s like a roller coaster ride.” Cuarón deserves complete credit and every accolade he receives for making a technical marvel of a film but not skimping on the story one bit.
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) – For being a relatively unknown director Steve McQueen has accomplished quite a bit for his strong work on 12 Years a Slave. The subject matter is uncomfortable. The field of great directors this year is formidable and yet he found himself nominated for Best Director. The fact that his actors received 3 nominations on top of the fact the film is up for Best Picture says a lot about McQueens skill. He might be have been an unknown a few months ago, but those days are over.
Alexander Payne (Nebraska) – I can’t say enough about the great work Alexander Payne has done on brilliant films like The Descendants and Sideways (one of my all-time faves). I point out those other films because Nebraska didn’t work on any level for me. It was a gigantic swing and a miss. But I know that Payne is a great filmmaker. It will take a lot more than a sour taste in my mouth over Nebraska to keep me away from whatever he does next.
David O. Russell (American Hustle) – Talk about your hot streaks. Russell has been nominated for Best Director for each of his last 3 films which also all happened to be nominated for Best Picture. On top of that they have garnered a total of 25 Oscar nominations with 3 wins so far. Melissa Leo and Christian Bale gave particularly outstanding performances in The Fighter. I have heard he’s hard to work with. But it’s hard to argue with the end product. His ability to draw out such rich and vibrant performances is incredibly impressive and he’s done it again with American Hustle. It’s only a matter of time before he strikes Oscar gold.
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) – I talked about the graphic content in this film in my screenplay predictions so I won’t rehash that aspect of this film. What I will say is that if Marty continues to elevate Leo’s game like this his Oscar drought will be over soon, replaced with a bevy of gold statuettes. My only (and frequent) complaint about Scorsese is that he doesn’t seem to know how to end a film. Just when you think the story has resolved you tend to get another 10, 20, 60 minutes of additional story you don’t need. Frankly, his movies are just too darn long. There were a number of elements of The Wolf of Wall Street that could have been cut without missing a beat. I would normally pin an issue like that on the screenwriter or editor. But since this is a recurring theme with Martin Scorsese films I place the blame squarely on his shoulders. That being said, Scorsese is a man of vision and what a grand vision he put on display in this film.
OSCAR WINNER: Alfonso Cuarón
SELBY PICK: Alfonso Cuarón
Tomorrow I’ll dive into the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. These are pretty juicy so I’m looking forward to breaking them down and giving my predictions. I think you might be surprised by my predictions.
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Until tomorrow, here are my other predictions.