Alright, so moving along in this special segment of ‘A Closer Look’ we come to the 2011 Director race. This race was fun to predict all year because at years beginning there was no way that anyone was predicting these five, save for maybe Terrence Malick (I had him predicted in April). The rest of this list came together in strange events that led to one of those lineups I never saw coming. I mean, Woody Allen getting a directing nomination for one of his dullest and certainly least inspired contributions? Martin Scorsese getting nominated for a kids movie? A French director best known for 007 spoofs WINS an Oscar for a silent movie? Malick directing a film about dinosaurs and shit and gets a token nomination even after his film underperforms with the guilds? At the end of the day, this lineup is strange.
And I’m not saying it is undeserved (even though I am), I’m just saying that deserved or not, this is an unexpected lineup.
Going into Oscar nominations morning, I had correctly predicted three of these. Payne, Scorsese and Hazanavicius were happening; no ifs, ands or buts. But while the rest of the sane world understood that Allen was happening, I just didn’t buy it. I actually though that the DGA nomination for Fincher meant something (the guilds resurrected The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in a big way, and I honestly feel that if the nominations were due a few weeks later it would have landed a slew of other noms) and I was holding my breath for the critics’ darling, Winding Refn, to get that surprise nomination. I mean, he won a TON of critic’s awards. How did he miss? He was even sited with BAFTA. It’s fucking depressing.
Anyways, no use crying over spilt milk. He would have never won anyways, so why bitch about it.
So that brings me to Oscars lineup and how I actually feel about it. I’d personally nominate ONE of these guys. The rest of them don’t even make my top twelve. I know that the world will disagree with me about Malick, and I respect what he did there, but honestly…well; I’d rank him #2 I guess.
Payne does nothing of merit. I love the man and actually think that the bulk of his films are rich with comedic timing and dramatic heft, but The Descendants is such an odd mixture of the two. Nothing comes together right in this film, at all. Payne is mostly to blame for that, because he cannot follow through on his themes in a way that feels genuine or at least involving. Instead, he relishes in clichés that don’t further the purpose of the film and becomes content with resting on his lead actor’s charm to carry him home. In other words; his direction is lazy. Woody Allen isn’t much better and yet he gets a semi-pass for delivering a better movie. I mean, talk about lazy. Woody Allen at times tends to rest on his past as an excuse to deliver mediocre work every two years and call it an extension of his career. How Midnight and Paris was deemed his comeback and not the luminous Vicky Cristina Barcelona from 2008 is beyond me. At least he showed spark and drive in that film. Other than painting a pretty picture, Midnight in Paris seems like such a regurgitation, and his ensemble is not strong enough to lay claim that Allen ‘directed them’. I mean, explain to me what he does here.
The other three nominees cannot be classified as lazy at all. In fact, the work really hard to make their films work; sometimes too hard. Scorsese truly directs this film with charm and grace and makes for a beautifully enchanting film. He tries too hard in parts, and the final act feels uneven in tone and a little force-fed, but overall I can’t fault the film’s first two thirds and really find the overall tone of the film to be a delightful change of pace for Scorsese. It also further proves the man’s range. I get tired of people stating that Scorsese can do nothing more than mobster films. Please. Look at his IMDB page. The man is full of ideas and knows how to direct almost anything.
While I do think that Malick is a true visionary, and his films are so uniquely his own, I must say that Malick is the type of director who tends to get in his own way. The Tree of Life is certainly one of those films where he needed to learn to edit. His pacing is atrocious and his constructions skills are poorly used here. It is such a flawed piece of work and yet it is entrancing and completely unforgettable. He doesn’t make my ballot or my top twelve, but it is a respectable nomination to say the least. He tries so hard and delivers such a through provoking piece; more so than any other film this year, but at the end of the day he really needed to use some restraint, and not just the emotional kind.
And that brings me to Hazanavicius. This guy was a nobody in the states and yet he delivered such a crowd pleaser that he was pretty much plucked out of obscurity and handed an Oscar for making the world smile. Who am I to begrudge him that? I mean, he worked DAMN HARD for that Oscar, and what sets him apart from Scorsese and Malick is that it really doesn’t show, at least not in a bad way. All that shows is the amount of fun he had making this film. The gimmick, if you can call it that, is played to perfection in his hands, adding layers of depth to a genuinely shallow film. It glistens and shines and sparkles and commands you interest without demanding it. It is just so fluid and flirty. Hazanavicius understood that sometimes you just have to have fun with it, because if you take yourself too seriously you start to alienate your audience.
So, with that in mind; here is my personal Fisti lineup. It’s also been posted on the Fisti Awards page, and 1991 and 2009 Director are up on their respective pages as well.