Ron Howard: A Beautiful Mind (winner)
Ridley Scott: Black Hawk Down
Robert Altman: Gosford Park
Peter Jackson: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
David Lynch: Mulholland Drive
There were plenty of good movies in 2001 and a number of directing performances I liked quite a bit. In fact, there were a number that I liked more than most of the nominees. To start, Amelie was released in 2001, and I love the vision of Jean-Pierre Jeunet in this film. It’s also the year for Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Memento was released in 2001, and Guy Pearce deserved a little love here. I also rather like Alejandro Amenabar’s work in The Others. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: I’m launching Gosford Park straight away. I tend to be iffy on Robert Altman in general although I do like some of his films. As it happens, Gosford Park is not one of Altman’s films that I like much at all. Too many characters, too little plot that I cared about. I suppose I should congratulate Altman for keeping it all straight, except that he kind of didn’t because this film was far too convoluted for me to care about for more than five minutes after the film was over.
4: I’m going to bump eventual winner A Beautiful Mind next. I’m fairly ambivalent on A Beautiful Mind. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not a film that manages to be that interesting past the first viewing. Sure, we can write that off to the screenplay, but doesn’t the director bear some responsibility for a film’s lack of rewatch potential. This isn’t a terrible movie; it’s actually a pretty good one. Once. That’s not good enough to win Best Director in my book.
3: I was not a fan of Black Hawk Down, but that was entirely based on the fact that the film was completely unrelenting. It’s a hard movie to watch, which was very much the point of the film. So, while I didn’t love the film and have no desire to watch it again, I have to give a lot credit to Ridley Scott. The movie was exactly what he intended it to be. And as much as I didn’t like the film as an experience, it’s directed about as well as it possibly could be. I suppose Ridley Scott gets penalized here for doing an excellent job on a film I don’t like much.
2: So let’s talk about David Lynch for a moment. If this makes me a film snob or a geek, guilty as charged. I like David Lynch’s films in general, even when I’m not sure I actually understand them. Mulholland Drive is a bizarre film, but it’s also cohesive and even kind of coherent. I’m not sure that anyone else could have pulled this film off and made it something remotely watchable. We’d have ended up with something closer to Southland Tales in anyone else’s hands. Lynch’s work on this is top-notch; it’s one of his better films behind the camera.
1: I’ve been vocal in the past about the fact that The Lord of the Rings trilogy couldn’t really be judged until the entire trilogy had been released. I stand by that, but I still think that Peter Jackson turned in the best directorial performance of 2001. There was so much that could have gone wrong, and the film holds together beautifully. There was no question that Jackson was going to win in 2003, but he should have won in 2001 as well. That said, I wouldn’t have been terribly upset had Jean-Pierre Jeunet won.