Neil Jordan: The Crying Game
James Ivory: Howards End
Robert Altman: The Player
Martin Brest: Scent of a Woman
Clint Eastwood: Unforgiven
It would seem that 1992 was a pretty good year for film, but Best Director is traditionally limited to five entries, which means we’ve got some people left off here. In terms of the movies left off, the best unrepresented film from this year in this category is James Foley’s Glengarry Glen Ross. I’d also put Rob Reiner for A Few Good Men into the mix, because I think it’s a well-directed film. Quentin Tarantino was still too new to get much attention for Reservoir Dogs, but this feels like a film where he deserved a little consideration. I’ll also put Jonathan Lynn for My Cousin Vinny and Penny Marshall for A League of Their Own as possible choices as well. I haven’t seen Malcolm X, so I can’t comment on Spike Lee. I like Sneakers, but don’t think the direction is all that spectacular. I also feel like I should mention Far and Away, if only for Jason Soto.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: Scent of a Woman is not my least favorite film of the five here, but it’s the one nominated for Best Director that makes me scratch my head the most. My memories of this film are of it being too long and overwrought. I also remember a lot of classic Al Pacino overacting and scenery chewing. It’s a pretty good movie, but it’s not a great one, and when we’re talking about naming the best directorial performance of a given year, it really should be a great one, and I should be able to tell exactly what the director did. I can’t here.
4: At the very least, with Howards End I can see the director’s influence on the film being shown. I can’t say that I like it much, but Merchant/Ivory pictures aren’t made for me, even a little. I didn’t really have much hope for this going in, and I didn’t love it. It’s a consisten look, though, and the story is well told even if I don’t like the story that much. I can’t fault James Ivory for turning out the movie he did with this one. I can say that I have no desire to watch it again, which is why I wouldn’t give him a statue.
3: I have a love/hate relationship with Robert Altman. Sometimes, the man is brilliant and he tells a great, complicated story. Sometimes he just confuses me. The Player is one of his best films and it’s the first of these nominations I’m happy to see in the mix. I think this is a wonderful skewering of the Hollywood system, and Altman gets fantastic performances out of everyone in his extensive cast. There’s a lot to love here, and Altman is rarely this focused or coherent, which is noteworthy. It’s a great effort, but not the best of 1992.
2: One of the great things about The Crying Game is that even if the viewer knows the big twist, the film still works completely. I knew the “shock” moment before I watched it, and I still found the entire thing compelling. Much of the credit for that goes to the performances and to the screenplay, but a lot of credit goes to Neil Jordan as well. Movies that work based on a shock moment or sudden turn tend not to have a great deal of replay value, but The Crying Game does, and Jordan gets the lion’s share of the credit for this film’s rewatchability.
1: But there really is only one choice for Best Director in 1992, and the Academy got this one right. Clint Eastwood deserved to be recognized for what he did with the Western genre in Unforgiven and for coaxing such real and natural performances out of his cast. I often forget just how deep this film is and how richly textured it is on the screen. Eastwood made pretty much every right choice he could in putting this film together, and the Academy was right to recognize his efforts.