Friday, October 5, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director 1994

The Contenders:

Woody Allen: Bullets Over Broadway
Robert Zemeckis: Forrest Gump (winner)
Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction
Robert Redford: Quiz Show
Krzysztof Kieslowski: Three Colors: Red

What’s Missing

I’ve seen a lot of movies from 1994, and while I certainly like some of the nominees, there are going to be some places where I want to make some changes. As usual, I’ll start with the films and filmmakers that don’t really have a chance at a nomination for this year. Danny Boyle and Shallow Grave can head that list despite just how effective that movie really is. I’m also going to put Stephan Elliott and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in this category along with the under-known Once Were Warriors from Lee Tamahori. Some movies are ones that I love but that probably aren’t quite good enough or serious enough objectively to be nominated. The Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy is one of those, and I might put Mike Newell and Four Weddings and a Funeral as one that isn’t quite serious enough. Foreign language films are always a longshot for directors, especially with one already nominated, but I can make a case for Wong Kar-wai and Chungking Express. The movies that aren’t quite well-known enough for serious consideration include John Dahl’s The Last Seduction and Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. I think I can make a case for Tim Burton and Ed Wood and I know I can make a case for Luc Besson and Leon: The Professional. Ultimately, I suppose I’m not shocked at the snub for Oliver Stone and Natural Born Killers. The big miss? Frank Darabont and The Shawshank Redemption.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Say what you will about Woody Allen, but he’s a talented director. And while that’s true of a lot of his films, there are things about Bullets over Broadway that bug me on a very real level. Admittedly, that might be more about the screenplay than the direction. But why was Allen nominated here? What did he do with this film that was particular noteworthy? I don’t know, and so there are plenty of other people I would rather see here than him. It may well be that I’m penalizing Allen the director for the sins of Allen the writer and Allen the person.

4. Of these five movies, I think Quiz Show is the one I like the best, or at least the one that I’m the most likely to rewatch. I think it’s a hell of a good movie in a lot of respects. It’s also a movie where it seems to me that Redford got out of the way and allowed for some really good performances to shine through. Sometimes this is the right choice, and I think it’s the right choice here. That doesn’t tend to do well for me when it comes to this award, though. Making the right choice is great, but it’s not specifically worthy of a statue.

3. I’m going to say about Quentin Tarantino something that I’ve said about him a number of times in the past: he’d be a much better director if he stopped trying to be awesome and started trying to just be good. Pulp Fiction is perhaps the closest he’s come to this, because he does some things really well here. But overall, I think he spends so much time trying to impress people with his knowledge of obscure films that he can reference that he loses track of the story he’s trying to tell, and that’s never a good thing.

2. I’ve never been shy about my intense dislike for Forrest Gump, but I do have to hand it to Zemeckis. Sure, the technology that put Tom Hanks into the frame with JFK and John Lennon looks terrible now, but in 1994, it was some truly amazing stuff. Zemeckis managed to use this technology well to help him tell the story without letting it take over or replace the story. That’s not easy to do. I do dislike Forrest Gump to perhaps an unfair degree, but credit where it is due—it’s well-directed.

1. This gives me the awesomely named Krzysztof Kieslowski and Three Colors: Red for the top position. It’s kind of a weak win for me, because it’s not one that I put significantly above Forrest Gump, and it’s not the one I would ultimately want to win. I haven’t seen a Kieslowski film that I haven’t liked, and while I did like Red, I liked Blue a hell of a lot more. Given the five nominations, this is where I’m going, but it’s not what I’m limited to on this blog, so it’s not my ultimate choice.

My Choice

Kieslowski and Zemeckis might be the only two that I’d keep in an open field. I’d give a lot of weight to Frank Darabont and The Shawshank Redemption and I’d give a lot of thought to Wong Kar-wai and Chungking Express. Ultimately, though, as much as this doesn’t seem like it’s me saying it, I think I might end up going with the fever dream that is Natural Born Killers and Oliver Stone. I don’t always love Stone’s work and I’m not sure I love this, but I respect just how bonkers it is.

Final Analysis


  1. Yes, Stone did amazing work pulling NBK together and would likely get my vote for the top spot, too. But if I'm being honest, he would barely scrape by Tarantino, if it did. ImI a huge fan of what he did with Pulp Fiction. And yeah, Darabont deserved a nom. For the life of me, I can't figure out he didn't get one.

    1. I'm probably more biased against Tarantino than I should be, but I also don't care that much. I think he's overrated.

  2. I would go with Tarantino all the way in 1994, with Zemeckis probably a distant second.

  3. What's/Who's missing is John Dahl and Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers. Dahl's little film scared me to death back then due to the lead looking just like the woman I was dating at the time and was utterly believable which could have easily failed in most other director's hands. And Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers took a little animated character and made him a pillar of the Disney Empire that is still going strong today in various incarnations which now includes a new live-action version from director Jon Favreau.

    1. I did mention The Last Seduction above--it's a hell of a good movie. I realize that I'm in the minority on The Lion King, but I didn't love it. I think it's one of those movies I saw at the wrong time in my life for it to really be meaningful for me.