Friday, April 19, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director 2010

The Contenders:

Darren Aronofsky: Black Swan
David O. Russell: The Fighter
Tom Hooper: The King’s Speech (winner)
David Fincher: The Social Network
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen: True Grit

What’s Missing

Truth be told, I really like most of the movies nominated for Best Director in 2010, even if I don’t think all of these directors deserve to be nominated. It’s a rare thing when I look at the movies on the docket and don’t see one I wouldn’t watch again. That said, there is naturally room for improvement, since there always is. As a reminder, I see Best Director as essentially the best storytelling of the year, which makes the absence of Christopher Nolan for Inception surprising. Say what you will about Nolan (like that he’s overrated because of his fanboys), but keeping a film working on four different narrative speeds coherent is an impressive feat. The previous year gave us the first-ever woman winning Best Director; in true Oscar fashion, no women were nominated in this year despite Kelly Reichardt having made Meek’s Cutoff and Debra Granik directing Winter’s Bone. Foreign language films are often a hard sell for this category, but I can make an argument for Denis Villeneuve and Incendies. Finally, I’d suggest Christopher Morris for Four Lions, notable for just how far it crosses the lines of good taste and still remains entertaining.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Tom Hooper was almost guaranteed to win this thanks to the Academy’s love of the safe choice. No choice was safer than The King’s Speech for 2010. Truth be told, I like this movie quite a bit, or at least more than most people seem to like it. It’s gotten a lot of backlash by virtue of winning a number of Oscars when there were more deserving movies. This is one of those cases. I understand why Tom Hooper won, but I also wouldn’t have nominated him in an open field. His work is fine, but it’s not even notable, let alone Oscar-worthy.

4. The Fighter is the nominated film that I’m the least likely to rewatch, but I can’t say that David O. Russell didn’t deserve some respect here. This is one of those movies where the story is far more compelling than the way in which the story was told, though, and for me, that’s always a hard sell when it comes to Best Director. Gun to head, I probably wouldn’t nominate Russell for this, although I get the nomination. Still, it feels like a nomination more for the story being told than it is for the director telling the story.

3. There’s a part of me that feels a little guilty for putting the Coen Brothers in third place since I consider myself a big fan of their work. True Grit is one of those rare remakes that is at least as good and probably surpasses the original work. I like this version better, at least. It helps a great deal that this has the cast it does, and the cast is, in many ways, thanks to the Coen Brothers being who they are. This is the first nomination I’m at least remotely comfortable with; were I to create a list of five, this might make it, but likely in fifth.

2. David Fincher is one of those directors who seems destined to win an Oscar one of these days but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. My guess is that a lot of people reading this blog (based on conversations I’ve had) would vote for Fincher for The Social Network, which in many ways feels like the first great Millennial movie. I’m a fan of Fincher and think it’s a worthy nomination, and in a lot of years, I’d lean in this direction. Unfortunately for Fincher, there was one other movie from this year that I thought was better told by its director.

My Choice

1. My choice is Darren Aronofsky, who is another director who seems destined to walk away with a statue one of these days. It seems shocking to me that his nomination for Black Swan is the only one of his career. This isn’t my favorite story being told in 2010 by a long shot (my younger daughter, a dancer, is still forbidden to watch this), but it’s my favorite storytelling of this year. Aronofsky keeps things just on the edge of insanity as things slowly spiral out of control. While the story becomes unhinged, he never does, nor does his focus. That’s what Oscar should be rewarding, and that’s why Aronofsky is my pick.

Final Analysis


  1. Out of these my choice would be Aronofsky too. Black Swan isn't something I'm running back to see again but it is masterfully presented.

    But in an open field my choice would be Christopher Nolan for Inception though both Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer and Scorsese for Shutter Island were more deserving than several who made the cut.

    1. I've yet to see Shutter Island, but it's coming soon enough.

      Nolan would probably be my #2 here, and it would be a close one. Inception is brilliantly told.