Friday, June 21, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director 2015

The Contenders:

Adam McKay: The Big Short
George Miller: Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu: The Revenant (winner)
Lenny Abrahamson: Room
Tom McCarthy: Spotlight

What’s Missing

So let’s talk about the director race for 2015. This is one of those rare cases where I at least like all of the movies that were nominated even if I don’t agree with the nominations for all of the directors. S. Craig Zahler was never going to get a nomination for Bone Tomahawk, but it’s one of the most memorable films of 2015, at least for one particular scene (and if you have seen this, you know the one). Robert Eggers and The VVitch fall into the same rough “outside of Oscar’s wheelhouse” category. I’m always going to put Guillermo del Toro’s name out there, and while it’s a hard sell for Crimson Peak, I like that movie a lot more than its reputation would seem to warrant. Tangerine isn’t the sort of movie that stirs a lot of Oscar love, and yet how it was filmed is almost as important as the film itself, and director Sean Baker should get some recognition for that. There are two directors I’d love to see here. The first is Ryan Coogler, who managed to make the character of Rocky Balboa still relevant by giving us a compelling character in Apollo Creed’s son in Creed. The other is F. Gary Gray for Straight Outta Compton. Sure, it was helped generously by a fantastic screenplay, but a lot of the film’s success is Gray’s.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I think Spotlight is a good movie and an important one, but I have no idea why Tom McCarthy is here. Actually, I do know. I think in a lot of years, many of the directorial slots are filled by whomever directed the 3-5 top contenders for Best Picture. That’s clearly not a great practice. Sure, McCarthy probably did a lot of this film and made a lot of important decisions. If you ask me, though, it looks like what he did was get out of the way of a great cast, a solid screenplay, and one of the biggest scandals of the past few decades.

4. Room is one of those films where it’s hard to say that there are problems because of the film’s subject matter. This is a film about a sort of brutal victimhood, and to complain about odd choices or inconsistencies can look, well, politically incorrect. And yet the film does have problems. It’s well-made and I’ll even say it’s well-directed, but Lenny Abrahamson seems to be here more or less because this is the sort of movie that gets Oscar excited, so the directorial performance must’ve been really good, too, right? Right?

3. I considered Adam McKay for fourth place, but I think the filming of The Big Short is more interesting. It’s one of those films where most of the audience is going to know the broad sweeps of the story without knowing the specifics of that story. It’s the specifics that make it worth watching, of course, and those are what McKay helps make interesting. For all that, I’m not sure this is a movie that couldn’t have been directed in the main by someone else with much the same result. It’s fine. But Oscar-worthy? I don’t think so.

2. I wasn’t shocked when Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won for The Revenant, as this seemed almost a foregone conclusion. He was already running hot from the win the previous year, and it was a film that had a lot of buzz going for it as being the one that would finally put an Oscar into Leonardo DiCaprio’s hands. Inarritu is a fine director. I like his work quite a bit, and if I’m honest, I can’t say that he’s a terrible pick for this Oscar even if, like for this award in 2014, I end up putting him just off the dais.

My Choice

1. For me, the winner is George Miller in a walk. Mad Max: Fury Road could have easily been a joke, a rehash, or a desperate attempt to regain relevance for a franchise that had died out a generation before. Instead, it was a fresh reinvention of the characters and setting, and almost a reinvention of the genre. Miller ought to be given the Oscar for no other reason than virtually all of the film is done practically with very little CGI. No one makes movies like that much anymore, so when someone does, we notice. Miller’s film was shockingly original despite being a sequel, and much of that originality came from how it was shot. This should have been his.

Final Analysis


  1. Personally, I would've given Quentin Tarantino the Best Director prize for The Hateful Eight which I loved (having seen the 70mm version of the film). Yet, I will agree with you that George Miller should've won for Mad Max: Fury Road as that was my 2nd favorite film of that year.

    1. I have a long-standing beef against Tarantino. I suppose it's likely he'll win a Best Director Oscar eventually, but I think he's incredibly overrated.

      Long-time readers can say it with me. Tarantino would be a lot better if he stopped trying to be awesome and instead tried to just be good.