Friday, May 29, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director 2018

The Contenders:

Spike Lee: BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikoski: Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos: The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron: Roma (winner)
Adam McKay: Vice

What’s Missing

It does still feel too early to really address 2018 films, but I’m starting to run low on options. We don’t get a lot of debut director nominations, but I think Boots Riley’s work on Sorry to Bother You is worth a look. That’s also potentially true of John Krasinski and A Quiet Place, which had the additional problem of being a horror movie. Multiple directors on the same movie is still mildly an issue for Oscar, and Oscar will probably never nominate a director for an animated movie. This leaves out Wes Anderson for Isle of Dogs and also the trio of Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey, and Bob Persichetti for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Ari Aster and Hereditary were overlooked in general, probably because it’s a horror movie. Alex Garland’s Annihilation was both science fiction and horror, and features an almost entirely female cast, so it was evidently easy to overlook. A mainly female cast is also a potential reason that Widows and Steve McQueen were overlooked, especially with The Favourite already here. Since we have a foreign language film here already, Nadine Labaki and Capernaum had virtually no chance. I might be able to make a case for John M. Chu and Crazy Rich Asians as well as for Damien Chazelle and First Man. Honestly, the only reason I can see for leaving Marielle Heller and Can You Ever Forgive Me? off the list is because Oscar really doesn’t like women in the director’s chair.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. This is legitimately one of those cases where I feel like almost all of the nominees belong in the same place…roughly fourth. There’s a great deal of style in the way Adam McKay directed Vice, but the truth is that I find a lot of what McKay does to be style over substance. There’s a sense of him trying really hard to be edgy and “interesting” in the way that he directs the film and presents it. I think I’m supposed to be impressed by it, but I genuinely don’t, and I think that it’s likely I will always feel that way.

4. Alfonso Cuaron won this Oscar, and I’m ultimately not terribly surprised. Oscar loves Mexican directors right now and Cuaron in specific. Five of the last seven winners have been from Mexico, two of those Oscars going to Cuaron, so again, I can’t say this was a shock. My problem with Roma is that I didn’t really find much of a reason to watch the movie. It’s well-made and I can’t fault the look of it, but I also don’t feel like I know what Cuaron really did here. Someone who thinks he should have won is welcome to tell me in the comments.

3. Of the five nominated movies, Cold War might be the one that I had the most trouble with, and it’s probably the one I am least likely to watch again. That said, I thought that Pawel Pawlikoski’s work was at least interesting. Still, if we’re going to have a foreign language film up for this nomination, I’d much rather see Nadine Labaki here for Capernaum, which I thought was a better film and was also filmed with more emotional sense in a lot of ways. But, Oscar doesn’t love a woman in the director’s chair, so here we are.

2. Yorgos Lanthimos is the first director nominated who I think I would ultimately keep if I were creating my own list of directors for this nomination. Much of that comes entirely from the performances he managed to get from his cast. Admittedly, it’s a very talented cast who are more than capable of this kind of work, but the three main stars here are as good or better than they have ever been, and Lanthimos has to get at least a little of the credit for that. I like the nomination, but not for the win.

My Choice

1. This leaves me with Spike Lee and BlacKkKlansman in first, and while of the five nominees I am happy with this, I’m not entirely satisfied with this overall. The problem is that I also don’t have a great deal of enthusiasm for anyone else to take this spot. Marielle Heller would be a good choice, I think. I also wouldn’t object to Ari Aster or Boots Riley. But I can’t see a reason to name one of them over Spike Lee, and on this blog, the tie always goes to Oscar. That being the case, Spike Lee it is.

Final Analysis


  1. I have Cold War on DVD but have yet to watch it. I still haven't seen Vice while I have seen the rest as I'm in the minority that felt the Oscars got it right though I do feel that there's several other filmmakers that got overlooked like Julian Schnabel for At Eternity's Gate and (though I am biased) Lars von Trier for The House That Jack Built.

    1. I always think I want to like Lars von Trier, but there's something about him that's like biting on tinfoil for me.