Friday, January 14, 2022

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Director, 2020

The Contenders:

Thomas Vinterberg: Another Round
David Fincher: Mank
Lee Isaac Chung: Minari
Chloe Zhao: Nomadland (winner)
Emerald Fennell: Promising Young Woman

What’s Missing

As I’ve said before, I see Best Picture as the best movie of the year and Best Director as the best storytelling. Those aren’t the same thing, and there’s a lot of room here for some improvement in our nominations. Right off the time, I’m mildly surprised at the misses for Aaron Sorkin for The Trial of the Chicago 7 and especially Shaka King for Judas and the Black Messiah. Horror never gets respect, but Leigh Wannell deserves a lot of praise for The Invisible Man. I also like Il Cho’s direction of #Alive more than I liked the movie. I’m going to stump for Eliza Hittmann and Never Rarely Sometimes Always, well, somewhere between sometimes and always. The really big miss for me, though, was the intentionally disconcerting and detached style of The Father employed by Florian Zeller.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I am a big fan of David Fincher and I like pretty much everything he’s put on the screen, but he has no business being in this set of nominees for Mank. It’s a fine movie, not as good as the Academy thinks it is, though. It’s also very self-congratulatory of the Academy to create a lot of nominations for a movie that is about a movie that they essentially failed to appropriately award 80 years ago. Fincher probably will (and definitely should) win an Oscar someday, but with what was left out—even for the sort of film typically nominated—he had no business sniffing a nomination this time.

4. I like that Osar has started to branch out from the traditional group of five white guys when it comes to director. This year was notable in that respect—only two white guys, one of whom is not a director of English-language movies. All of that said, I’m not entirely sure I would stand by the nomination of Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. Some of this might be the fact that I don’t like this movie as much as I think I’m supposed to like it. Part of it is that when I think about it, I’m not convinced that there’s a lot exceptional when it comes to the actual direction.

3. It is, of course, significant that Chloe Zhao won Best Director—the first Asian woman and only the second woman in history to win. I applaud that, but she wouldn’t be my choice. That said, this is the first of the five nominees I don’t think I would want to replace. Zhao did some excellent work here, and I would like to see her having more opportunities to do more projects that she wants to do. The Eternals seems like a setback for her. I suppose we’ll see moving forward, but I think she has an important voice in the industry.

2. I did not know what to expect going into Another Round aside from the fact that I like Mads Mikkelsen. This is top-tier storytelling, though, aided by a tremendous cast at the top of their game. I love the way this story builds and the way that the characters feel very natural and organic, as if they are real people. Much of that comes from Vinterberg, who always knows where his camera should be. That’s especially true in the joyous and frenetic conclusion, one of the best film endings I’ve seen in probably two years.

My Choice

1. My winner, though, is going to match my winner for Best Picture. I’m giving this to Promising Young Woman and Emerald Fennell. There is genius in the way this story unfolds and in the way the characters unfold in front of us. What seems like a stretch, if you know the ending at the start of the film, unfolds beautifully and naturally as the story plays out in front of us. Fennell also got a career performance from Carey Mulligan, which is saying a lot. Getting this work from Bo Burnham is just another piece of genius. I love that Fennell was nominated and she would have gotten my vote.

Final Analysis


  1. I still haven't seen these films though I want to thank you for mentioning the library as I found a Blu-Ray copy of Nomadland and a DVD copy of Another Round there hopefully to be watched soon. Right now, I'm dealing with the flu as I hope to catch up to these films.

    1. At any given time, I've got probably 6-10 movies checked out from at least two of the three libraries that I use. I don't always watch them all, but I do watch a lot of them.

  2. Of course straightforward action movies are ignored by the awards circuit, but if you have a chance, check out the work of director Sam Hargrave in Extraction. Terrific storytelling, quite brilliant staging, sharply coherent action scenes, and a minimum of CGI. Plus the bonus of that 12 minute sequence.

    1. I'll put it on the list. I'm always behind on the last 18-24 months.

  3. It is embarrassing, but I have not watched Druk (Another Round) yet. The lockdown came in the way and at first I thought it would be another social-realistic alcoholism movie. Heaven knows I have seen enough of those. When I realized it is a lot more than that, the cinema window had closed and I am now waiting for it to be available on streaming.
    I was super impressed with Promising Young Woman and it was my favorite at the show.
    I tried to watch Nomadland, but gave up after 10 minutes. Just was not in the mood for another hillbilly movie.

    1. It's worth tracking down, and it shouldn't be that hard to find.

      Give Nomadland another try--it's a lot more than just another hillbilly movie.