This year’s group of Best Director nominees includes an interesting dynamic of filmmakers. The category features three directors with no previous Best Director nominations at the Academy Awards (Michael Haneke, Benh Zeitlin, and David O. Russell), and two experienced veterans in this category (Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg). Between Lee and Spielberg, they have been nominated eight times for Best Director, winning three of those awards. This will be one of the most anticipated awards throughout the entire ceremony, and I am personally thrilled to see who emerges as the winner in a category characterized by variety. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Director:
WINNER: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
David O. Russell’s most popular films of his career are I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010), but he has truly created a masterpiece in Silver Linings Playbook—this will surely go down as his best film to date. I was greatly impressed by the acting performances in the movie, but I was also equally fascinated by the amazing script, also written by Russell—the ways in which he recreates this story on the screen are absolutely dazzling. To say the least, I was strongly moved by almost every scene in the film, and this is due to Russell’s outstanding directorial effort. Russell’s motion picture also becomes the first film since 1993 to be nominated in each of the Big 5 categories at the Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay). Russell has never previously been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.
2. Michael Haneke (Amour)
Even though Michael Haneke is up for his very first Best Director award at the Oscars, he is no stranger to accolades in the film industry. The Austrian filmmaker has written and directed some of the world’s most admired foreign-language films, and he is one of only seven filmmakers to twice win the coveted Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival (The White Ribbon, 2009, and Amour, 2012). Haneke’s Amour was one of the most invigorating tales of the year, and his film has received a significant amount of acclaim all around the world, including five nominations at the Academy Awards. Haneke has never previously been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.
3. Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
As I stated in a previous post, I was not overly thrilled to see Life of Pi because it looked like a cheesy movie for kids—that was until I finally saw it. Ang Lee is considered one of the greatest modern filmmakers, and he has only added to his legacy with Life of Pi. Lee employed a wonderful writer and an amazingly fresh, young cast, and the ways in which he uses his veteran filmmaking skills to tell this elaborate story is nothing short of stunning. Lee was previously nominated for two Best Director Oscars, winning the Academy Award in this category for Brokeback Mountain (2005).
4. Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Benh Zeitlin has directed a momentous movie in his very first attempt at feature films. I was quite surprised that this was his first feature film because after viewing the movie, it looked as if a world-renowned filmmaker created it. If Zeitlin decides to make more films in the future, he is sure to become a staple at the Oscars after giving us one of 2012’s best motion pictures, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Zeitlin has never previously been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.
5. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Steven Spielberg has garnered a substantial amount of critical acclaim for his newest film, Lincoln. Even though it is touted as one of the year’s best and is predicted to win a slew of Oscars, I found the movie quite boring and bland, other than some great acting performances. Personally, the movie did not seem much different, in entertainment level or filmmaking style, than Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), and I was bored to no avail by that movie. Spielberg was previously nominated for six Best Director Oscars, winning the Academy Award in this category for two films: Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Directors snubbed in this category: Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)