the oscars: best director

so basically the film awarded best picture typically receives the best director oscar as well. in the past four decades, there have been eight instances wherein that’s not been the case:


nineteen eighty-two: chariots of fire was named best picture; its director, hugh hudson, was nominated for an oscar, but the award was given to warren beatty for reds. other nominees that year were: louis malle for atlantic city; mark rydell for on golden pond; and steven spielberg for raiders of the lost ark.

ninety: driving miss daisy won best picture; its director, bruce beresford, was not nominated. that award went to oliver stone for born on the fourth of july (horrible movie. i’d rather get a root canal than watch that again). other nominees were: woody allen for crimes and misdeameanors; kenneth branagh for henry v; jim sheridan for my left foot; and peter weir for dead poets society (robbed again, dammit).

hanks and spielberg on the set of saving private ryan

ninety-nine: shakespeare in love won best picture (again… WHY?); its director, john madden, was nominated, but the award went to steven spielberg for saving private ryan (damn skippy). other nominees were: roberto benigni for life is beautiful; terence malick for the thin red line; and peter weir for the truman show.


two thousand one: gladiator won best picture (BAH); its director, ridley scott, was nominated, but the award went to steven soderbergh for traffic. soderbergh was also nominated for erin brockovich. other nominees were: stephen daldry for billy elliott and ang lee for crouching tiger, hidden dragon.


three: chicago won best picture (BAH); its director, rob marshall, was nominated, but the went to roman polanski for the pianist. other nominees were: pedro almodovar for talk to her; stephen daldry for the hours; and martin scorsese for gangs of new york. peter jackson, who’d been nominated the previous year for the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring, wasn’t nominated for two towers. mayhaps because the academy had already decided the outcome of next year’s best director award, which went to jackson for return of the king.

six: crash won best picture; its director, paul haggis, was nominated, but the award went to ang lee for brokeback mountain. other nominees were: george clooney for good night, and good luck; bennet miller for capote; and steven spielberg for munich.


thirteen: argo won best picture; its director, ben affleck, was not nominated. i can’t stand that guy, but i kind of feel like he got robbed here. the award went to ang lee (again) for life of pi. other nominees were: michael hanake for amour; david o. russell for silver linings playbook; steven spielberg for lincoln; and benh zeitlin for beasts of the southern wild.


fourteen: twelve years a slave won best picture; its director, steve mcqueen, was nominated, but the award went to alfonso cuaron for gravity. that’s probably wrong, too. other nominees were: alexander payne for nebraska; david o. russell for american hustle; and martin scorsese for the wolf of wall street. 


sixteen: spotlight won best picture; its director, tom mccarthy, was nominated, but the award went to alejandro g. inarritu for the revenant. incidentally, inarritu won the previous year for birdman. BLAH on both of those. other nominees were: lenny abrahamson for room; adam mckay for the big short; and george miller for mad max: fury road.

directors who should’ve been nominated but weren’t for these respective works: herbert ross for steel magnolias; robert redford for a river runs through it; jonathan demme for philadelphia; joel schumacher for a time to kill; barry levinson for sleepers; mike newell for donnie brasco; tony scott for spy game; james mangold for walk the line; ron howard for cinderella man; and rob marshall for memoirs of a geisha.

which brings us to our nominees this year:

damien chazelle for la la land
mel gibson for hacksaw ridge
barry jenkins for moonlight
kenneth longergan for manchester by the sea
denis villeneuve for arrival

this excludes denzel washington for fences, david mackenzie for hell or high water, theodore melfi for hidden figures and garth davis for lion.

i’ve not seen fences or hell or high water, so i can’t speak for those directors. i most likely won’t watch moonlight, manchster or arrival, so obviously i can’t speak for those, either. but i am not pleased that melfi and davis didn’t get nominations. i don’t know that gibson should’ve been nominated for hacksaw ridge; it bothers me to say that because much of that film is VERY impressive. hugo weaving does his finest work in it; i was in awe of him, and i’ve never felt that way about his acting. andrew garfield did very well, too. so that gibson got those performances out of those individuals is wonderful. but… i don’t know about the whole of the film being exemplary with regard to directing. and la la land? really? i don’t see it. i did not love that movie. yeah, i know. it’s a musical, and you’re probably saying that’s why i don’t like it. i’m not opposed to musicals, yall. i’m opposed to mediocre films getting more due than they deserve.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: jonathan demme for the silence of the lambs; steven spielberg for schindler’s list and saving private ryan; and peter jackson for the lord of the rings: the return of the king.

One response to “the oscars: best director”

  1. So 3 of the last 4 have been split?

    1982: Spielberg should have won it.
    1990: Woody should have won it.
    2001: Tough to argue against Soderbergh for Traffic.
    2003: Don't get me started on Polanski. Two Towers was the weakest of the trilogy, i.m.o.
    2006: This seems like Hollywood wanted to give the gay movie an award, but they knew it wasn't good enough for Best Picture.
    2013: I kind of feel like SLP heavily relied on having J. Law (or another actress that fit well) in her role.
    2014: He should be banned from awards unless he changes his name. Show some respect for the legends.
    2016: I think there's another movie called Room, and it's notoriously bad.

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