Lito’s Oscar Picks: Best Director

R - Oscar05

SERIES 5 –  BEST DIRECTOR

We’re getting closer to the big night! Can’t wait for the awarding of Best Sound Mixing! Oh, and here are my thoughts on Best Director…

The nominees are…

ALFONSO CUARON for GRAVITY

FOR HIM: He has created a technical masterwork that not only received rave reviews, but also was a big cash cow at the box office. His adrift in space thriller has been hailed as a monumental achievement in the sci-fi genre and isn’t it about time the Academy recognizes vision in this genre? He’s been winning all the major precursor awards in sight for this film, so not much is against him.

AGAINST HIM: Nothing really, but unless there’s still the prejudice of his film being a “genre film”.

STEVE MCQUEEN for 12 YEARS A SLAVE

FOR HIM: It took a bold, uncompromising vision from a British director of such independent portrait pieces such as “Hunger” and “Shame” to deliver a raw, unflinching portrait of one of the darkest times in American history. With this film, McQueen has stepped into the foray of A-list directors and there is much support on his side. Perhaps the moment is right. He would be the first black director to win.

AGAINST HIM: He has been passed up from the major precursors. Alfonso Cuaron has been hogging the spotlight. He may a tad new to the club, too.

ALEXANDER PAYNE for NEBRASKA

FOR HIM: One of the strongest directors working today has risen to this status so quietly and unpretentiously that one almost forgets his subtle brilliance. However, the Academy has nominated him in this category for his past three films. It’s undeniable that Payne is an Academy darling. He’s been honored twice for screenwriting, the directing win is inevitable…

AGAINST HIM: …but probably not this year. “Nebraska” is considered very small scale in comparison to the technical vision of his competition. His portrait of Midwestern life is poignant and resonant, but it may be too muted to win the Oscar this year. The DGA also snubbed him which dampens his chances.

DAVID O. RUSSELL for AMERICAN HUSTLE

FOR HIM: Truly one of the most respected and popular directors in Hollywood today. Russell, like Alexander Payne has been nominated in this category for his past three films. The Academy is undoubtedly a fan, his time to win here is also an inevitability. He has also has a unique distinction of directing two films, two years in a row that have scored nominations in all four acting categories. He’s a force to be reckoned with.

AGAINST HIM: However, he hasn’t won any of the major precursors. While he has hordes of fans, there are some, who in such a competitive year, would suggest that Russell’s flashy film was entertaining but shallow in the grand scheme of things. He may  need a more “serious” subject to take home the big prize.

MARTIN SCORSESE for THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

FOR HIM: One of the golden sons of the industry has received his eighth directorial nomination for his undeniably raucous, boldly wild and flashy satirical indictment of white collar fraud and crime. A director of lesser skill would have completely ruined “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Scorsese handled the material very well and despite any critical controversy over the film, Hollywood has evidently embraced it and its visionary.

AGAINST HIM: When he won this award in 2006 for “The Departed”, Scorsese is no longer in the “Overdue Club”. For a second Oscar win, he may need “deeper” material that is perhaps more Oscar-friendly and considering all the controversy that did surround the film, perhaps he’s just lucky to enjoy another nomination.

THE LOWDOWN: This is a very tight race between three viable contenders. Cuaron is the undeniable lead and favorite to win. McQueen is right behind him breathing down his neck. A distant third would be Russell whose many fans in the business may coast him due to his and the film’s popularity. But when all has settled, it feels very likely that Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning technical masterwork on “Gravity” will take this award. It is also the first time a Hispanic director will be honored.

MY PERSONAL PICK: ALFONSO CUARON

I’ve been a fan of Cuaron’s for a long time, and here, taking a seven year break from his other sci-fi gem, the dystopian and thrilling “Children of Men”, has come back with a huge bang and has in my opinion, given the finest film direction of the year. His unforgettable vision and execution will not soon be forgotten. He deserves to win and he very likely will.

If I had to have one nominee here, I’d keep them all, except I would replace Scorsese (who did a fine job), with the arresting and immediate vision that was Spike Jonze’s for “Her”. While I did have some issues with the film and the concept-heavy (however brilliant) screenplay, it must be said that Spike Jonze’s direction was bold, brave, and utterly breathtaking at times. He should have at least been nominated. Another miss in this category was Paul Greengrass for “Captain Phillips” It was just too crowded a year. He’ll get his due someday and if you ask me, he should have won for “United 93”.

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