Let’s turn our gimlet eyes to the directorial achievements of 2011. Here’s my post of the day with the field as I see it to start.
The top five are:
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Steven Spielberg, War Horse
David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Other directorial contenders: Bennett Miller, Moneyball; Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life; Tomas Alfredson, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Martin Scorsese, Hugo; Oren Moverman, Rampart; and George Clooney, The Ides of March.
Full disclosure: of the top five men in the race, I’ve only seen two of the movies. Oops: no women on list! To be fair, we could include two possible dark mare contenders: Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin and Phyllida Lloyd for The Iron Lady.
Susan Wloszczyna: I’m not feeling it for the ladies in the directing category this year. Ramsay is more of a Spirit award possibility. As for Phyllida Lloyd, she might be a whiz at staging operas, but never has such a hugely successful film been quite so ineptly directed as Mamma Mia! And I say this as someone who will drop everything to watch Meryl Streep leap on that bed whenever it comes on cable.
Will it help girl power-wise that Lisbeth Salander will soon be the Harry Potter of literary-inspired action femmes? The anti-social hacker with the pitbull personality is a perfect heroine for our Apple worshiping age. Maybe a win for Fincher is a win for womankind?
I do have an inkling that Woody might sneak into this category, with Daldry maybe sitting it out this time.
THELMA: I’m skeptical about Fincher being able to keep the girl in The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo on center stage, Susan, but we’ll see. Right now, it seems like a bit of the not-so-old and old-boy’s club. Of that group, I favor Payne and Hazanavicius but that’s my anti-serious-Spielberg bias poking through.
SUSAN; I am willing to put money on Payne now. But much hinges on the public’s reception to The Descendants. Somehow I think they will warm to this Clooney more than they did the Up in the Air George.
THELMA: I agree. Although, the degree to which Jason Reitman apparently hurt that movie’s chances on the long red carpet from Toronto to the Kodak Theater is hard to estimate. What do you think, Melissa?
Melissa Silverstein: This is one of the times of year I hate because we hardly ever get to talk about women. I know we are all waiting to see The Iron Lady but Lynne Ramsey did a spectacular job with We Need To Talk About Kevin. The problem with that film is that it is so hard to swallow that it won’t get much of a push beyond star Tilda Swinton, which is most deserved.
Two young women made great movies that won’t get too much Oscar notice. Maryam Keshavarz wrote and directed Circumstance and Dee Rees wrote and directed Pariah. I think that Pariah could get Indie Spirit nominations and it is so good but about a topic that doesn’t necessarily interest Oscar voters: a young African American woman coming to terms with her sexuality.
I’m still waiting to see Phyllida Lloyd’s work in The Iron Lady before I write her off. I saw her show, Mary Stuart, and thought it was beyond impressive. I think we should give her the benefit of the doubt even though people didn’t like Mamma Mia! Remember it has made over half a billion dollars at the box office. That is more than most Meryl Streep movies.
THELMA: More than any of the ones she earned an Oscar or a nomination for that’s for sure! You have a point about box office and Mamma Mia. And also that this year it looks like some female directors will end up in the Indie Spirit or Gotham’s Awards. Which male directors do you favor in the race, Melissa?
MELISSA: I haven’t seen a lot of the films yet so I am not the best person to pick but I think that the front runner is Alexander Payne. I am also interested to see what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo looks like and whether David Fincher could get it with a movie that is a hard R and has a lot of violence. I never count him out. I also think that Bennett Miller from Moneyball and George Clooney for Ides of March could get some traction.
Sasha Stone: I can’t count out Fincher. For me the only lock is Alexander Payne for The Descendants. But it’s always tricky to predict anything until it’s been reviewed by the major critics, which this film hasn’t. It has Todd McCarthy in its favor, so that looks like a good sign.
Of those that HAVE been reviewed, you have two – Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris and you have Bennett Miller for Moneyball – stellar reviews for both. The third director to consider is Terrence Malick. I could see the directors picking him even if the film misses a Best Pic nod. His movie is just so large in scope it’s hard to imagine it not getting one.
Of those who have yet to present themselves, we have:
I really don’t know how to choose between these. This is genuinely a case of having to wait and see. We have to sit on our hands and wait. It’s not easy but there is simply no way to know.
Do I think any women will break through? No. When the Academy decided to not do ten Best Picture nominees they basically fucked women once again. We will not see a year like last where two Best Pic nominees were written and directed by women. We’ll see more like five directors and five to seven Best Pictures.
None of those five will be women. Unless The Iron Lady is really all that.
Where you’ll see women pop up will be in the screenplay category if at all.
THELMA: I hate to sit on my hands, but I understand the impulse in this case. The season is going to start to roll very fast as the NYFCC, of which I’m a member, voted this past week to do our awards balloting on November 28th. That’s going to move up the pace of screenings — and, possibly, reviews. But, considering the rapturous reviews and reception, I just don’t think the heretofore relatively unknown French director Michel Hazanavicius, promoted by Harvey Weinstein, will be overlooked in this category.
As for women directors, I can only hope that more filter up in the next few years, especially if we Oscar’s Angels are in gatekeeper positions and swing the doors wide open.
And here’s my deepest, darkest fear: that Spielberg, with two movies premiering on the same week in December – War Horse and The Adventures of Tin Tin – will become a double slam dunk for the honors. Talk about a dog-and-pony show!