(Top: Spielberg, Scorsese, De Palma, Lucas, and Coppola, 1994. Bottom: Hooper, Russel, Aronofsy, Nolan, and Fincher, 2010)
Last year’s slate of Best Directors was one of the most impressive lineups ever. Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, Joel and Ethan Coen, David O. Russell and of course, the winner, Tom Hooper. I’m not going to go over this each and every time I write about the Oscars this year, but you have to know that in the 13 years I’ve been doing this I’ve never seen a less experienced, out of nowhere winner like Tom Hooper beat someone like Fincher, who not only has built an esteemed career, who not only won every critics award he came up for (more than any director in awards history, recent or not), but was a homegrown director our film industry here in America should celebrate up one side and down the other. Some films have tremendous power to move us and The King’s Speech was one of those. It was like Slumdog Millionaire (minus Danny Boyle’s brilliant career behind it), or Million Dollar Baby (minus Clint Eastwood’s brilliant career behind it). And so, we are forgetting (as we pause to remember!) and moving forward with the notion that the Academy — and we can throw in the DGA now — will never vote for a movie that pundits and critics are telling them they SHOULD vote for if they didn’t “like” that movie as much as they liked the one that moved them.
Give Oscar voters a choice, most of the time they will go with the admirable character over the darker one. That was why, believe it or not, when No Country for Old Men came out, there was doubt it would even get nominated, doubt it could even win – why, because it was too dark and it had an ambiguous (albeit brilliant) ending. Back then, no one ever thought the Academy could take their swinging balls and make a brave choice like that. Now, of course, it seems silly that anyone ever imagined any other film winning that year. The same sort of scenario played out with The Departed. When The Hurt Locker came around, there was some similar discussion, but since we’d already seen films with darker themes winning, the question revolved around box-office clout, of which the Hurt Locker had little.