One of the more interesting questions in this year’s Oscar race is wondering what the Directors branch is going to do. Will their choices be as strange and random as last year, when only two names from the DGA also made Oscar’s list? In 2012, for the first time in Oscar/DGA history, the Academy ballots were turned in before the Directors Guild announced their five nominees. That meant that Academy’s director’s branch really had no specific guidelines about how to vote. Each group simply voted for the films they thought were the best and the directors who deserved to be nominated based on those observations. That meant more directors in the Academy voted for Michael Haneke, Benh Zeitlin and David O. Russell while more directors in the DGA voted Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, and most notably, Ben Affleck. If there seemed to be anything set in stone about last year it was that Bigelow and Affleck would be nominated. The DGA, a very large voting body of 14,500 voted for them. But the smaller Academy branch, of roughly 400 or so, did not.

Only two names carried over from the DGA’s list — Ang Lee (who won the Oscar) and Steven Spielberg. There are possibly several explanations for this. The first is that with no DGA to guide them they relied on the films they’d already seen. The second is that the prognosticators had it wrong. They were underestimating the power of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour, perhaps. In more a typical year, Michael Haneke probably would have been nominated by the DGA. Really, Benh Zeitlin was the biggest surprise of last year. He came from out of nowhere, made his film on a shoestring budget using crowdsourcing, mainly, to get it made. It was glorious. It was probably what every filmmaker would like to see happen to them — have a dream, live that dream, get an Oscar nomination. But in so doing, the consensus that we’ve all come to rely on had been shattered.

Most pundits scratched their head and chalked it up to a “weird year.” No one who writes about the Oscars would ever want to admit that we mostly got it wrong — and the year ended up confirming what most people already knew — okay, fine, Argo. There were still surprises on Oscar night — like Ang Lee winning Best Director when many believed Spielberg would. To my mind, I didn’t think they were going to give the win to Spielberg without giving the win to Lincoln so I predicted both, took a deliberate fall, just to prove a point. I did the same thing with David Fincher and the Social Network. I did not believe that voters would split the vote between director and picture — if they were going for director they were going for picture. If they weren’t going for picture some other director would win. It made sense that the other good option for director was Ang Lee. Only he and Spielberg had been nominated by the DGA, after all. You have to go all the way back to the DGA’s beginnings, 1949/1950 to find a year when the Best Picture Oscar winner was not also nominated for a DGA. While Argo’s win was a break with history, it would have been nowhere near as much of a break with history if someone not nominated for a DGA had won. So it had to be either Spielberg or Lee. Since they didn’t like Lincoln as much as the other films, not even for screenplay, they sure as shit weren’t going to give Spielberg a third Oscar. They gave Ang Lee a second one instead.

Now, it’s a year later. The Oscar race is humming along as it always does — festival films out in front at the beginning, stars and publicists working the various angles. Pundits are making their consensus picks, which are starting to align but won’t really be set until the critics groups start handing out awards. And even then. Last year, Bigelow was picking up hardware until Zero Dark Thirty was hit with a mob swarm. You could maybe see why the Oscar voters shut her out when Ad Asner and Martin Sheen told them to. But Affleck? He seemed to be swept up along with her, caught by accident. No one could figure out why he got snubbed — some posed the theory that the directors in the Academy were jealous of such a good looking, fortunate man also being able to direct. Some others thought the movie just wasn’t as good as the ones that did get directing nods. Either way, the predictions were the wrong, the results were the results.

This year might go as it’s been going, with the consensus being mostly right. Or it might fly off the rails as it did last year. The dates are almost as weird this year as they were last year, with the DGA announcing on Jan 7th and the Oscar nominations ballot deadline a single day later on Jan 8th. We might be looking at another year where Best Picture doesn’t even have a Best Director nomination. With up to nine or ten Best Picture nominees — in a year of several superb films — and only five possible Best Director slots, that’s a scenario that could easily repeat itself. Argo’s win last year means that this year even a film with no director nomination can do what the publicity team at Warner Bros did — say, you know what? Fuck it, director nom be damned, we’re going for it. They knew they had a crowd-pleaser on their hands. They knew they had a secret weapon in Affleck himself; it’s one thing for an introverted director to get snubbed. It’s a whole other thing for a charming actor the whole world knows, who is seen regularly at the Farmer’s Market cradling his three adorable children with his good-natured charming wife at his side. He made a movie everybody liked but couldn’t manage to get recognition from the Academy. That created one hell of an Oscar story.

Here are the two charts for Best Director right now from the Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby:


Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.58.15 PM

Gurus of Gold, Movie City News


The consensus is building around a few key names. I would be shocked if these two weren’t receiving the same degree of enthusiasm for nominations as Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg did last year:

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

After that the field appears to get a little murkier for the other likely names, in terms of consensus. There are so many good films this year and only five slots. Two of those films, Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle are being predicted into the consensus sight unseen.

If you take out Scorsese and Russell, the consensus now includes:

Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

Hovering on the borders:
JC Chandor, All is Lost
Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station
Spike Jonze, Her

And on the outside:
Lee Daniels, The Butler
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine

Smart money, like Anne Thompson’s for instance, has Woody Allen in her predictions. She knows that it’s not likely Academy members will overlook such a success for this director who has been in the game since the 1970s. Blue Jasmine is considered his best film since Crimes and Misdemeanors. The only reason he’s being overlooked is that he’s not in the consensus.

Smart money is also on JC Chandor, as he’s taken the biggest risk of any of the directors listed above, by making a film with one star and no dialogue.  Chandor, like Zeitlin, is a charmer and an up-and-comer who is making the kind of quality films Hollywood wants to encourage. It’s the anti-thesis of the tentpole.

Because two major films haven’t yet been seen Best Director cannot yet be accurately predicted.  You see, we pundits are flying blind too. After last year no one can say they know for sure how it’s going to go down and anyone who does ought to get comfortable eating crow.  We must keep our minds open to the possibility of what a much smaller group of voters might do now that they’ve been unhooked from the DGA. It is a subtle shift that removes the dominance of the guilds — an influence we’ve seen dominate over the past ten years.  Until last year, the Academy’s choices were merely a period on the end of an already written sentence.  But since the two directors clubs failed so dramatically last year to reach a consensus, perhaps we too need to think differently and break free from reliance on our usual consensus guides. Just a thought.

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  • murtaza

    when Bigelow was snubbed last year, it felt academy was deliberately shutting out ZD30 and with that i had no interest in last year’s oscars. didn’t even bother to watch them live.

  • Unlikely hood

    Speaking of breaks from the past, is Russell going to do what only 2 men have done before him – that is, get a third Best Director nomination in a row?

    I keep bringing this up because no one else does. 4 years ago, during the height of this site’s infatuation with Avatar (oh yes; go back and check) I kept commenting here that Cameron was very unlikely to become David Lean and win BP and BD 2x in a row. I was a lonely voice, then. But I was right.

    I predict:
    and who knows. It’s open. Coens need a big hit or a pre-award tsunami. If Mitty makes $100m, Ben Stiller could sneak in here. But at this point I’ll say:

    Beware Disney…they see that Kings Speech/Artist/Argo sentimentalized history thing, and they’re going for all the marbles, partly to prove they don’t need Harvey Weinstein anymore.

  • Kane

    Murtaza, I don’t think the academy deliberately shut out Bigelow when her film garnered 5 other nominations. I think those who were “snubbed” canceled each other out and left room for Haneke and Zeitlen. I won’t say that they’re unpopular, especially Haneke, but names like Bigelow, Affleck, Tarantino and Hooper are pretty big names at this point. The fact that all four of their films went on to win 8 Oscars between them (or 7 and 1/2 if you count the tie for sound editing) shows that they were still loved by the academy.

  • joeyhegele

    If the Director’s branch had no problem nominating pretty boy actors like Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson, why would they snub Ben Affleck? Maybe they just could not take him seriously, for whatever reason.

    Bigelow’s snub on the other hand was fucking toxic. It reminded me of James L. Brooks being snubbed for directing one of the best comedies ever, Broadcast News. Let me remind you the director’s branch thought Adrian Lynne deserved a nomination for Fatal Attraction over the sublime directing in Broadcast News. Was it payback for Brooks beating Bergman a few years earlier? I am not sure, but it never made sense to me how Fatal Attraction could be considered better directed than Broadcast News.

    Remember, at the point the Academy was filling out its ballots, Zero Dark Thirty was looking like it could pull off another win for Bigelow. I think many of the pathetic old, white male directors could not handle seeing a woman beat them again. The DGA has far more women members than the Academy’s director’s branch. It would seem the Oscar boy’s club were not willing to allow Bigelow to accomplish twice what most of them had never been able to do once.

  • Bob Burns

    looks like a DGA/Oscar split again this year – lots of possibles and no consensus before the DGA vote.

  • Kane

    Joeyhegele, you make it seem like Affleck’s snub was accidental and Bigelow’s was part of a conspiracy.

  • phantom

    I have a weird feeling it will go something like this :

    Steve McQueen (I can’t see anyone else winning.)

    Alfonso Cuarón (Hopefully they won’t pull a ‘Nolan’ on him.)

    Paul Greengrass (Right now a solid bet…emphasis on ‘right now’.)
    Martin Scorsese (Academy darling with a December release.)
    David O. Russell (Will the Russell/Academy lovefest continue ?)

    John Lee Hancock (If the Academy LOVES it…)
    Stephen Frears (British crowdpleaser backed by Harvey…rest my case.)
    Woody Allen (They do love Woody.)
    Spike Jonze (They can make him settle with a writing nod.)

  • Who can tell me the number of members currently part of the Academy’s directors branch?

  • John

    Greengrass – a directors film. Great reviews and box office.
    O.Russell – Academy loves him lately, unless the movie is bad
    Scorsese – unless the movie is bad
    Coens are beloved by the Academy, but will Llewyn register?
    Payne – allllll depends on how the Academy takes to Nebraska.
    Woody – or will he just get in with screenlay?

    Other contenders on the edge:
    Daniels – if the Academy takes to The Butler, watch out. But it feel more like a SAG/actors branch movie.

  • As of December 2012, the Directors Branch numbered 371. I’m sure that number will change with the new invites from this year. http://www.thewrap.com/awards/column-post/easiest-oscar-nomination-and-other-oscar-numbers-secrets-70881

  • Josh

    O. Russell

    That’s by the end of all this. Right now I would include Greengrass but I think it’s gonna get bumped in some categories, including director when it’s all said and done.

  • Ricky

    Disclaimer: Sideways is one of my favorite films of all time

    If Alexander Payne gets in for Best Director over Spike Jonze (which is highly likely), I’m going to be very frustrated. Both films aim to shine a light on loneliness and the human condition. One has been done many times before and in better ways (Sideways) and one has virtually no precedent. Payne didn’t deserve a director nomination for The Descendants either, but that was a weaker year.

    I find it odd that I’m arguing against directors that I love, but I also feel that it is unnecessary to nominate Greengrass. While Captain Phillips was a very good film, it is not United 93’s equal and for showcasing similar technique, Greengrass has already been recognized.

    I see it as being highly likely that American Hustle is fantastic and David O. Russell gets in easily. Scorcese I’m less sure about.

    Though Blue Jasmine is considered by many to be Allen’s best film in ages, it is not the warm, fuzzy, valentine that Midnight In Paris was. Best Picture nom is possible. Best Director is highly highly unlikely.

    If Daniels gets in I’ll vomit. Frears has no buzz to speak of so BAFTA will have to go absolutely nuts over Philomena for him to have a shot.

    Mitty is not the film that they will use to recognize Stiller. It needed to have a different kind of buzz surrounding it… which brings us to

    Hancock. He could easily get swept along with love for the film, though every review I’ve read has stated that his direction is “workmanlike.” In other words, not much to look at. Hooper’s work on The King’s Speech was very impressive, just not nearly as impressive as Fincher’s.

    The Coens are the Coens are the Coens. They’ll be deserving pretty much every year. Llewyn is still a big wild card in several categories. We’ll see how it goes over when it hits audiences.

    J.C. Chandor could absolutely sneak in like Zeitlin, given the right circumstances. If All Is Lost manages 4+ nominations, I see real possibility there.

    Dallas Buyers Club could also pick up steam. I don’t think it deserves to be in BP and BD consideration, but it could happen.

    With all that in mind, I’m not going to bother making actual predictions. Instead, I’m going to combine predictions with what I see as merit, regardless of whether or not the academy aligns with it. If this is the case, the only competitors in the field that stand a shot at a nomination are:

    Steve McQueen
    Alfonso Cuaron
    David O. Russell
    Spike Jonze
    Joel & Ethan Coen
    John Lee Hancock
    Alexander Payne
    J.C. Chandor
    Martin Scorcese
    Jean-Marc Valée

  • Ricky

    Oh, and I should add two things

    1. I actually quite like Nebraska, it’s just been a great year
    2. If only Abdellatif Kechiche could take the Haneke slot this year… but that’s just not going to happen.

  • Thanks Marshall. Reason I ask is in response to something joeyhegele wrote a couple of hours ago.

    I think many of the pathetic old, white male directors could not handle seeing a woman beat them again. The DGA has far more women members than the Academy’s director’s branch. It would seem the Oscar boy’s club were not willing to allow Bigelow to accomplish twice what most of them had never been able to do once.

    We think there are 26 women in the directors branch. So that’s 7/10ths of 1%

    For reference, in 1992 there were only 7 women directors in the Academy. Randa Haines, Elaine May, Amy Heckerling, Mira Nair, Susan Seidelman, Joan Micklin Sliver and (possibly) her daughter Marisa Sliver. (We’re not even 100% sure about Marisa Silver).

    Only 20 additional female directors have been invited to join the Academy in the past 21 years. Complete list of the 27 women we believe to be members of the Academy’s directors branch.:

    Gillian Armstrong
    Susanne Bier
    Kathryn Bigelow
    Jane Campion
    Lisa Cholodenko
    Martha Coolidge
    Ava DuVernay
    Debra Granik
    Randa Haines
    Catherine Hardwicke
    Amy Heckerling
    Agnieszka Holland
    Nicole Holofcener
    Callie Khouri
    Mimi Leder
    Kasi Lemmons
    Nancy Meyers
    Elaine May
    Mira Nair
    Kimberly Peirce
    Susan Seidelman
    Joan Micklin Silver
    Marisa Silver
    Julie Taymor
    Betty Thomas
    Claudia Weill
    Lina Wertmuller

  • Kane

    Ricky, a few things. I agree, Payne didn’t deserve the spot for The Descendants even though I loved the film very much. I would’ve given it to Bennett Miller for Moneyball.

    J.C. Chandor has a far better shot than Zeitlen did because his story of making a 2nd film is becoming the stuff of legend (film on water, one actor, no dialogue) therefore his direction has been talked about much more. Though I am in no way saying who’s work is better than the other.

    Just because Greengrass employed a “you are there” technique to a biography before doesn’t mean he’s any less deserving. It’s all about which movies are the best, which direction is the best, not which is the freshest. Often times if something is done that hasn’t been done before it will get in the academy’s good graces. But Greengrass should in no way be overlooked simply because he has another tense movie with handheld camera work. That’s like saying Bigelow shouldn’t have gotten in last year because it was another “journalistically approached” story set in the Middle East.

  • Kane

    Holy crap I had no idea Mira Nair has been in the business that long! Looks like I’m behind…

  • KT

    I think Bigelow’s been a member of the Academy for a while too.

    Also, when she was snubbed, she was (and still is today) the Governor of the Director’s Branch. Isn’t that interesting? Adds another layer, that you would think her peers would’ve nominated her and saw through the controversy bullshit (as the Academy director’s branch often has done…they are usually counted upon to nominated the best work, even if those directors’ films weren’t nominated for Best Picture). But I do believe that Bigelow really showed up many directors with Zero Dark Thirty….a master effort, truly, from a directing standpoint. She threatens the hierarchy. She threatened to beat some of the nominated directors last year and a certain un-nominated director whose PR team may have been part of the ZDT bombardment (along with perhaps a bitter Harvey Weinstein). Bigelow’s also a really hang-low kind of person, and she probably wanted to prove that her directing award wasn’t just given to her because she was a women, as the media made it seem…I do think that embarrassed her. Anyway, my two cents, and in my opinion one of the worst nomination snubs in recent Oscar history.

  • Pepper

    Wait a minute… Kathryn Bigelow and Sofia Coppola haven’t been invited to join the director’s branch? That’s crazy.

  • KT

    Of course Kathryn Bigelow’s a member. She’s the governor of the branch. Coppola’s in the branch too.

  • unlikelyhood

    Ricky – agree with most of your analysis, but expectations are sky-high for American Hustle. If Silver Linings Playbook had been as good as Broadcast News, that would have been one thing. (joeyhegele is right!) But it wasn’t, and so Russell’s last nom left a bad after-taste – one more reason he’ll be left off this year (unless AH gets an MC score of 95, wins NBR or NYFC or LAFC, or goes past $150mil or something else crazy like that).

    Perhaps I’m over-estimating Nebraska, all things considered.

    Kane – did you see All is Lost? I did and I feel Chandor’s work pales in comparison not only to Cuaron, but also Ang Lee and Danny Boyle and Robert Zemeckis with similar material…if Boyle and Zemeckis couldn’t get this nomination, I don’t think he will either.

    KT – good to know. I think I was the only person here making the “pro torture” case re ZDT a year ago. Certainly it felt like that. However, my case was nuanced (and adhered closely to David Denby’s in the New Yorker). I would have voted for Bigelow for the top 5. Bigelow deserved at least the nomination; she did one of the top 3 directing jobs last year (in English), along with Spielberg and Lee. Zeitlin made a fine film but no way did he deserve to be nominated over her. Haneke – great artist, but that directing wasn’t better than hers. Russell…don’t get me started. I may have to stop teaching Three Kings in my film classes if Silver Linings somehow becomes the new Annie Hall. That was a Black Lining for Bigelow, and sure, sexism may well have played a role. But the torture thing didn’t help…nor did the Academy prove it could understand nuance like mine and Denby’s. It’s a shame.

    I just hope Bigelow doesn’t try to make her “Intolerance” just to show everyone what saps they are.

  • rufussondheim

    I still think Streisand is in the branch too. I’m pretty sure you can be a member of multiple branches. I can’t think of any reason why you can’t be.

  • Ricky

    @Kane – I also would have chosen Bennett Miller for Moneyball. Funny, that. I also really liked The Descendants, but after Sideways it just didn’t feel the same.

    @Kane – I totally agree about the Chandor narrative. Furthermore, you’re leaving out the totally remarkable fact that his last film (his debut no less) was basically the exact opposite film. A talk, dialogue driven ensemble piece.

    @Kane – I guess I should clarify about Greengrass. I loved Captain Phillips and in another year I would think he should definitely get in. It’s just competition + not so much versatility + United 93 being a better film bring it down for me. United 93 and Captain Phillips are far more similar than THL and ZDT. Bigelow’s snub was unforgivable.

    @unlikelyhood – Expectations are sky high for AH for a reason. I actually loved the hell out of Silver Linings, more so upon repeat viewings. It touched very close to home and felt incredibly accurate. I hardly think it left a sour taste in the Academy’s mouth that Russell got in. His work with actors is basically unmatched. His style is so unique, if his visuals approached his characters, he’d be like Wes Anderson.

    Also, if I had to pick one film that could beat 12 Years for the NBR, it would be American Hustle. This is the group that picked Finding Neverland, remember.

  • Zooey

    Just a little correction: you don’t have to go back to 1949/50 to find a best picture winner that wasn’t a DGA nominee. You have to go back to 1989 for that.

    And another thing, the 1949 best picture winner ALL THE KING’S MEN had the DGA victory and in 1950 ALL ABOUT EVE won both awards.

    It’s not a big thing, but it’s better to have it correct.

    Other than that I believe McQueen is unbeatable. The film is huge and he could become the first director of color to win and this could become a factor. I could see the film take up to 9 Oscars.

  • Zooey

    Sofia Coppola was invited to join by both the writers and the directors. She probably chose the directors.

  • Zooey

    You can’t be a member in different branches. You belong to one branch and one branch only. But a few years ago they made a correction so that if you’re a voting member of the writers’ branch, but were nominated for directing in the past, you can vote for nominations in both categories. Correct me if I’m wrong about that. I believe the rule is still valid. But since Streisand has never been nominated for directing, she can’t. I believe she’s able to vote for acting (and she’s probably a member of the actors’ branch) and music.

  • Sophia. Coppola chose to join the writers branch according to more than one source.

    Kathryn Bigelow is on my master list but amy messed up transposing to this post. My bad posting skills, trying to do this on a phone screen.

    Please do doublecheck me and ask about any other mistakes I might have made.

  • Barbra Streisand was invited to join the actors branch a few short months before she was nominated for Funny Girl. So if she voted for herself that year then it was her own vote that tied her for the Oscar win with Katherine Hepburn.

  • “I can’t think of any reason you can’t be.” I can’t think of any reason why a country like France or Germany or any other country with a wealth of talent can only have one Foreign Language submission per year, while the UK can have as many BP nominees as they can make the Academy swallow. But the reason the Academy gives is “Those are the rules.”

  • The 1992 article that lamented the scant few (7) women in the directors branch specifically pointed out that Streisand is not a directors branch member. You cannot be re-invited to join the Academy when you’re already a member. I do believe it’s possible to petition the Board to change your affiliation. But why would Barbra Streisand turn her back on 1500 fellow actors who admire and respect her to join the old boys club that has repeatedly snubbed her?

  • Zooey, you know your stuff. Thanks for that interesting asterisk.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    You guys read about Christian Bale being thoroughly impressed by what Ridley Scott is cooking up for us(me) next year with MOSES. He was very eloquent about it. Sure must take a lot for a director to impress Bale at this point.

    Andrea Arnold and Lucrecia Martel deserve it more than half those names, but then they deserve it more than half the entire Director’s branch. Sight unseen I’m all about the Coens and Scorsese, but I also prefer David O. Russell over Payne. Lee Daniels over Payne.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Oh yeah and Kelly Reichardt

  • julian the emperor

    Kelly Reichardt indeed!

    Not to mention a singular talent like Claire Denis!

  • I can’t think of any reason why a country like France or Germany or any other country with a wealth of talent can only have one Foreign Language submission per year, while the UK can have as many BP nominees as they can make the Academy swallow.

    Any country can have as many BP nominees as they can make the Academy swallow. It’s just that British films are mostly in English, so their berth is considerably larger within the Academy, and with general American audiences. ftr, the UK has an official Foreign Language submission this year. But just the one.

  • Oh also lmao @ Gold Derby not even having John Lee Hancock in their top ten.

    I think a lot of people are still underestimating The Butler. I totally think its chances are huge.

  • unlikely hood

    “His work with actors is basically unmatched.”


    Watching that clip, I have to agree: unmatched.

    But better than just some of the American apostles of Cassavetes and Altman? Better than:

    Paul Thomas Anderson
    John Sayles
    Richard Linklater
    Lisa Cholodenko

    …I don’t think so. At least not since Three Kings. Which I teach, in a college class. Meaning I choose D.O.R. to the exclusion of 99% of other directors. I’ve defended him, but that last film was a SLaP in the face. Ryan Adams did a terrific book-versus-movie thing about it a year ago which really summarized why I found it so noxious…the culminating dance, the too-pat (get it? pat) way of looking at mental illness, the “working class” dialogue that wasn’t…

    Well, I’m glad you liked it.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I would’ve given it to Bennett Miller for Moneyball.


    Just one more thing. Like everyone here I adored BLUE JASMINE, but it’s not Woody’s best since forever. I still like MIDNGHT IN PARIS an iota better, and to my mind MATCH POINT is still the best Allen has done in this century.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Cassavetes apostole? Cianfrance

  • Ricky

    @unlikelyhood – The Lily Tomlin clip is low hanging fruit. It has nothing to do with the results he gets. I mean, look at Blue is the Warmest Color! Also, I happen to love I Heart Huckabees, so there’s that.

    What I meant by his work with actors is unmatched was that it’s in its own class, not the zenith of all work with actors. Of course those directors that you listed are incredible, but they are in no way similar to Russel.

    As for your opinion of SLP, that’s totally fair, but it is just that: an opinion. I’ve read the book and seen mental illness up close and personal throughout my whole life and have a different opinion. Was it too pat? In a sense, but not all mental illness is big and glamorous. There are parts of the movie that are inherently silly (the dance being one of them) that make it fall short of a masterpiece… but it is still great.

    +1 to Cianfrance being a Cassavetes apostle.

  • Everything unlikely hood just said. Everything. EVERYTHING. #everything

  • Charles

    Judi Dench amazing in Philomena, Oscar for her!

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Having seen only what normal people have been able to,

    my current choices,

    Best Director

    1. Alfonso Cuaron – GRAVITY
    2. Kleber Mendonça Filho – NEIGHBORING SOUNDS
    3. Ridley Scott – THE COUNSELOR
    4. Jeff Nichols – MUD
    5. Destin Daniel Cretton – SHORT TERM 12

  • My choices, thus far in 2013, would be:

    1. Steve MCQUEEN, 12 Years a Slave
    2. Andrew BUJALSKI, Computer Chess
    3. Alfonso CUARON, Gravity
    4. Kleber Mendonça FILHO, Neighboring Sounds
    5. Yasim USTAOGLU, Araf/Somewhere in Between

    On the cusp:

    6. Sebastian LELIO, Gloria
    7. Noah BAUMBACH, Frances Ha
    8. Pablo LARRAIN, No
    9. Hannah FIDELL, A Teacher
    10. Michael APTED, 56 Up

  • unlikely hood

    Thanks Paddy!

    I’ve only seen two Derek Cianfrance films, but they were excellent.

    Ricky – fair enough. The good news is my personal expectation bar for AH is low, so perhaps I’ll be blown out of the water.

  • Out of the films I’ve seen my own personal taste buds say that these directors are nomination worthy (in order):

    Woody Allen
    Steve McQueen
    Derek Cianfrance
    Lee Daniels

    That’s it. I haven’t seen anything that hasn’t been released to the masses. But I have seen two that make everyone’s lists. So imo, those two can go when better directors show their wares. Because there have been no precursors to this point. It’s all critics. And critics don’t have a branch in the Academy. So we have no idea what the Directors like this year.

  • MJS

    It never ceases to amaze me how unappreciative people were about last year’s Best Director slate. People complain right and left about the Oscars being too “predictable” and “safe,” but the minute a branch opts to think for itself rather than parrot whatever Goldderby deems to be “the locks” people just freak the hell out.

    Haneke’s nomination fits perfectly within the tradition of the director’s branch throwing support behind a foreign auteur like Fernando Meirelles or Ingmar Bergman, the only difference is that the expanded number of nominations allowed Amour to get a BP nod as well.

    I’m not personally a huge fan of Beasts of the Southern Wild, but it makes perfect sense why he was nominated. He gave the film a very unique style, did a lot with limited resources, and most importantly he managed to get Oscar caliber performances out non-actors including a six year old who managed to get into the Best Actress category. People forget that working with actors is part of what a director does, and its especially vital when their working with non-actors and/or children.

    As for Silver Linings Playbook (a film which clearly had broad support in general as evidenced by its four acting nominations), that was a perfect example of how a film could be elevated greatly by the hand of an auteur. In the hands of a different filmmaker the hackneyed elements of that screenplay would have been much more pronounced, and those performances would not have mixed as nicely.

    All in all it was a very smart set of choices and if they had to “snub” two of the years most overrated movies to get in, so be it.

  • PJ

    Greengrass smells of a snub come Oscar morning….It would be like nominating the inferior version of Zero Dark Thirty. It really isnt in contention to win any awards in any category. It is just pure filler.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL rated R for language, some sexual content and violence. Neat.

  • Zach

    Potentially dumb question, but Haneke was eligible for the DGA?

  • m1

    Russell’s last nom left a bad after-taste – one more reason he’ll be left off this year

    The majority of people who disapproved of his nomination were the commenters on his website. Many critics, average moviegoers, and bloggers liked or loved the movie. Please don’t confuse your personal opinion with a broad consensus.

    As for MY personal opinion, I would have swapped out Spielberg (who did not deserve it at all) and Zeitlin (who was worthy but not in the top five) for Affleck and Bigelow. I wouldn’t have necessarily given the award Ang Lee but his direction, for me, was the best part of Life of Pi.

    If we’re replacing anyone from the 2011 lineup, it should be Terrence Malick. That movie is aging so poorly. Even still, I probably would have replaced him with Jeff Nichols for Take Shelter. I agreed with Hazanavicius’ win, and Payne, Scorsese, and Allen absolutely deserved their nominations.

  • Jake Bart

    Until I read this, I had completely forgotten that LINCOLN lost screenplay. In my mind it was such a deserving slam dunk that I’d just believed it to be true. If only…

    Anywho. Here’s my predicted five for Director

    1. Cuaron
    2. McQueen
    3. Greengrass
    4. O. Russell (I think he’s losing a lot of what made his direction special, but AMPAS digs him.)
    5. The Coen Bros. (The auteur/low key spot)

    Scorsese could unseat the Coens if WOLF is a smash.

  • Not a dumb question at all, Zach. I’m not completely sure, but I think the DGA only nominates DGA members. We know that’s how the WGA works.

  • rufussondheim

    When I left “Gravity” I remarked that one of the things I liked most in the film is that it pretty much jumped right into the action and that a lesser film would have started with Sandra Bullock driving to the NASA station, perhaps with a photo of her daughter on her iPhone somewhere in the scene.

    So when I plopped myself down with that same friend for a showing of Captain Phillips, imagine my surprise! The whole film I couldn’t get out of my had that now that I’ve seen Gravity, this well made but unspecial film is just not good enough anymore. Gravity has raised the stakes enormously.

    There was nothing special about Hanks in the last fifteen minutes. The music and the direction made that rather standard acting exercise seem better than it was.

    LIke the person that said it above, Captain Phillips isn’t winning anything. It’s just filler.

  • Al Robinson

    My top 5 directors for 2013 so far:

    1. Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
    2. J.C. Chandor – All Is Lost
    3. Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
    4. Ron Howard – Rush
    5. Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips

    The directors I’m most excited to still see:

    Ethan & Joel Coen – Inside Llewin Davis
    Peter Jackson – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
    Francis Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    Alexander Payne – Nebraska
    Jason Reitman – Labor Day
    David O. Russell – American Hustle
    Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

  • When I left “Gravity” I remarked that one of the things I liked most in the film is that it pretty much jumped right into the action and that a lesser film would have started with Sandra Bullock driving to the NASA station

    So I take it you would have preferred Kubrick skip the whole opening of The Shining following the yellow VW along endless ribbons of mountain roads and skip the job interview at the Overlook Hotel and skip Scatman Crothers giving the family a tour of the hotel – and just jump right into ghastly apparitions popping up without any scene-setting or establishing shots?

    The opening of Captain Phillips was tense as hell to me because it grounded the main character in his quiet everyday life, commuting to an airport like millions of us have done, except we get to see him arrive on the docks before the ship departs, to see how freakin huge that vessel loomed next to normal-size things like cars and cranes, to give us a sense of the enormity of his job and the vast financial resources at stake.

    I liked the way Greengrass chose shots on the highway to the airport with cars in the background veering up fast on ramps past Captain Phillips window because it gave me a sensation of the casual peril on the roads that we all take for granted but something about the way Greengrass framed and edited that sequence gave me an unsettling feeling of dread. Sorry you didn’t feel that, but I’m telling you I did.

    I agree Gravity’s opening was stunning, rufussondheim. I also think the opening intro sequences of A Touch of Evil had a purpose, even though all it showed was PEOPLE DRIVING SOMEPLACE and SHOWING US BACKGROUND DETAILS that help hook us emotionally BEFORE THE ACTION STARTS.

    Just because Gravity’s jump-cut directly into the action works great for Gravity does not mean I wish Carol Reed would’ve cut the opening of The Third Man when Joesph Cotten TAKES A CAR to his hotel. I like that part. I’m glad The Third Man did not jump right onto the Ferris wheel in the first shot.

    Why do we need to sneer at what other movies do in order to make us feel smart about what our preferred movies do? Please don’t fall into that trap, ok?

    Although you know what would’ve been AMAZING? If Gravity had opened as Sandra Bullock drives to NASA and boards the shuttle and the rocket launches and enters orbit and Sandra suits up and steps out of the space shuttle door — all in one fantastic 30-minute continuous long take with the camera lens peering out of her nostril and George Clooney babbling chit-chat nonsense the whole time and playing country music to grate on my ears for another half hour.

  • You know what I think would have been AMAZING? If the pirates from CAPTAIN PHILLIPS kidnapped the crew from GRAVITY and then neither movie ever happened. *runs away*

  • ^
    Can Jennifer Lawrence be one of the pirates?

  • Al Robinson

    And Barry Bonds too. He was a pirate for a little while. *wink*

  • Can Jennifer Lawrence be one of the pirates?

    I’m pretty sure she can do just about anything. 😛

    @Al I don’t think baseball is allowed in here.

  • unlikely hood

    m1: “The majority of people who disapproved of [Russell’s] nomination were the commenters on his website. Many critics, average moviegoers, and bloggers liked or loved the movie. Please don’t confuse your personal opinion with a broad consensus.”

    I hope you’re wrong, m1. If you’re right, Saving Mr. Banks is going to beat 12 Years a Slave.

    Before Slumdog, we hadn’t seen a Best Picture winner that concluded with a big capital-p Performance since Chicago (and that *was* a musical). Since Slumdog, it’s happened every time, except The Hurt Locker, which wasn’t facing off against films with a big act-III Performance.

    Obviously every film has its protagonist(s) trying to achieve major goals in its last 30 minutes. But not every film is literally about its lead putting on a big show, for a big (often hostile) audience…and then turning the corner when that once seemed lost, “winning,” having a big HOORAY moment, getting the girl, transforming lives, exorcising all personal demons in the process.

    I’ve just described:
    Saving Mr. Banks
    The Artist
    The King’s Speech

    I’ve just failed to describe:
    12 Years a Slave
    The Hurt Locker
    No Country for Old Men
    The Departed (maybe if Little Miss Sunshine had actually won that contest?)
    Crash or Brokeback Mountain
    Million $ Baby

    When I was a kid, the 15-minute routines that opened Sesame Street just did that…nothing more. Now, they all have to end in a song. Saturday Night Live has become much more that way as well. I’d love to believe that Bollywood has crossed over to the USA. However, that isn’t what’s happened. What’s happened is the rise of the lowest common denominator over Coens- and Payne- and Haneke-level nuance and messiness.

    Where am I going with this? Silver Linings Playbook is just more of the same. Let’s put on a big show, and transform our lives. When in fact that’s not how the book goes. But the movie had to.

    Can such movies be good? Yes. I thought the King’s Speech was a very fine film. But as a general rule, the arc is hackneyed, and flatters an almost infantile sense of triumphalism. You can tell me all about how such stories make great art. You may, if you choose, remind me of my students who want to believe that Pixar cartoons are as great or better as anything Hollywood ever made – ever, including everything in the AFI Top 50. Maybe that’s even true. But nevertheless, it flatters you for regressing to the imaginary stage (look up the Lacan).

    If we on this board don’t stand up for adults, don’t stand up for stories that don’t end happily (like life often is), who will? Oh right: Europe. Fans of the 1970s dramas. Well fine. But will that be enough to save 12 Years from Banks?

  • Al Robinson


    Thank you for that!! I literally laughed out loud. Yeah, no sports allowed!. LOL. 😉 Too funny.

  • I think Sasha’s absolutely right to bring up Woody Allen in this kinda amorphous grouping.
    The voters will have SEEN HIS MOVIE.
    Of course, they’ll jump to see the two unseen ones, but, hey, admit it, they both could be bad…Just saying…
    And THEN where are we? Well, I’m betting Harvey Weinstein is hoping for the Two Unseens, which are COMEDIES, it looks like.
    And that’s not good…
    HW is hoping that hits from earlier in the year(specifically like for instance, “Fruitvale Station”) might arise from the rubble…And Ryan Coogler….I mean, wouldn’t that be awesome???
    And then, dare I mention Jeff Nichols….Naw, that’s too much of a stretch…
    Richard Linklater for the culmination of the “Midnight” trilogies…?
    I think we are going to see a crazy split like last year. Maybe EXACTLY like last year…
    The Mc Queen and Cuaron being the only two to make both cuts…oh, and Woody…
    And in a field of ten, “Llewyn Davis” could get nominated for Best Picture, but not the Coens…
    I think the best way to think of the Academy’s Directors Branch is too think of them as EUROPEAN cineastes…Explains what happened last year…i.e. the S.N.O.B. factor is very much in play.
    Hey if Behn Zeitlin could get a nomination last year, then expect another newbie like Ryan Coogler…who has, you must remember, Harvey, pushing, pushing…

  • Al Robinson

    Yeah, Fruitvale Station…

    In a different year huh??….. I WISH that Fruitvale Station was getting the Oscar buzz is really deserves. That movie was absolutely terrific. Michael B. Jordan was Oscar-worthy, and the movie stood out amongst the other “block-bustery” movies of the summer. If this movie had been released in the fall, maybe the would be more Oscar buzz for it. IDK. No offense to The Butler, but I have a feeling that Fruitvale Station is WAY better.


  • Too Many AJs

    My predictions at this point: McQueen, Cuaron, Greengrass, Russell, Coens. If the Coens can get nominated for True Grit, they can certainly get nominated for Llewyn Davis. And American Hustle seems like a stronger Picture contender than Nebraska and Wolf of Wall Street (both of which seem a bit slight).

  • benny tarleton

    If you are convinced , as I am , that 12 YAS wins , then as sure as night follows day, It’s MCCQUEEN …they aint going to miss an opportunity to make history with the first black director ….they wouldn’t leave themselves open to bogus accusations of racism…after all , Hollywood is where Leftist politics meets Showbiz

  • ….they wouldn’t leave themselves open to bogus accusations of racism…

    gosh, you understand America so well. You really get how Americans filling out secret ballots are nervous about suspiciously racist-looking election outcomes. Your insight certainly explains how so many dozens of black filmmakers have Oscars.

  • Al Robinson

    In terms of Oscar “racism”, the beautiful thing the voters have going for them is anonimity. How do we know who voted in what way. We don’t, and we probably never will. I’m guessing that’s why they don’t reveal the Oscar voting breakdown. That way, no one can accuse any one voter of racism.

  • I’m guessing that’s why they don’t reveal the Oscar voting breakdown. That way, no one can accuse any one voter of racism.

    Exactly, Al Robinson. When voters who have deep-seated mixed feelings about black directors are around their liberal friends they can cluck cluck about how wrong it was that the Academy failed to award the black director (as if they had nothing to do with it). Then when the very same voters know they’re among friends who don’t like to be told “you need to make history” those voters can shrug and privately say they vote for who they like (and they happened to like a white guy again).

    Only about 2 Academy members had the gall to announce that Brokeback Mountain made them sick. But apparently it made about 1500 voters sick, and those voters did not give a damn whether their secret vote made the Academy look homophobic.

    I want to be clear. I do believe 12 Years a Slave will win Best Picture and Best Director — on the merit of the film itself.

    What aggravates me most about benny tarleton and others like him is how they blithely and insidiously undermine and diminish the actual achievements of 12 Years a Slave by constantly planting the sick notion that it can only win because voters are being guilted into voting for it.

    It’s a crude, condescending, snarly and insulting attitude. I’m fed up with it and I’m not shy about calling it what it is: Trolling.

  • Al Robinson

    Ryan Adams,

    That is SAD that 2000 Oscar voters were sickened by Brokeback Mountain. The feelings that I felt after seeing it were sadness because Ennis no longer had his ‘true love” Jack around anymore, and shame that for so long, Americans have been so fucking near-sighted when it comes to progress in society. I was born in 1982, grew up knowing that everyone should be treated the same unless they otherwise don’t deserve it, differences were to be celebrated, not shamed and reviled, and men and women are on equal footing.

    I get that there are differences between people, and those differences are ALSO what make people great, but prejudice without sufficient knowledge is just plain old ignorance.

  • Al Robinson

    Not sure I said what I meant correctly. Maybe it makes sense, maybe not.

    Most what I meant is that people need to just grow up, accept the differences in people and stop being to prejudicial and sexist.

  • rufussondheim

    I wish I would have felt the way you did about the opening of Captain Phillips, but since it was based on a “true story” we knew where it was going and, well, this viewer, at least, didn’t need or want that introduction. Having seen extensive news footage and interviews with the real Captain Phillips it seemed so extraneous.

    With The Shining and The Third Man and the other classic films you mentioned, that stuff was necessary because they set mood and tone and started the character arcs that were crucial later on. They were great introductions to great films, films where the viewer had no idea what was in store for them. Comparing these films to Captain Phillips is an unfair comparison. Maybe decades from now viewers will see what you saw in those opening scenes, but in these “ripped from the headlines” films, I have less patience because I am filled with less wonder.

    And that’s the main problem I had with Captain Phillips, I knew how it ended, yeah I didn’t know all of the details (since many were manufactured for the film) but I knew where it was going. There was little tension or interesting details to experience along the way. Yeah, there were some interesting exchanges between Phillips and Muse, but even if you look at them closely, they are more manufactured than realistic (like the one right before the end when Phillips is like “there has to be better options” and Muse responds “maybe in America.” Yeah, it’s effective when you first hear it, but in reality, Phillips would have been well aware of the plight of the typical Somali pirate and been aware of the lack of a stable government in Somalia and the lawlessness and lack of opportunity that provides. I Know this because it was all over the news even before the incidents in the film begin. It’s a stupid observation in the context of the film.

    But when all is said and done, I think the South Park had more astute observations on the incident than did “Captain Phillips” and I think that’s the main criticism I have against the film.

  • Your thoughts came through clearly and sincerely, Al. Thanks for speaking out.

    (Never worry that you’re not getting your point across unless somebody flips and twists your words inside-out in a misguided reply) 🙂

  • Al Robinson

    But, yeah, I think that planting a seed like the Oscar voters will only vote for something out of guilt is silly. If I was a voter, I wouldn’t vote for 12 Years a Slave. Not because I don’t think it’s probably the best movie of the year, but because I just simply liked and preferred Gravity. I don’t see myself watching 12 Years a Slave more than once or twice more, but I absolutely see myself watching Gravity a few times a year for many years to come. Like I still do with Jaws.

  • Koleś

    Woody Allen getting another director nod is very possible at this point. “Blue Jasmine” is raking in quite a lot of money for an Allen film. If you take “Midnight in Paris” aside, it’s his biggest commercial success since ‘Hannah and Her Sisters”. It even made more money that the popular “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, and is far from being a light, upbeat comedy. So I think Allen is a lock for screenplay and a serious contender for the fifth spot in the directors line-up. That of course increases Blanchett’s chances. The simple rule about Allen movies is that if it hits the 20 million mark, it gets nominated for something.

  • Al Robinson


    Thank you, and you’re welcome. 🙂

    “Never worry that you’re not getting your point across unless somebody flips and twists your words inside-out in a misguided reply”. Okay, I won’t. 🙂

  • Eduardo

    The one thing that really worries me is that Russel gets another unfair nomination. It was unfair his previous nominations with The fighter and mostly with Silver linings playbook. He’s just an OK director, but has nothing to do with the rest.

  • “Maybe decades from now viewers will see what you saw in those opening scenes.”

    We can hopefully agree that many viewers saw merit in the opening the same way I did, and just as many viewers agree with you that the opening was extraneous.

    I doubt we need to wait decades to find people to join our team, judging from the distribution of review scores. 12 major critics rated Captain Phillips ‘perfect,’ with 12 scores of 100. 15 major critics rated it significantly less than perfect with 15 reviews lower than 80.

    I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a single review of Captain Phillips (neither have I read reviews of just about any other movie the past few months). I’m over critics. I don’t need them this year. But I do like to scan some of their pull-quotes to get a feel for which way the critical wind is blowing.

    Have you seen any reviews that talk about how the opening scenes of CP were a superfluous waste of time?

    (Doesn’t matter to me if you haven’t, rufussondheim. Your opinion means as much or more to me than half the mooks on metacritic).


  • I like Gravity about 90% as much as I like 12 Years a Slave. They’re the two most impressive movies of the year so far, in my view.

    The plucky/spunky/cocky banter with George began to wear thin for me on 3rd viewing, but that won’t stop me from watching it many more times in coming years.

    I won’t need to revisit 12 Years a Slave as often because (I think) it’s engraved in my mind so deeply I can already replay it in my mind’s eye without watching it. On the other hand (I think) I’ll need to spin up the Gravity Blu-ray in order to get the same thrill it provides because it didn’t get inside my head like 12 Years did.

    That’s no complaint. Although I will probably complain a little if I have to end up buying a 3D TV to totally recreate my Gravity kicks. Because I was hoping I wouldn’t need to spend $1500 to fully enjoy Gravity a year from now.

  • rufussondheim

    The other obvious comparison is Zero Dark Thirty, not only in the tenseness of the rescue scene, but with the overall commentary on American foreign policy. Seeing bin Laden’s children scrambling to survive during that military maneuver is far more provocative than seeing the plight of Bilal in Captain Phillips.

    Don’t get me wrong, Captain Phillips was a fine film and I still have an utmost respect for Paul Greengrass but it just seems like the film should have come out last year before we were introduced to ZDT and Gravity. (And, let’s face it, United 93)

  • it just seems like the film should have come out last year before we were introduced to ZDT and Gravity.

    If the genie is granting us that kind of wish then I’m going to spend one of my wishes on wishing Argo came out the same year as The Artist so only one of them could win Best Picture.

  • Zooey

    @ Ryan, but Roberto Benigni was a DGA nominee for Life Is Beautiful and he most certainly wasn’t a DGA member at the time. And Guiseppe Tornatore received a nomination for Cinema Paradiso, so I doubt it that they nominated only members. The only silly rule they have is that animated films aren’t eligible, so I believe Haneke was eligible and snubbed.

    On Sofia Coppola – I wonder how her father’s membership influenced her, because if I trust simple logic, then Francis Ford Coppola is a member of the writers’ branch as well. He has always spoken about considering himself more a writer who directs his own stuff and he actually received a writing nomination (and win) two years before The Godfather, so probably the writers invited him and he’s a writers’ branch member.

    Other than that, I doubt Gravity will win directing. Yes, Cuaron is respected and he’s done some great films in the past (and the Oscars should have cared more about Children of Men / Y Tu Mama Tambien – thanks, writers’ branch!), but the Academy’s bias toward the genre will hurt it and I doubt the Academy would be able to resist honoring 12 Years A Slave. Actually I believe that by Oscar night 12 Years A Slave will have won nearly everything out there and it’ll be a sweep.

    On Russell: I really hope he gets snubbed no matter what. Yes, the quality should matter, but his nomination for the mediocrity that was Silver Linings Playbook angered me more than any other decision by the directors’ branch in recent years.

    I believe that in the end the directors will go with:
    Abdellatif Kechiche – come on, they won’t be able to resist it!
    Paul Greengrass
    Alfonso Cuaron
    Steve McQueen
    (maybe) the Coens or Spike Jonze

    Greengrass is vulnerable to me. And I believe McQueen wins.

  • John

    Id love to know where people get these ideas/numbers that 2000 Academy Members “hated” Brokeback.

    For all we know it was a very close race and Brokeback barely lost. People loved Crash. A lot of people still do. And yes, plenty of people were unfortunatlely turned off by Brokeback.

    But lets see a scenario where Brokeback almost won and had many champions. Lets say there were 5000 voters that year. Lets say the votes broke down to something like this:

    Crash 2000
    Brokeback 1950
    Capote 500
    Munich 350
    Good Night Good Luck 200

    Keep in mind that every Academy member would have seen Crash. SAG support meant that actors (the largest branch) went for it. It was the perfect mainstream choice (Argo).

    Now with Brokeback. Keep in mind that quite a few people didnt even see Brokeback. That said, Id like to believe that most of the directors and writers in the Academy placed their vote for Brokeback. It had to have been a close, close race.

    Then factor in the likely 1000 or so, maybe less, who spread their votes over the other 3 contenders. Those voters would likely be members who had direct affiliation with those movies (producers, executives, members at large, various actors, writers, cinematographers, etc.) Plus, Im sure each of those movies had their own champions who thought they were simply the best film of the year.

    So much goes to who is voting and why. And I still maintain that while Brokeback should have won, it probably was very, very close and most voters simply went with the Argo choice of the year.

  • KT

    One thing I’ve always wondered about is how many people vote? Do they get close to full participation or do some people shrug it off? (But then why would they pay the annual dues to be members?) Also, I’d be curious how certain categories break down, presumed very tight races. Close best picture votes like The Godfather and Cabaret, Annie Hall and Star Wars, The Sting and The Exorcist, the Chariots of Fire year, Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan. I’d also wonder where the support was, whether many people were spooked by the Zero Dark Thirty controversy (How were its numbers in categories?), how Best Cinematography totals look with regard to Visual Effects films (Do voters recognize craft or not?), the Meryl Streep and Viola Davis race and the Adrien Brody year, etc.

    The Brokeback year was perhaps most telling when Ang Lee won the Best Director Golden Globe. I’ve mentioned it on this site before, but look at Clint Eastwood’s face as he announces Brokeback Mountain. Yeah… Many people of the older skewing Academy were probably uncomfortable with the movie. And Clint wasn’t one of the outspoken people against the film.

  • Q Mark

    I’m not as beholden to the idea that Oscar precursors are the be-all and end-all, so last year’s DGA split didn’t bother me. It helped that the two unique picks of Haneke and Zeitlin were actually great and deserving choices — it’s not like Bigelow/Affleck were snubbed for M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay or something. Given that Bigelow won four years earlier and Affleck’s movie won Best Picture, I don’t mind seeing a couple of new faces get some Academy recognition, especially a distinguished master like Haneke.

    Let’s face it, there were a LOT of strong directorial candidates in 2012. Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, four had their directors snubbed….if the ones snubbed (Affleck, Bigelow, Hooper, Tarantino) had all been nominated alongside Ang Lee, the field wouldn’t have been any less strong. Since the right director, in my opinion, ended up winning, I don’t have any issues with how last year’s race went down.

  • Sammy

    At the beginning of the awards season I had predicted successfully that both Haneke and Zeitlin getting in.

    Top five directing performances this year:

    Abdellatif Kechiche – Blue is The Warmest Color
    Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station
    Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
    Spike Jonze – Her
    Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

  • Q Mark

    McQueen: The only total lock

    Cuaron: I agree with the description of him as a 90% lock. It wouldn’t be a total shocker to me if he’s snubbed, though it would be incredibly disappointing.

    Coens, Scorsese, Russell, Jonze: In the same boat since their movies haven’t been widely seen, or seen at all in Scorsese’s case. Marty, Russell and the Coens are obviously the big looming threats given their stature and rich Oscar histories but don’t forget that Jonze already has one surprise Best Director nomination to his name.

    Greengrass: I agree he seems like the most likely seemingly-obvious candidate to get snubbed. “Captain Phillips” has seen its buzz die down fairly quickly and I question whether or not it’ll be a big player at all at the Oscars aside from sound editing nominations and possible nods for Hanks and Abdi.

    Chandor: In a weird way, I think his presence kind of hurts Cuaron’s case. Gravity and All Is Lost tell similar stories of one person in a life-or-death situation, and it’s possible voters take more note of the more (literally) down to earth story of AIL. Dumber voters might unjustly presume that Cuaron “just had a lot of help from special effects” to make his story while Chandor was out there on the water and making his film happen.

    Coogler: Fruitvale Station needs a big boost from the critics’ awards to regain some traction in people’s minds. I think I posted back in May that “it would be incredible if we have a strong enough acting year that Michael B. Jordan isn’t still considered a contender by winter” and well, here we are.

    John Lee Hancock, John Wells: I think people are looking down their noses at these guys out of pure film fan snobbery, since for all we know, they’re both very deserving nominees. Won’t know until we see the movies, though “August: Osage County” doesn’t appear to be getting any positive advance buzz.

    Daniels: Probably out of the race. The Butler just doesn’t stand up to these other, better films and there’s nothing special about it, director-wise.

    Allen: He’s a contender basically any time he makes a film, though I suspect the consensus is that Blue Jasmine is largely a creation of Blanchett’s performance given some of the script issues.

    Payne: Another one who we won’t know for sure of until the movie is more widely seen, and another Academy favourite. I like his chances more than most.

    Valle: The dark horse of the year who could be this year’s Zeitlin when the nominations are announced.

  • “Keep in mind that quite a few people didn’t even see Brokeback.” Believe me, I do keep that in mind. And I wonder what the fuck those people are doing in the Academy if they can’t be arsed to see the most critically acclaimed and talked about movie of the year. What’s wrong with those voters? What’s their problem? What other dreck do they waste their time watching? Look, I don’t care if it’s 2000 members or 200 or 20. If they don’t watch the best movies of the year, they shouldn’t have access to a ballot. Otherwise, if Best Picture can be determined by a few dozen voters who don’t know what’s going on, and don’t care to find out — just check off whichever candycoated title gets shoved in their faces the hardest — then whole system is a pathetic pretense and it’s pointless to try to guess what 1000 dimwits may or may not do on a whim to corrupt the results of the other 4000 responsible upstanding members of the Academy. That’s why Ed Asner and Martin Sheen should have had their fat asses kicked out of the AMPAS for actively encouraging other voters to not watch Zero Dark Thirty. When SAG gave Ernest Borgnine a lifetime trophy after he publicly pissed on Brokeback it made me want to puke. Same goes for Elia Kazan’s bonus Oscar, that santimonious douche who unapologetically destroyed the careers of other filmmakers. Some of these creeps, thugs, racists and bullies sometimes let their veil of secrecy slip and make their dishonorable allegiances crystal clear. We have a responsility to call foul whenever we smell the stink they smear on the artform we love.

  • KT, the Academy is loathe to talk about turnout, but last year an Academy official tipped his hand when he came forward publicly to boast that the rate of participation with the new online balloting resulted in a “record turnout” and then went on to reveal that “a full 90 percent of the Academy’s eligible voters cast ballots for February’s Academy Awards.” So that makes one wonder what fraction of eligible voters returned their ballots in years of low turnout.

  • Unlikely hood

    I agree with Rufus and others – Greengrass is shaky ™.

    Seriously I found capt phillips underwhelming. It was fine but…someone compared it to “Flight” on another thread and that feels right…nice exercise in craft, but not really Best material. Who knows, but it’s easy to imagine it overshadowed by other films in the next 2 months.

    Like steve50 said, after last year, the Best Director category has no locks.

  • Unlikely hood

    Ryan about a year where Argo and The Artist would have come out together and forced the other one not to win BP:


  • Sammy

    Unlikely hood – This year is different as we have a film like 12 YRS. This is probably the most powerful material since The Schindler’s List. It is not only its direction which is first class but also what it brings to life.

    So I see McQueen as the favorite for every awards show.

  • it’s not like Bigelow/Affleck were snubbed for M. Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay or something.

    You know. I thought PAIN AND GAIN was really freakin’ good. And I philosophized why such a film would never get a nomination for Bay in a million years. Because the quality of the direction was great imo. It looked great. The story was told perfectly and hilariously. The actors were wrangled properly. And if they can nominate other directors who basically made glorified action films, then I don’t get it.

    And M. Night Shyamalan had a few stinkers, but time’s gonna tell on him. He will be an Oscar winning director. AFTER EARTH wasn’t even bad.

    Sometimes I think there is an Academy bias against entertaining movies. “I enjoyed myself so I can’t possibly take this movie seriously.” 😛

  • alan of montreal

    i think Coogler is this year’s Zeitlin, not Chador. Coogler won Sundance, like Zeitlin had, and he is a new and fresh face, like Zeitlin. By the way, check out Zeitlin’s interesting doc on music in the Bronx, From Mambo to Hip Hop.

  • Sammy

    On Gravity;

    Chris Nolan failed get a BD nod for The Dark Knight & Inception duo!!! It would be no surprise if Cuaron fails to get one for Gravity.

  • KT

    RE: QMark…I wish the Oscars weren’t the be all end all, but they are. All the other awards bodies have increasingly tried to predict them (Bafta, even the critics) and the Oscar is the award that everyone guns for, what the entire season leads up to. That’s why people campaign, endlessly, and play dirty. So as much as I wish as I could say, that’s great Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for the DGA, it was an absolute shame to see her miss an Oscar nomination. I don’t see Hooper or Tarantino as being snubbed. And Zeitlin, Haneke, and Russell being there, while great, meant overlooking superior work, which should have knocked them out.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Is it just me or is this season kind of underwhelming? Initially I though it was because we’re in this period where everything (or almost everything) has been seen by pundits, but the first awards are still 3-4 weeks away (i.e. November 2013), and everything will be exciting again when the critics start giving them up. But as of now it seems like it’ll be 12 YEARS steamrolling right? Is that going to be exciting? Really? I guess, for people who loved the film, and that’s a lot of people. Me? In terms of Oscar season, I liked last year better. At this point last year, LINCOLN, a film I loved, seemed like it had a shot at winning, but this year I don’t think GRAVITY has a chance, and -anyways- I feel kind of dirty coming up with scenarios where it could win at least Best Director. Of course this is a very personal crisis, so I’ll give it a rest. Finally, having seen everything I’ve been able to see, thus far I still think 2010 and 2011 were stronger years in terms of film quality. Onto 2014. Oh wait, WOLF! LLEWYS! HUSTLE! HER! Ok, could be phase.

  • Jerry Grant

    I’m gunning for J.C. Chandor. “All Is Lost” blew me away. There’s more to it than either “Gravity” or “Captain Phillips,” even though it doesn’t have the “wow” factor of “Gravity.” For all its emphasis on action and work, it is extremely thoughtful, and can prompt long conversations. Unlike “Gravity,” once you start talking symbolically and allegorically, you could go for a while. Watch it as a film about a man with cancer, who leaves his home for the hospital and stays fighting. While “Gravity” stuck with me viscerally, “All Is Lost” stuck with me spiritually.

    (Greengrass is shaky, I’ve been saying for a while “Captain Phillips” is going to start dwindling a bit.)

    [Greengrass] or [Chandor]

  • Sammy

    @Bryce – I agree that 2010 and 2011 were stronger years in terms of film quality and competition. The movies were close to each other. But this year, it is 12 YRS and then there is a big gap. This thing can lead to a landslide effect and surprise wins in some categories like cinematography, sound mixing, supporting actor, make-up can be possible.

  • @Bryce I don’t love any movies this year yet and we’re almost done. I think last year was about 10x better in terms of what they had to choose from. But I do think by this time we were in the underwhelming phase when they had mostly chosen. At least 12 YEARS A SLAVE is worthy and we won’t have a mediocre winner like ARGO.

  • Whoops. Only the word ‘love’ was supposed to be bold. 🙁

  • Bryce Forestieri


    GRAVITY looks just as beautiful, stunning, and is as effective in terms of visual storytelling in a 2D TV as in IMAX 3D. How do I know? I kind of love re-watching that Cuaron tribute vid Sasha posted weeks ago –and that’s on my laptop far from ideal quality. It does lose the “ride” factor, but what movie doesn’t –not that that was that important to me to begin with. But then, I think I liked it about 10% more than you did…Ok, I guess I found a new pet for this season: Talk about GRAVITY and why I think it’s great, profound, subtle, ambiguous, spiritual, timeless, and perfect.

  • “Ok, I guess I found a new pet for this season: Talk about GRAVITY and why I think it’s great, profound, subtle, ambiguous, spiritual, timeless, and perfect.”

    Yes. By all means. Please keep doing that.

  • Jerry Grant

    I agree this year hasn’t done it for me like last year, or like I thought it would. I’m a huge Cuaron fan, but I still think “Children of Men” is a greater film than “Gravity” (which is hard to beat for me, it’s one of my top for the decade), and I think “United 93” is a more impressive accomplishment than “Captain Phillips.” “12 Years” is of course tremendous. I would be happy for it to win BP. But am I *passionate* about it much beyond an intellectual level? It currently ranks as my #3 for the year. Will this year reach the heights of “Lincoln” and “Amour”–my two favorites for last year, a great year? I don’t see it happening, but you never know.

    So far, there are two movies that went above and beyond for me on a personal level: “All Is Lost” (my current #2), and the unbelievable documentary “The Act of Killing” (my #1). Can documentaries count as #1? That is a great film by any standard, one of the greatest I have ever seen.

  • Jerry Grant

    ^(“Children of Men” is one of my top for the decade, not “Gravity”)

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I don’t love any movies this year yet and we’re almost done


    Glad to hear I’m not the only one with some degree of disappointment.


    I fear for Lubezki at this point, but I’m cool with 12 YEARS winning that award actually. It wouldn’t be an unworthy winner in that category. Roger Deakins should be nominated too. PRISONERS is impressive at every level. Maybe not Jackman that much. He prevented me from falling in love with the movie. He wasn’t bad tho.

  • Bryce Forestieri


    If THE ACT OF KILLING doesn’t win Best Documentary I’m gonna break stuff.

  • unlikely hood

    Gravity was amazing; it almost wasn’t a movie, it was more like a response to those 15-minute IMAX space films that you see at places like the Smithsonian. It turned that experience into a metaphor for life, for perseverance, for hope. Five years ago when you heard that Cameron was making a film called “Avatar” you hoped that you’d relate to the lead hero the way you do your own avatar in a video game – Cameron didn’t give you that, but Cuaron and Bullock did. A staggering achievement on all levels.

    And it made All is Lost look like chump change, in my humble opinion.

    I already wrote at length and rather poetically about 12 Years a Slave on another thread. To be repeated only by request. To say I think it’s worth Best Picture is an understatement.

    But I agree with Bryce and Antoinette that so far, the rest of the slate is a little bit meh. We *were* spoiled last year, and Americans knew it, making 7 of 9 of the BP films into $100million-babies. No comparable percentage of the BP slate will earn nine figures domestically this year – no way.

    Feels like we could revert back to five BPs this year without a lot of complaining, eh?

  • julian the emperor

    I found Gravity breathtaking and impressive (as well as brave for the way it declines to provide the comfort of context and multiple character arcs), but I have to say that Clooney talking nonsense throughout the first 30 mins kept me from feeling truly elevated. Cuarón should have emphasized the sense of stillness and wonder by keeping the script less verbal.

  • Koleś

    @Bryce Forestieri

    “If THE ACT OF KILLING doesn’t win Best Documentary I’m gonna break stuff.”

    You might as well start breaking stuff right now and get it out of the way, because “Stories we tell” will win.

  • julian the emperor

    The Act of Killing is a marvel in the way it combines conceptual thinking with emotionally engaging filmmaking.

    Furthermore, as a Dane I’m proud that Danish production paved the way for this movie, but Oppenheimer deserves a hell of a lot of credit.

    A nomination will be a triumph in and of itself for a production like this, so I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t win. The competition looks more than worthy, anyway.

  • KT

    I’d be the first to argue on here that great direction is not just technical direction. It’s the complete package, of being a great storyteller and great thinker, as well as executing the film with great skill. I’m not sure if Gravity had all of those components for me, though the overriding vision I look for driving a film was certainly there. It’s hard for many movies to have everything, right…easier said than done. But I tend not to err on the side of voting for a director solely based on what they achieved technically, be that Cuaron or even Ang Lee last year or a good example being Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. I’m curious also about how many times voters watch the films before they make their selections. Sometimes it takes a few viewings to understand what a director is doing and appreciate what they pulled off, or see where they came up short.

  • Sammy

    @unlikely hood – I have always supported the idea of reverting back to five BP nominees, not just for this year.

  • Mark F.

    I haven’t seen “12 Years A Slave,” but I don’t like anyone telling me I “have” to think it is the best film of the year. I do think “Gravity” was amazing, and it may very well be my first choice for Oscar.

    I do agree with Ryan that Academy members should see all of the films that are nominated. And if you then still honestly prefer “Crash” over “Brokeback” — fine.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Many of the criticisms directed at GRAVITY are ill-conceived and very very of the moment. Too many in the cinephile set and among award-watchers will not, under any circumstance, let a film led by Sandra Bullock be called a masterpiece or a great act of filmmaking. The first group because she’s far from fitting their definition of a “great actress,” and the second because they’re pissed at her for winning an Oscar because…she’s not a “great actress”? I can’t remember. In time, Bullock’s reputation and her perceived lack of acting pedigree will weigh in much less -if at all- when assessing GRAVITY’s greatness.

    I predict unlikely hood will have to add it to his syllabus at some point.

    Do we have AD readers pissed or aggravated by GRAVITY’s so-called “religious message”? May I ask why?

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Hey unlikely hood,

    Do you teach the masterful and rarely-matched film editing in JURASSIC PARK?

  • moviewatcher

    I wonder if we could actually have another “weird year” and get Kechiche a lone director nomination. I know, I know, with the 5-10 system it seems almost impossible for that to happen. But who knows…

    Right now, i’m playing it safe and predicting McQueen, Cuaron, Greengrass, Russell and Scorsese.

  • You guys, GRAVITY is racist against the deaf. Look: https://twitter.com/MarleeMatlin/status/403358606684192769

  • Unlikely hood

    Bryce – tend to do saving private ryan instead, for the editing class. Make the case for JP; I can be persuaded

  • rufussondheim

    As long as you show a vibrating puddle, unlikely hood, you’re good.

    So I think the best edited action film I’ve seen is the one Bourne film, I can’t recall if it’s the second or the third. It’s the one that one the Oscar.

    But what I loved about it, during the chase scenes it was so feverishly edited, and normally that means I have no clue what’s going on, but with these scenes, it was easy because Greengrass used, for example, the color of a car so you could quickly grasp what the subject of the shot was, and with some great sound cues, it was easy to see what was happening, and just when you began to understand what was happening, you got another cut. They were perfect.

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