Steve Mason at Big Hollywood has pointed out some sound reasoning why there will be one miss-match between director and picture. He’s predicting that Darren Aronofsky will take Ron Howard’s place in the lineup based on the fact that every year for the last ten there has been a director nominated without having their picture also nominated except for one, in 2006. We’ll take a look at that year after the cut.
Best Director Nominees for films not nominated for Best Picture
2000 – Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich
2001 – Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
2002 – Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down, David Lynch, Mulholland Drive
2003 – Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
2004 – Fernando Meirelles, City of God
2005 – Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
2006 – None
2007 – Paul Greengrass, United 93
2008 – Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
S0, 2006 (which I count as 2005 since I do it based on the Oscar year, not the ceremony year), was the Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash year. All five films were locked in fairly early. The big question then was whether Munich would make the cut or would be replaced by The Constant Gardner, Walk the Line or maybe A History of Violence. That year, like this year, wasn’t really a strong year for Best Picture but probably because all of the attention was focused on Brokeback Mountain. It was sweeping everything, like Slumdog Millionaire this year. To that end, it didn’t feel much like a race until the very last second when they announced Crash as the winner.
That year, Walk the Line was in the PGA’s lineup but not the DGA and ultimately not Best Picture. Four out of five of them (save Munich) were in the SAG ensemble lineup. All but Munich were in the BAFTA’s five as well. That year, the DGA really did determine it.
My own personal take on this is that the DGA have the greatest influence, which is why Best Picture can, more often than not, be determined by the DGA. The directors branch within AMPAS is a little more selective and obtuse than the very large DGA, which means that a film that wouldn’t do well with the Academy at large can do well with the directors, who seem to be a little more plugged in to less mainstream films. Think of Steven Spielberg as your prototypical directors branch voter. He often celebrates unique directorial vision and would appreciate someone who came out of nowhere and dazzled the critics, even if the film made no money at the box office.
I guess that means you have to ask yourself which director is deserving of recognition but so far hasn’t really gotten it and/or doesn’t appear to have a major contender in the race? Or it could mean a film that turns off the majority of voters (United 93, Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive) but is sexy enough for the directors to take notice?
Given all of this, if I had to take a guess, I think that there are two distinct possibilities: Steven Soderbergh for Che and Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino.
It could go a few different ways.
Fincher out, Clint Eastwood in.
This would be interesting because those who have been whining about Benjamin Button would probably start to feel like Fincher was robbed. But Fincher has not been playing the game the way Danny Boyle has — not out there making friends and charming crowds. Still, his reputation as a master of the form should help him to secure a nod.
Ron Howard out, Darren Aronofsky in (as Steve is predicting), or Soderbergh.
That would be difficult to imagine since Howard is getting raves for this film — and in terms of guild support it does not show the same kind of weakness people here seem to think – on the other hand, nobody knows anything. To me, it was easily one of the year’s best.
Gus Van Sant out, Andrew Stanton for Wall-E in.
Only if Milk is weak heading into the race – it doesn’t feel weak if you look back at the guild support. Van Sant deserves this nomination and I can’t see one being nominated without the other.