HOLLYWOOD—Its perhaps the most polarizing race this season, and the most unpredictable at the same time as several titans missed the mark in a huge way. Director Ben Affleck whose film “Argo” is a heavy favorite for Best Picture was overlooked by the Academy, as were Kathryn Bigelow “Zero Dark Thirty,” Tom Hooper “Les Misérables” and Quentin Tarantino “Django Unchained.” With those notable directors missing from the group the nominees all have an equal shot at the prize.
First-time nominee Benh Zeitlin “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was the surprise that floored critics and movie lovers alike. Not many expected the director to nab a nomination for his fantasy driven tale about a young girl and her father living in the slums of South, but it’s such an inspirational tale and mesmerizing one at the same time, it’s easy to see how the Academy chose to recognize it. In my opinion, Zeitlin is a first-timer with lots of promise and his chances are slim with powerhouses like Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg vying for the prize.
Michael Hanake “Amour” was another surprise in the Best Director race. His picture about an elderly woman coping with the notion that her life as she knows it is slowly slipping away has wowed critics. It’s a tender tale that requires the right direction in order for the piece to work which Hanake does exceptionally well. The picture has quite a bit of buzz behind it, but I do not see the Academy offering the award to Hanake unless it’s a consolation prize for the picture.
David O. Russell finds himself garnering his second nomination for his work in “Silver Linings Playbook.” He was previously nominated for his work on “The Fighter.” “Silver Linings Playbook” is the type of picture that borders that thin line of comedy and drama. Typically the Academy does not honor many dramedies in the Best Director race, but if they were to do so this is the film to do it. While it has its comedic moments, Russell is able to stage the action where it has a more dramatic impact on the spectator. While many are predicting this race to be a shoo-in for Spielberg, if there were an upset this is the guy do it.
“Life of Pi” is a visual masterpiece that could only be accomplished by one man: Ang Lee. Lee took home the Best Director prize for his work in “BrokebackMountain” and is adored by his peers. The problem with the picture is that it didn’t resonate as well with moviegoers. While it’s a work of art in its own league, that alone will not garner Oscar in my opinion. If members of the Academy were looking to acknowledge the picture, this would be the one category where a huge surprise could happen. In 2011, everyone was certain David Fincher would win for “The Social Network,” but surprise when the Academy chose Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech.”
The front-runner in this race is none other this movie icon Steven Spielberg. The director auteur has been nominated a total of six times for Best Director. With his nomination for his biopic “Lincoln” this brings his total to seven. He has taken home the award on two occasions for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Its hard to fathom the director hasn’t won the award more times. What he does behind the camera for “Lincoln” is a master genius at work; bringing the audience a tale and a side of “Lincoln” not seen before.
The picture holds the most nominations this year and with so many certain that “Argo” will win the Best Picture prize, this is the Academy’s way of honoring the movie alongside Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis. My gut tells me Spielberg will claim his third Best Director Oscar on Sunday, only and only if the Academy chooses not to sway to “Silver Linings Playbook” for Best Picture and Best Director. There indeed have been plenty of surprises in this race in the past.
By LaDale Anderson