So much can be said about all of the nominees in each category recognized this year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but none are more controversial or compelling as the films and directors nominated in the two biggest categories of the affair. The nominees for Best Picture and Best Director are in many ways paralleled in both the fact that no Best Picture nominee’s man at the helm was left behind when it was time to make nominations for Directing achievement, and the fact that each film has the very distinct touch of its director. In the world of film there is no such thing as a great film with a mediocre director, only great films directed by great men. And that is a theory that could be used as the driving force of justification for the following nominations:
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
- George Clooney for Good Night, and Good Luck
- Paul Haggis for Crash
- Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain
- Bennett Miller for Capote
- Steven Spielberg for Munich
It has often been said that every film’s success begins and ends with the director. The producer secures finances and manages the money, the cinematographer chooses the right lighting and camera angle, and the actors all deliver their best performance; but the only role that supersedes all of the aforementioned duties is that of the director. A great director is neither seen nor heard by audiences, but their presence is undoubtedly felt. They are the ones whose interpretation of the story is what is played out before our eyes, either for our enjoyment or otherwise. And it is only the most elite of this field that cause us to stop as we exit the theater and say to ourselves, “Wow, that was one hell of a ride.”
Such is the case with this year’s nominees. There is the very A-List contingent of the group, which includes the incomparable genius of Steven Spielberg, the off-beat but visionary style of Ang Lee and the sizzling hot late-blooming talent of Paul Haggis. The rest of the list is comprised of veritable newcomers. Prior to being at the helm of Capote, Bennett Miller had previously only directed one film. The native New Yorker’s limited experience in the mainstream of Hollywood did not detract, though, from his ability to immortalize another great New Yorker in Truman Capote. And last but not least there is the wonder of George Clooney. Here is a man whose acting career has made him a household name that is often associated with cheeky humor, witty dramatic satire, and a list of junior varsity action flicks (Three Kings and The Peacemaker come to mind.) But his newfound excellence in the realm of directing is not only a welcome surprise, but it displays a much unknown genius that people did not know existed within Clooney.[ADBLOCKHERE]
With that said, it is very difficult to say whose directorial excellence far exceeds that of the other nominees. Miller’s job with Capote will always be severely and unfairly overshadowed by the performance of its lead, Philip Seymour Hoffman; a fact that truly hinders his chance to be recognized for such a transcending biopic. Steven Spielberg’s nomination for Munich seems to be one, at least to me, that is based more in the fact that he is Steven Spielberg rather than the quality of his film. While Munich was a thrilling, compelling look at the tragedy of the 1972 Olympic Games, its quality seems to pale in the shadows of Spielberg’s great accomplishments, thus making his directing job slightly forgettable. So much is to be said in the wake of Lee’s Brokeback, and even though I was not its most supportive critic I will say that Lee displayed a true sense of range with his ability to bring out raw emotion in a very taboo way. But I believe this year’s most deserving filmmaker is George Clooney. When you take into account his semi-novice approach to directing and compare it with the unforgettable end result, you have to see that no other director nominated was able to show such versatility in his craft. Clooney’s thumbprint on the film is the subtle but succinct ambience of both political relevance and historical reverence. And while Good Night, and Good Luck does not have the industry buzz freight train of Brokeback Mountain behind it, I believe that its director should at least be recognized for a job well done.
WHO SHOULD WIN: George Clooney
WHO PROBABLY WILL WIN: Ang Lee
BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
From intriguing biopics to racial remorse, political relevancy to social taboos, the five films nominated for Best Picture all soar to amazing heights in their achievement of being equally controversial, compelling, and emotionally poignant. The five films also share one gleaming source of achievement as well: the performances which were delivered by their casts. Not in recent years have I felt as if all of the films nominated contained such significantly worthy candidates for recognition on an individual basis.
Capote is easily this year’s best one man show. Philip Seymour Hoffman dazzles as he embodies the eccentric and alluring personality of one of American literature’s most notable figures. The impressively compelling Munich was on the opposite side of the spectrum, sporting on of the most underrated ensemble casts in recent history. And while Steven Spielberg’s film was very moving and exhilarating, it really did not have the steam to carry its way to the top of this list.
Speaking of sensational ensemble casts, the racially intense and straightforward story of Crash was complemented exquisitely by those who played its parts. Matt Dillon’s talent for playing the most hated of characters has finally found its pinnacle in Paul Haggis’ gut wrenching drama. No holes can be found in the storytelling as Haggis expertly weaves the many different sides of his tale of intolerance through the lives of complete strangers. And while Crash‘s triumph is in its multiple intriguing story lines, Good Night, and Good Luck is a testament to how amazingly a lackluster story can be told. The combination of George Clooney’s unique directional style combined with stellar performances and a smooth jazzy score make for an interesting film that dives into American history and emerges with a stark social relevance for today’s media.
But even though Good Night, and Good Luck was controversial in its own right, there was no film that held the world’s attention more than Brokeback Mountain. No film in recent history has come into the Oscars with such hype, such buzz, and such expectations. The quality of the film, the emotionally draining love story and even the absolutely monumental performances that carried this flick are all overshadowed by the taboo subject matter that exists when you have two Hollywood heart-throbs going at it in a tent on a mountain. And while Brokeback is the powerful story of illicit lust, unattainable love and tremendous loss it may not be the year’s best all-around work of cinematic genius; but that should not stop it from rolling right through Oscar night with nothing but multiple trips up the center aisle and excessively long and painfully repetitive acceptance speeches. Hopefully the event planners are at least intelligent enough to put the cast and crew of this film up front, as it should shorten the ceremonies considerably.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Crash
WHO WILL PROBABLY WIN: Brokeback Mountain