At first glance, it would seem that the Oscar for Best Directing is a crazy race that should be at least as difficult as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. On closer inspection, however, the field clears up and two horses really show themselves to be the clear contenders.
The Coen brothers and “True Grit” can be stripped away almost immediately. Was it Joel or Ethan that has claimed to have never actually directed an actor? Either way, a large part of the magic involved in a Coen brothers film is the casting of actors that fit perfectly into the roles as written. This year had two acting category nominations for “True Grit.” One of those nominations was for Jeff Bridges. I’m not sure he needed any directing for this role; he’s just that good. The other was for Hailee Steinfeld’s performance, which was more influenced by the actors she was playing to that the direction she was being given.
“Black Swan,” while fantastic on a number of different levels, owes it’s success more to the cinematography than the directing. Natalie Portman is the front-runner for the gold and Mila Kunis was pretty outstanding, but Aronofsky poured so much of his attention into the two lovely ladies that the rest of the cast seemed a bit bland by comparison. Maybe Aronofsky will take it home in 2012 when he releases “The Wolverine,” but that’s pretty doubtful as is him taking it home this year.
David O. Russell struck pay-dirt with the casting decisions made for “The Fighter.” More than likely, two of his actors (Bale and Leo) will walk home with an Oscar. The problem is, “The Fighter” lacks a Leading Actor or Actress nod and that destroys Mr. Russell’s chances. Wahlberg didn’t get the nod because he didn’t have to stretch much for this character. Looking at the performances Russell has gotten from Wahlberg before (“I Heart Huckabees” and “Three Kings”) gives credence to the two working together but that isn’t going to be enough.
When Tom Hooper’s name gets called, nobody will be too surprised. I honestly hadn’t heard of this man until last year when he directed “The Damned United,” but with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon on the payroll the studio could certainly afford to roll the dice with a young director. It’s good they did, too, because just look at the results.
David Fincher did the better job, in my opinion, but he’ll be passed over because he directed the flashy, youthful movie instead of the historic personal drama. Nearly every performance in “The Social Network” has gotten good press and it was a surprise to almost everyone when Andrew Garfield didn’t get a nomination. The work Fincher did with Eisenberg and Timberlake was transformative, although I think a bit more could have been pulled out of Eisenberg. The real testament to Fincher’s abilities lies in the fact that all of the talent he had to deal with is so young. For him to get that many consistently good performances is exactly why he deserves the gold.
Who do you think was this year’s Best Director?