This week we shackle our Best Director contenders together by the ankles, slather them in honey, toss them in the bear cage with an 800 pound grizzly and a pair of bolt cutters to see who among them has the will to survive. Wait… did I say directors or hobos? I meant hobos. But this article’s not about the bear game. No, this article’s about the Academy’s Best Director nominees, an impressive list containing some of American cinema’s most lauded directors. We have David “Fight Club” Fincher, Darren “ass-to-ass” Aronofsky, Joel and Ethan “that movie where Peter Stormare puts Steve Buscemi in a wood chipper” Cohen, David “O” Russell… and some British dude. I’d be honored to have any one of these talented white males helm my breakdancing videos (PopNLockNRonnie @ Youtube). But which of these white males deserves the Shiny Gold Dude?
PRO: David Fincher is one America’s most acclaimed directors, possessing a unique visual style that sets his work apart from his peers. He boasts an impressive track record — Alien 3 notwithstanding — and despite working primarily within the studio system has managed to make a career of exploring the darker realms of the human psyche. While The Social Network bears Fincher’s stamp it is also his most accessible and critically acclaimed film to date, a one-two punch that makes him an easy choice for Academy voters.
CON: Fincher’s renowned for tackling bile-black subject matter; he’s made films about serial killers, psychopaths, serial killers, serial killers and serial killers. And while The Social Network’s backstabbing billionaire protagonist does have his dark side, it’s not like he’s cutting off anyone’s head and mailing it to their sweetheart (that we know of, anyway). In comparison to Fincher’s back catalog, The Social Network might seem to some Academy voters like a bit of a trifle.
PRO: Tom Hooper is the least known of our nominees, but he does have buzz on his side. The King’s Speech received the lion’s share of nominations in the major categories and thanks to the slick campaigning of the baby-devourin brothers Weinstein, seems to be gaining momentum as Oscar night draws near. Hooper is also this year’s safest choice; his resume boasts period pieces and costume dramas but none of the dark, violent, controversial work that his fellow nominees are known for. He’s never cut off Gwyneth Paltrow’s head (unfortunately), shoved a double-dong up Jennifer Connelly’s pudding pipe (unfortunately), thrown anyone into a wood chipper (unfortunately) or tried to strangle George Clooney (ibid). He’s the Postum of best director nominees; a rich and tasty beverage that is inoffensively flavorful and harmlessly healthful.
CON: Tom who? Hooper is what my WoW clan members would call a “noob.” Also he’s British, and we should never forget how the British betrayed us during World War 2 by aligning themselves with the Nazis. Or perhaps that was the Italians. Eh, British, Italian, same thing.
PRO: I know he wasn’t nominated, but if any director could find a way to win despite not being on the ballot, it’s Nolan. Perhaps I’m only dreaming he wasn’t nominated and when I wake up he’ll be on the Best Director short list. But then what if when I wake up I find out that’s just a dream, too? And what if that dream’s a dream within a dream within a dream, and it isn’t even MY dream but someone else’s dream? These are the kinds of things I think about when I’ve been huffing air freshener.
CON: After examining the list of past Best Director winners it seems that exactly 0% were people who weren’t officially nominated. Why I don’t know. I guess for the same reason that ZZ Top didn’t win the 1984 Presidential election as write-ins, in spite of spending months on the campaign trail in a roadster called Eliminator, telling every voting-age citizen in every one horse town about the virtues of sharp dressed men and knowing how to use legs when you have them. Or perhaps ZZ Top DID win the 1984 presidential election and I’m only dreaming they didn’t? Whoa. Just blew my own mind.
If it was the award for MOST directing, Aronofsky would be a shoo-in. Black Swan was a masterstroke of technique, but like a Yngwie Malmsteen guitar solo it rings a little short on soul in spite of its technical impressiveness. Also, Aronofsky has been left in the shadow of his film’s leading yummy-mummy-to-be Natalie Portman, who is widely favored (and was my pick) to win Best Actress. Darren Aronofsky’s a highly talented filmmaker and I have no doubt that he’ll eventually get his due, but I don’t foresee him taking the Shiny Gold Dude in 2011.
If this article was about the bear game, David O. Russell would be a shoo-in. If anyone on this list has it in him to tear out a bear’s throat with his teeth while his fellow directors bleed to death it’s Russell. Unfortunately this award’s being given for directing not bear-fighting. And while Russell has made some wonderful films – The Fighter included — I still don’t think the Academy voters will be willing to overlook his volatile disposition, especially given the fact that he essentially tried to murder Oscar darling George Clooney on the set of Three Kings. George Clooney’s farts have been nominated for Oscars. For the love of God, don’t fuck with George Clooney.
JOEL AND ETHAN COHEN
The Cohen Brothers are kind of like Pixar for grown-ups; all they have to do is make a film to get Oscar nominations. Which in a way works against them. When you’re prolific and talented enough to be on the ballot every year Academy voters are forced to be a bit more discerning. True Grit was an amazing film, but was it an amazing Cohen Brothers film? Back to the Pixar analogy, it wasn’t a Cars but it probably wasn’t a Toy Story either. I’d consider it a solid Monsters, Inc.
ADVANTAGE: David Fincher. Any of the nominees would be deserving and it’s still going to be a shoot-out. But while buzz is on Tom Hooper’s side I believe the Academy voters will honor the more experienced Fincher. Give that man a Shiny Gold Dude!