Yidio Oscars Spotlight: Best Director

Yidio Oscars Spotlight: Best Director In the Yidio Oscars Spotlight, we take a look at the key races at this year's Academy Awards, starting with Best Director.

Best Director

A crowd pleaser and a critical favorite go head-to-head in the most competitive director's race in years.

Past Winners

Oscar has had a pretty good run with Best Director over the past decade, handing the award to Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic"), Roman Polanski ("The Pianist"), Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"), Clint Eastwood ("Million Dollar Baby"), Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain"), Martin Scorsese ("The Departed"), Joel & Ethan Coen ("No Country for Old Men"), Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), and Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker").

The only major blight from the last decade was Ron Howard (for "A Beautiful Mind"), whose contribution to the art - or even the craft - of filmmaking is negligible. On the whole, though, even when I might prefer one nominee over the eventual winner (Sofia Coppola over Peter Jackson, for example) or thought a director was overpraised (Danny Boyle, certainly), on the whole they've done a great job of recognizing artists with voices.

It's also worth noting that Best Director doesn't always line up with Best Picture. Though that has happened the last four times, it did not happen in 2000, 2002, or 2005.

The Nominees

David Fincher ("The Social Network")

Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan")

Joel & Ethan Coen ("True Grit")

Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech")

David O. Russell ("The Fighter")

What Critics are Saying

For months, it was all David Fincher, all the time. And then, suddenly, the Directors Guild of America went with Tom Hooper, to the surprise of everyone (including, according to those in attendance, presenter Kathryn Bigelow, who was "visibly shocked" when she read his name). While the DGA Award has been a predictor of the Best Director Oscar all but six times, there's more to this game than statistics.

Critics have run hot and cold on Hooper's directorial effort, some admiring his use of strange lenses and ability to guide proven actors like Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush to great performances, while others wondered if he knew what sight lines were. Many are simply wondering if he deserves a nomination at all for translating a solid screenplay without a personal voice or exceptional craft.

Meanwhile, there's been nothing but praise for Fincher, whose direction of "The Social Network" continues his work as one of the foremost directors working today. His perfect eye transformed an excellent script into a modern classic (not always a sure thing), worked a three-hour script into a two-hour film without overworking the audience, and directed three young actors to the best performances of their careers.

Joel & Ethan Coen would have a much better chance if they hadn't won three years ago for "No Country for Old Men," as "True Grit" is far and away their biggest hit to date, and is a great film at that.

This is the first nomination for Darren Aronofsky and David O. Russell, and neither of them will win for different reasons. Aronofsky has been criticized for going over the top with "Black Swan," and the film has a bit of a mixed reaction as of late. "The Fighter," on the other hand, is a surprisingly big player, but Russell's reputation still isn't repaired in Hollywood circles. If he turns out a few more like this, though, expect him to be on that stage sometime in the next ten years.

As these things go, it's pretty much a two-horse race. Even though the others are true artists continuing to do top-notch work, the chances are extremely low of any of them winning.

Prediction

David Fincher. The Academy will ignore the DGA precedent and do the right thing.

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