Editor’s Note: Our Oscar coverage reaches the penultimate category before tomorrow’s Oscar ceremony.
Lenny Abrahamson Room
Alejandro G. Iñárritu The Revenant
Tom McCarthy Spotlight
Adam McKay The Big Short
George Miller Mad Max Fury Road
Trivia: If Iñárritu prevails here he will join Joseph Mankiewicz and John Ford as the only directors to win consecutive Oscars. If George Miller wins he will join Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Jackson as the only directors win for directing a sequel.
This year’s best director category is particularly interesting as we see only one previous winner amongst the five nominated. Said winner comes in the form of Iñárritu, having won the prestigious award just last year for the eccentric and meta-masterpiece that is Birdman. Coming up against Iñárritu are two directors with no previous nominations in any shape or form at the Oscars, Adam McKay with the fourth wall breaking The Big Short and Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, a film that centres around a kidnapped woman and her five year old son trapped in, unsurprisingly, a room.
Although Tom McCarthy and the experienced George Miller have had Oscar nominations, they have been for best original screenplay and best picture (as a producer), respectively. Miller this year is nominated for the adrenaline rich post-apocalyptic thriller Mad Max: Fury Road, a huge contrast to his sole Oscar win for his work on Happy Feet. A bigger transition has been performed by McKay who is mostly known for his work as a comedy director, boasting such cult classics as Anchorman and Step Brothers. Tom McCarthy’s nomination is for the haunting Spotlight which documents The Boston Globe’s exposé on systematic child molestation within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Revenant has hoarded an impressive 12 Oscar nominations this year and this is an undeniable reflection of the quality of Iñárritu’s filmmaking. Given the success of Birdman and the uniqueness of its direction, there was plenty of intrigue surrounding Iñárritu’s next step in direction, the grotesque and torturous nature of The Revenant differs drastically to what we see in Birdman which is a testament to Iñárritu’s versatility. The action-filled panoramas coupled with sometimes unbearable (no pun intended) tension prove Iñárritu a worthy nominee at this year’s academy awards and also one of the favourites to take the award home.
Hot on the toes of Iñárritu is Tom McCarthy with Spotlight which undoubtedly holds the best acting ensemble of all the nominated films in this category, which can be in part credited to the director. What makes Spotlight a stand out contender is its sincerity as a film dedicated to telling the true story of the events, it avoids extrapolation and mawkish back stories to the characters which often tend to stain films labelled as documentaries, however the practical visuals are less inspiring due to this commitment to the truth, meaning it is unlikely McCarthy will receive the award.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a visually stunning film with cinematography that is transcendent of the previous trilogy, whilst having a contemporary feel with a striking colour pallet. It has been hotly tipped to win the award with its exciting and idiosyncratic style. Mad Max: Fury Road is choreographed to perfection and is truly a thrilling piece of cinema, Miller’s meticulous construction of the car chase at the centre of the film is more than deserving of an Oscar in direction.
Perhaps the dark horse of this category is Abrahamson for his direction of Room which although has been given less coverage, cannot be ruled out as a potential winner of the award. Room is undoubtedly an incredibly moving film and an apt tribute to the source material, but perhaps the stand-out feature of the film is Brie Larson’s performance and I’m not quite sure it will pull off a best direction win, however don’t rule it out. At the bottom of the pile (although still a very worthy nominee) is Adam McKay. McKay should be respected for breaking away from the flat-out comedies that have come to define him with the film The Big Short, which still maintains a comedic core whilst addressing the sincerity of the mortgage crisis in America.
For me, I would like to see Miller or Abrahamson scoop the award, however Miller is by far the more likely. Iñárritu will most probably miss out and perhaps fittingly because I feel Birdman was a better film in terms of direction and Iñárritu falls short of it with his follow up film The Revenant. However, the unpredictability of the Academy may allow for the Oscar novice Lenny Abrahamson to gain the prestigious prize.