Director of the year: Oliver Stone

Stone surprised many of his longtime critics with “World Trade Center.” Contrary to his usual m.o., he didn’t initiate the project but committed immediately after reading the script.

“I thought it extraordinary and not at all conventional. Sticking to the story and going to the unusual was interesting to me,” he says, referring to his depiction of the rescue of two trapped Port Authority cops in the WTC rubble.

Although some critics have seen Stone’s depiction of the renegade Marine as an endorsement of the Iraq war, the helmer doesn’t go there. “Politics divides people,” he says. “There was no room for politics here. That is a post-9/11 movie, ‘Sept. 12.’ ”

Stone is his own best cheerleader on the film. “It is an intense and powerful film and it moves people, it moves their hearts,” he says. “The heart brings together the compassion of the situation, people helping each other. In that sense there are no heroes, there are people in need of connection. The world is in a very, very dark place right now and what will help us survive is the human heart that brings us together.”

He is also bullish on the film’s overseas prospects. “I think it will play around the world, I always did. It could be a tsunami in Southeast Asia, a coal mine disaster in Australia. It’s about people facing death and adversity and finding the courage to survive.”

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