×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscar’s director race covers nearly all the showbiz bases

Eye on the Oscars 2013: The Director

The morning of the Oscar nominations, the Academy’s final selections in the directing category caught the pundits and public alike by surprise. Preoccupied with the oversights, the conversation focused on the snubs: No Ben Affleck, no Kathryn Bigelow. “Les Mis” fans wondered where Tom Hooper was, while auteurists questioned the absence of Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino.

But such talk seems to be looking at the glass from the wrong direction, obsessed with what was left out, instead of celebrating what a diverse mix of backgrounds the nominees include (in nearly all respects except gender). In short, everybody who comes from one of the constituencies represented by the ballot got great news this month:

1. The Ultimate Studio Director

It doesn’t get any more establishment than Steven Spielberg, the great populist who invented the blockbuster, started a studio and tied John Ford for having directed nine best picture nominees (so far). If Tinseltown printed its own currency, it would put his face, not Lincoln’s, on the $5 bill. To include his name on the ballot is not only to recognize the pinnacle of what anyone working within the system can achieve, but to encourage those who find ways to balance personal vision with commercial concerns — as the maestro did with “Lincoln.”

2. The International Man of Mystery

Lauded for his work on “Life of Pi,” Ang Lee represents the outsider who became an industry fixture. Born in Taiwan, educated at NYU and responsible for bringing both a Western sensibility to exotic material (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and an outsider’s eye to American stories (“Brokeback Mountain”), he symbolizes the foreigner Hollywood is proud to consider its own. From Milos Forman to Roman Polanski, such helmers are by no means uncommon in Oscar history and remind that many of the industry’s greats immigrated from abroad.

3. The Strict European Auteur

A year after honoring a French helmer with its top honor (“The Artist’s” Michel Hazanavicius), the Academy chose to recognize another international talent. Except Michael Haneke may as well be the anti-Hazanavicius. Rather than aspiring to work in Hollywood, Haneke does things his way, carrying on the rigorous intellectual tradition of Bergman and Antonioni (both past Oscar nominees). His nom for “Amour” announces that if you make a good enough movie, regardless of language, the Academy will notice.

4. The Independent Maverick

David O. Russell has worked both inside and out of the studio system, though few directors have preserved their independence so successfully. He reps the way Hollywood looks to the indie domain for fresh voices, wooing freethinkers into the system. That mix of sensibilities is what makes “Silver Linings Playbook” special: It blends classic screwball comedy with Russell’s honest view of human nature. Those slighted that Christopher Nolan wasn’t nommed should find solace in this fellow Sundance alum’s success.

5. The Cinderella Story

It doesn’t get any more independent than “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a ragged yet resilient fable made virtually off the grid by first-time feature director Benh Zeitlin and a bunch of non-union, mostly unknown collaborators. Such debuts don’t come along very often (only six first-timers have won), yet they prove that exceptional work excites the Academy, regardless of where it comes from. It suggests to all those visionaries toiling in obscurity, testing the boundaries and reinventing the language, Oscar holds a place for you, too.

And the nominees are. . . >>

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Backstage in Puglia del film SPACCAPIETRE:

    'Gomorrah' Star Salvatore Esposito Set For De Serio Twins' 'The Stonebreaker'

    Salvatore Esposito, the Italian star who plays young mob boss Genny Savastano in Italy’s hit TV series “Gomorrah,” will soon be hitting the big screen toplining upcoming drama “The Stonebreaker” by twin directorial duo Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio, who are known internationally for “Seven Acts of Mercy.” The De Serio twins are now in post on “Stonebreaker” [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Tops 'Joker,' 'Zombieland'

    “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is on track to give Disney another first place finish after scoring $12.5 million in Friday’s domestic ticket sales. If estimates hold, the Angelina Jolie-led film should finish the weekend with about $38 million — well below earlier forecasts but enough to top holdover “Joker” and fellow newcomer “Zombieland: Double Tap.” [...]

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON, France   — As the Lumière Institute’s head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launched the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over the decade that followed. This year, the festival ran 190 films across 424 screenings in theaters all over town. The festival will come to a [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content