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For Your Consideration: 5 Directors Who Deserve Oscar Nominations This Year

by The Playlist Staff
December 21, 2012 5:40 PM
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For Your Consideration: Directors

Unlike Best Picture, the Best Director category at the Academy Awards is still only made up of five slots, and it's tough to crack in there, especially as nominees are usually aligned with the Best Picture nominees. More than almost any other category, the merits of a film's direction can sometimes be overlooked in favor of the helmer of the best-liked film, rather than the one who did the most surprising, boldest and impressive work of the year.

As such, having looked at the acting categories in the last few days, we wanted to highlight some directors whose chances of a nomination are slim (right now it's looking like Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, Ben Affleck, and either Tom Hooper or David O. Russell will take those places), but who are just as deserving as the competition. If you are an Academy member, why not take a chance and vote for one of the below. For all The Playlist's year-end coverage, make sure to follow all our Best Of 2012 features.

Joe Wright, Anna Karenina
Joe Wright - "Anna Karenina"
One of the few chances a director has at landing a nomination if their film will be ignored for Best Picture is if their work is showy, in a film where it's clear that the filmmaker involved is responsible for the style and tone of the piece (see Julian Schnabel for "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" a few years back). And this year, Joe Wright ticks that box with his version of "Anna Karenina." Originally intended to be a more traditional kind of period piece, budgetary issues led to Wright using adversity to his advantage, retooling the film into a non-naturalistic tale set almost entirely within the confines of a theater. Which makes it sound by its very existence stagey, but Wright turns it into something thrillingly cinematic, a curious midway point between Powell & Pressburger, Busby Berkeley and Bertolt Brecht. Long steadicam shots, stunning production design and a few coup de theaters all add up to one of the most original takes on the costume drama we've ever seen, which contrasts the artificiality of the lives of the Russian aristocrats against the "purer," more pastoral life of Levin (Domnhall Gleeson). The cast are superb, the team that Wright has assembled (including returning collaborators composer Dario Marianelli and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey) are working at full throttle, and it's both intellectually rigorous and quietly moving. It's the director's best film yet, and a nomination would go some way to making up for him being passed over for his work on the Best Picture-nominated "Atonement" five years ago.

Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan - "The Dark Knight Rises"
Famously, the Academy doesn't seem to be convinced by Christopher Nolan; while his films have picked up multiple nominations, he's only ever had one, for writing "Memento," and when "Inception" was nominated for Best Picture two years ago, Nolan was passed over again for Director. In all likelihood, he'll have to wait for his next film before he breaks into the club, but we'd argue that his work on "The Dark Knight Rises" is as worthy as any of the directors who are in serious contention. His third and final Bat-film may not scale the giddy heights of "Inception" (except for literally, in that aerial opening sequence...), but it's the most technically accomplished and adept film he's ever made. He's become more and more confident with his action sequences, which are on a grand scale here (that opening scene, and the stadium explosion, number among the best set pieces of his career), but Nolan's also skilled at the smaller, more intimate moments, with the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred proving to be the most emotional of his career. More than anything else, there's simply no one (well, maybe one person) who's making films like Nolan: big, massive scale productions, shot on film, with minimal CGI and emphasis on practical effects wherever possible. And we think that's something that should be applauded, particularly for a film as rich and satisfying as "The Dark Knight Rises."

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  • Tobi | February 22, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    What a difference a month and change makes.

  • Les | January 1, 2013 9:52 PMReply

    Chris Nolan has NOT been nominated only once. He was TWICE nominated for Inception -- Best Picture (producer) and Best Original Screenplay (writer).

  • Fever | December 31, 2012 8:14 AMReply

    The oscars lately are about as significant as MTV awards. They are not recognising craft or artistic merit. Sentimental reasons are dictating who gets oscars these days. For example both Meryl Streep and Martin Scorcecee got their recent Oscars for their body of work and not the actual movies nominated. This year the Bin Laden movie will win because USA rules ok.

  • Kari | February 22, 2013 2:10 PM

    I have a dream. A dream that people (at least the ones who post on FILM related sites) learn how to spell S-C-O-R-S-E-S-E.

  • SEAN | December 23, 2012 6:56 PMReply

    PTA & JOE WRIGHT!!!!!! Absolutely

  • Gary | December 23, 2012 4:38 PMReply

    "Reviews proved divisive" for P.T. Anderson's "The Master"? That definitely was not the case. The film has a rating of '86' out of 43 reviews on Metacritic. That's incredible!

  • Daniel Delago | December 23, 2012 7:35 AMReply

    I agree that Sarah Polley is a talented filmmaker. Her intense romantic drama, 'Take This Waltz' was brilliant. I liked how honest and daring Polley was with a risky subject such as infidelity. I was so enamored by this film I convinced the owner of my local art house cinema to play it. Another film I really liked this year was 'Looper' written and directed by Rian Johnson. The story took time travel to another level. Although it deals with Sci-Fi, this film really focuses on the main character facing himself (his demons) and the bad decisions he makes in his life.

  • Reilly | December 22, 2012 3:34 PMReply

    Enough with the Nolan praise, it's completely unwarranted for this particular film. He has directed a truly great movie since The Prestige. That pompous photo with the staged light behind him shows what studio tool WB has created.

  • Whodatninja | December 30, 2012 3:24 AM

    Nolan detractor. Yawn

  • Whodatninja | December 30, 2012 3:23 AM

    Nolan detractor. Yawn

  • Alan | December 22, 2012 11:06 PM

    So, now you are criticising Nolan because ... WB promotes him? Whoa ...

  • James | December 22, 2012 11:29 AMReply

    Would love to see Nolan (or PTA) get more Oscar-love, but he makes films people actually cares about and wants to see, not movies designed for old people (Hooper, Spielberg). That being said, Nolan has done much better work in the past, so I don't mind him getting passed on again. And unlike The Dark Knight Rises, The Master really needs those awards, cause it didn't exactly light the world on fire at the box-office.

  • Vincent | December 23, 2012 4:08 PM

    The Master is actually the second-most awarded film of the season after Zero Dark Thirty. So I think I'm cool with PTA being passed over on the Oscars this year, as long as the film keeps that streak going.

  • Friendster | December 22, 2012 11:23 AMReply

    Great choices all around, though yeah, maybe Haneke instead of Polley? Though I get you're aiming for people who are probably not going to get a nomination and he might.

  • Hugo | December 22, 2012 9:39 AMReply

    No Michael Haneke? One of the most important auteurs working today? If Haneke is not worth the title of best director, nobody is!

  • Thomasi | February 22, 2013 1:23 PM

    Haneke was nominated, genius.

  • Zachary | December 22, 2012 9:31 AMReply


  • Kim | December 22, 2012 6:42 AMReply

    Audiard is the best on this list & by far the most acclaim. Bafta + 2 césar! This guy is a genius, Audiard put Scorsese to shame.

  • Grey | December 22, 2012 6:43 AM

    He won 2 bafta and yes he is one of the best !

  • Gerhty | December 22, 2012 2:19 AMReply

    What about David O. Russell?

  • jimmiescoffee | December 21, 2012 11:47 PMReply

    Paul Thomas Anderson not being nominated proves that the oscars are bogus. unfortunate.

  • Hua | December 21, 2012 10:36 PMReply

    solid picks. What what about Haneke?

  • Oogle monster | December 21, 2012 9:49 PMReply

    PTA + Nolan for sure. Although as much as I liked TDKR, he was severely snubbed for Best Picture. And let's just call them what they are- David O. Russell and especially Tom Hooper = HACKS.

  • oogle monster | December 21, 2012 9:49 PM

    he was severely snubbed for ^WHEN INCEPTION WAS NOMINATED FOR Best Picture. gah ipad.

  • Lane | December 21, 2012 9:46 PMReply

    Leos Carax over Jacques Audiard and this list would be damn great

  • Tanner Kundrat | December 21, 2012 9:42 PMReply

    Nolan was also nominated for his Inception screenplay.

  • Jeff | December 21, 2012 9:14 PMReply

    Wes Anderson should be at the top of this list.

  • Glass | December 21, 2012 9:09 PMReply

    Still not understanding this overrating of Ben Affleck as a filmmaker

  • iawts | December 21, 2012 9:00 PMReply

    Joe Wright has to be the most underrated director working today. Incredibly creative mind.

  • DG | December 21, 2012 7:57 PMReply

    Id take any of these over Spielberg, Bigelow, Hooper, etc. I thought Anna Karenina would feel kind of gimmicky after a while but the style worked all the way through, really creative and beautiful to watch. PTA should get a nod just for ballsiness alone.

  • Corvo | December 21, 2012 7:15 PMReply

    Sarah Polley is really, really GREAT. I love her.

  • Jim B. | December 21, 2012 6:45 PMReply

    Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), William Friedkin (Killer Joe), Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike), Sam Mendes (Skyfall) and Terrence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea). Honorable mention to Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master.

  • justin | December 21, 2012 6:41 PMReply

    does anyone think that lincoln felt over directed and heavy handed? it's almost as if you can feel spielberg pulling on the audiences heart strings.

  • yer | December 21, 2012 7:16 PM

    It's a Spielberg film what do you expect? He makes Hallmark movies. Over sentimental crap.

  • Edward Davis | December 21, 2012 7:10 PM

    Fuck yes.

  • Adam | December 21, 2012 6:16 PMReply

    I'm a huge fan of Nolan's past films, but to suggest he deserves a nom for TDKR is crazy talk. I never thought I'd see Nolan phone a movie in, but here we are.

  • AS | December 23, 2012 11:15 AM

    I was referring specifically to The Playlist, obviously. That IS where this discussion is taking place, is it not? Those are the comments @Pmanzana is referring to, are they not? Does @Pmanzana also follow RoS? If he/she does, I'd have no way of knowing. So I'm naturally assuming that he/she is only referencing my comments on TDKR on The Playlist. Side note: @Alan: Are you familiar with a fellow who SOMETIMES goes by the name "Jarrod".......

  • Alan | December 22, 2012 11:04 PM

    "And to be honest, I've posted maybe 4 comments on TDKR's" Are you discounting your comments on RopeofSilicon? If not, then you are lying.

  • AS | December 22, 2012 12:25 AM

    ... and it didn't work for me. And to be honest, I've posted maybe 4 comments on TDKR's since July, so you're blowing this way out of proportion. I don't nearly care enough one way or the other to post numerous comments bashing TDKR. As I say, I didn't even dislike the film.

  • pmanzana | December 21, 2012 11:16 PM

    As-No, I don't want to become involved in an ad hoc attack. I simply state that you have been going after this film and anyone's defense of it in every article regarding its merit since July. Not once have I said any derogatory comments toward you. I have heard all the arguments in favor and against the film, and find the arguments in support much stronger. At the end of the day, the question is whether the film worked for you, or didn't work for you.

  • AS | December 21, 2012 10:44 PM

    I mean, I didn't dislike the movie. I thought it was decent. But it was most definitely lackluster. Do you actually want me to provide you with a long list of unforgivable cliches in TDKR? Or did you just want to launch into an ad hoc attack against me? Something tells me it's the latter....

  • KT | December 21, 2012 10:07 PM

    I agree. 'The Dark Knight Rises' was average at best.

  • pmanzana | December 21, 2012 9:53 PM

    AS has been ripping this movie since July. I hardly see how it executes every super hero cliche in the book. Granted, it along with BB do adhere more toward traditional storytelling acts; however, the fact that it does this doesn't mean that it is creatively bankrupt. Plenty of great films adhere to this conformity: Most of the acclaimed films of the year have. Not all films need to conform toward nonlinear structure to be considered a quality film.

    I think the fact that Newsweek, Time, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, and the AFI have called this one of the best films of the year has proven that the film's quality extends far outside of comic book fan boys. As such, his place on this list and further consideration is very much deserved.

  • pmanzana | December 21, 2012 9:51 PM

    AS has been ripping this movie since July. I hardly see how it executes every super hero cliche in the book. Granted, it along with BB do adhere more toward traditional storytelling acts; however, the fact that it does this doesn't mean that it is creatively bankrupt. Plenty of great films adhere to this conformity: Most of the acclaimed films of the year have. Not all films need to conform toward nonlinear structure to be considered a quality film.

    I think the fact that Newsweek, Time, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, and the AFI have called this one of the best films of the year has proven that the film's quality extends far outside of comic book fan boys. As such, his place on this list and further consideration is very much deserved.

  • Alan | December 21, 2012 9:35 PM

    "conforms to every superhero movie cliche" Like the hero leaving his city? Or his father-figure LEAVING him? Or the hero quitting the superhero game for good? The only thing lazy, it seems, is AS' criticisms. I really hate this: I bet The Playlist often have to second guess themselves every single time they include Nolan into something just because lazy commentators have incoherent criticisms.

  • AS | December 21, 2012 8:39 PM

    I completely agree about Nolan phoning in TDKR. Before watching TDKR, I considered myself a big fan (in fact, I was accused of being a "Nolan fanboy"). But as I sat in the theater as the credits rolled, I couldn't believe how lazy and by-the-numbers TDKR was. It conforms to every superhero movie cliche. And then I watched Batman Begins again and realized that it was really just TDK that stood amongst the 3 films. There is a reason that TDK received so much praise.... As far as the "directors being recognized" conversation, I don't think any director (no matter how brilliant) should receive recognition just because they did great work in the past. A director should be honored for a great film. I mean, how terrible would it be if Fincher, Tarantino or Anderson were ultimately recognized for their worst film?

  • Pat | December 21, 2012 7:34 PM

    Huffy, I think you have fallen into the group think of so many 'cinema enthusiasts' who decry mass appeal as empty spectacal. Faulkner is a great writer but read by few people; whereas, Dickens and Hemingway are both great writers read by many more people. Are the qualifications of either group disqualified because of the inclusive nature of another? No, good cinema is good cinema regardless of appeal. By that standard, Nolan is certainly deserving.

    Are there more due directors? Yeah: Peter Weir, Mike Leigh, Ridley Scott, and Terrence Malik. But he is certainly more deserving than David O Russell, Ben Affleck, Wes Anderson, and Tom Hooper. I'd say that in terms of deserving recognition, Nolan, Fincher, PTA, and Tarantino are all in the same boat.

    We certainly can argue over the quality of the film-The nature of my post confirms I think he is derving of being in the conversation for consideration, but labeling the film as a good blockbuster is way too dismissive.

  • Huffy | December 21, 2012 7:20 PM

    Your mistaking "ambition" with "quality." I'll give Nolan all the credit in the world for the task he undertook and for making a watchable, entertaining blockbuster but that was not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's direction was certainly better than its writing but even that is far from his best. The fact that Nolan managed to make a hugely ambitious studio film shouldn't negate the fact that there are many more deserving directors this year. And fuck the "He's overdue" line. Giving awards based on past achievements is what gets young guns snubbed in the first place. Not to mention there are plenty of directors who are more overdue than Nolan.

  • Chris | December 21, 2012 7:16 PM

    LOL, you're a funny guy. Nice try though.

  • Dan | December 21, 2012 6:41 PM

    Wha, wha, wha! Phone it in my a@s! A director not named James Cameron does a film that is both critically and commercially successful and it is dismissed as either pretentious or second rate, thereby, undeserving of recognition-Give me a break! Yeah, there will be more Batman movies, but they'll be of a different take and cast from him. In other words, he actually ended a billion dollar series. How many people who've adapted open ended stories have had that power?

  • yer | December 21, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    Only person I agree with is PTA.

  • KitCon | December 21, 2012 6:54 PM


  • Sighing | December 21, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    OK, could the Playlist be anymore biased toward Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz?

    It isn't going to happen, guys. LET IT GO!

  • aksdjalsk | December 21, 2012 11:15 PM

    It was a fairly dreadful film with awful dialogue and characters that simply bear no resemblance to any real human beings. It looked pretty but it was an absolute clusterfuck of indie preciousness; a real piece of shit.

  • Paul | December 21, 2012 6:05 PM

    Jesus, take it easy man.

  • Chris | December 21, 2012 5:45 PMReply

    Good choices. Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson would be frontrunners for the win in my world. Honorable mentions for me would be: John Hillcoat ("Lawless"), Rian Johnson ("Looper") and David Chase ("Not Fade Away").

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