Traditionally, one of the most prestigious Oscar nominations is “Best Director”. The composition of the participants this year is impressive and varied. They claim the award Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jane Campion, Kenneth Branagh and Ryusuke Hamaguchi. We understand why they were nominated and what are their chances of winning.
Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
The favorite of the award in the nomination “Best Director” – of course, Paul Thomas Anderson. And because he is almost the most significant director of modern American cinema, and because so far there is no Oscar in his piggy bank – paradoxically. If Anderson finds the award this time, it will be both honest and symbolic. Because he will receive a statuette for his lightest, sunniest film. In addition, dedicated to cinema – if desired, “Pizza” can be considered a confession of love for old movies and the days when Hollywood was rightly called the “dream factory”.
The heroes of “Pizza” are teenagers: enterprising teenager Gary Valentine and his new girlfriend, closed and pensive Alan. Gary, despite his young age, has already starred in several successful films and managed to make good money in business. He is generally self-confident, and therefore easily changes the field of activity. Alan, despite being quite mature, still does not know what he wants to connect his life with. Something reminiscent of a romance begins between teenagers. But Anderson, as usual, only needs this story as a connecting thread for the most important thing. Impressionist sketches, free improvisations, carefree sketches on a given topic. There are comic scenes from the lives of Hollywood stars, and dramatic tiny disaster movies, and romcoms. It seems the whole conceivable range of feelings, emotions, genres, styles and formats.
Of course, next to the epic “Oil” or even full of lyricism “Ghost Thread” “Licorice Pizza” seems a trifle, too simple and nostalgic thing for such a serious author as Anderson. But, on the other hand, no other film by the director (except for the very early “Boogie Nights”) was so open to the viewer, so clear and crystal clear.
Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
If Anderson can win an Oscar for the amount he deserves, then Belfast author Kenneth Bran will be credited with an incredible and unexpected rebirth. As an outstanding actor and director, so far Brana has made only diligent adaptations of other people’s stories: Shakespeare’s tragedies, Agatha Christie’s detectives, Marvel comics, after all. It would seem that one should not expect anything big or unexpected from a director who has been engaged in such a craft for more than thirty years. Yes, he is a great actor, but as an author he cannot cross the threshold of a diligent and neat designer. All the more surprising is the trick Brana does at Belfast. He wrote the script himself for the first time, based on his own biography.
The protagonist of the picture is a little Belfast resident Buddy. His childhood, like the youth of Bran himself, falls on a bloody and terrible time, a period of brutal civil war on the streets of the city: between Irish Catholics and English Protestants. Brana here does not just show a great story through the eyes of a small man: the Belfast riots in this picture turn into something more than a political cataclysm. This is in its purest form a collapse of the world, a violent adulthood, the compulsion to make difficult decisions at the tenderest age. In black and white, with elements of retro and nostalgia, the director fearlessly shows violent street fights, rampant crime, terrorism. And most importantly – “Belfast” right now, at a time of bloody confrontation, breaking foundations, violent changes, the tape looks terribly relevant, accurate and just very necessary for every viewer. What else to award an Oscar for, if not for that.
Jane Campion (“Dog Power”)
Another heavyweight among the Oscar nominees in the category of “Best Director’s Work” is Jane Campion. Her most famous work is the super hit of the early 90’s “Piano”. Among his numerous awards and 3 “Oscars”. Like any classic, Campion has her own recognizable style: she skillfully reproduces the past on the screen in all its fullness, with a special aroma and atmosphere, style and spirit.
In The Power of the Dog, this style encounters a rather unusual material – a novel by Thomas Savage, written in the 1960s and became a major event in the cultural life of America. The protagonist of both the book and the film is a wealthy rancher in the middle of the endless steppes of Montana, who is used to restraining all his emotions. And this restraint and brutality is gradually turning him into a real monster, forcing him to treat his own brother, his new wife, her son from a previous marriage. Campion solves this dramatic story in a viscous, even meditative rhythm, focusing not on passions, but on the sun-scorched earth, gloomy views of the farm, the semi-fog of the interiors of the old house.
Another one hundred percent success of the Champion is the choice of the lead actor. Benedict Cumberbatch plays not a mustachioed monster, but a vulnerable, closed, secretive man who can, however, both love and be attached. The actor shows the unexpected evolution of his character, the disclosure of the most unexpected features, and in itself this process is a separate show.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Get behind the wheel of my car”)
Another heavyweight is the Japanese Ryusuke Hamaguchi. His new directorial work has already won the Golden Globe and the British Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but he has every chance of winning an Oscar for Best Director. Hamaguchi is a significant author: his previous films, including “Asako 1 and 2” and “Coincidence and Mystery”, impressed with extraordinary, cleverly tailored puzzle plots, and very energetic directing. “Get behind the wheel” – even compared to them – a thing and very mature, and impressive (even in terms of time, almost three hours), and masterfully played out.
The plot is based on the story of the same name by Haruki Murakami, which Hamaguchi masterfully turned into a real chamber epic. Earlier, a similar trick was done to Korea by Lee Chang-dong in “Flaming”. The protagonist is a theater director who comes to Hiroshima to direct Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.” Shortly before the events, his wife, who had betrayed him, died. However, the couple delicately kept silent about the infidelity. At the same time, the hero accidentally meets a girl driver who has to take him to rehearsals. Unexpectedly, this acquaintance turns the director’s whole life upside down and makes him look at the world in a completely different way.
Hamaguchi in “Get behind the wheel of my car” demonstrates a rare combination of megalomania and style. It would seem that the task is impossible: to realize all the potential inherent in the plot: from the tragic background of the hero to references to Chekhov’s play and many other works of world literature and drama. This is not to mention a very symbolic place of action. At the same time, Hamaguchi skillfully brings together all this million finest threads into a single whole. The way he does this can already be watched indefinitely. Not to mention that the director manages to turn the chamber drama about the staging into a spectacular, fascinating show. And Chekhov’s eternal text on Japanese soil plays with new relevant colors.
Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”)
To some extent, the wedding general in the list of Oscar nominees is Steven Spielberg, a living classic, a deity of the world film industry, who performs a miracle, continuing to work actively. Especially since he already has 2 Oscars for directing – for “Schindler’s List” and “Save Private Ryan”. Of course, he can get a third statuette – especially since in “West Side Story” he showed the ability to be reborn and change (too – what is not a miracle for an artist in his eighties?).
West Side Story is a new version of an old musical, cult play, play and film from post-war America. In 1957, a bold and radical musical drama about Romeo and Juliet in New York’s brutal world erupted on Broadway. A boy from a local criminal gang and a girl from a rival clan of Latin American street hooligans fall in love with each other, but the brutal confrontation between the two gangs erases their light feelings. The play was staged around the world, became the basis for the film of the same name – and now remains in the past as a cult work of mass culture half a century ago. From Spielberg, whose youth accounted for the fame of West Side Story, one could expect nostalgia for a time when Latin rhythms gave freedom and talk of racial hatred was revolutionary. But the director showed a rare ability to be modern. He was able to make “History” a truly relevant play about emancipation and cultural transfer, and the theme of racial hatred here is downright frighteningly in tune with the spirit of the times.