The Oscar Quest: The Weakest Best Director Nominees
Again I’ll stress that I’m talking about all-time.
I’ll also stress that half this list could easily have been swapped out for other nominees that aren’t on here. Mostly I’m just talking about really weak nominees that you just look at now and go, “Really?” Most people haven’t even heard of half of these movies. Or you just look at the films and the performances and go, “Wow, that hasn’t held up at all,” or, “That was really a popularity nomination.” Or some of them — some of them nobody can figure out. There’s one on this list that you look at and go, “Where the fuck did that come from?”
So that’s mostly what this is. People always talk about what the weakest winners were, but no one ever really talks about the weak nominees. Because there’s some weak ass shit populating a lot of these Oscar categories. We tend to forget about them, because in a given Oscar year there are at least 30 (this year there are 34) new nominees in the six major categories, but there’s a lot of shit out there that nobody mentions.
So, today, I’m gonna talk about what I think (some of) the weakest Best Director nominees are.
Oh, and before I get started, another thing I like to do for these categories is list which winners I think also qualify as weak nominees as well. I can’t in good conscience rank the winners among the ones that didn’t win, because it’s just different once they have that distinction of having won. So I looked at just the winners on their own and picked which ones I thought were ten really weak nominees. Which ones, had they not won, would probably fit my list of weak nominees. (Also, this is only in relation to the winners. Some of these are only here because I consider most of the winners as decently strong nominees. Also, give me a leeway of like, two, for personal dislikes and such.)
Here’s my list of weak winners:
- James L. Brooks, Terms of Endearment
- Robert Redford, Ordinary People
- Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons
- Carol Reed, Oliver!
- Tony Richardson, Tom Jones
- Delbert Mann, Marty
- Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives
- Leo McCarey, Going My Way
- Frank Capra, You Can’t Take It With You
- Frank Capra, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Okay, now here is my list of the weakest Best Director nominees of all time:
1. Stephen Daldry, The Reader
- It’s pretty clear he beat Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight, and while I could be okay if this just got the Best Picture nomination and not this — it’s pretty clear which of the two was the better effort. This is a joke.
2. Stephen Frears, The Queen
- No. I’m against almost every nomination this film got. It’s just not that good a film, and the fact that it got a Best Director nomination is a joke. (Because that movie about Pan and the little girl — that wasn’t as good an effort as this was.)
3. Bennett Miller, Capote
- I realize this is a tough category to do, since Academy tradition is — if they nominate the film, they’re usually gonna nominate the director. But these lists are ridiculous and subjective anyway, so just let me be ridiculous and subjective. I’m almost okay with this one, but it’s just not that interesting an effort. You can say that for most of the nominees of 2005, so this is the one that’ll encompass whichever one you want to put here. This one just seemed easiest since this was the weakest nominee of that category.
4. Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
- I never understood the Mike Leigh love the Academy has. Especially here. There’s no directing! He just turns a camera on and lets the actors go! I’ll give him Secrets and Lies, but this one is just unnecessary.
5. Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
- Pedro Almodovar’s entire career — and this is the one they choose? And they ignore Peter Jackson for Two Towers? I get it, but nobody remembers this film next to that one, and in twenty years, this will be even worse than it already is. I like Almodovar and all, but let’s not pretend like this will hold up outside of, “Oh, it’s nice he got a nomination.”
6. Robert Altman, Gosford Park
- I don’t like this movie. I was completely bored by it. I think it’s the combination of how British and proper everyone is with Altman’s style. I’m not a huge fan of Altman’s style, but when the story or the characters are interesting (MASH, Nashville, even The Player and The Long Goodbye), it’s fine. But with this — I was bored out of my mind. Most people think he should have been nominated, but I don’t see it. This is one of those personal choices. Other people will have one that I won’t agree with, so, to each his own. This is one of mine.
7. Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich
- He got nominated twice. I get the other one, but this one — meh. It didn’t need to happen. It’s just one of those things where it hurts the category. If Francis Ford Coppola isn’t gonna be nominated for both The Conversation and The Godfather Part II, this didn’t need to happen.
8. Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
- Really? You’re telling me this was a better effort than Cast Away? I bet people barely even remember that he got nominated for this. I don’t know what the Daldry love is about, but — really? Also, what about Almost Famous? Which effort do you remember more?
9. M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense
- Knowing what we know now — how does everybody feel about this?
10. Robert Benigni, Life Is Beautiful
- Picture, sure. Actor… ehh, all right. Director? Not necessary. I get it, but not necessary.
11. Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty
- Didn’t need this. Really didn’t need this. It just brings the category down. I love the film, but the Director nomination really wasn’t necessary.
12. Milos Forman, The People vs. Larry Flynt
- It was either gonna be this or Shine. At least that got the Picture nomination. It’s just kind of a yawner of a decision. The more I think about it, the more this one belongs here. Because I remember watching it and thinking, “Man, Milos Forman really doesn’t have much of a style. He doesn’t fit in the 90s.” I’m kinda surprised he got this, personally.
13. Michael Radford, Il Postino
- This really wasn’t necessary. Just the Actor nomination makes sense. The rest is Weinstein campaigning. Ron Howard wasn’t nominated for Apollo 13, for christ’s sake!
14. Woody Allen, Bullets Over Broadway
- Which effort do you remember more, this or Shawshank? I’d have put Kieslowski on, but I’m very open about not liking Woody as a director, so why wouldn’t I go with this?
15. Robert Altman, Short Cuts
- It’s fine and all, but I’m not a huge fan of his style, not to mention — why would you choose this? This feels like them getting him on to try to do the Scorsese thing. Get him on there and have it become an outrage long enough to put him over the top. I don’t know. I wasn’t blown away by the effort. This is also one of the personal ones that people will disagree with.
16. James Ivory, Howards End
- I’m stretching a bit, since, it’s not bad, but I don’t like almost all the Merchant-Ivory stuff, so let’s not pretend like this doesn’t fit with me and my tastes. So let’s just attribute it to that and move on.
17. Mike Nichols, Working Girl
- I’ve had this on every list so far, why would this one be any different?
18. Lasse Hallstrom, My Life as a Dog
- Most of you had no idea this was even nominated, and a lot of you don’t even know what this is. I’m pretty sure that takes care of anything I could say in the way of reasoning. It’s not a bad movie or a bad effort, just — it’s a weak nominee.
19. Woody Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters
- I don’t like Woody as a director, I really don’t like the movie — this was an inevitability.
20. James Ivory, A Room with a View
- Merchant-Ivory, and this was boring as hell to me. I am who I am, people.
21. Hector Babenco, Kiss of the Spider Woman
- I tried not to put this on, but as I looked at all the nominees, I kept coming back to it. It’s all right, but it’s mostly — it’s all right. It’s just all right. Maybe on a different day I’d have found something different, but here we are.
22. Woody Allen, Broadway Danny Rose
- At least I’m consistent, though.
23. Bruce Beresford, Tender Mercies
- I’m still on the fence about the Duvall nomination, what the fuck did you think was gonna happen?
24. Peter Yates, The Dresser
- This actually is a play. Completely unnecessary, and The Right Stuff wasn’t nominated.
25. Roman Polanski, Tess
- This, and not Rosemary’s Baby. All right, then.
26. Edouard Molinaro, La Cage aux Folles
- I like the movie, but the nomination doesn’t really hold up. That’s all, really.
27. Woody Allen, Interiors
- I’m not on board when Ingmar Bergman makes an Ingmar Bergman movie. This was always gonna be here.
Herbert Ross, The Turning Point
- This isn’t so bad, and he should have been nominated, especially since he also directed The Goodbye Girl this year, but… yeah, actually, he totally belongs here. So let’s do an in-list adjustment and change it to…
Lasse Hallstrom, The Cider House Rules. Because fuck that movie.
29. Ingmar Bergman, Face to Face
- Ingmar Bergman, for this. Nominated. Martin Scorsese, for Taxi Driver, not nominated. Is Scorsese the Rodney Dangerfield of the Oscars or something?
30. Federico Fellini, Amarcord
- I think this explains it.
31. Jan Troell, The Emigrants
- It won Foreign Film the year before this,is boring as fuck, nobody remembers it (it’s not even on DVD anymore). It’s a complete weak nominee.
32. John Schlesinger, Sunday Bloody Sunday
- Really? Not just gonna leave it be with the acting nominations? What a terrible choice. (Sorry, Schlesinger, but this ain’t exactly Marathon Man.
33. Ken Russell, Women in Love
- No. Absolutely not.
34. Federico Fellini, Satyricon
- Because when you think Fellini, oh yeah, you think Satyricon.
35. Arthur Penn, Alice’s Restaurant
- I do like this nomination, but let’s not pretend it isn’t weak. I thought Little Big Man was a much better achievement than this was.
36. Richard Brooks, The Professionals
- I love when a western gets nominated, but this and not Rio Bravo, The Searchers – I’ll stop there. You get the point. I love the nomination, but it has to be considered weak, all things considered.
Martin Ritt, Hud
- It’s not so bad, but when I looked at my other choices, it ended up staying on, so here it is. But I’m just too lazy to find something else. Actually, fuck it — in-list change.
Uhh…Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers. It was nominated for an Oscar the year before this, so the eligibility thing is weird, and Roman Polanski wasn’t nominated for Rosemary’s Baby. So, I used the eligibility thing to decide this one over the others.
38. Pietro Germi, Divorce, Italian Style
- It’s weak because it’s just sort of there. It detracts from the category because you know it won’t happen, not too many people have actually seen the film (relatively), and there were just other choices that have held up better – Birdman of Alcatraz, Days of Wine and Roses, (I won’t even presume Liberty Valance), Manchurian Candidate, even Mutiny on the Bounty. That would have made that Best Picture nomination look better, plus it’s Lewis Milestone. So this is just a weak nomination.
39. Jules Dassin, Never on Sunday
- Meh. It’s all right, but I don’t see why he needed to get it. It just doesn’t hold up as well as other nominees, all-time. For me, at least. To each his own.
40. Mark Robson, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
- This isn’t so bad. I just didn’t have anything else. And these lone nominations fit the easiest because most people won’t question them. (Look, I’m no scholar. I make bullshit lists to fill time. This is how things work over here. Let’s not pretend like most of you have actually seen this movie anyway.)
41. Joshua Logan, Picnic
- It’s just pretty standard. Nothing outstanding. The cinematography is terrific, but the direction — pretty standard. Not particularly standout. Just a boring nominee.
42. William A. Wellman, The High and the Mighty
- Of all of William Wellman’s films… this?
43. George Cukor, Born Yesterday
- Didn’t need the Director nomination. Not at all.
44. Henry Koster, The Bishop’s Wife
- I get it, but it’s boring. And the year is really boring. So that certainly doesn’t help.
45. Edward Dmytryk, Crossfire
- I get it and I like it, but it still holds up as pretty weak when you consider the effort among the other ones nominated all-time (which is what this list is).
46. Leo McCarey, The Bells of St. Mary’s
- I’m barely going along with the first one and you slap me in the face with the second? No.
47. Jean Renoir, The Southerner
- Because when you think Jean Renoir, oh yeah, you think The Southerner.
48. Michael Curtiz, Four Daughters
- This is not The Adventures of Robin Hood.
49. Gregory La Cava, Stage Door
- I try to give the earlier ones a pass, because it was a different era, but I don’t particularly get this one.
50. Victor Shertzinger, One Night of Love
- The other two nominees are The Thin Man and It Happened One Night. And a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie was also nominated for Best Picture and not here. I rest my case.