The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1993

1993 is just one of those years — game over, man. There’s nothing you can do. It’s fucking Schindler’s List. There’s nothing else that wins here. So, really, what this year is gonna be is, kind of like a math problem — Schindler’s List is X, that’s the given, and what we’re gonna do, is just let x be there, and then talk about everything else, and try to find some good stuff around it. It’s still clearly the winner, but, let’s see what might get overlooked because of the big, Jewish elephant in the room. Babarshkowitz.

Note: If I were Jewish, that would have been a much better pun.

So, we know about Best Picture. Best Actor was Tom Hanks for Philadelphia, which I’ve spoken about already. Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress were Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin for The Piano, and Best Supporting Actor was Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive. I guess, because, they wanted to have fun amidst the dour mood of Dumberg over there. (Wow, I really need to up my Jew pun ratio. Catholicism has so much more to work with. Oh, sorry, too soon?)


And the nominees are…

Robert Altman, Short Cuts

Jane Campion, The Piano

James Ivory, The Remains of the Day

Jim Sheridan, In the Name of the Father

Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

Altman — Yeah, sorry Robert Altman, this is one of those movies of yours I just don’t like. At all, really. The only part of this movie I like is the Jack Lemmon performance. And 90% of that is the fact that it’s Jack Lemmon.

This movie is about — you know, I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. Andie McDowell has a son who gets hit by a car, and Jack Lemmon is her father and he’s kind of a douchebag. And then someone is a phone sex operator, and Robert Downey Jr is in it. And Chris Penn and someone else have some kind of affair where they double date in the park. And then Julianne Moore and Matthew Modine are married, and there’s an entire scene where Julianne Moore walks around with her bush out. And it’s like three hours long and everyone talks about inane shit the whole time the way real people do, and then at the end an earthquake happens and things get resolved. Or don’t. Like, one person dies, other people realize their problems are meaningless, and then I think the kid dies and everyone’s sad and they make up with each other. How am I doing, people who know this movie better than me?

It’s a Robert Altman movie. I know he’s a legend and all, but I just don’t like these kinds of movies enough to speak that well of them or vote for them. McCabe and Mrs. Miller, MASH, The Long Goodbye, Prairie Home Companion — these are films I will talk well of and possibly vote for. One like this, Nashville, Gosford Park, not my cup of tea. Just isn’t.

Campion — I actually liked the direction on this movie. The movie itself, not so much. The three things I liked most about this movie are, in order, the direction, Holly Hunter’s performance, and the fact that somebody thought it was a good idea to cast Harvey Keitel in that role. That, to me, was hilarious. It’s not what the filmmakers wanted, I’m sure, but I bet I enjoyed the movie a lot more laughing at that than if it were someone like — I don’t know — Harrison Ford or someone.

The movie, as a brief recap, because I feel this is one of those movies we know about more than we actually see — it’s about a woman and her daughter who get sold into marriage to a soldier and move to wherever he lives. Now, she’s a mute, and the daughter speaks for her. And the daughter is very precocious. And they communicate via sign language that’s specific only to them. And they move, and she doesn’t really love this soldier dude, but, at least he tries. And then she’s got this fixation with her piano, which is kinda there. I don’t really know why. And then Harvey Keitel is a white man who lives with the indigenous people of the forest and becomes one of them. He tattoos himself and shit, lives like they do, that sort of thing. And then Holly Hunter and Jake Sully there obviously end up fucking. It’s a Weinstein movie. They’re really fucking obvious to figure out, if they’re nominated for Oscars. They have all the classic elements of a movie like this. They fuck, then the other dude finds out, gets angry, chops her fingers off so she can’t play, then they leave, and she tries to drown herself with the piano, but then doesn’t, because it’s a metaphor, and lets it go, and then it ends. Yeah, I never said it was a great movie.

What makes this movie watchable for me is the direction by Jane Campion. She directed the hell out of this movie. And Holly Hunter is so fucking dedicated to this part that she probably deserved that Oscar they gave to her for it. Anna Paquin — well, she’s cute. We’ll give her that. Oscar — I, don’t know. But still, we’re talking about the direction and that’s what I’ll focus on. The direction is really great. Still third for me on this list but, as much as I don’t like this film, third is a real compliment. Trust me.

Ivory — Merchant Ivory film. Therefore, stuffy, British, boring. That’s really what I think of when I think of these movies. Most of them are that. This one, though, is different. For me, anyway.

I’d read the book this was based on before I saw the movie. Like, two days before, in fact. Read it for an English class. And since I knew it was a movie, I gave the book a chance. And by chance, I mean, 30 pages. If it didn’t get me in thirty pages, it was over. But, this book actually got me from the opening paragraph. I was real into it. I loved everything about it. Not sure why, but, it just did. Probably because I loved how everything was subjective to the character and you sort of were able to learn the events as he saw them and at the same time know what was really going on objectively. Anyway, I watched the movie right after I read the book, mostly because it was on Netflix Instant and was expiring the next day. And, I did like the movie. A lot. I thought it was very well-done, and, even if it did get boring at times, the performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson really made it work. So, I can’t really be that objective about this film aside from saying, if you find it stuffy and boring and British — well, that makes sense. I think we can all agree that it is at least well directed in that, it looks good. The sets look great and all, and it’s not incompetent. But even if you like the direction, I don’t think anyone is gonna vote this for Best Director. Spielberg or no Spielberg.

Sheridan — I’ve said this on many occasions, I love Jim Sheridan. I love his movies. In America is one of my favorite movies. My Left Foot is a masterpiece that should have won Best Director (and possibly even Best Picture) that year. The man is fucking amazing. And this film is no different. This is a film that I firmly believe would have, were it not for Rabbi Hathi over there (Note: Still terrible. We really need to get on this shortage of Jewish elephant puns.), this movie would have swept the fucking Oscars. That’s also because I don’t want to believe the alternative, which is — Harvey Weinsten. I bet without Schindler’s List, The Piano would have won everything. And that upsets me. Because, most of the movies the Weinsteins have put out, I’m on board with. I like them, I enjoy them, and while I don’t think they should necessarily have won Best Picture, some of them (most of them), I do think they’re great films. But The Piano, nuh uh. That did not deserve to win at all. Nominated, yes. Win, no.

Anyway, this movie is about Daniel Day-Lewis as a rabble rousing Irish guy who likes to fuck with British soldiers. And one day, he gets falsely accused of a pub bombing and thrown in jail (with his father) for a long time. And we see them going through jail life, getting used to it, and then, one day, Emma Thompson shows up and says, “I’m gonna get you out of here,” and does. That’s the barebones plot of the movie. Watching it, though? It’s fucking incredible. I loved every minute of this movie. I don’t like it as much as those other two Sheridan movies up there, but, it’s like saying, “I love Goodfellas and Raging Bull, but Taxi Driver, I don’t like it as much as those two.” It’s still fucking Taxi Driver. Obviously, the Sheridan movies are different, but they’re still great films.

Really, were it not for the clear winner in this category, Sheridan would have my vote all the way. This man really deserves some sort of Oscar.

Spielberg — Well, if they didn’t want to nominate the man for Jaws, and didn’t want to give it to him for Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark or E.T., didn’t nominate him for The Color Purple or Empire of the Sun, and yet also wanted to acknowledge that he also, this year, directed one of the biggest successes of all time in Jurassic Park, maybe you’d think, “Well, perhaps the man might be due.” And then you see — this. Why bother having the Oscars at all? Do you even need ballots?

My Thoughts: Schindler’s List. I mean — just call it a good game and move on.

My Vote: Spielberg

Should Have Won: Spielberg

Is the result acceptable?: Of all time. (Thanks to Kanye West, I can just say those three words and the first part is already taken care of. Thank god for shorthand.) Really though, the 90s were a good decade. I feel they only made, out of 10 Oscar ceremonies, 2 bad decisions. The rest were, relative to the 80s and some of the other Best Picture choices, good decisions. There were maybe like, 3 where I’d go differently, but still, the one they went with were not bad choices at all. And I think a lot of that is held up by the fact that this year was such a good choice.

Ones I suggest you see: I think, as a human, you should not be allowed to graduate into life without having seen Schindler’s List. And then, I clearly, very highly, recommend In the Name of the Father. It’s just, incredible. And I like Remains of the Day a lot, but, a lot of that is due to the book. I don’t know how it plays without having read it. Good luck if you want to attempt it.


5) Altman

4) Ivory

3) Campion

2) Sheridan

1) Spielberg


One response

  1. My rankings:
    1. Steven Spielberg (easy #1)
    2. Jane Campion (tie with Sheridan)
    2. Jim Sheridan (tie with Campion)
    3. Robert Altman
    4. James Ivory

    September 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm

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