The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1995
At first glance, you’d think maybe they fucked up 1995. After all, this is one of six years where the DGA Best Director award and the Oscar for Best Director didn’t coincide. In fact, this is the second time in (exactly) a decade where the DGA winner wasn’t even nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. 1985 Steven Spielberg (rightfully) won the DGA for The Color Purple, and wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. This year, Ron Howard won the DGA for Apollo 13 and wasn’t nominated for the Oscar.
Now — notice how I said “at first glance” — I really don’t think this is that big a deal. I think we’ve all established (see: 2001) that the Academy just fucking loves Ron Howard. However, I didn’t love the direction of Apollo 13. I mean, yeah, it’s a great movie, I watch it all the time, but, aside from having awesomely shot space sequences, the movie is about as generic as a Michael Bay movie in terms of character development. It’s so superficial it’s crazy. So, I’m kinda glad he wasn’t on this list of nominees, just so I wouldn’t have to worry about where I’d put him in my rankings.
Oh, yeah, recap. Best Picture went to Braveheart, a film I still can’t get a bead on. I like it, I like watching it, but is it really a Best Picture worthy film? I think the answer is yes and no. Yes, because this year was weak as fuck and it was the best choice, and no because, just, no. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like a Best Picture film to me. So, there’s that. Best Actor went to Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas. This year was stacked in terms of Best Actor and there were several good choices that could have been made. Best Actress went to Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking. I’ll speak my piece on that when the time comes. Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects. Kind of a lead, but, I think we’ll all take that one. That movie is boss. And Best Supporting Actress was Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite, a Woody Allen film I actually like. Gasp. I know. I was surprised too.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1995
And the nominees were…
Mel Gibson, Braveheart
Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas
Chris Noonan, Babe
Michael Radford, Il Postino
Tim Robbins, Dead Man Walking
Gibson — No matter what your opinion on the man as an actor (pretty good) and as a person (made some questionable decisions), there’s no denying the man is a fucking gifted director. The three films he’s directed: this, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto. All amazing films. Dude knows how to shoot a movie.
I think everyone knows about Braveheart, right? Scottish dude, wife is killed, fights for “FREEEEDOM!” All that jazz. Lots of battle sequences, the Scottish. Yeah. I really don’t have much to say about this film except, it’s awesome. Watch it. I probably wouldn’t vote it Best Director or Best Picture at all in a stronger year, but, this isn’t a stronger year. So — congrats, Mel. Mazel tov.
Figgis — This is a hell of a movie. I recommend this wholeheartedly if you haven’t seen it. I’ll even tell you so again later officially in the recommendations part below.
The movie’s about Nicolas Cage, as someone who works in movies, I don’t think it’s ever clearly explained, who is a drunk. That much we know. We know he has a problem with alcohol. It’s cause, is never really explained. He just — is. And he gets fired, begrudgingly — it’s implied that they’ve kept him on despite the alcoholism because they like him, but, they just couldn’t do it anymore — and he then decides that he’s gonna go to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. That’s the plot.
Also, along the way Elisabeth Shue — aka the female lead from The Karate Kid (Daniel’s girlfriend) — is a hooker who, well — has seen it all. We see her end up with a shady Russian pimp who beats her and basically rapes her all the time. And then he gets killed and now she’s just out hooking the streets to make ends meet. (Note: Not a pun.) And they encounter one another, and he pays her to keep him company, and eventually a relationship blossoms. She agrees not to stop his drinking, and he agrees to let her continue being a hooker. And that’s the movie. Them being together. It’s fucking incredible.
Both leads are fucking superb in this movie, and I’m surprised only one of them won an Oscar for it. As for the direction, it’s not the kind that wins Best Director, but I’m glad he’s here, so that way I can recommend this film to you, because it’s fucking incredible. No vote, but, highly recommended.
Noonan — Babe. It’s Babe. How can you not like this movie? It’s about a pig that wants to be a sheepdog. And he tries to convince his gruff farmer that he can do it. That’s it. That’s the film. You should know this. The film is one of the most uplifting films of all time. It’s great. I saw this shit in theaters when I was seven. Loved it. Still do.
What makes the direction on this film astounding is that, the main character is a pig. A real one. 90% of the people in this movie are animals. And then there are like, four humans. So, the director had to coordinate all actions among real, live, trained animals. That alone merits this nomination. Hell, I might even give it the win just because it takes a hell of a job to pull something like this off.
Radford — Yeah, I’m not sure how this movie snuck on here. It’s foreign, which, okay, some foreign directors get on here. But, he’s British, the director. Plus it was also nominated for Best Picture. That’s just strange to me all around. It’s nice and cute and all, but — Best Picture? Really? And not Leaving Las Vegas? There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.
Anyway, the film is about an Italian mailman who is uneducated and wants to impress a woman. He’s meek and all and doesn’t want to screw it up. And he finds out a poet, Pablo Neruda, is staying on the island. So, when he delivers the mail, he asks the dude for advice. And they become friends. And he teaches him about poetry. And him and the woman get together. And that’s the film, really. I’m not saying the film isn’t good, it’s just — Best Picture?
The same goes for the directing effort. I have no problem with it, it’s just — really?
Robbins — Yeah, I don’t like this movie. At least — compared to the way some people speak about it — relative to that, I don’t like this movie. I see it as three stars. I see it as a movie where Sean Penn showed the world he could really act. He had good parts in a lot of films before this, but this was his big Oscar calling card. I agree with the nomination, but I don’t agree he should have won. To me, I am Sam and Milk were his finest performances (that I’ve seen). And Susan Sarandon — this I count as a career Oscar. Or rather, “She’s had so many good performances, this is one we could give it to her for.” Kind of like Kate Winslet, only not that overdue. This one, the stars just kind of aligned for her. The film itself, though, I see it as being good but not great. A lot of people disagree. We all have our opinions.
It’s about a nun who gets a letter from a death row inmate. And she goes to talk to him, and they talk. A lot. And it’s not one of those, “You have to get me acquitted, I didn’t do it,” it’s, “I’m dead, so, let’s talk.” And that’s it. That was refreshing. None of that last minute pardon from the governor shit. But, they talk, and we see his background and shit and get insight as to why he did it, and he basically says he’s not sorry for what he did, and that’s it. He dies. I’m not really sure what the point of the film was. Penn goes from saying, “I didn’t do it,” even though that’s just going through the motions, he clearly did, to then saying, “Yeah, I did it. Sorry.” And that’s it. And Susan Sarandon is just kind of there. Maybe she had a character that went through an arc, but, I didn’t see it.
So, I don’t like this movie, and, I won’t ever be voting for it for anything. It just wasn’t for me. I don’t see the brilliance in this. And if you do, I’m glad you enjoy it. Because this is a film someone ought to enjoy. I just don’t see enough in it for it to be me.
My Thoughts: Love the job Noonan did, but, having the hindsight of knowing the other films Mel made after this — yeah, the vote is Mel. It totally has to be.
My Vote: Gibson
Should Have Won: Gibson. Noonan.
Is the result acceptable?: Yup. Really the best choice. I’d have loved if Noonan won, but, you know that shit wasn’t happening. So, this is definitely an acceptable result. Mel is an amazing director.
Ones I suggest you see: Braveheart is probably something most people should see, right? I feel like that’s one of those benchmark films for people around my age. Like Gladiator. It’s just — everyone’s seen it. I’m not sure if it’s an essential for all time, it is, after all, only 15 years old. It’s one of those movies I can’t rate because it’s become such a staple on network television. I’m around it all the time, so I’m used to it. I also very highly recommend Leaving Las Vegas. It’s fucking incredible. And damn it, Babe IS an essential movie. Everyone should see it in their lifetime.