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The Oscar Quest: My Oscar Nominations — Best Director (1990-2011)

This is part of a series of articles where I’m putting forth my opinions about what I’d nominate in all of the Oscar Quest categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress). Normally I take the categories as they are, but I thought it would be fun to figure out what I’d vote for if I had a ballot each year. Keep in mind, this is only for NOMINATIONS and nothing else.

My only problem with this is that I knew if I did it, too many people, were they doing the same thing, would put on movies that just didn’t belong on an Oscar ballot. (I would too, in some cases. We just like what we like.) My problem was that people would take this exercise as an opportunity to really just go off the rails with stuff (which, if you read through all these articles, you’ll see me call people out for it, since I know exactly which films and which performances people would put on). So my way around this was by creating what I call a “Compromise List” — after I tell you what was actually nominated and what I’d put on my ballot, I’m making a list whereby I try to make everyone happy and keep it mostly close to what would be there, Academy-wise. You’ll see. My lists usually end up being better and not crazy.

The things to take into account with the performance categories — I can only nominate what I’ve seen. So me not seeing something will be a big reason why some stuff doesn’t appear. And, as always, I tell people not to bother me with one random person in one random category, since I have everything to think about. If you want to say something, wait until you’ve seen all the films/tried this yourself before you do it. And I don’t care about foreign performances, for the most part. There’s a long and complicated answer there, but — I don’t. And the big rule for anyone doing this — if someone won a category, YOU CAN’T LEAVE THEM OFF THE COMPROMISE LIST. Can’t do it.

Otherwise — here’s the next set of categories.

2011

Actual Nominees:

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo

My Vote:  Martin Scorsese, Hugo

My nominees are pretty simple.

My Nominees:

  • Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Tough call on a Compromise. I am constantly baffled that Woody Allen keeps getting these Director nominations, especially when we all know (before we walked in the goddamn door), that he’s never going to win. I can understand Payne, because the Academy just can’t help themselves, but I don’t understand Allen. What did he actually do as a director in that movie that David Fincher didn’t do better in Dragon Tattoo? But it’s only last year, so I won’t change anything. But I still say it’s ridiculous.

Compromise List:

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Hugo

2010

Actual Nominees:

  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • David O. Russell, The Fighter
  • Tom Hooper,The King’s Speech

My Vote: David Fincher, The Social Network

Well this should come as no surprise…

My Nominees:

  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • Christopher Nolan, Inception
  • David O. Russell, The Fighter

My Vote: David Fincher, The Social Network

Not changing it, though. The Academy made their bed, and honestly, the only person I’d take off won. And I don’t want to fuck over David O. Russell by putting on Nolan when he so clearly had no shot. So I’m leaving it alone.

Compromise List:

  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • David O. Russell, The Fighter
  • Tom Hooper,The King’s Speech

My Vote: David Fincher, The Social Network

2009

Actual Nominees:

  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

My Vote: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Let’s leave it. I don’t see anything else that really alters this category for the better.

Compromise List:

  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

My Vote: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

2008

Actual Nominees:

  • Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Stephen Daldry, The Reader
  • David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant, Milk

My Vote: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Well fucking really…

My Nominees:

  • Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler
  • Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
  • Gus Van Sant, Milk

My Vote: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

I’m gonna make the one change we all feel needs to be made. We can live with this list.

Compromise List:

  • Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
  • Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
  • Gus Van Sant, Milk

My Vote: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

2007

Actual Nominees:

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
  • Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
  • Jason Reitman, Juno
  • Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

My Vote: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Interesting calls to make with this one. Really strong year.

My Nominees:

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
  • Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Joe Wright, Atonement

My Vote: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

I’m surprised they left off Wright instead of Reitman. Reitman was more established, yes, but Wright’s direction was better, and Reitman’s was mostly about the screenplay. So I’m making that change. Reitman really earned his Oscar stripes with Up in the Air. He didn’t need this one.

Compromise List:

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
  • Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
  • Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Joe Wright, Atonement

My Vote: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

2006

Actual Nominees:

  • Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Stephen Frears, The Queen
  • Paul Greengrass, United 93
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel 
  • Martin Scorsese, The Departed

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

I hate this category so much.

My Nominees:

  • Darren Aronofsky, The Fountain
  • Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men
  • Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Martin Scorsese, The Departed

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Obviously my list goes nowhere. Guillermo maybe had a shot, but I doubt he’d have gotten on over Frears. He’s very respected, and had DGA and BAFTA support. (Greengrass only had BAFTA support.)

Here’s the deal with this one — Eastwood, Scorsese and Inarritu get on no matter what. That’s the year. Frears and Greengrass are our two potential swap-offs. This year is made more tolerable to me if I get to include Alfonso Cuaron, for a film that I am certain will hold up better than the two I’m considering swapping out. Frears got the DGA nomination, but is the consensus lesser directorial effort of the two. So — if we want to follow what happened, Greengrass is the one to take off. If we want to follow logic — it’s Frears. I don’t care either way, and since none of this matters, I’m taking off Frears. I stopped giving a shit about these categories long ago. (These were very poorly planned and put out way too early, so mostly I’m just going through the motions here so I can be done and come back to them next year or some point after and actually do them right.)

Compromise List:

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Children of men
  • Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Paul Greengrass, United 93
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel 
  • Martin Scorsese, The Departed

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

2005

Actual Nominees:

  • George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck
  • Paul Haggis, Crash
  • Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
  • Bennett Miller, Capote
  • Steven Spielberg, Munich

My Vote: George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck

Jesus… what do we do here?

My Nominees:

  • George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck
  • David Cronenberg, A History of Violence
  • Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
  • Terence Malick, The New World
  • Steven Spielberg, Munich

My Vote: Terence Malick, The New World

You all know how much I hate when Woody is nominated for Best Director. I’m not even going there. I still stay Cronenberg deserves it over Bennett Miller. I won’t even pretend like Paul Haggis wasn’t getting on (it’s just one of those things), so I’ll just make that one change and be able to live with it.

Compromise List:

  • George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck
  • David Cronenberg, A History of Violence
  • Paul Haggis, Crash
  • Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
  • Steven Spielberg, Munich

My Vote: Uhh… Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

2004

Actual Nominees:

  • Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
  • Taylor Hackford, Ray
  • Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
  • Alexander Payne, Sideways
  • Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

Yeesh…

I’m not even gonna make a My Nominees list. It’s too murky. Because I’d vote for Michael Mann for Collateral, though I know it shouldn’t be there, simply because I hate half of what was nominated.

I wouldn’t vote for Terry George for Hotel Rwanda, I know Quentin would never get on for Kill Bill, and Mel had no shot for Passion of the Christ, even though I’d put him on any day over Payne or Leigh. Michel Gondry is an interesting choice for Eternal Sunshine, but that all comes down to how much the Academy is willing to get rid of that hard-on they have for Mike Leigh. Because you tell me which of those films had better direction.

So I don’t know what the fuck to do. I’m leaving it.

Compromise List:

  • Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
  • Taylor Hackford, Ray
  • Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
  • Alexander Payne, Sideways
  • Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

2003

Actual Nominees:

  • Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
  • Clint Eastwood, Mystic River
  • Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Fernando Meirelles, City of God
  • Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

My Vote: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Nothing I’d want to vote for instead makes this category any better. Mostly I don’t like the Eastwood nomination, but it’s not like that was not going to happen. So a My Nominees list doesn’t even make sense, since I’d only be voting for films I liked more.

Compromise List:

  • Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
  • Clint Eastwood, Mystic River
  • Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Fernando Meirelles, City of God
  • Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

My Vote: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

2002

Actual Nominees:

  • Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
  • Stephen Daldry, The Hours
  • Rob Marshall, Chicago
  • Roman Polanski, The Pianist
  • Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

Honestly, I’d vote for Peter Jackson over Daldry and I wouldn’t vote for Almodovar. But since they already had decided what they were doing with Rings, and Almodovar is Almodovar, I can understand that nomination, and I know that Daldry was getting on anyway, since his film was really fucking close to winning Best Picture (thank god it didn’t). So I’m just gonna leave it. It works.

Compromise List:

  • Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
  • Stephen Daldry, The Hours
  • Rob Marshall, Chicago
  • Roman Polanski, The Pianist
  • Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

2001

Actual Nominees:

  • Robert Altman, Gosford Park
  • Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind
  • Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • David Lynch, Mulholland Drive
  • Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down

My Vote: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

I’d never vote for Altman, even though there’s no way he doesn’t get on. Otherwise, I like the category, so what’s to change? (P.S. Would totally vote on the Coens instead of Altman. And that’s without even mentioning Baz Luhrmann.)

Compromise List:

  • Robert Altman, Gosford Park
  • Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind
  • Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • David Lynch, Mulholland Drive
  • Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down

My Vote: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

2000

Actual Nominees:

  • Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
  • Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Ridley Scott, Gladiator
  • Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich
  • Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

My Vote: Ridley Scott, Gladiator

Soderbergh really doesn’t need one of those two nominations. Just vote for him for Traffic and let someone else have the spot. Especially if you’re giving it to him anyway. You’re only hurting him with the second nomination, history notwithstanding. Personally, I’d put on Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous, but even then — I’d take off Daldry instead. (And don’t even begin to tell me Aronofsky gets on here. I’m also waiting for the person who jumps up and says Christopher Nolan without realizing that film was eligible in ’01 and not here.)

Honestly, this category is just a mess. I’m leaving it just because of how fucked up it looks.

Compromise List:

  • Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
  • Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Ridley Scott, Gladiator
  • Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich
  • Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

My Vote: Ridley Scott, Gladiator

1999

Actual Nominees:

  • Lasse Hallstrom, The Cider House Rules
  • Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich
  • Michael Mann, The Insider
  • Sam Mendes, American Beauty
  • M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense

My Vote: Sam Mendes, American Beauty

And honestly, the only reason I’m doing this is because of history, even though there’s probably no chance they did it, year-of. But I’m putting the Wachowskis on. I know it never happens, but — The Cider House Rules? Really?

Compromise List:

  • Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich
  • Michael Mann, The Insider
  • Sam Mendes, American Beauty
  • M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense
  • Andy & Larry (now Lana) Wachowski, The Matrix

My Vote: Andy & Larry Wachowski, The Matrix

1998

Actual Nominees:

  • Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful
  • John Madden, Shakespeare in Love
  • Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line
  • Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
  • Peter Weir, The Truman Show

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan

What would we change and for whom? The most I have is Bill Condon over Benigni, but even then — keep the Best Picture nominee. It makes more sense. Nothing you can do really helps this category.

Compromise List:

  • Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful
  • John Madden, Shakespeare in Love
  • Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line
  • Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
  • Peter Weir, The Truman Show

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan

1997

Actual Nominees:

  • James Cameron, Titanic
  • Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty
  • Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter
  • Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential
  • Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting

My Vote: Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential

Not even gonna bother with a My Nominees list here. 4/5 Best Picture nominees and one obvious change. I don’t really have anything that makes this better, so I’m leaving it. (Plus it’s not like we needed another Spielberg nomination anyway. Let Egoyan get in there.)

Compromise List:

  • James Cameron, Titanic
  • Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty
  • Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter
  • Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential
  • Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting

My Vote: Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential

1996

Actual Nominees:

  • Joen & Ethan Coen, Fargo
  • Milos Forman, The People vs. Larry Flynt
  • Scott Hicks, Shine
  • Mike Leigh, Secrets & Lies
  • Anthony Minghella, The English Patient

My Vote: Joen & Ethan Coen, Fargo

I vote for Cameron Crowe, but I know they have that Mike Leigh hard-on, so I’m just leaving it.

Compromise List:

  • Joen & Ethan Coen, Fargo
  • Milos Forman, The People vs. Larry Flynt
  • Scott Hicks, Shine
  • Mike Leigh, Secrets & Lies
  • Anthony Minghella, The English Patient

My Vote: Joen & Ethan Coen, Fargo

1995

Actual Nominees:

  • Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas
  • Mel Gibson, Braveheart
  • Chris Noonan, Babe
  • Michael Radford, Il Postino
  • Tim Robbins, Dead Man Walking

My Vote: Mel Gibson, Braveheart

Let’s just cut to the chase — Ron Howard not being here is a joke. I should take off Michael Radford, but at least I can explain his inclusion. Tim Robbins being here seems like a stature nomination more than anything. So he comes off. Ron Howard should have won this fucking award this year.

Compromise List:

  • Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas
  • Mel Gibson, Braveheart
  • Ron Howard, Apollo 13
  • Chris Noonan, Babe
  • Michael Radford, Il Postino

My Vote: Ron Howard, Apollo 13

1994

Actual Nominees:

  • Woody Allen, Bullets Over Broadway
  • Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colors: Red
  • Robert Redford, Quiz Show
  • Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction
  • Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump

My Vote: Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction

Let’s also skip the bullshit here — one of the two non-Best Picture films can stay, but Darabont has to get on here. So which are you taking off, Woody or Kieslowski? I liked Woody’s film more, but Kieslowski’s direction probably can’t be denied. So bye, bye, Woody. (Don’t even pretend like Darabont’s direction wasn’t better.)

Compromise List:

  • Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption
  • Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colors: Red
  • Robert Redford, Quiz Show
  • Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction
  • Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump

My Vote: Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction

1993

Actual Nominees:

  • 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

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

My own personal change? I vote on Marty for The Age of Innocence. The Academy somehow put on Altman instead, I guess because they really fucking hated Scorsese. Andrew Davis for The Fugitive also got a DGA nomination, but I know the Academy, and I know they’d never do it. So really this comes down to Altman or Scorsese. I’m choosing Scorsese, personally, but I really don’t care.

Compromise List:

  • Jane Campion, The Piano
  • James Ivory, The Remains of the Day
  • Jim Sheridan, In the Name of the Father
  • Martin Scorsese, The Age of Innocence
  • Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

1992

Actual Nominees:

  • Robert Altman, The Player
  • Martin Brest, Scent of a Woman
  • Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven
  • James Ivory, Howards End
  • Neil Jordan, The Crying Game

My Vote: Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

Rob Reiner, anybody? How about showing him some love? Do we really need to give James Ivory another nomination? I’m changing it. If only for history. I’ll even give you Altman. Just give me Reiner.

Compromise List:

  • Robert Altman, The Player
  • Martin Brest, Scent of a Woman
  • Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven
  • Neil Jordan, The Crying Game
  • Rob Reiner, A Few Good Men

My Vote: Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

1991

Actual Nominees:

  • Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs
  • Barry Levinson, Bugsy
  • Ridley Scott, Thelma and Louise
  • John Singleton, Boyz N the Hood
  • Oliver Stone, JFK

My Vote: Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs

Love it. (I’d personally vote for the Coens over Scott, but I’m a realist.)

Compromise List:

  • Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs
  • Barry Levinson, Bugsy
  • Ridley Scott, Thelma and Louise
  • John Singleton, Boyz N the Hood
  • Oliver Stone, JFK

My Vote: Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs

1990

Actual Nominees:

  • Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part III
  • Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves
  • Stephen Frears, The Grifters
  • Barbet Schroeder, Reversal of Fortune
  • Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas

Terrific category, poor result. (Sorry, Penny.)

(P.S. I know Tornatore got a DGA nomination for Cinema Paradiso, but would people allow Frears to be taken off for him? Since if it’s anyone, it’s Frears.)

Compromise List:

  • Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part III
  • Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves
  • Stephen Frears, The Grifters
  • Barbet Schroeder, Reversal of Fortune
  • Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas

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