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The Oscar Quest: A Viewer’s Guide (Best Director)

The two macro articles I put up each time I do the Quest are the Viewer’s Guide and the Rankings. The Rankings are self-explanatory. The Viewer’s Guide is more universal. One is specific to the categories and picking winners. The Viewer’s Guide is more about how I feel about the films. If you wanted to find Oscar films to watch, you come here, and I tell you how I feel.

Last time I put out the Viewer’s Guide, it was done with a big color code, with each color used to signify how I felt about a film. Not the best system, especially since I put out hundreds of reviews each year on a star system. So we’re moving to the star system now.

Pretty simple — for each Oscar nominee’s film, I’ll assign a rating the way I’d assign a rating to any film I see each year. I don’t think anything’s gone under 2.5 stars, since I don’t think there are truly bad films nominated. The worst you’ll see is 2.5 stars, which for me means I was indifferent toward it. 3 stars is “pretty good.” 3.5 stars is “solid.” 4 stars is “liked it quite a bit.” 4.5 stars is “loved it.” And 5 stars is 5 stars.

The idea is for the ratings to help you find stuff you might like. Also, for each category I’ll tell you what I voted for, what I think would have held up as a winner from that category and how good a choice I think it was.

Here’s Best Director:

2016 – Damien Chazelle, La La Land — * * * * * (5 stars)

Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge — * * * * (4 stars)

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight — * * * * * (5 stars)

Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

What Would Have Held Up: N/A

The Choice: B+

2015 – Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Lenny Abrahamson, Room — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Todd McCarthy, Spotlight — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Adam McKay, The Big Short — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant

What Would Have Held Up: N/A

The Choice: A-

2014 – Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood — * * * * (4 stars)

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher — * * * * (4 stars)

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ingorance)

What Would Have Held Up: N/A

The Choice: A-

2013 – Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity — * * * * * (5 stars)

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Alexander Payne, Nebraska — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

David O. Russell, American Hustle — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

What Would Have Held Up: N/A

The Choice: A-

2012 – Ang Lee, Life of Pi — * * * * (4 stars)

Michael Haneke, Amour — * * * * (4 stars)

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

What Would Have Held Up: I guess Lee. Maybe Spielberg. Possibly Zeitlin.

The Choice: B-

2011 – Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist — * * * * * (5 stars)

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris — * * * * (4 stars)

Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life — * * * * (4 stars)

Alexander Payne, The Descendants — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Martin Scorsese, Hugo — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

What Would Have Held Up: Maybe Malick. Maybe Scorsese. Jury’s out on Hazanavicius

The Choice: B

2010 – Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit — * * * * * (5 stars)

David Fincher, The Social Network — * * * * * (5 stars)

David O. Russell, The Fighter — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit

What Would Have Held Up: Most of them. Maybe not Russell as much, but the rest are good.

The Choice: B-/B

2009 – Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

James Cameron, Avatar — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Lee Daniels, Precious — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

What Would Have Held Up: Bigelow

The Choice: A

2008 – Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Stephen Daldry, The Reader — * * * * (4 stars)

David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon — * * * * (4 stars)

Gus Van Sant, Milk — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

What Would Have Held Up: Boyle

The Choice: A-/B+

2007 – Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood — * * * * * (5 stars)

Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Jason Reitman, Juno — * * * * (4 stars)

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

What Would Have Held Up: Anderson, the Coens. Gilroy on his own, but not next to the other two

The Choice: A/A-

2006 – Martin Scorsese, The Departed — * * * * * (5 stars)

Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima — * * * * (4 stars)

Stephen Frears, The Queen — * * * * (4 stars)

Paul Greengrass, United 93 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Alexander Gonzalez Iñárritu, Babel — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

What Would Have Held Up: Scorsese

The Choice: B+

2005 – Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck — * * * * * (5 stars)

Paul Haggis, Crash — * * * * (4 stars)

Bennett Miller, Capote — * * * * (4 stars)

Steven Spielberg, Munich — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck

What Would Have Held Up: Lee, Clooney

The Choice: A-/B+

2004 – Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby — * * * * (4 stars)

Marc Forster, Finding Neverland — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Taylor Hackford, Ray — * * * * (4 stars)

Alexander Payne, Sideways — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Martin Scorsese, The Aviator — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

What Would Have Held Up: Good question. Maybe Scorsese only? Not sure about Eastwood.

The Choice: C

2003 – Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King — * * * * * (5 stars)

Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Clint Eastwood, Mystic River — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Fernando Meirelles, City of God — * * * * (4 stars)

Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World — * * * * (4 stars)

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

What Would Have Held Up: Jackson

The Choice: A

2002 – Roman Polanski, The Pianist — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her — * * * (3 stars)

Stephen Daldry, The Hours — * * * * (4 stars)

Rob Marshall, Chicago — * * * * (4 stars)

Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Roman Polanski, The Pianist

What Would Have Held Up: Polanski, Scorsese

The Choice: A-

2001 – Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind — * * * * (4 stars)

Robert Altman, Gosford Park — * * * * (4 stars)

Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — * * * * * (5 stars)

David Lynch, Mulholland Drive — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down — * * * * (4 stars)

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

What Would Have Held Up: Jackson. Maybe Lynch.

The Choice: D

2000 – Steven Soderbergh, Traffic * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — * * * * (4 stars)

Ridley Scott, Gladiator — * * * * * (5 stars)

Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Ridley Scott, Gladiator

What Would Have Held Up: Soderbergh, and probably Scott

The Choice: B+/A-

1999 – Sam Mendes, American Beauty — * * * * * (5 stars)

Lasse Hallström, The Cider House Rules — * * * * (4 stars)

Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Michael Mann, The Insider — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Sam Mendes, American Beauty

What Would Have Held Up: Mendes, maybe Mann, possibly Jonze

The Choice: B+

1998 – Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan — * * * * * (5 stars)

Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful — * * * * (4 stars)

John Madden, Shakespeare in Love — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line — * * * * (4 stars)

Peter Weir, The Truman Show — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan

What Would Have Held Up: Spielberg

The Choice: A+

1997 – James Cameron, Titanic — * * * * * (5 stars)

Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty — * * * * (4 stars)

Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential — * * * * * (5 stars)

Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: James Cameron, Titanic

What Would Have Held Up: Cameron

The Choice: A/A+

1996 – Anthony Minghella, The English Patient — * * * * (4 stars)

Joel & Ethan Coen, Fargo — * * * * * (5 stars)

Miloš Forman, The People vs. Larry Flynt — * * * * (4 stars)

Scott Hicks, Shine — * * * * (4 stars)

Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Joel & Ethan Coen, Fargo

What Would Have Held Up: Minghella kind of has. Coens would have been better

The Choice: B/B+

1995 – Mel Gibson, Braveheart — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Chris Noonan, Babe — * * * * (4 stars)

Michael Radford, Il Postino — * * * (3 stars)

Tim Robbins, Dead Man Walking — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Mel Gibson, Braveheart

What Would Have Held Up: Gibson

The Choice: B+

1994 – Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump — * * * * * (5 stars)

Woody Allen, Bullets Over Broadway — * * * * (4 stars)

Krystof Kieślowski, Three Colors: Red — * * * (3 stars)

Robert Redford, Quiz Show — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump

What Would Have Held Up: Zemeckis, Tarantino

The Choice: A-

1993 – Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List — * * * * * (5 stars)

Robert Altman, Short Cuts — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Jane Campion, The Piano — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

James Ivory, The Remains of the Day — * * * * (4 stars)

Jim Sheridan, In the Name of the Father — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

What Would Have Held Up: Spielberg

The Choice: A+

1992 – Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven — * * * * * (5 stars)

Robert Altman, The Player — * * * * (4 stars)

Martin Brest, Scent of a Woman — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

James Ivory, Howards End — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Neil Jordan, The Crying Game — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

What Would Have Held Up: Eastwood

The Choice: A

1991 – Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs — * * * * * (5 stars)

Barry Levinson, Bugsy — * * * * (4 stars)

Ridley Scott, Thelma and Louise — * * * * (4 stars)

John Singleton, Boyz N the Hood — * * * * (4 stars)

Oliver Stone, JFK — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs

What Would Have Held Up: Demme, Stone, then Singleton, possibly even the other two

The Choice: A

1990 – Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves — * * * * (4 stars)

Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part III — * * * * (4 stars)

Stephen Frears, The Grifters — * * * * (4 stars)

Barbet Schroeder, Reversal of Fortune — * * * * (4 stars)

Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas

What Would Have Held Up: Scorsese, then Costner

The Choice: B/B+

1989 – Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July — * * * * (4 stars)

Woody Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Kenneth Branagh, Henry V — * * * * (4 stars)

Jim Sheridan, My Left Foot — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Peter Weir, Dead Poet’s Society — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July

What Would Have Held Up: Stone. Maybe the others, but ehh.

The Choice: B/B+

1988 – Barry Levinson, Rain Man — * * * * * (5 stars)

Charles Crichton, A Fish Called Wanda — * * * * (4 stars)

Mike Nichols, Working Girl — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Alan Parker, Mississippi Burning — * * * * (4 stars)

Martin Scorsese, The Last Temptation of Christ — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Barry Levinson, Rain Man

What Would Have Held Up: Levinson mostly has. Scorsese could have. Parker maybe.

The Choice: B

1987 – Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

John Boorman, Hope and Glory — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Lasse Hallström, My Life as a Dog — * * * (3 stars)

Norman Jewison, Moonstruck — * * * * (4 stars)

Adrian Lyne, Fatal Attraction — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor

What Would Have Held Up: Bertolucci

The Choice: B+/A-

1986 – Oliver Stone, Platoon — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Woody Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters — * * * (3 stars)

James Ivory, A Room with a View — * * * (3 stars)

Roland Joffé, The Mission — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

David Lynch, Blue Velvet — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Oliver Stone, Platoon

What Would Have Held Up: Stone, Lynch

The Choice: A-

1985 – Sydney Pollack, Out of Africa — * * * * (4 stars)

Héctor Babenco, Kiss of the Spider Woman — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

John Huston, Prizzi’s Honor — * * * * (4 stars)

Akira Kurosawa, Ran — * * * * (4 stars)

Peter Weir, Witness — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Sydney Pollack, Out of Africa

What Would Have Held Up: Pollack, Kurosawa

The Choice: B-

1984 – Miloš Forman, Amadeus — * * * * * (5 stars)

Woody Allen, Broadway Danny Rose — * * * (3 stars)

Robert Benton, Places in the Heart — * * * * (4 stars)

Roland Joffé, The Killing Fields — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

David Lean, A Passage to India — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Milos Forman, Amadeus

What Would Have Held Up: Forman, possibly Joffe

The Choice: A

1983 – James L. Brooks, Terms of Endearment — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Bruce Beresford, Tender Mercies — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Ingmar Bergman, Fanny and Alexander — * * * * (4 stars)

Mike Nichols, Silkwood — * * * * (4 stars)

Peter Yates, The Dresser — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: James L. Brooks, Terms of Endearment

What Would Have Held Up: Brooks has. Maybe Bergman. Possibly Nichols.

The Choice: B

1982 – Richard Attenborough, Gandhi — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Sidney Lumet, The Verdict — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Wolfgang Petersen, Das Boot — * * * * (4 stars)

Sydney Pollack, Tootsie — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Steven Spielberg, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Wolfgang Petersen, Das Boot

What Would Have Held Up: Attenborough, Petersen, Spielberg

The Choice: B+

1981 – Warren Beatty, Reds — * * * * (4 stars)

Hugh Hudson, Chariots of Fire — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Louis Malle, Atlantic City — * * * * (4 stars)

Mark Rydell, On Golden Pond — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark

What Would Have Held Up: Spielberg, Beatty

The Choice: B+

1980 – Robert Redford, Ordinary People — * * * * (4 stars)

David Lynch, The Elephant Man — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Roman Polanski, Tess — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Richard Rush, The Stunt Man — * * * * (4 stars)

Martin Scorsese, Raging Bull — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Raging Bull

What Would Have Held Up: Scorsese, Lunch

The Choice: C-

1979 – Robert Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now — * * * * * (5 stars)

Bob Fosse, All That Jazz — * * * * * (5 stars)

Édouard Molinaro, La Cage aux Folles — * * * (3 strs)

Peter Yates, Breaking Away — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now

What Would Have Held Up: Coppola, then Fosse, then Benton. In that order.

The Choice: C+/B-

1978 – Michael Cimino, The Deer Hunter — * * * * * (5 stars)

Woody Allen, Interiors — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Hal Ashby, Coming Home — * * * * (4 stars)

Warren Beatty & Buck Henry, Heaven Can Wait — * * * * (4 stars)

Alan Parker, Midnight Express — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Michael Cimino, The Deer Hunter

What Would Have Held Up: Cimino, maybe Parker

The Choice: A-/A

1977 – Woody Allen, Annie Hall — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

George Lucas, Star Wars — * * * * * (5 stars)

Herbert Ross, The Turning Point — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Fred Zinnemann, Julia — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: George Lucas, Star Wars

What Would Have Held Up: Lucas, Allen

The Choice: B+/A-

1976 – John G. Avildsen, Rocky — * * * * * (5 stars)

Ingmar Bergman, Face to Face — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Sidney Lumet, Network — * * * * * (5 stars)

Alan J. Pakula, All the President’s Men — * * * * * (5 stars)

Lina Wertmüller, Seven Beauties — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: John G. Avildsen, Rocky

What Would Have Held Up: Avildsen, Lumet, Pakula

The Choice: A-

1975 – Miloš Forman, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest — * * * * * (5 stars)

Robert Altman, Nashville — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Federico Fellini, Amarcord — * * * (3 stars)

Stanley Kubrick, Barry Lyndon — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Sidney Lumet, Dog Day Afternoon — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Sidney Lumet, Dog Day Afternoon

What Would Have Held Up: Forman mostly has. Altman, Lumet, Kubrick. All good choices.

The Choice: B/B+

1974 – Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part II — * * * * * (5 stars)

John Cassavetes, A Woman Under the Influence — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Bob Fosse, Lenny — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Roman Polanski, Chinatown — * * * * * (5 stars)

François Truffaut, Day for Night — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part II

What Would Have Held Up: Coppola, Polanski. Fosse and Cassavetes, but lesser than the other two

The Choice: A+

1973 – George Roy Hill, The Sting — * * * * * (5 stars)

Ingmar Bergman, Cries and Whispers — * * * (3 stars)

Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Tango in Paris — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

William Friedkin, The Exorcist — * * * * * (5 stars)

George Lucas, American Graffiti — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: George Roy Hill, The Sting

What Would Have Held Up: Hill, Friedkin

The Choice: A-

1972 – Bob Fosse, Cabaret — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

John Boorman, Deliverance — * * * * (4 stars)

Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather — * * * * * (5 stars)

Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Sleuth — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Jan Troell, The Emigrants — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather

What Would Have Held Up: Coppola, and Fosse

The Choice: A-

1971 – William Friedkin, The French Connection — * * * * * (5 stars)

Peter Bogdanovich, The Last Picture Show — * * * * (4 stars)

Norman Jewison, Fiddler on the Roof — * * * * (4 stars)

Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

John Schlesinger, Sunday Bloody Sunday — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: William Friedkin, The French Connection

What Would Have Held Up: Friedkin, Bogdanovich, probably Kubrick

The Choice: A-/A

1970 – Franklin J. Schaffner, Patton — * * * * (4 stars)

Robert Altman, MASH — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Federico Fellini, Satyricon — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Arthur Hiller, Love Story — * * * * * (5 stars)

Ken Russell, Women in Love — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Franklin J. Schaffner, Patton

What Would Have Held Up: Schaffner

The Choice: B+

1969 – John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Costa Gravas, Z — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

George Roy Hill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — * * * * * (5 stars)

Arthur Penn, Alice’s Restaurant — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Sydney Pollack, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: George Roy Hill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

What Would Have Held Up: Hill, Schlesinger, maybe Pollack

The Choice: B+/A-

1968 – Carol Reed, Oliver! — * * * * (4 stars)

Anthony Harvey, The Lion in Winter — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey — * * * * * (5 stars)

Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers — * * * * (4 stars)

Franco Zeffirelli, Romeo and Juliet — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey

What Would Have Held Up: Kubrick

The Choice: C-

1967 – Mike Nichols, The Graduate — * * * * * (5 stars)

Richard Brooks, In Cold Blood — * * * * (4 stars)

Norman Jewison, In the Heat of the Night — * * * * (4  stars)

Stanley Kramer, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Arthur Penn, Bonnie and Clyde — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Mike Nichols, The Graduate

What Would Have Held Up: Nichols, Penn

The Choice: A-/A

1966 – Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Michelanelo Antonioni, Blowup — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Richard Brooks, The Professionals — * * * * (4 stars)

Claude Lelouch, A Man and a Woman — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Mike Nichols, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Mike Nichols, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

What Would Have Held Up: Nichols, Antonioni, somewhat Zinnemann

The Choice: C

1965 – Robert Wise, The Sound of Music — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

David Lean, Doctor Zhivago — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

John Schlesinger, Darling — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Hiroshi Teshigahara, Woman in the Dunes — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

William Wyler, The Collector — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Hiroshi Teshigahara, Woman in the Dunes

What Would Have Held Up: Wise, probably Lean, maybe Schlesinger

The Choice: A-/A

1964 – George Cukor, My Fair Lady — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Michael Cacoyannis, Zorba the Greek — * * * * (4 stars)

Peter Glenville, Becket — * * * * (4 stars)

Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb — * * * * * (5 stars)

Robert Stevenson, Mary Poppins — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

What Would Have Held Up: Kubrick, Cukor probably, and maybe Stevenson

The Choice: B

1963 – Tony Richardson, Tom Jones — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Federico Fellini, 8½ — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Elia Kazan, America, America — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Otto Preminger, The Cardinal — * * * * (4 stars)

Martin Ritt, Hud — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Federico Fellini, 8½

What Would Have Held Up: Fellini, Kazan

The Choice: C/C-

1962 – David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia — * * * * * (5 stars)

Pietro Germi, Divorce, Italian Style — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Robert Mulligan, To Kill a Mockingbird — * * * * * (5 stars)

Arthur Penn, The Miracle Worker — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Frank Perry, David and Lisa — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia

What Would Have Held Up: Lean, and maybe Mulligan

The Choice: A+

1961 – Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, West Side Story — * * * * * (5 stars)

Federico Fellini, La Dolce Vita — * * * * (4 stars)

Stanley Kramer, Judgment at Nuremberg — * * * * * (5 stars)

Robert Rossen, The Hustler — * * * * * (5 stars)

J. Lee Thompson, The Guns of Navarone — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, West Side Story

What Would Have Held Up: Wise + Robbins, Fellini, Kramer

The Choice: A

1960 – Billy Wilder, The Apartment — * * * * * (5 stars)

Jack Cardiff, Sons and Lovers — * * * * (4 stars)

Jules Dassin, Never on Sunday — * * * (3 stars)

Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho — * * * * * (5 stars)

Fred Zinnemann, The Sundowners — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Billy Wilder, The Apartment

What Would Have Held Up: Wilder, Hitchcock

The Choice: A-

1959 – William Wyler, Ben-Hur — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Jack Clayton, Room at the Top — * * * * (4 stars)

George Stevens, The Diary of Anne Frank — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Billy Wilder, Some Like it Hot — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Fred Zinnemann, The Nun’s Story — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: William Wyler, Ben-Hur

What Would Have Held Up: Wyler, and also Wilder and Stevens

The Choice: A/A+

1958 – Vincente Minnelli, Gigi — * * * * (4 stars)

Richard Brooks, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Stanley Kramer, The Defiant Ones — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Mark Robson, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Robert Wise, I Want to Live! — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Stanley Kramer, The Defiant Ones

What Would Have Held Up: Kramer, somewhat Minnelli. Possibly Brooks

The Choice: C

1957 – David Lean, The Bridge on the River Kwai — * * * * * (5 stars)

Joshua Logan, Sayonara — * * * * (4 stars)

Sidney Lumet, 12 Angry Men — * * * * * (5 stars)

Mark Robson, Peyton Place — * * * * (4 stars)

Billy Wilder, Witness for the Prosecution — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: David Lean, The Bridge on the River Kwai

What Would Have Held Up: Lean, Lumet

The Choice: A-/A

1956 – George Stevens, Giant — * * * * * (5 stars)

Michael Anderson, Around the World in 80 Days — * * * * (4 stars)

Walter Long, The King and I — * * * * (4 stars)

King Vidor, War and Peace — * * * * (4 stars)

William Wyler, Friendly Persuasion — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: George Stevens, Giant

What Would Have Held Up: Stevens. Possibly Anderson

The Choice: A-

1955 – Delbert Mann, Marty — * * * * * (5 stars)

Elia Kazan, East of Eden — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

David Lean, Summertime — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Joshua Logan, Picnic — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

John Sturges, Bad Day at Black Rock — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: John Sturges, Bad Day at Black Rock

What Would Have Held Up: Kazan. Somewhat Mann. Maybe Sturges

The Choice: C+

1954 – Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront — * * * * * (5 stars)

Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window — * * * * * (5 stars)

George Seaton, The Country Girl — * * * * (4 stars)

William A. Wellman, The High and the Mighty — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Billy Wilder, Sabrina — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront

What Would Have Held Up: Kazan, Hitchcock

The Choice: A

1953 – Fred Zinnemann, From Here to Eternity — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

George Stevens, Shane — * * * * (4 stars)

Charles Walters, Lili — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Billy Wilder, Stalag 17 — * * * * * (5 stars)

William Wyler, Roman Holiday — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: William Wyler, Roman Holiday

What Would Have Held Up: Zinnemann, Wyler

The Choice: A-

1952 – John Ford, The Quiet Man — * * * * * (5 stars)

Cecil B. DeMille, The Greatest Show on Earth — * * * * (4 stars)

John Huston, Moulin Rouge — * * * * (4 stars)

Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 5 Fingers — * * * * (4 stars)

Fred Zinnemann, High Noon — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: John Ford, The Quiet Man

What Would Have Held Up: Ford, Zinnemann

The Choice: A/A-

1951 – George Stevens, A Place in the Sun — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

John Huston, The African Queen — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Elia Kazan, A Streetcar Named Desire — * * * * * (5 stars)

Vincente Minnelli, An American in Paris — * * * * (4 stars)

William Wyler, Detective Story — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: George Stevens, A Place in the Sun

What Would Have Held Up: Stevens, Kazan, maybe Huston

The Choice: A-

1950 – Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve — * * * * * (5 stars)

George Cukor, Born Yesterday — * * * * (4 stars)

John Huston, The Asphalt Jungle — * * * * (4 stars)

Carol Reed, The Third Man — * * * * * (5 stars)

Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Carol Reed, The Third Man

What Would Have Held Up: Reed, Wilder. To an extent Mankiewicz.

The Choice: B/B+

1949 – Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives — * * * * (4 stars)

Carol Reed, The Fallen Idol — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Robert Rossen, All the King’s Men — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

William A. Wellman, Battleground — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

William Wyler, The Heiress — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Carol Reed, The Fallen Idol

What Would Have Held Up: Reed, maybe Wellman, maybe Wyler, maybe Rossen.

The Choice: C-

1948 – John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre — * * * * * (5 stars)

Anatole Litvak, The Snake Pit — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Jean Negulesco, Johnny Belinda — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Laurence Olivier, Hamlet — * * * * (4 stars)

Fred Zinnemann, The Search — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

What Would Have Held Up: Huston

The Choice: A+

1947 – Elia Kazan, Gentleman’s Agreement — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

George Cukor, A Double Life — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Edward Dmytryk, Crossfire — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Henry Koster, The Bishop’s Wife — * * * * (4 stars)

David Lean, Great Expectations — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Elia Kazan, Gentleman’s Agreement

What Would Have Held Up: Kazan

The Choice: B/B+

1946 – William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives — * * * * * (5 stars)

Clarence Brown, The Yearling — * * * * (4 stars)

Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life — * * * * * (5 stars)

David Lean, Brief Encounter — * * * * * (5 stars)

Robert Siodmak, The Killers — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life

What Would Have Held Up: Wyler, Capra

The Choice: A

1945 – Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Clarence Brown, National Velvet — * * * * * (5 stars)

Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Leo McCarey, The Bells of St. Mary’s — * * * * (4 stars)

Jean Renoir, The Southerner — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend

What Would Have Held Up: Wilder

The Choice: B+

1944 – Leo McCarey, Going My Way — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Alfred Hitchcock, Lifeboat — * * * * (4 stars)

Henry King, Wilson — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Otto Preminger, Laura — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Alfred Hitchcock, Lifeboat

What Would Have Held Up: Hitchcock. Wilder. To an extent McCarey

The Choice: C

1943 – Michael Curtiz, Casablanca — * * * * * (5 stars)

Clarence Brown, The Human Comedy — * * * * (4 stars)

Henry King, The Song of Bernadette — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Ernst Lubitsch, Heaven Can Wait — * * * * (4 stars)

George Stevens, The More the Merrier — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Michael Curtiz, Casablanca

What Would Have Held Up: Curtiz

The Choice: A

1942 – William Wyler, Mrs. Miniver — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Michael Curtiz, Yankee Doodle Dandy — * * * * * (5 stars)

John Farrow, Wake Island — * * * * (4 stars)

Mervyn LeRoy, Random Harvest — * * * * * (5 stars)

Sam Wood, Kings Row — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Mervyn LeRoy, Random Harvest

What Would Have Held Up: Wyler. Maybe Curtiz.

The Choice: B+

1941 – John Ford, How Green Was My Valley — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Alexander Hall, Here Comes Mr. Jordan — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Howard Hawks, Sergeant York — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane — * * * * * (5 stars)

William Wyler, The Little Foxes — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

What Would Have Held Up: Welles. And on its own, Ford. But not over Welles.

The Choice: B/B+

1940 – John Ford, The Grapes of Wrath — * * * * * (5 stars)

George Cukor, The Philadelphia Story — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Sam Wood, Kitty Foyle — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

William Wyler, The Letter — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: John Ford, The Grapes of Wrath

What Would Have Held Up: Ford

The Choice: A

1939 – Victor Fleming, Gone With the Wind — * * * * * (5 stars)

Frank Capra, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — * * * * * (5 stars)

John Ford, Stagecoach — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Sam Wood, Goodbye, Mr. Chips — * * * * (4 stars)

William Wyler, Wuthering Heights — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Victor Fleming, Gone With the Wind

What Would Have Held Up: Fleming. And to an extent, Capra or Ford

The Choice: A+

1938 – Frank Capra, You Can’t Take it With You — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Michael Curtiz, Angels with Dirty Faces — * * * * (4 stars)

Michael Curtiz, Four Daughters — * * * (3 stars)

Norman Taurog, Boys Town — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

King Vidor, The Citadel — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Frank Capra, You Can’t Take It With You

What Would Have Held Up: Capra, maybe Curtiz

The Choice: B/B-

1937 – Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

William Dieterle, The Life of Emile Zola — * * * * (4 stars)

Sidney Franklin, The Good Earth — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Gregory La Cava, Stage Door — * * * * (4 stars)

William A. Wellman, A Star is Born — * * * * * (5 starS)

My Vote: Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth

What Would Have Held Up: McCarey somewhat. Wellman probably.

The Choice: B-

1936 – Frank Capra, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Gregory La Cava, My Man Godfrey — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Robert Z. Leonard, The Great Ziegfeld — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

W. S. Van Dyke, San Francisco — * * * * (4 stars)

William Wyler, Dodsworth — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: Robert Z. Leonard, The Great Ziegfeld

What Would Have Held Up: Honestly, any of them could. Capra somewhat has. Leonard and Van Dyke also seem good. But even Wyler and La Cava could have

The Choice: C+

1935 – John Ford, The Informer — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Henry Hathaway, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer — * * * (3 stars)

Frank Lloyd, Mutiny on the Bounty — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

My Vote: John Ford, The Informer

What Would Have Held Up: Ford, Lloyd

The Choice: B+

1934 – Frank Capra, It Happened One Night — * * * * * (5 stars)

Victor Schertzinger, One Night of Love — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

W. S. Van Dyke, The Thin Man — * * * * * (5 stars)

My Vote: Frank Capra, It Happened One Night

What Would Have Held Up: Capra, and maybe Van Dyke

The Choice: A-

1932- 1933 – Frank Lloyd, Cavalcade — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Frank Capra, Lady for a Day — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

George Cukor, Little Women — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Frank Lloyd, Cavalcade

What Would Have Held Up: Not sure this one matters. I guess any of them.

The Choice: C-

1931-1932 – Frank Borzage, Bad Girl — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

King Vidor, The Champ — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Josef von Sternberg, Shanghai Express — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Frank Borzage, Bad Girl

What Would Have Held Up: Honestly, probably any of these

The Choice: B

1930-1931 – Norman Taurog, Skippy — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Clarence Brown, A Free Soul — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Lewis Milestone, The Front Page — * * * * (4 stars)

Wesley Ruggles Cimarron — * * * * (4 stars)

Josef von Sternberg, Morocco — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Norman Taurog, Skippy

What Would Have Held Up: Taurog, von Sternberg maybe, Ruggles probably, and Milestone probably

The Choice: B/B+

1929-1930 – Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front — * * * * * (5 stars)

Clarence Brown, Anna Christie — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Clarence Brown, Romance — * * * (3 stars)

Robert Z. Leonard, The Divorcée — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Ernst Lubitsch, The Love Parade — * * * * (4 stars)

King Vidor, Hallelujah — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

My Vote: Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front

What Would Have Held Up: Milestone

The Choice: A+

1928-1929 – Frank Lloyd, The Divine Lady — * * * (3 stars)

Lionel Barrymore, Madame X — * * * (3 stars)

Harry Beaumont, The Broadway Melody — * * * (3 stars)

Irving Cummings, In Old Arizona — * * * (3 stars)

Frank Lloyd, Drag — N/A (have not seen yet)

Frank Lloyd, Weary River — * * * (3 stars)

Ernst Lubitsch, The Patriot — LOST

My Vote: Frank Lloyd, Weary River

What Would Have Held Up: Any, all. Who knows. Anything sound seems like a good choice.

The Choice: C

1927-1928, Comedy – Lewis Milestone, Two Arabian Nights — * * * (3 stars)

Ted Wilde, Speedy — * * * (3 stars)

My Vote: Lewis Milestone, Two Arabian Knights

What Would Have Held Up: Milestone, Wilde. Go nuts.

The Choice: B

1927-1928, Dramatic – Frank Borzage, Seventh Heaven — * * * * * (5 stars)

Herbert Brenon, Sorrell and Son — N/A (have not seen yet)

King Vidor, The Crowd — * * * * (4 stars)

My Vote: Frank Borzage, Seventh Heaven

What Would Have Held Up: Borzage, Vidor

The Choice: A-

– – – – – – – – – –

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