Daniel: Just as with Best Picture, this category benefits from a wealth of options in this incredible year of films. There were plenty of worthy nominees, and thus, a few perceived snubs. Nevertheless, this turned out to be a decently chosen category.
Tyler: I’m looking for vision here. Each of the nominees should demonstrate an ambition of vision, a desire to push boundaries in the technical areas of film. Where and how did they step outside of the box? Are they comfortably seated within their own, pre-fabricated boxes?
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Daniel: I think Tyler and I pretty well summed up our feelings for this film in Best Picture Roundup. It’s any director’s dream to be recognized unmistakably by the style of your movie, and Wes Anderson is s prime example. Few can claim it. A film like The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly a directorial achievement, but that doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s thing. I, for one, much prefer a realistically themed movie. Doesn’t make this bad, just not my thing.
Tyler: As I said in the Best Picture Roundup, I love Wes Anderson. He is a precise, intentional director who conceives of and executes each shot perfectly. His films are visually arresting, exquisitely artistic creations through and through. He has a style that is immediately distinguishable from every other director. I believe that, at some point in time, he should win an Oscar. He deserves an Oscar. Aesthetically, this is a beautiful film, but this is not a wholly excellent film through and through.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Tyler: Birdman is a movie that’s going to change the direction (pun intended) of filmmaking. This will, in different forms, be emulated with differing degrees of success in the near future. It is a stunning film that challenges the viewer and had to challenge everyone involved in the technical filmmaking process. Helming such an ambitious project should be rewarded.
Daniel: Without a doubt, Birdman is one of the best directed films in recent memory. Presenting a film in a single take isn’t completely original, but it’s never been done so fantastically. It fuels the immersive, insane nature of the film. Iñárritu’s direction is seamless, flawless, and steady. The film is constantly at 100%, never slacking or relenting. Birdman is a film driven by a singular purpose, and it’s executed with finesse. Any other year, he would have my vote, but he didn’t direct the film over twelve years.
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Daniel: Boyhood is my kinda movie. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: it just feels so real. There’s nothing quite like Boyhood. Directed over twelve years, Linklater has kept the same feel and vision throughout those years. Moments important or mundane are treated with the same objective eye. He keeps us at a place without judgement. Linklater wants us to simply observe a life, and that’s exactly what we do. This is pure cinema: life on screen. The acting isn’t the best all around, but it doesn’t matter. It’s life, plain and simple. Linklater has made a film that will remain relevant and affecting for years to come.
Tyler: I respect the vision of Richard Linklater–for all of his films, really. But this one stands out because he’s been able to lay out a single, guiding plan for this film that he executed and kept running for 12 years. This could have fallen apart easily. The boy could have turned out to be the worst actor ever. Someone could have dropped out of production. But he held it together. He didn’t make an eternal statement that will resound throughout time, but he simply showed the procession of life. He handily deserves the nomination, whether or not he wins.
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Daniel: The surprise nominee here, as this is the first nominee for Best Director to not be nominated for Best Picture since the expansion of the category. I get the nomination. Foxcatcher while not the greatest film of the year, was guided by a sure hand. Miller’s film is slow- almost painfully slow, but it’s intentional. He drives us through this slow burn, leading up to the inevitable dark end. Every time we think the film will ramp up, Miller holds us back. Personally, I think he holds back too much, and the slow pace isn’t worth the conclusion, but it’s this intentional, steady direction that led to this nomination.
Tyler: I enjoyed the intentionality of Foxcatcher, the way that it gives us a bait and switch about this being a sports film. It is but it’s also definitely not. This is a film about a controlling sociopath who ensnares athletes to help him massage his ego. This could easily fall into the trap of the sports movie cliches, but there is no winner here. Miller is helped by the fact that this is a true story, helping him stay the true course. This film focuses clearly on the inevitable yet shocking doom befalling the Foxcatcher team.
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Daniel: The Imitation Game is a well-made film. The acting is top-notch. The design and look of the film is excellent. But there is not one moment in this film that is surprising. Tyldum’s direction is fine, certainly not bad by any means, but it is unremarkable. I can’t name anything from the film that stood out as unique or spectacular. I don’t think this makes Tyldum a bad director. With a better story I think he’ll do far better. The craft of this film is there, it’s just been done a hundred times before.
Tyler: Agreed. The Imitation Game is a standard World War II spy film, albeit with a closeted homosexual main character. For me that’s the stand out. This, to me, unfocuses the film. Is it a film about winning the war or about abuses against homosexuals? Both make for good films, but it seemed that the film’s title lived up to its name: it was imitating one thing while actually it was trying to be about another, and I don’t think that the divided attention worked.
Daniel: Alejandro Iñárritu , but it’ll be close!
Tyler: Richard Linklater, because the Academy is gonna love the novelty of his long-term vision.
Daniel: Richard Linklater
Tyler: Alejandro Iñárritu, because of his ambition of his vision and the technical skill he demonstrated.
Should’ve Been Here:
Daniel: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash. The intensity of Whiplash was largely due to the excellent direction. I thought he would’ve made the cut, but at least they got the Picture nom.
Tyler: Christopher Nolan, Interstellar. I know this is one of those times where I loved a film and want it to be recognized by the Academy. I think that the complexity of the film, addressing difficulties of time travel in a real manner, not coddling the audience, along with the clear vision, earns a nomination.