I think the consensus among the critics and pundits is that tonight we will have another split between best picture and best director for the second year in a row. It seems that – if the prophets of the Oscars are to be believed – that 12 Years a Slave will win best picture and Alfonso Cuaron will win best director for Gravity. I personally would be very pissed if that happened. I have some reasons for my opinion:
- Generally speaking, I think film/director split is a stupid thing. Actually, I think they should give the best picture to the director and not the producer in the first place. The director made the movie. The director is responsible for the final outcome. The director manages everything and puts them into a coherent shape. Because the director does nothing, except the overall leading. How can someone be the best director without the film being the best? In prestigious festivals like Cannes they give the first award to the director, although they have a best director award too, but that awards becomes more like a “third best film”.
- Steve McQueen is arguably the best director this season. His masterful film rises to the level of a classic, and it’s artistic. He uses a powerful rhythm, knowing where to pause and where to leave, painting a powerful atmosphere and a harrowing narration.
- Alfonso Cuaron presents in Gravity a sort of empty spectacle and masturbatory glee for technology that looks interesting for a year and is forgotten the next. Oooh, a tear is flowing in the air. How groundbreaking. But you could watch 2001: A Space Odyssey with its outmoded technology and still feel everything in your bones. Gravity uses a bare script, with little or no characterization, with a lazy cliche “moving” back-story for Sandra Bullock, as an excuse for Cuaron to play with his toys. I love Cuaron, I loved Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men, but this movie is nothing but a tech demo. In my list, Cuaron is ranked below all the other four nominees. It’d be preposterous to award technology over art.
- Steve McQueen is a great director overall. He has made three heartbreaking moving and amazing masterpieces so far. If the Academy doesn’t award him now, they will have to award him later when he’s “due” for possibly a mediocre movie like Slumdog Millionaire. Better to award him now for a masterpiece.
- Now, we all know the academy has never awarded a black director. Why on earth should they pass up on such a historic opportunity to (at least partially) remove this stain of disgrace? No one will question this choice, no one will call it diversity stunt or something like that. Steve McQueen is the most deserving candidate, and his selection will have historical significance too. Why not do that? Why not?
Anyway, there’s no doubt to me that McQueen has now comfortably won a place in the pantheon of great directors. I’ll be eagerly looking forward to his future projects, wishing him Oscars and Palme d’Ors and more.