As for today? Let's get to Best Director, after the jump.
Jack Clayton for Room at the Top
Notes: First and only nomination; NYFCC Runner-Up for Director
The film has an unmistakable energy, with the affair scenes almost dreamlike, out of time, contrasting with the rapid, walk-with-purpose momentum of the rest of the film - it's only with Alice, after all, that Joe can allow himself to relax, not just plot or resent. It's a dreaminess that underlines the harsh reality of...well, reality.
Three hours is a long time to spend in a cramped, crowded attic space, especially knowing from the outset how it all turns out. Stevens uses that to his advantage, making that set feel lived-in, the characters flesh-and-blood, the time spent an endurance test with the occasional respite through holidays, romance, and petty squabbling. One of the few directors who makes the intimate feel monumental - never crass nor exploitative. And wow wow wow can he make you cry at the littlest moments.
Billy Wilder for Some Like It Hot
Notes: Seventh of eight directing nominations, previous winner; DGA Award Nominee
Only Wilder could get just as many laughs from mass murder as he does from Jack Lemmon trying to walk in high heels. Despite the silliness, it's a very adult picture, populated by the same cynics, hustlers, and predators who tend to thrive in his films. And yet...while I can't go so far as to say you care about these characters...you do begrudgingly like them.
William Wyler for Ben-Hur
Notes: Eleventh of twelve directing nominations, third of three wins; DGA Award Winner; Golden Globe Winner; NYFCC Second Runner-Up (in a tie)
The scale is staggering. How Wyler captained such a gargantuan ship is truly astounding: these sets! These action sequences! These horses! It's pure cinema, baby! And for the most part, Wyler never loses sight that this is a character piece about one man's journey from ruin to revenge to redemption: he takes his time with those personal moments. I wish his actors were more consistently directed, but dear Lord, did you see those horses?
Notes: Fourth of seven directing nominations, previous winner; DGA Award Nominee; Golden Globe Nominee; National Board of Review Winner; NYFCC Winner
It's not just glorious closeups of Hepburn's face in subtle conflict; Zinnemann stages her emotional journey beautifully, gradually setting her further apart from her fellow nuns as the film progresses - look at the way she blends into the line of novitiates at the beginning, compared to how she's turned her back on the others while studying medicine, and ending on a long, silent, contemplative shot. Beautifully crafted, inner conflict writ large.
Other lauded auteurs:
- Charles Barton for The Shaggy Dog (DGA Award Nominee) - Such zaniness! ***
- Frank Capra for A Hole in the Head (DGA Award Nominee) - Solid work. ***
- Basil Dearden for Sapphire (NYFCC Second Runner-Up [in a tie]) - Lets his ensemble play together, surprises with feverish shot choices and blunt cutting. *****
- Richard Fleischer for Compulsion (DGA Award Nominee) - Great confidence in his cast; some beautiful but ostentatious compositions; rides a fine line between art and exploitation. ****
- John Ford for The Horse Soldiers (DGA Award Nominee) - didn't see it.
- Howard Hawks for Rio Bravo (DGA Award Nominee) - Every moment engaging, every performance a winner. *****
- Alfred Hitchcock for North by Northwest (DGA Award Nominee) - The Master of Suspense also had a great flair for comedy, and this breezy thriller shows off both strengths. *****
- Stanley Kramer for On the Beach (DGA Award Nominee) - ****
- Leo McCarey for Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (DGA Award Nominee) - I hated almost everything about this odd clump of celluloid. *
- Otto Preminger for Anatomy of a Murder (DGA Award Nominee, Golden Globe Nominee) - Preminger's handling of the tone allows for mystery and mirth to intertwine without trivializing the film's investigation of sexual assault and consent. *****
- Douglas Sirk for Imitation of Life (DGA Award Nominee) - God bless his reflective surfaces, terrific work with actresses, and overall Sirk-ness. ****
- François Truffaut for The 400 Blows (Cannes Film Festival Winner) - Throughout, the illusion of spontaneity; never apologizes nor makes excuses; captures youthful resentment and wildness truthfully. *****
Oscar went with the spectacle of Ben-Hur and its director, William Wyler.
Understandable! But in a close race, for me, between Stevens and Zinnemann, I have to give my vote to....
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
Tomorrow (and I mean it this time!), we're getting into Best Supporting Actress: The Diary of Anne Frank's Shelley Winters, Imitation of Life's Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore, Pillow Talk's Thelma Ritter, and Room at the Top's Hermione Baddeley.
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