Last week, we discussed both supporting acting categories, all three music categories, plus a grab bag of nominees honored for other disciplines. Today, we look at the nominees for Best Director.
Of the four first-timers, three weren't just helming Best Picture nominees: they made the biggest hits of the year. Only Airport outgrossed MASH and Patton; Love Story topped them all.
The other first-timer was Ken Russell, director of the D.H. Lawrence adaptation Women in Love, about two sisters whose lives become entwined with a pair of best friends - one a teacher, one heir to the mining company their town runs on - and the various thrills, sexual and otherwise, that come about because of it. Russell would go on to make several films that showcased, as women in Love star Glenda Jackson put it, sexual neuroticism, often through biographies of composers like Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers) or Liszt (Lisztomania). He also directed one of my all-time favorites, The Devils.
The fifth nominee was Federico Fellini, up for the third time for Fellini Satyricon, an extremely sweaty adaptation of the ancient work by Petronius. The film follows a gay youth's travels through society as he searches for his young lover: he goes to bath houses, experimental theatre, bacchanals, even faces off against a minotaur. A sweaty, erotic, very gay, dreamlike film, the nomination must have come as a surprise for...well, many, especially considering it's the film's only nomination!
The eventual winner was Franklin J. Schaffner, director of such films as The Best Man and Planet of the Apes, honored for his work on the #4 film of the year, Patton:
A closer look:
first of five nominations in this category; BAFTA Awards nominee for Best Direction, DGA Awards nominee for Best Director, Golden Globe nominee for Best Director, NYFCC second runner-up for Best Director
The ringmaster of this loud circus. He knows when to keep what's written, and when to let the actors fly. He treats many of the women shabbily, but there's also an odd knowingness to this; not his views, but rather the reality is reflected. The constant activity of both hospital and military lives is captured in the editing, the multi-layered sound, the gallows humor and sardonic improvisations.
Does he indulge a little, staying on certain segments (especially the feast at Trimalcione's) long past their impact? Perhaps, but isn't the indulgence part of the point, piling it on until we go from amusement to frustration to horror? Surreal landscapes and impossibly beautiful boys make for a nightmarish wet dream, by turns fantasy, comedy, and horror. It's ambitious, inconsistent, and impressive.
first and only nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Director; DGA Awards nominee for Best Director
You can't make a good movie out of a bad screenplay, says the popular wisdom. Arthur Hiller laughs. He makes it all work, keeping things moving with the delirious energy of young love, bringing out the charm in eyeroll-worthy characters, beautifully shot and scored, making room for veteran performers to shine. It's a watchable, enjoyable movie; that's Hiller's doing.
Women in Love
first and only nomination; BAFTA Awards nominee for Best Direction, Golden Globes nominee for Best Director
There is no energy like the kind Russell brings in his films. Performances are big, but not broad: there's an unlikely subtlety in all the rolling, licking, shouting, crying. Uninhibited camerawork, wrestling with the men, running with the women, frighteningly still when following a solo trek into the winter mountains. Few directors can capture eroticism, lust, and desire so graphically, so sweatily, so honestly.
Franklin J. Schaffner
first and only nomination; DGA Awards winner for Best Director; Golden Globes nominee for Best Director
Not a moment rings false. Opens with a bang, that monologue made up of several Patton speeches and phrases, and never lets up from there. Doesn't rest so much on battle sequences - unusual thing for a war film - but when he does, they are visually stirring. It's a film about a one-of-a-kind personality, and Schaffner manages to make a warts and all tale that doesn't preach to the audience.
Schaffner's win is a great one, honestly. But my vote:
WOMEN IN LOVE
Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay: Airport, I Never Sang for My Father, Lovers and Other Strangers, MASH and Women in Love.