Monday, May 17, 2021

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1972: Bob Fosse and Best Director

Yes, yes, I know, I said this would be Adapted Screenplay, but I have been trying to emulate the order of the Oscar ceremony and realized I'd made a mistake. So today, we look at the nominees for Best Director! Mostly terrific films, all Best Picture nominees with the exception of Sleuth, a fun, sophisticated cat-and-mouse game with a cast of two (more on them later). Also, with the exception of Sleuth's, all the nominees were first-timers, so it was quite an exciting night. Of course, given the way the evening had been going, the winner - presented by Julie Andrews and director George Stevens - was a little expected:

Deserved? Let's talk:

John Boorman
first of two nominations in this category; DGA Awards nominee, Golden Globe nominee for Best Director

I think what impressed me most was Boorman's sense of pacing: it is a patient film, though not a slow one, and there is a palpable sense of dread throughout. This movie, I really feel, is the blueprint for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the similar horror films that follow, though Boorman's approach to the many shocks defy easy genre categorization - he's thoughtful about the screenplay's questions about masculinity and violence, addressing these concerns without force. He's clever with what he shows, too: you see enough to be shocked, but it's also hidden enough to truly horrify. 

Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather
first of four nominations in this category; DGA Awards winner, Golden Globe winner for Best Director; NYFCC Awards runner-up for Best Director

We'll get into the script tomorrow, but with its themes of crime as a family business and the importance of blood, The Godfather is not really very different, on paper, from The Brotherhood. It's not just his screenplay, but his direction, that sets Coppola's gangster film apart from the rest. Determinedly prestigious in execution, self-serious but not suffocatingly so, still fun, which is important - how these men do their business is despicable, but if I see no levity, I'd wonder why they even do it! Every shot, cut, performance is, with few exceptions, beautifully executed.
Bob Fosse
first of three nominations in this category; BAFTA Award winner for Best Direction, National Board of Review's Best Director of 1972; DGA Awards nominee, Golden Globe nominee for Best Director

Cabaret can boast perfection in every element - the costumes, the lighting, the choreography, the final edit - and Fosse is the director who made it happen. It's like Fosse has found a new language, an approach to cinema that is as electric as live performance. He blends the two sensibilities together to have entertainment commenting on life, life imitating entertainment, and each a respite from the other. There is nothing wrong with it.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz
fourth and final nomination in this category

An actor's director, taking on a two-hander thriller like this seems like just the challenge for Mankiewicz. He knocks it out of the park, of course: it's hilarious, it's thrilling, it's ultimately - and unexpectedly - devastating in its denouement. And all throughout, the mischievous sense of fun.

Jan Troell
The Emigrants
first and only nomination in this category

Troell delivers a handsomely mounted epic, detailed as no other film has been in what drives a group of people to leave their homeland for another country, the journey, the culture shock, and the claim of land in the new world. He takes his time...he bores me to tears. So staid, so humorless.


And who am I to argue with perfection? My vote:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Adapted Screenplay - Cabaret, The Emigrants, The Godfather, Pete 'n' Tillie, Sounder - and the nominees for Original/Biographical Screenplay - The CandidateThe Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Lady Sings the BluesMurmur of the Heart, and Young Winston.

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