Oscars blog: Best Director - Can Lenny Abrahamson triumph with Room?
Join Meadhbh McGrath every day this week for musings on the campaign...
The road to the Oscars has been as long and eventful as ever. Before the little gold men are handed out, we reflect on the highs and lows of this year’s campaign ahead of the ceremony on Sunday, February 28.
Lenny Abrahamson - Room
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu - The Revenant
Tom McCarthy - Spotlight
Adam McKay - The Big Short
George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road
These final two categories look set to have everyone in the Dolby Theatre on edge. In Best Director, the Academy tends to favour technically audacious filmmakers, which means Tom McCarthy and Lenny Abrahamson could suffer here.
Although there seems to be a lot of love for Room in the Academy (it picked up four nominations), a win for Abrahamson seems, if not impossible, then very unlikely. His nomination surprised Oscar pundits, who had been expecting Ridley Scott to get a nod for The Martian. He may be the underdog here, but it’s undeniably a turning point for the Irish film industry.
As well as making sure the film gets seen — and that influencers in the industry know Abrahamson’s name — it will hopefully make it easier for the Irish director to get the green light on his future films.
Another director who could potentially struggle is Tom McCarthy. His Oscar campaign has highlighted the amount of research he did for the film, spending time with the Boston Globe reporters who initially covered the story, and that it is an “important” film that gives tribute to the journalism and the courage of the survivors.
To do that, McCarthy works to ensure nothing distracts the audience from the story, and his direction doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. That subtlety could be a liability here, when compared to the flash and spectacle of the other nominees.
Back in 2007, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell broke the internet with their “Landlord” sketch for Funny or Die, starring McKay’s two-year-old daughter Pearl. Before that, they had created huge comedy hits including Anchorman and Talladega Nights. The idea that McKay’s work might one day earn him an Oscar nod was unlikely, but he has proven he’s capable of working with both comedic and dramatic material.
In taking on an adaptation of Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, McKay managed to find not only accessible but extremely gripping cinema in an ostensibly banal and un-cinematic subject.
While he missed out on the Directors Guild Award, the screenplay he adapted from Lewis’s book (along with Charles Randolph) has been picking up a slew of awards. He’s got a shot at Best Director, but may have better luck in Adapted Screenplay.
So really, it looks like it’s between George Miller and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. The latter won last year for Birdman, and is back in the running with another technically audacious feat. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar narrative about the extreme difficulty of the film seems to have spread to Iñárritu. His campaign suggests it was a miracle he made the film at all: his entire cast and crew suffered through freezing conditions, long, gruelling days as he insisted on shooting in natural light, as well as a long break in filming and change of location in search of snow.
Iñárritu picked up the Directors Guild Award, usually the best predictor of an Oscar win. Could he pull off two in a row? The Academy likes to make history, and clearly the film is beloved by audiences and on the awards circuit.
However, Inarritu’s film wasn’t the only one that proved difficult to make. A potential spoiler here could come from Australian director George Miller, who last attended the Oscars in 2007, when the film he directed, Happy Feet, won Best Animated Feature Film.
It would certainly make a nice double feature, but on top of that, Miller’s Mad Max sequel/quasi-reboot has been in development since 2001. That nearly 15-year journey results in a truly startling film: all of the incredible stunts were done “old-school”, without CGI, they provided the cast with a storyboard rather than a screenplay, and Miller shot 480 hours of footage that his wife and editor Margaret Sixel took down to a breathtaking two hours — and in doing so, set a new standard for blockbuster action films.
This is the first nomination in this category for the 70-year-old veteran, and he was leading the race up until Iñárritu scooped the DGA. It’s been an unpredictable awards season, and this is one category that will keep us on the edge of our seats.