• Zach Youngs

Academy of One: Best Director 2017

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

I remember being worried that despite being a year with so many excellent directorial efforts by women and people of color, one of the most homogenized and exclusive branch of the Academy would fail to find the most accomplished directorial efforts of the year due to willful ignorance.

Yet, two years in a row they have surprised me. It may be the changing demographics of voters or, as haters would have you believe, they've become another victim in the PC wave. I just hope it's a trend toward more inclusivity and diversity in films and nominees alike.

Now, here are the nominees as they stand.

  • Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread

  • Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird

  • Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk

  • Jordan Peele - Get Out

  • Guillermo Del Toro - The Shape of Water

I'm still in awe that despite the last few years he's had, this is Christopher Nolan's first nomination in this category. I suppose though, that about a great many filmmakers and many more who never are nominated.

All this to say, there may be other names out there who haven't been given their first shot yet and may be able to take the place of someone else on the list. Here is my list of possibilities.

  • Patty Jenkins - Wonder Woman

  • Dee Rees - Mudbound

  • Michael Showalter - The Big Sick

  • Edgar Wright - Baby Driver

Superhero movies aren't getting as bad a rap as they used to. Maybe because they earn the GDP of a developing nation in a few months time, but it is the truth that they are getting better and more diverse. Patty Jenkins is a master of the dramatic tension needed to pull off many of the battle scenes in Wonder Woman, but she's also extremely deft when it comes to the pathos for any given scene as well.

Dee Rees is able to build a slice of life at a given time out of the mud that is a constant presence in the film. She's able to infuse her own intimate filmmaking language into this sprawling Southern, small town tale with the grime of the dirt and the beauty of the sunshine.

It's hard enough to direct a comedy. There are always multiple takes to get just the right funny line, but a rom-dramedy in which one of the characters is in a coma and the other is dealing with that and the fact that she broke up with him just before she fell asleep, that's a feat few could pull off. Michael Showalter already had the comedy bona fides, but he showed with The Big Sick, that he can handle the dramatic moments as well.

Edgar Wright is nothing short of a magician. His timing, his movements, his impeccable transitions all coalesce into a feast for all of our senses and a heart pounding ride at that. With Baby Driver he does the inspired move of matching visuals, sound and soundtrack into something so coherent it couldn't have been done any other way and it couldn't be any more beautiful.

O.K., even with this list of heavy hitting newcomers, I don't think I have a weak link on this list to remove. Based on the other posts in this series, I think you can guess who I would have removed had he been nominated.

Now, here are those original and continuing nominees again.

  • Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread

  • Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird

  • Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk

  • Jordan Peele - Get Out

  • Guillermo Del Toro - The Shape of Water

So, if, as I have, left Guillermo Del Toro in place, does that mean I have overlooked my tepid response to his film in favor of his deft filmmaking and will I buck the trend I have established in all of the Best Director posts previous to this? Short answer, no.

There's no question in my mind that Jordan Peele is the best director of this year. He blends genres so well and so seamlessly that one can laugh out of fear and be afraid of wanting to laugh.

There's a small shot that I love and speaks to why Peele comes out on top in my book. It comes after Chris and Rose have arrived at Rose's parent's house. They exchange pleasantries and astonishment at the story of hitting the deer on the road and as the moment lingers for a while, the cut comes and the camera is at a wide shot.

Everyone is still on the porch speaking, but the lens slowly pulls back even further. The tension of this moment builds as there's only mild indications that something may be off here. The camera lands on an over the shoulder shot of Walter, the gardener, not moving, just standing still, watching the family on the porch, spying out in the open. This one shot pulls our minds in all different directions and even as we've noticed the oddness, we're given over to the fact that it will be much more peculiar than we could ever suspect.

It's a shot that perfectly sets up the incredible story that will unfold here at this house. It's one that Peele has set up so beautifully as the first in so many to come.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit the links on this site to where you can buy my self-published works.

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