Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Encore Awards: Directing

It’s weird, I don’t think that 2010 has offered us a slew of that brilliant films (but more on that later) – but it’s only proof that good direction is not synonymous with great films. For me, seven directors ruled this year for me (the five nominees and the two finalists) – and it’s really something a head-scratcher narrowing the seven down to five. But, I must (wails) – here’s who I decided on.
(click on the photos for reviews)
Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right
Like all that wine Nic keeps ingesting, Cholodenko’s work in The Kids Are All Right gets better with time. Even though I’d admit that subtle would probably be the incorrect adjective to attribute to The Kids Are All Right Choledenko’s work is so good here because it’s not officious. Perhaps, because she co-writes it, she’s especially aware of the mood that the script calls for and she directs it in turn with sudden spurts that are not jarring as she establishes scene, character and setting with a style that’s current (though, not quite modernist) and always conscious of the viewer’s attention span, without being pandering.
David Fincher for The Social Network
There’s something dangerously close to posturing in the almost funereal which Fincher (and company) decide to ground The Social Network, but in all honesty I don’t mind it. It works – brilliantly too, I might add – because Fincher has always been adept at reconciling themes with directorial choices. Just like he was able to discern the appropriateness of the mock-epic style for Benjamin Button he manages a taut, hypersensitivity here that makes more and more sense as this gloomy (but not repulsive) tale unfolds. It’s all part of the wonderful irony (similarly evinced in the script) that this “social” network seems so insular.
David Michôd for Animal Kingdom
Sometimes I wonder if what could be perceived as Michôd’s occasional apathy to the situations affecting his character is a detriment to the overall narrative, but like his protagonist J – an ostensible indifference is not proof of disinterest. It’s difficult to single out key moments and say, “X scene was well directed”, but that’s the way Michôd knows it should be. I’m not a fan of the word, but there's some organic in the way that it unfolds (ironic, considering the very unnatural bloodshed ensuing). More than even Choledenko, I’d say that Michôd is the director this year that seems to hold the best interest of his characters at heart – for better, for worse.

John Cameron Mitchell for Rabbit Hole 
Together with Lindsay-Abaire Mitchell succeeds in turning this story of stagnant grief into a thoroughly cinematic piece. He doesn’t smother us with the eccentricities to convey the cinematic nature but simply lets if flow as naturally as possible. One trap that directors working on stage to screen adaptations often fall into is the tendency is to over-cinematise their films, but Mitchell is shrewder. He doesn’t avoid the narrowness of the theatre but uses that same closeness to create a cinematic perspective of characters bound by their emotions.
Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
Well, turns out Polanski hasn’t lost it. I wasn’t an unabated fan of The Pianist, and I’m not even an unabated fan of The Ghost Writer but Polanski’s direction – though, not exactly vociferous – is impossible to ignore. He’s a master at thrill, that doesn’t sacrifice cleverness in its quest and The Ghost’s journey unfurls with that same interest in being thrilling, occasionally mocking but always conscious of the story and what’s to come. It’s a prime example of the sort of subtle direction, that’s still noticeable but stands up to more scrutiny on the second and third viewings.
FINALISTS: I feel like a right heathen for leaving Alejandro Amenabar (Agora) Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) off my top 5. They work on different genres, but there’s a singularity in what they achieve. Both find their fortes in managing to keep productions that are quite sprawling in check, and managing to make them strangely personal. Amenabar retracts the sprawling Alexandrian tale to something simple, but not slight and Wright ensures that Scott Pilgrim vs the World is consistently bombastic and larger than life but never out of control. Both men are credits to their trade.

SEMI-FINALISTS: it sort of comes off like I hate Darren Aronofsky and his work in Black Swan, I don’t. When I consider the issues I have with its script, though, Aronofsky’s direction becomes even more impressive. All the heights of the story, and the successes of Nina’s insular journey succeed because he’s so in touch with his characters; it’s the same way that Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) and Sofia Coppola (Somewhere) are in touch with their introspective, and vaguely misanthropic male characters. Baumbach must be more palpably prickly, and Coppola must be more reticent in establishing that languor – they’re both excellent in controlling their stories, though; I’m still a bit partial to his Elizabeth I but it’s clear (to me, at least) that Tom Hooper’s work in The King’s Speech is proof that he’s improved. Though the writing is an important part of the equation, the subtly surprising direcotiral choices from Hooper is one of the reasons The King’s Speech seems neither tedious or rote; Matt Reeves must be more deliberate in directing Let Me In, and he succeeds in creating the appropriate atmosphere for the drama that evokes a sad redolence that’s unexpected given the genre and the subject.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Martin Scorsese for Shutter Island; David Russell for The Fighter; Floria Sigismondi for The Runaways. They each have one thing in common, they each prevent occasionally humdrum screenplays from subverting their attempts to create good cinema, and ultimately that’s one of the strongest suits of a good director.
So, director of the year...? Who'd you choose?


Jose said...

Our Top 5 overlaps only on the most obvious choice...

My other 4 are quite different. I could totally see myself sticking Polanski in mine though.

I had no idea Michod was so HOT!

TomS said...

Andrew, I applaud your recognition of Mitchell and "Rabbit Hole". And of course, Cholodenko and "Kids" is dear to my heart. You give some marvelous reasons for your choices, even when I our choices don't always match. Mostly, though, they do. (Trying to find your review of "Rabbit Hole", would love to check it out.)

Anonymous said...

I mostly disagree with Choloodenko, but I'll give her half credit for making Paul more sympathetic than he's written.

I'll concede the most with the Fincher choice because of the technical aspects, for taking control of Sorkin's BS, and for giving his actors freedon. And he's the cutest one in the bunch too, for some reason.

Brandon (Twister) said...

David O. Russell for sure.

I'll explain soon...

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jose why did i know you were going to say that about michod? i'm flashing back to that conversation you and wayne were having on aussies.

tom just click on the photo of mitchell and it'll direct you to my review. and glad someone is on my side as it comes to cholodenko.

paolo it's actually really close, the fincher win is almost arbitrary because i think all of the top 7 do brilliant stuff. i like fincher, though (i was one of the few championing benjamin button unashamedly)

brandon you really do love the fighter, no?