Film

25 Living Filmmakers Who Deserve the Best Director Oscar

Among the many Oscar oversights are the numerous filmmakers who deserve/deserved Best Director accolade and yet never received any. Here are 25.

Tom Hooper has one. So does Michel Hazanavicius. Ang Lee has two, while actors turned auteurs Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Kevin Costner, and Robert Redford are all part of the AMPAS club. Yet there are at least two dozen amazing directors who have either never been nominated for an Academy Award, or have lost to seemingly "superior" competitors. Of course, this is nothing new for Hollywood. Alfred Hitchcock never won a directing Oscar. Neither did Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa, or Sidney Lumet, among many others. There are some -- Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini among them -- who saw their efforts eventually win Best Foreign Film, which is kind of like the consolation prize for not being nominated in the actual director's category. Of course, most of the names listed above are no longer with us, meaning AMPAS is now reduced to either posthumous accolades, or as is their pattern, an Honorary Oscar just before the particular artist passes away.

Luckily, with the names listed below, the Academy can do the right thing (hint, hint) and acknowledge these amazing auteurs before the cosmos decides to have them shuffle off this mortal coil. Almost all have been nominated, with the exception of a few of the foreign filmmakers, and there always seems to be a reason why their status as an odds on favorite is flummoxed (this is especially true of at least one name listed below). While there are many others to consider, we believe these 25 names deserve the recognition their amazing movies demand. Of course, we may have to revisit this list in a few weeks if only to celebrate everyone we forgot, left off, or just didn't get around to highlighting. And if they never win? If the Academy never wises up and awards them the way they should. Well, at least they are in very good company indeed.

So, in alphabetical order, we begin with:

Ben Affleck - Gone Baby Gone

A lot was made of the fact that Affleck didn't earn a nomination for his work in the eventual Best Picture winner of last year, Argo. The bigger sin, however, was the failure to recognize his initial venture into feature filmmaking, this brilliant thriller with killer performances and strong Boston overtones.

Paul Thomas Anderson - Boogie Nights or There Will Be Blood

With the exception perhaps of Punch-Drunk Love, Anderson hasn't made a bad movie. In fact, the two films listed above are masterworks, mandating recognition for their scope and storytelling acumen while dealing with subjects (porn, and the turn of the century oil boom) that provide a depth and detail few filmmakers can match.

Wes Anderson - Rushmore or The Darjeeling Limited

Many are partial to Anderson's twee novel-like efforts, especially when they eschew most of their whimsy to work outside his intended movie motives and simply soar. In the case of Rushmore, he's reinventing the coming-of-age tale. With Darjeeling, he takes a road film and finds its true inner spirituality.

Darren Aronofsky - Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler or Black Swan

How do you pick between these four fantastic films? The answer is, you shouldn't have to. Aronofsky is one of several on this list who should have more than one Oscar sitting on his shelf by now. The lack of recognition reveals Hollywood's obvious aversion to vision and vitality in the artform.

Joon-Ho Bong - The Host or Mother

Non-US filmmakers rarely get the mainstream Oscar appreciation they deserve. Sure, back during the '60s and '70s names like Fellini and Bergman were constantly rewarded within their foreign film category niche, but not in the traditional categories. As the man behind two terrific revisionist 'monster' movies, Bong should be vying for such limited acknowledgement.

Tim Burton - Ed Wood

The whimsical Goth geek got a major push when Big Fish was released, some seeing it as his ticket to Academy gold. It wasn't. Instead, this heartfelt homage to (not really) the worst director in the history of the medium should have garnered more than a trophy for Martin Landau's Bela Lugosi impersonation.

Jane Campion - Sweetie or An Angel at My Table

Everyone LOVES The Piano (except yours truly) and it stands to reason that, with said film, Campion could have finally broken through the Oscar's glass ceiling. On the other hand, these two films, both representing far more harsh and harrowing woman's stories, remind us that gender has little to do with taking intense material and molding it into something special.

Shane Caruth - Upstream Color

He's only made two film -- this, and his feature debut from nearly a decade ago, Primer -- and already Caruth has a command of the artform's language that few can fathom, let alone match. His movies are dense without feeling overfull, complicated while functioning under a logic all their own. And they're amazing.

Alex Cox - Sid and Nancy

Sure, it doesn't tell the "true" story of the Sex Pistols, but this was the early '80s, before everyone wanted to talk openly about their time in punk's pre-Green Day trenches. Instead, Cox took the story of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon, cast two astonishing actors in the roles, and made music movie biopic magic.

David Cronenberg - Videodrome, The Fly, Crash, or A History of Violence

The King of Body Horror has also had his fair share of mainstream movie hits, but for our money, his unusual style (combining genres and concepts within each) works best when built around a love story (The Fly) or a sly social commentary (Videodrome, Crash). He should have more than one Oscar, instead of one mere nomination.

Guillermo Del Toro - The Devil's Backbone or Pan's Labyrinth

He gotten close, really close. The year everyone thought Pan's Labyrinth was going to walk away with all the Academy Awards it could, it was upset by the German film The Lives of Others. Since then, Del Toro has become more famous for the films he hasn't made (The Hobbit, In the Mountains of Madness) than his blockbuster output.

David Fincher - Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, or The Social Network

It seems surreal that someone whose made four movie masterpieces doesn't own a single Oscar. Se7en is so perfectly crafted that it practically levitates off the screen, and his work on Fight Club and Zodiac suggest someone with a serious dark side. The Social Network was supposed to be a shoe-in. Then King George show up stuttering and Fincher lost another deserved accolade.

Terry Gilliam - Brazil, 12 Monkeys, or The Fisher King

Visionaries never do well with Academy voters. They just don't get their oversized imagination and complex creativity. In this case, Gilliam's confrontational F-you attitude toward the industry may suggest why he's never been acknowledged. The work onscreen more than warrants his inclusion among the gold statue carrying greats.

Jean Pierre Jeanut - The City of Lost Children or Amelie

While his work with Marc Caro began the cult of personality that would culminate with the first film listed above, Jeanut proved he could stand on his own, offering up the amazing adventures of a young woman looking to return some precious items to the people who once owned them. His entire output argues for a stylist with substance and skill.

Yorgos Lanthimos - Dogtooth

Dogtooth stands as one of the most mesmerizing and original foreign films of the last decade and many of us in the critic biz where shocking (nay, STUNNED) when it was nominated for Best Foreign Film (naturally, it lost). No matter, since Lanthimos didn't get the nod he most deservedly earned. His direction of this delicate, deranged material is equally amazing.

Spike Lee - Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, or Bamboozled

It remains a crime that so few directors of color have been nominated for their work by the Academy. Lee should have broken through this barrier at least three time already. His race allegory is a brilliant summer sizzler, his biopic of the famed civil rights leader is electrifying, and his modern twist on prejudice is beyond brilliant.

Richard Linklater - Dazed and Confused or Bernie

Since Sundance, many are suggesting that 2014 might just be Linklater's year. His movie Boyhood, filmed over several years with the same cast, is catching fire. Here's hoping that someone who long deserved Academy consideration can finally win it this time out. An overview of his output suggests this shouldn't be the only one.

David Lynch - The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, Lost Highway, or Mulholland Dr.

Lynch is the greatest living director (not) working today. His movies are monuments to the possibilities of the artform and its language. He defied expectation every time he sits behind the lens. That he's yet to win makes a mockery of the entire process. He deserves better. Much better.

Steve McQueen - Hunger or 12 Years a Slave

While this could be the year it happens, there's no denying that McQueen is a talent that requires paying attention to. His first film, centering on the IRA and Bobby Seal's hunger strike, is a dazzling and brutal work. So is his interpretation of Solomon Northup's sold into slavery memoir. Too bad the Academy isn't more colorblind with its accolades.

Christopher Nolan - Memento, The Prestige, Inception, or The Dark Knight Trilogy

Take Batman out of the mix for a moment. How could you not recognize the invention inherent in the three other films listed above? Nolan appears to be the more humanized heir apparent to Stanley Kubrick and his carefully controlled efforts are just as rich as his. Hopefully he has more to look forward to than a random F/X award down the line.

Chan-wook Park - Oldboy or Stoker

For the Vengeance Trilogy alone, many would nominate Park. But with his English language debut, he proves that he can out Hitchcock the Master of Suspense if need be. Of course, the man behind Psycho and Vertigo never won an Oscar either. Luckily, Park still has time to earn his.

Lynne Ramsay - We Need to Talk About Kevin

The film listed above says it all. Star Tilda Swinton has never been better and by taking the story of a Columbine like killing spree and turning it into a serious psychological horror story, the fascinating filmmaker behind Ratcatcher reinvents the genre with visual panache and emotional splash.

Zack Snyder - 300 or Watchmen

If influence was an indicator of Academy acknowledgement, Snyder would already have a trophy for turning the zombie shuffle into a World War Z style sprint. But then there is his overly choreographed slo-mo action setpieces, moments which seemingly inspire others to raise the frame rate and dial up the detail. Besides, Watchmen is sensational.

Lina Wertmuller - Seven Beauties or Swept Away

Before Kathryn Bigelow finally broke through the gender barrier, this was the sole female filmmaker nominated by the Academy. Her collaborations with Giancarlo Giannini stand as some of the best filmmaking of the last century. As one of the few artists who doesn't compromise, philosophically or professionally, Wertmuller remains a true pioneer.

John Woo - The Killer or Hard Boiled

Talk about influential. The action film was lagging behind other revamped genres when Woo stepped in and showed everyone what you could do with some under-cranking, a lot of slow motion, and unswerving devotion to loyalty, duty, and honor. While he couldn't really translate his ideas into a Hollywood style film, he's still an award-worthy artist.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.