BEST DIRECTING, HONORABLE MENTIONS
Bonus: WORST DIRECTING
Best Director – Honorable Mentions (10)
Sean S. Baker – Tangerine
Baker found a real high energy, twitchy feel by taking to the streets of Hollywood and shooting the entire film on iPhones, but he has a surprising eye for beauty, even in the midst of the grimy settings. He’s able to capture light as well as anyone this year, from the hot baking sun of afternoon to the gorgeous orange glow of sunlight to the dark blues and blacks of night. Gorgeous film.
James Cameron – The Terminator
Watching this movie again is a real reminder of the gifts Cameron actually had at the beginning of his career. He creates a nightmarish hellscape, all dark blues and glowing yellows, for the night sequences and some of the action here, such as a couple of car chases, is as good as any action sequences of the decade. Cameron creates real menace and real fear and real thrills on a shoestring.
Yann Demange – ’71
In this gripping tale of a British soldier trapped behind enemy lines in Dublin in 1971, Demange creates an astounding world. The film takes place over a single night and Demange is as great at the shaky-cam, unbearably intense chase scenes/gunfights as he is as the ultra-quiet, unbearably taut sequences of hide and seek. A sequence in a block of flats is one of the most suspenseful scenes of the year.
Pete Doctor, Ronnie del Carmen – Inside Out
Directing has a lot to do with building a world and Inside Out builds a world that manages to outdo even the amazing worlds other Pixar films have built. It’s a constant visual feast and once the story moves into the memories, things just keep unfolding with some new concept executed brilliantly just around every corner. Not since Finding Nemo has a Pixar film been this visually stunning.
Ronit Elkabetz – Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
The entirety of this film takes place in a tiny white-walled room with three tables and several chairs or in the hallway right outside of it. But Elkabetz, besides writing and starring as the main character, a Jewish woman who spends years seeking a divorce from her husband, manages to make the film vivid and inventive. By keeping the claustrophobia cranked up, the film makes the woman’s plight real, but the camera is always glancing away, finding a new face to focus on for a moment. Two hours in one room never feels dull. What a feat.
James Kent – Testament of Youth
Kent has a really interesting eye for beauty and a sort of lazy reverie, not exactly the director you’d expect for a film about World War I, but it works. He’s able to capture the flight of a field hospital very well, but it’s in the tiny details of the film’s dreamier sections that he really takes, pausing to linger on a flower in a field or the ripples caused by a raindrop in a filthy puddle in the trenches of the War. Kent has a poet’s eye and poets captured the war as well as journalists, after all.
Mike Leigh – Mr. Turner
Leigh is one of those directors that knows how to lean back and let the performances of his actors unfold and he does that here and he has a series of great performances to show for it. But Leigh captures the world around J.M.W. Turner beautifully as well, crafting beautiful nature scapes to inspire Turner but also capturing brilliantly the abstraction that inspired Turner in the end.
Christian Petzold – Phoenix
In this post-WWII thriller, Petzold captures the world of film noir with the rhythms of Hitchcock. It’s a film of wet cobblestones, dark shadows and quiet, long takes. The film, like Hitchcock’s best, is packed with double meaning; it’s a story of doubles, with more than a passing debt to Vertigo and Petzold captures a luminous beauty in the dark story.
Damian Szifron – Wild Tales
Szifron managed to pull off a pitch perfect omnibus film with this nasty little series of stories about rage, revenge and violence. His camera and his style is as exhilarating as the dark twists of the stories. He doesn’t flinch from graphic violence, but he’s able to feel a quiet conversation with dread just as well as he’s able to make a gruesome stabbing visceral and gut-shaking. In the almost wordless third story, he tightens the screws impressively and in the final story, his camera is as unhinged as the main character, a bride losing her center on her wedding day. It’s an exciting, visceral, jaw-dropping film and Szifron never lets the visuals lose that insane energy.
Denis Villeneuve – Sicario
Sicario is perhaps less overtly directed than Villeneuve’s last two masterworks, Prisoners & Enemy, but the mastery of the camera is still here. Villeneuve knows how to crank up the tension, as in a brilliant slow-burn scene on a bridge, and how to get in close with his characters and let the performances get at the deep emotions of the scenes.
James Nguyen – Birdemic: Shock & Terror
It’s a bit of a struggle this one. Birdemic: Shock & Terror is, after all, one of those films that flips right round (baby baby right round) the cinematic bell curve and is so terrible that it’s great, so is Nguyen such a horrible director that he’s a great one? I dunno. I’ll just leave this here.