Best Director – 1971

Official Nominations: William Freidkin. Peter Bogdanovich. Norman Jewison. Stanley Kubrick. John Schlesinger.

One of the finest and most difficult list of nominees to choose from this year. We have four classics and one good film which is not remembered like the others – five great directors. Freidkin got the official win and it’s difficult to argue against that – his decision to shoot in a gritty, realistic style would influence countless films and in many ways symbolizes the decade. Peter Bogdanovich shoots his coming of age drama in black and white somehow accentuating nostalgia, fearlessness of youth, and desolation. Jewison had already won Best Picture and been nominated for Best Director but Fiddler In The Roof is a standard stage to screen adaptation. Kubrick shows how to adapt a story for the big screen with character – making the end product unquestionably his own while retaining the plot and themes. Finally, Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday isn’t as bleak as some of his previous and later work, a progressive film which never fails to remind the viewer that most of us are broken. For me there are three directors on near enough even footing here, but Kubrick’s goes that bit further in crafting something which remains unique.

My Winner: Stanley Kubrick.

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My Nominations: William Freidkin. Peter Bogdanovich. Stanley Kubrick. Ken Russell. Don Siegel. Mike Hodges. Dalton Trumbo. Alan J Pakula. Robert Altman. Sam Peckinpah. George Lucas. Nicholas Roeg. Mel Stuart.

Ahem. Yes, I did go a little overboard with my choices, but it’s my blog so take your tears elsewhere. There are plenty of other directors deserving of a nomination this year who didn’t get an official one or from me. Ken Russell’s work on The Devils speaks for itself while Don Siegel’s pulling together of script, music, performance, and politics ensured Dirty Harry became one of the most famous films of the decade. Mike Hodges crafts a similar film with Get Carter, but one with a British grit and stark feeling throughout which Hollywood could not emulate in crime fiction – Bleak war movies were more in vogue in the US and Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun is as bleak as they come, with Trumbo adapting his own novel over thirty years after its release as the US found itself fighting another war.

Alan J Pakula gets a deserved nomination for the swerving Klute, Robert Altman racks up another nomination for his inside-out Western McCabe And Mrs Miller, and Sam Peckinpah is a must-nominate for the ever-violent, ever-popular Straw Dogs. George Lucas gives one of the most unique visions of the year with his rarely seen debut THX 1138, Nicholas Roeg makes his first mesmeric and unsettling film with Walkabout, while Mel Stuart creates a bright, youthful, and eternally charming entertainer with Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. 

My Winner: Stanley Kubrick.

Let us know in the comments who you would pick as the Best Director of 1971!

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Best Director – 1970

Official Nominations: Franklin J Schaffner. Robert Altman. Federico Fellini. Arthur Hiller. Ken Russell.

Schaffner picked up the win for Patton this year – one of the most legendary biopics of all time. We all know The Academy loves biopics, good or bad, but this at least is one of the best. While Scott gets the plaudits nowadays, Schaffner keeps in control of the epic scope and of course it was his decision to memorably open with Patton’s speech. Robert Altman made Brewster McCloud this year, but when you also make MASH in the same year, only one of those is going to be remembered. Another war film with a large scope and cast, it is different from Patton in many ways, but Altman is able to leave his stamp on the film. Fellini gets a nomination for Satyricon a year after it was release in Europe, Ken Russell gets the same for Women In Love, while Arthur Hiller has a nomination handed to him by virtue of how successful Love Story was. If we drop Hiller from the list, it’s a tough toss-up between the remaining directors. We can drop Fellini and Russell simply because their movies came out the previous year – Women In Love also receives further official nominations this year. That leaves our two war films.

My Winner: Robert Altman.

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My Nominations: Franklin J Schaffner. Robert Altman. George Seaton. William Freidkin. Mike Nichols. Jean Pierre Melville. Bernardo Bertolucci. Bob Rafelson. John Huston.

I’m removing Ken Russell and Fellini from my list, partly because their movies were released in previous years and so that I can free up some more space. Seaton and Rafelson get nominations for two movies which were heavily nominated elsewhere but missed out here – Airport and Five Easy Pieces respectively. Freidkin takes controversial subject matter off the stage and onto film, again proving how adept he was at adapting theatrical work, getting the maximum power from scenes filmed in essentially small spaces. Mike Nichols took his first hit with Catch-22 – a film released at the wrong time when Patton and MASH grabbed the limelight, but it’s an adaptation worth re-visiting. John Huston returned to the world of spies with the altogether more serious film The Kremlin Letter, a stark and dense vision of a twisting world. We continue to move away from the US for my final nominations – to France for Melville’s La Cercle Rouge, another heavily stylized thriller, probably overlong, but which build’s to one of cinema’s finest heist scenes. To Italy finally for The Conformist as Bertolucci extravagantly shows us one man’s journey through life in a turbulent time, crafting a visual treat unlike anything else released in 1970.

My Winner: Bernardo Bertolucci.

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Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Director of 1970!

 

Best Director – 1969

Official Nominations: John Schlesinger. Arthur Penn. George Roy Hill. Sydney Pollack. Costas Gravas.

John Schlesinger was more known for musicals and comedies and costume dramas in 1969  -fluff in other words, so it seems all the more surprising that he was able to comfortably make such a contemporary and dark, at times, movie like Midnight Cowboy. It was his second nomination and first win. Also hitting dark notes but with a distinctly comic approach is Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant – it’s definitely a product of its time but asks some pertinent questions which America is still trying to answer today. No-one really remembers it, but it’s one worth re-visiting. George Roy Hill’s films were no strangers to Oscar nominations, but with BCATSK he had his greatest success to date making some unconventional choices in editing and music and style to create a timeless vision. Sydney Pollack takes They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, a popular story which on paper doesn’t sound cinematic or entertaining, and makes it gripping, tense, and exhausting viewing while Costas Gravas merges vital political issues with fast-paced personal triumph and tragedy in Z.

My Winner: John Schlesinger

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My Nominations: John Schlesinger. George Roy Hill. Dennis Hopper. Federico Fellini. Peter Collinson. Francis Ford Coppola. Sam Peckinpah. Costas Gravas.

Three of the official nominees join my list, featuring a few interesting snubs. Fellini’s Satyricon would get nominated for Best Director the following year but I’m including it here too, while Dennis Hopper’s chaos-filled, on-the-fly approach for Easy Rider ensures the film is an endearing classic. Peter Collinson keeps thinks energetic and uniquely English in The Italian Job, while Francis Ford Coppola branched out into more mature territory on The Rain People, hinting at where he was headed as a filmmaker. My final nominee, and my winner is Sam Peckinpah for The Wild Bunch – the movie which puts one final explosive round through the Western genre, filled not only with innovative edit techniques but also merging the old and new styles of the genre to complete a poignant, violent sign-off.

My Winner: Sam Peckinpah.

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Let us know in the comments if I have missed one of your choices and share your winner!

Best Director – 1968

Official Nominations: Carol Reed. Anthony Harvey. Stanley Kubrick. Gillo Pontecorvo. Franco Zeffirelli.

Some expected nominations this year, alongside a couple of surprises. Gillo Pontecorvo makes a surprise appearance for the wonderful Battle Of Algiers – a film released in 1966 and one which had already been nominated for an Oscar the previous year (and would again be nominated in a later year). Stanley Kubrick also picks up a nomination – a surprise given that the remaining three nominees had their films featured in the Best Picture category. Although it is far from a one man movie, it is clear that 2001 is 99% Kubrick – its many faults and many good points fall to him and it can still be said to be possibly the ultimate Science Fiction movie. Carol Reed unsurprisingly picked up the win this year with his Oliver! – even all these decades later it’s still entertaining, probably the best version of Dickens’ story, but it’s still a fairly straight adaptation of a stage play so I can’t credit Reed as much as Kubrick or Pontecorvo. Rounding out the list – Zeffirelli for Romeo And Juliet and Harvey for The Lion In Winter – both stage adaptations, well directed with Zeffirelli showing his usual flair and Harvey continuing the long tradition of stilted historical dramas.

My Winner: Stanley Kubrick

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My Nominations: Stanley Kubrick. George A Romero. Peter Yates. Mel Brooks. Roman Polanski. Sergio Leone. Franklin J Schaffner.

A groundbreaking year in many respects, but the official nominations don’t reflect this. Similar to my Best Picture nominations, it’s almost an entirely different list from me, with my Best Picture nominations making their way over to the Best Director category. I’m tempted to give a tie here, because so many of the directors here offer either career best’s or truly groundbreaking and innovative, timeless works. Kubrick of course crafts possibly the first modern, visual masterpiece, but more than that he takes storytelling in different challenging directions. George Romero and his small group of largely untrained actors and staff, somehow caught magic and created two new genres – the modern Zombie movie, and the elevated B movie – a low budget independent movie that is so good that it transcends its limitations and becomes something special. It’s clear that though Romero is inexperienced and flying by the seat of his pants, his story and technique are flawless and make something unforgettable.

This wasn’t the only groundbreaking horror film of the year though, with Polanski taking an altogether more urbane and suburban approach to his Rosemary’s Baby. Polanski had already chilled with the likes of Repulsion, but this time his film is all horror – again focusing on the life of a young, modern woman trapped in a circumstance beyond her control. Polanski unwraps the horror slowly, the mirror opposite of Romero’s unending onslaught, and although we get subtle hints throughout that something is very, very wrong, it isn’t until the final scene that the truth is horrifically revealed. Again, we can draw comparisons with how Night Of The Living Dead offers a final shocking scene.

On a lighter note, Mel Brooks gets a nod from me for The Producers, a film which did pick up two other nominations this year. Aside from the whip-smart script, Brooks keeps the face fast, and allows a superb cast room for improvisation – throw in songs, sets, and silliness and it’s a winner. Yates and Schaffner create their own hits, Yates showcasing the cool factor of cars, chases, Steve McQueen, and genuine, unadulterated dialogue, and Schaffner bring’s the best out of Rod Serling’s original vision for Planet Of The Apes, while adding his own touches of realism and authenticity. Finally, Sergio Leone outdoes himself by creating a more poignant, artistic Spaghetti Western, but one still filled with the realism and brutality which he previously brought to the genre. Going largely unnoticed at the time, Once Upon A Time In The West is now rightfully ranked among the best movies ever made.

My Winners: Yes, it was a year for ties, so my winners are Kubrick and Romero.

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Let us know in the comments section who you think should have been winner of the Best Director of 1968!

Best Director – 1967

Official Nominations: Mike Nichols. Richard Brooks. Norman Jewison. Stanley Kramer. Arthur Penn.

It’s another close call for 1967, with Mike Nichols picking up the official win for The Graduate. Richard Brooks got his directorial nomination for his take on Capote’s In Cold Blood, Arthur Penn picked up his second for Bonnie And Clyde, while both Norman Jewison and Stanley Kramer tackled racism and both deservedly earned a nomination.

My Winner: Mike Nichols.

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My Nominations: Mike Nichols. Arthur Penn. Norman Jewison. Roman Polanski. Luis Bunuel. Stuart Rosenberg. Robert Aldrich. Jean Pierre Melville. Terence Young. Lewis Gilbert.

As strong a list of official nominations as we had this year, we nevertheless passed over a number of visionary directors and their works. Polanski tried his hand at comedy successfully in The Fearless Vampire Killers, while Robert Aldrich keeps the action and entertainment moving swiftly with The Dirty Dozen. Lewis Gilbert helms one of my all time favourites with You Only Live Twice, while another Bond favourite Terence Young admirably apes Hitchcock with Wait Until Dark. Stuart Rosenberg struck gold with Cool Hand Luke, Jean Pierre Melville made his most well known film in Le Samourai, and Luis Bunuel continued his incredible 1960s streak with Belle De Jour. Once again, any of these is deserving of the win.

My Winner: Lewis Gilbert

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A controversial pick for me, but the scope of a Bond film had never been so large before, and for sheer scale, action, gags, and entertainment it is a tough one to beat. Who do you think deserves the Best Director crown of 1967? Let us know in the comments!

Best Director – 1966

Official Nominations: Fred Zinnemann. Michaelagelo Antonioni. Richard Brooks. Claude Lelouch. Mike Nichols.

A wide array of directors this year, most of whom were foreigners who were to find new fame in the US. No stranger to The Oscars, Zinnemann had his most successful yeay since making From Here To Eternity in 1953, and this year he picked up the win for A Man For All Seasons. Antonioni broke through to the mainstream with Blowup. Claude Lelouche also burst onto the mainstream scene with his most famous film A Man And A Woman which garnered a host of nominations and awards. Since leaving MGM, Brooks had continued his commercial and critical successes with the likes of Elmer Gantry and Lord Jim, and hit another winner this year with The Professionals. After years as a respected and sought after theatre director, Mike Nichols made his first feature film to astounding success, and the first of many critical hits.

My Winner: Michael Antonioni.

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My Nominations: Fred Zinnemann. Michaelagelo Antonioni. Rene Clement. Sergio Leone. Francois Truffaut. Monte Hellman.

A mostly foreign roster for me this year, adding Truffaut for Farenheit 451, Clement for the massive Is Paris Burning?, and of course Leone for The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Though each of these films was groundbreaking in their own way, Leone’s film was a landmark stepping stone for action movies and almost acted as the death-bell for the traditional Western. Gritty was in, and his handling of characters and story soon seeped into every other genre. While not the most obviously groundbreaking film made this year, it is easily one of the most entertaining, and that is largely down to Leone’s handling of the pace, plot, and action. Monte Hellman helms an entirely different sort of Western with The Shooting, one packed with mystery, strangeness, and atypical characters.

My Winner: Sergio Leone

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Who is your pick for Best Director of 1966? Let us know in the comments!

Best Director: 1965

Official Nominations: Robert Wise. David Lean. John Schlesinger. William Wyler. Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Robert Wise unsurprisingly picked up the win for The Sound Of Music. He is known for his musicals, but also did good work in the sci-fi genre. He brings his characteristic style to the film, but I just can’t enjoy this film without pretending there are zombies everywhere. David Lean extends his epic vision to Doctor Zhivago giving him the greatest financial success of his career. In spite of its success and the grand scale of proceedings, the handling of the central romance is clumsy and many scenes feel stretched or unnecessary. With Darling, Schlesinger starts to push the boundaries he would later crumble. It may have been one of the first films to depict the swinging 60s, but Schlesinger paints a darker picture than the one most people remember. William Wyler’s The Collector shocked quite a few viewers when released and it is a surprise that it was such a critical success given the Academy’s usual dim view on horror films. This is more accurately a thriller, and in the wrong hands could easily have become cheap exploitation, but Wyler’s perfection and eye for detail means everything is cold, calculated, and deliberate. Teshigahara’s The Woman In The Dunes was nominated in the previous year’s Best Foreign Film category and magically appears in the 1965 Director category. The film is avant-garde and has some blinding visuals and powerful moments, and is the director’s best film.

My Winner: Hiroshi Teshigahara.

My Nominations: Hiroshi Teshigahara. William Wyler. Jean-Luc Godard. Sergio Leone. Roman Polanski. Akira Kurosawa.

Wyler and Teshigahara make the transition over to my nominations and join a cast of experts from around the world. Godard release 2 films this year, Pierrot Le Fou and Alphaville. While PLF has the usual flare and pop culture knowing it is Alphaville which really stretches conventions, being one of the most bold sci-fi films of the decade. Leone gets another vote for his latest expansion of the spaghetti Western (For A Few Dollars More), and Kurosawa (Red Beard)gets a nod thanks to a much smaller, introspective piece than he was famed for. My win goes to Polanski, whose cutting exploration of paranoia, psychosis, pain, and suburban claustrophobia can still be used as a teaching tool on low-budget, situational directing for newbs.

My Winner: Roman Polanski
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Let us know who you think deserves the Best Director Oscar of 1965? Let us know in the comments!