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!