Two surprise nominees upset Oscar expectations in the category of best director. First Michael Heneke’s story of an elderly couple coping with the reality of impending death in Amour shocked movie fans out of their sleep-induced comas in the wee hours that nominations were announced. Just second later the same folks received an injection of adrenalin when Behn Zeitlin’s name was called for Beasts of the Southern Wild. That’s why Ben Affleck’s name doesn’t appear on this list for Argo. They join the company of several directors with previous nominations. Ang Lee returns to this group with a nomination for the critically acclaimed Life of Pi, the story of a boy and his tiger stranded together. David O. Russell scores once again in this category for the decidedly off beat Silver Linings Playbook, a film that also received a host of acting nominations for its cast. Steven Spielberg needs no introduction, but everything that he directs normally gets sprinkled with just a tad of Oscar gold. Lincoln, which starred Daniel Day-Lewis, was no exception.
Michael Haneke for ‘Amour’
Unless you’re a serious cinephile, Haneke’s name is going to be unfamiliar to you. That leaves 99 percent of us out of this equation including this writer. Amour, however, touched a chord with critics and, obviously, the voters. It may be a dark horse, but it’s also a contender for the major prizes for which it’s nominated.
Ang Lee for ‘Life of Pi’
Few directors possess the diverse resume of Ang Lee, director of Life of Pi. From Pi to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the tragic and beautiful Brokeback Mountain, Lee is a director of incomparable talents. Pi, which is based on a novel, was deemed unadaptable. So much for that.
David O. Russell for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
With Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter, Russell is on a roll in Hollywood. Possessing a flair for dealing with characters who are little more than everyday people, he weaves his magic in this tale of an unlikely couple that find one another amidst difficult circumstances.
Steven Spielberg for ‘Lincoln’
It would take more time than this writer has to list Steven Spielberg’s directorial achievements. This, however, is what anyone needs to know about Lincoln: other than Schindler’s List, it may be his most personal film yet and right up their as a labor of love. That he’s nominated for the story of Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to get the 13th amendment passed should be of little surprise.
Benh Zeitlin for ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’
The resume is scant, but the talent certainly is not for Benh Zeitlin, director of Beasts of the Southern Wild. Beasts represents his first feature and points to a long career ahead of him. If the fact that he directed and wrote it don’t impress, he also composed the film’s score.