Well, so it goes that when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is finally going to give an Oscar to the director of two masterpieces so diverse and unique as Y Tú Mamá También and Children of Men, which also happen to be amongst the very best movies of the last decade, it ends up being for a movie that you think is actually not that great. Based just on the fact that he directed those two movies, I would say Alfonso Cuarón deserves to have an Oscar. On the other hand, I like to think of the Oscars as rewarding what is the best work of any given year and not as a way to give trophies to people we like and think deserve it based on previous work.
All of that internal struggle aside, there are two unquestionable truths to this year’s race for the Best Director award. One, Alfonso Cuarón is going to win, and two, if we assume Gravity is the achievement of popular Hollywood filmmaking that many people (but not myself) think it is, well, then it is all thanks to Cuarón. The point of the matter is that the guy did set out to make a movie that, at the time production started, was virtually impossible to film. And he managed to not only film it, but make a very entertaining and effective thriller out of it. It’s just a shame that there apparently wasn’t time to look at the script and maybe try to come up with some less cheesy dialogue and character motivations.
Yes, I will be happy for Cuarón when he wins, but I will also be sad that it wasn’t for one of his superior movies. In any case, I still think he is a better choice for the win than almost anyone who is nominated. Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese and David O. Russell all made movies that, like Gravity, are excellent in some ways, and hugely frustrating in others, but neither Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street or American Hustle is as exciting for the state of cinema as Gravity. Which is not to say that Cuarón’s movie is the most exciting of the nominees, because if I’m being honest, it doesn’t even come close to the relentless directorial hand of Steve McQueen, who makes 12 Years a Slave in one of the most memorable and scarring experiences I had at the movies all year.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
My Vote: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)