Published: Wednesday February 20, 2013 MYT 11:36:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday February 20, 2013 MYT 11:56:25 AM
In the Director's seat
By Punitha Yogaratnam
The director of a movie is the man, apart from the producers and the studio, who call the shots. The director controls not only the flow of the scene and the film's artistic and dramatic aspects, they are also tasked with directing the actors and the film crew. It's an arduous task especially if you have difficult actors to handle.
When a movie does well, accolades pour in not only for the actors but for the director as well. And this year, Hollywood has chosen their top five directors for the Best Director award. Four have been nominated for Oscars and one is fairly new to the game, but all are deserving directors in their own right.
Here's the list of nominees.
The newbie in the group, Benh is a director, composer and an animator. He is also the co-founder of Court 13, an group of independent filmmakers.
Beast Of The Southern Wild is Benh's first feature film. The movie has already won this young director the Camera d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival to name just a few.
At this year's Oscars, Benh is in running for two Academy Awards, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Beasts Of The Southern Wild is a fantasy drama about a five-year-old girl, her hot-tempered father, an approaching storm and prehistoric creatures called Aurochs that are trapped in quick-melting ice caps.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild stars the Academy's youngest nominated actress, nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis.
This Austrian filmmaker and screenwriter is best known for his work in the 2009 Oscar nominated German movie, The White Ribbon, which won him the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Apart from directing movies such as Benny's Video, The Seventh Continent (his feature film debut) and Code Unknown, Michael also teaches directing at the Filmacademy Viienna.
The director's greatest success came in 2001 when his most critically successful film, The Piano Teacher won him the Grand Prize in the Cannes Film Festival. The French film tells of a masochistic piano teacher and a young man who pursues her and is drawn into her world of voyeurism and self-mutilation. The movie starred Benoit Magimel and Isabelle Huppert who both won the Best Actor and Actress awards at the Cannes Film Fest.
Michael's latest movie, Amour won the director his second Palme d'Or and has put him in the running for the Best Director award at this year's Oscars. Winning his second Palme d'Or award puts Michael in the same company as Francis Ford Coppola, Shohei Imamura, the Dardenne brothers, Alf Sjoberg, Bille August and Emir Kusturica, all of whom have won two Palme d'Or awards each.
This Taiwanese-born American film director, screenwriter and producer is no stranger to the silver screen having directed his first feature film, Pushing Hands in 1991. But Ang Lee received international recognition when he released Sense And Sensibility in 1995. This British-American period drama received seven Academy Awards nomination including Best Picture. Although the movie lost out to Braveheart, it put Ang Lee on the Hollywood map.
Soon to follow was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) that earned the director his first Oscar in direction. Incidentally, it was also the first time a person of Asian descent had won the Best Director Oscar.
Brokeback Mountain went on to win several other awards including the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival, the Best Picture award at the Writers Guild of America and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Drama with Ang Lee taking home the Best Director award.
After Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee filmed Lust, Caution an adaptation from a short novel by the Chinese author Eileen Chang about Japanese-occupied Shanghai. The movie won the Golden Lion from the 2007 Biennale Venice Film Festival, making Ang Lee the winner of the highest prize for the second time in three years.
For his next project, Ang Lee took on Life Of Pi, a movie many studios thought was impossible to make. But the director persuaded 20th Century Fox to part with over US$120 million for a movie that heavily relied on 3D special effects. The gamble paid off. Life Of Pi not only became a box office success, it also earned 11 Oscar nomination, one of which is for Best Director.
David O. Russell
The director of this year's nominated best picture, Silver Linings Playbook has been known to be a difficult man to work for. Nevertheless his movies have received much critical acclaim.
David's first foray as a director was for Spanking The Monkey. The controversial dark comedy won him the Best First Screenplay and Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards; and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in the mid '90s.
The success of Spanking The Monkey and later Flirting With Disaster led David to Three Kings, the Gulf War thriller starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze.
In the Three Kings, David was said to have been a tyrant. News spread that star George Clooney and the director were almost at each other's throats. Clooney later described that there were tensions on the set and that David was demeaning to the crew.
David apparently apologised for the mishaps and the matter was put to rest but the relationship between the actor and the director remained tense until early last year when George was quoted as saying he appreciated what the filmmaker was doing and that they had mutual respect for each other.
The director's latest movie, Silver Linings Playbook, which has won him the People's Choice Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, stars Oscar nominees Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and veteran actors Robert De Niro and Bollywood's Anupam Kher. David also received the Hollywood Director Award for his work on the movie.
When it comes to veteran directors, Steven Spielberg is up there with some of the best. In a career spanning more than four decades, his movies covers many themes and genres. And some like The Blues Brothers (1980), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), E.T The Extra- Terrestrial (1982), The Color Purple (1985), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Schindler's List (1993) and The Adventures Of Tintin (2011) have defined Hollywood's movie history.
One of the most popular directors in Tinseltown, Steven is also the co-founder of DreamWorks movie studios. An accomplished screenwriter and producer, Steven's body of work has exceeded over US$8.5 billion worldwide. Forbes puts this director's wealth at around US$3.2 billion. Not bad for a man who started out from a humble beginning in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Steven's love for movies began in his early years when he used to shoot short movies with his father's camera and charge family and friends money to watch his works. In the late '60s, Steven got his first professional director's job when he helmed the pilot episode of Night Galley, starring Joan Crawford. The episode impressed Universal Studios so much that they hired Steven on a short-term contract basis.
One thing led to another and soon Steven was directing his first feature film, The Sugarland Express, which got him noticed by the Hollywood press who called him 'a major new director on the horizon'. But Hollywood really sat up and took noticed when Steven was given the director's chair for a thriller-horror movie about a shark. Jaws grossed over US$470 million in box office receipts and won Universal Studios three Oscars.
This year, three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg is nominated for the historical drama, Lincoln, starring Oscar contenders Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.