Potential best director nominees feel like a new breed
Consider Danny Boyle, David Fincher, David O. Russell, Darren Aronofsky and the Coen brothers. This crop of directors may each be in his 40s or 50s, but they all have been the emerging creative forces that now command the national and international stage, eclipsing such veterans as Steven Spielberg and Marty Scorsese with their distinctive visual style and storytelling techniques.
All five (let's count the Coens as one entity) emerged from either the indie world of filmmaking, or in Fincher's case, commercials and music videos. Over the last decade, they have each created some of the most memorable movies around. The British Boyle received international notice with "Trainspotting" in 1996 and won the Oscar in 2008 for "Slumdog Millionaire." In between, he directed "28 Days Later," "Millions" and "Sunshine" and now, of course, this year's "127 Hours."
Fincher proved his mettle with both "Alien 3" and "Seven," and his "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was a multiple-Oscar nominee in 2009. In playing against type, Fincher took on the language-heavy "The Social Network" and turned a movie comprised of people writing code and talking to lawyers into a suprising visual treat.
Russell has received recognition for indie faves "Spanking the Monkey" and "Flirting with Disaster," and despite his volatile reputation has made an indelible mark with such films as "Three Kings" and the soon-to-be released "The Fighter." Aronofsky was an early Spirit Award winner for his 1998 indie" Pi," which led the New York native to the harrowing "Requiem for a Dream" and Academy recognition for 2008's "The Wrestler." His new film, "Black Swan," is a stylized horror movie set in the world of ballet and has been receiving high marks for both its camera work and performances.
And, of course, there's the Coen brothers, who since blowing away the Sundance audience with their 1985 debut "Blood Simple," have become singular in their vision and iconic in their execution. From" Raising Arizona" and "Fargo" to "The Big Lebowski" and "No Country for Old Men," the brothers from Minnesota have consistently been rewarded for their screenwriting and directing originality. "True Grit" is touted as a best picture contender with next to nobody having seen the film yet. That will all change within the next few weeks and it's likely to be a shoo-in as a real contender. [For the record: A previous version of this post said the brothers were from Massachusetts.]
And these guys are just getting started. With their profiles on the rise, it seems most are taking on bigger films in the future. Fincher is in mid-production on "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" while Russell is teaming for the fourth time with Mark Wahlberg for Columbia Pictures' adaptation of the video game "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune," which he will both write and direct. Aronofsky has gone big budget, hired by Fox to direct Hugh Jackman in the "Wolverine" sequel. And Boyle is taking his talents to other media -- he'll direct the stage version of "Frankenstein" in London before overseeing the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics. Only the Coen brothers in their typical style have yet to disclose their next project, not a surprise since they just completed this one.
Clearly, the list is not locked in stone, nor does it include any of the potential female director nominees such as Lisa Cholodenko of "The Kids Are All Right" or Debra Granik from "Winter's Bone." The reason for their omission is not so much a sexist one, it's more that their track records aren't as lengthy as their male competitors. And these five men seem to have more in common than not.
Top image: Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher. Credit: Merrick Morton / Columbia Tristar
Bottom image: Joel and Ethan Coen. Credit: Wilson Webb / Focus Features