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Will validation-seeking Christopher Nolan fans finally get their wish?

January 10, 2011 |  3:08 pm

This morning's announcement of the five nominees for the Directors Guild of America's top movie prize is not something the average film fan would normally pay much attention to.

But the legions of Christopher Nolan supporters out there salivating for the director's first Oscar nomination -- and eagerly hoping for a chance to see their man stand up at the most-watched film event of the year -- could only be reassured by the announcement. As our sister blog Awards Tracker notes, the list of nominees for the group's outstanding achievement in feature film prize include the "Inception" man, as well as the directors of "The King's Speech," "The Social Network, "Black Swan" and "The Fighter."

Nolanites have reason to feel good. The DGA is about an accurate a predictor of the best director category at the Academy Awards as you can get: It's foretold at least four of the five Oscar nominees in all but two of the past 12 years.

That would seem like great news for those hoping to see "Inception" get some attention in front of the approximately 40 million U.S. television viewers (and many more around the world) at the end of February. To date, Nolan's movies have been nominated mostly in technical categories, and he was nominated once as a screenwriter (for "Memento"), but he has never landed a prized best-director slot, a source of irritation for his many fans. This year, the DGA nomination suggests, could be different.

Except for one problem: One of the rare Oscar names the DGA has not predicted in the past has been ... Christopher Nolan. It happened on two occasions. The director was nominated by the DGA for both "The Dark Knight" and "Memento." But when it came time for the Oscars, the academy decided to use that slot for someone else.

As an original work with its own mythology, "Inception" could stand a better shot with some Oscar voters than the superhero-based "Dark Knight." But the DGAs alone might not predict that.

Meanwhile, fans of Joel and Ethan Coen, whose "True Grit" wasn't nominated by the DGA, might want to reassure themselves in the other direction: That fifth slot is up for grabs, and the directors could still push out someone else when it comes time for the Oscars.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Christopher Nolan at the London premiere of "Inception." Credit: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters


Awards Tracker: DGA nominates five

Awards Tracker: Directors guild nominations: No love for Danny Boyle or the Coen Bros.

Awards Tracker: DGA nominees and Oscars usally disagree...a little bit

Awards Tracker: Christopher Nolan is 'thrilled'


Comments () | Archives (7)

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There should be no drama about this award. Aronofsky's masterpiece is unequaled this year, or in most years for that matter.

So people wanted Nolan to win best director are fan boys seeking validation, but Fincher fans are sophisticated film lovers? How very patronizing.

I think C. Nolan is a brillint director. I'm a huge fan of everything he has done - and I think he should have been nominated for The Dark Knight. There is something about Inception, however, that just turns me off. It's an ambitious film, and well-executed. But it's not quite what it's been hyped to be, and I think that is due to the subject matter. The Dark Knight was knocked by some critics (I'm looking at you, Robert Downey, Jr.) as being "too" smart, for a superhero film at least. With Inception, I don't think it's "too" smart - it's just dressed up to be that way, and presented as such.

I have very conflicted feelings about Inception. Still, it has all the marks of a C. Nolan film - clever, and not your run of the mill Hollywood film. I wish him luck.

I have always assumed, maybe incorrectly, that direction primarily meant camera angle, the close-up and when not to use it, the use per se of the camera (and i don't mean how the lighting was arranged, which is the purview of the Director of Photography, or as he's called on the set, the DP, aka what he's never called except at the Oscars, the cinematographer). The director to me does not mean The Auteur, the organizing force, the storyteller, not necessarily how the movie is to make you feel except via the direction, which is the camera angle, the pacing of each shot, the use of different distances from the actors or the landscape, etc, the use of the camera.

Seems to me there is a confusion between Auteur (Nolan), how the film is edited (Nolan??), and how it is directed. Certainly the director should not be awarded, nor unawarded, based on the subject matter. Nolan and many others are denied their official kudos for the comic book aspect, the simplemindedness of his ubercomplex films. Which is why, i think, his fans want him to be honored as best director, his subject matter and how whiz bang he is at their rata-tat-tat. The editing of his films is not his direction of them. Personally, i liked Inception a lot, but what i saw of the direction of it was, for me, rather pedestrian, relying on breathtaking trickery we marveled at knowingly, taking up the space in our appreciation that should have been saved for the multiple subtleties that make up the well-rounded movie. The editing, on the other hand, was what made Inception fly, not his direction.

Often the subject matter limits the perception of the ability of the director to bring about the desired effect on the viewer. Hitchcock was always slighted for his subject matter and that he focused on a single reaction from the viewer, that which was brought about by his heightening of suspense, which is seen as simplistic achievement, no matter how brilliantly done.

Direction involves characterization. How does the director make the characters come off? Look at the difference between the True Grits 40 years apart. The current specimen is the work of mature craftsmen. Henry Hathaway's version has the look of tv hackery. What characterization is there in Inception? Very little. You're told who the character is primarily through his and her job titles. There's precious minute depth there. Ditto the spectacularly interesting Memento. The characterizations in the Dark Knight consist of what secrets they reveal. That's not characterization, that's a comic book (which i love, btw, but the stuff of comic books do not make for great characterization, nor, necessarily, direction).

I easily can be missing something in Nolan, even a lot. Maybe i'm not aware how he films dark alleys that make him supposedly so different, unique or brilliant, other than that the dark alleys are usually in comic book movies, and his greatest fans are perhaps in love with the genres he chooses to film, i suspect, and the single reaction and effect is lost on most who prefer complexity in reality below the surface, and not made so obvious and over the top.

Children love rollercoasters. After 1000 of them, you start to look deeper into the birds lazily hovering as you whiz by.

PS ~

Agree with Justin re Fincher. If the characters speaking good dialogue fast makes a Best Director, every director of every screwball comedy was Best Director. I'm afraid the Academy is going to reward him on the basis of how many good reviews he got, a la the flimsy and sketchy Hurt Locker of last year, rather than a specific directorial stamp he put on Social Network, or any other of his uberhyped masterpieces.

As for Aronofsky, yes, he weaves a very good tragedy out of cloth we do not see him weaving, and are amazed he uses our visceral response to what he shocks us with to see the web his main character needs to spin in order to be perfect, and essentially live the story of the ballet she is trying to make perfect. I thought too much of the direction was herky-jerky, in close-up to the degree it was claustrophobic---i kept looking at the perimeter of the screen, hoping the static shot would track, or pull back---that it needed more distance, for the viewer's comfort, which would still put and keep us in the mind of his heroine.

The result of his film is breathtaking on several levels, including how perfect his work turns out to be in telling that story. But the visual mood i take away from the Black Swan is claustrophobic viewing discomfort, tho not for the psychology he brilliantly conveyed which many viewers felt was too intense. Best director?? I prefer the Coens, for the superb feel of the place and time you get, and the richly characterized storytelling. They actually make you love the taste of the Western again, no easy achievement, and hate that the film would end.

First of all, this is coming from a guy who thinks The Social Network is the best film this year and that Fincher should win best director. But I also have to agree with Justin. This article comes off as patronizing even if it's not intentional (or maybe it is?). I love Nolan and I believe he deserves recognition for Inception. Does that make me a validation-seeking fan boy?

Well surprise, surprise. The reason this article is so patronizing is because it's written by the same man who started a quote-on-quote "informal" pole on Inception being the most overrated film of 2010. I think I'm starting to see a pattern here, and noones fooled. I don't even want Inception to win this year, I was cheering last night when TSN took home 4 Globes. But. I still think Inception was still great and original and still needs to have so recognition, even if it is just a nomination.


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