While not exactly gender-diverse, this year’s race for Best Picture at the Academy Awards is an interesting one. In addition to there being an interesting mix of genres represented in the films up for the prize, the 2020 class has filmmakers who have taken very different paths to where they are today. It’s a mix of legends and first-time nominees, and the result is that it’s hard to precisely predict who will end up walking away with the trophy.
We here at CinemaBlend have our own thoughts on the proceedings, and in recent weeks members of our staff have been letting their voices be heard by ranking the nominees in all of the major Oscar categories. Votes were only cast by those who saw every film in a given category, and each vote ranked the five nominees from most to least deserving (a "1" being the best, and a "5" being the lowest). Those scores have been averaged, and those averages have generated the order you see below.
#5. Todd Phillips, Joker
Average Rank: 4.5789474
If you time traveled to 2010 and told random movie fans that Todd Phillips would one day be up for Best Director at the Oscars, it would probably inspire a fair bit of laughter. After all, ten years ago Phillips was best known for making broad comedies like Old School, Road Trip, and The Hangover, which weren’t exactly movies sending out awards screeners. That being said, Phillips’ profile as a filmmaker has changed a great deal in recent years, and Joker is excellent evidence of that.
Phillips had a chance to express the deepest parts of his dark sensibilities with the DC Comics adaptation, and what he has crafted is a disturbing and impressively atmospheric feature unlike any comic book movie we’ve seen before. The feeling that you need to take a shower after watching Joker is evidence of its effectiveness, as the film gets under your skin in all the ways that it should.
#4. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Average Rank: 3.8947368
The Irishman is a project that has been with Martin Scorsese for years – long imagined as a film that would not only reunite him with fellow legends Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, but also give him his first opportunity to work with Al Pacino. But the director had to bide his time, waiting for the industry to catch up with vision of what the movie could be. It took more than a decade for it to get done, but what he accomplished with the project is truly extraordinary.
There are 20-year-old directors to struggle to manage the reins of an 80 minute comedy, but the 77-year-old Martin Scorsese builds The Irishman in all of its three-and-a-half hour glory like a sculptor with a scalpel, designing one of the most incredible works he’s ever done. It’s a tremendous blend of classic and modern cinema techniques, and a remarkable journey that only Scorsese could deliver.
#3. Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Average Rank: 2.2105263
This is the first year that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have recognized the work of Bong Joon-ho, but the reality is that the filmmaker has been delivering extraordinary work for years. Each of his movies explores new genre and theme, but all of his work is marked by fantastic camerawork and sharp commentary. One could make a strong argument that the director’s work has been overlooked by the Academy before, but at the very least that’s not happening this year with what is his best work to date.
Parasite is a mind-blower of craftsmanship, with every scene delicately building the escalating plot, the narrative striking many different tones, and it upending expectations each step of the way. It’s a shocking and brutal examination of class warfare with no detail left overlooked, and an incredible achievement for Bong Joon-ho as a director. In short, it was ranked as CineamBlend’s number one film of 2019 for a reason.
#2. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Average Rank: 2.2105263
Quentin Tarantino’s work has changed a great deal over the course of his career. When he first started in the 1990s he earned acclaim for his tremendous contributions to the crime genre, but since the start of the 21st century, and the release of Kill Bill, his films have become far more experimental. An extension of this, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is unlike any movie that he’s ever made, but infused with all the greatest elements of his sensibilities, it easily ranks as one of his greatest contributions to cinema.
The statistical tie between Tarantino and Bong Joon-ho in the rankings was broken by the former having more #1 votes (six versus four), and he finishes here higher than he did in our vote for Best Original Screenplay, where Once Upon A Time In Hollywood finished in third. Still, while our staff didn’t deliver it the ballots for the Best Director trophy, there is a lot of love here at CinemaBlend for Tarantino’s epic journey through Los Angeles in 1969.
#1. Sam Mendes, 1917
Average Rank: 2.1052632
Making a film is tremendously hard work. It involves coordinating hundreds of people, executing a plan that is guaranteed to change along the way, and managing input from a wide variety of sources, all while dealing with the immense pressure that comes from the money invested in the project. To purposefully make the whole process infinitely harder by attempting something as intrepid as capturing the feeling of everything being in a single shot is, on paper, a crazy thing to do – but that just emphasizes the magnificence of what Sam Mendes has accomplished with 1917.
There is an incredible urgency added to the plot of the film through its stylistic choices, and Mendes’ collaboration with cinematographer Roger Deakins has resulted in one of the most audacious and impressive war movies of all time. You can’t help but marvel at the technical achievement that’s seen in the final product on the big screen, but that gets taken to the next level when you take into consideration the level of synchronization that was necessary to achieve everything. It’s a remarkable accomplishment, and one that the CinemaBlend team feels makes Sam Mendes deserving of the 2020 Oscar for Best Director.
As for who will actually win the award, we won’t find that out until tomorrow night when the Academy Awards are broadcast around the globe. We have tons more coverage of the event coming your way, so stay tuned, and be on the lookout for more of our rankings of the Oscar nominees in the top categories.
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.