This week is Thursday Movie Picks - Oscar Winners Edition: Best Director.
Bong Joon Ho - Parasite
The 2020 Oscars ceremony was such a jubilant affair. I'm not sure how much of the film community at large was rooting for Bong Joon Ho, but every time Parasite won the Kodak Theatre and social media reacted with such fervor - quite the contrary to how his year's ceremony was handled. It was wonderful to see Parasite win given that his previous films like Okja and Snowpiercer had been snubbed before. And, it's one of the few Best Picture films in recent Oscars ceremonies that I think about constantly - its imagery, symbolism, acting, and storytelling.
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
Despite Kathryn Bigelow making history as the first woman winning Best Director, The Hurt Locker is often forgotten about in conversations about award show history. At the time, nobody pegged the film to win over James Cameron's Avatar or Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards. It also faced a laundry list of obstacles like being the lowest grossing Best Picture of all time, apolitical stance of The War in Iraq, screenplay credits, etc. that downplayed its chances even more. Ultimately, I think it's the best film of that season (tied to Inglorious Bastards for me) because of Kathryn's vision - a slow-burning thriller with exquisite editing and nail-biting pacing as well as a character-portrait with substance that didn't utilize marquee actors. (Anthony Mackie should've been nominated just FYI). As the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director, it's pretty great that she didn't win just because she's a woman.
James Cameron - Titanic
Given that Kathryn and James are exes, it's odd to go into the complete opposite route of The Hurt Locker. But I also have to give credit where its due for Cameron's work on Titanic. Having had an interest with the real-life tragedy since I was a teenager, this is one of my all-time favorite movies. Because of my love for this film, I can admit it's a miracle this movie was made at all.
Cameron's process as a director is based entirely on excess - in ego, money, and big ideas. Even though there are decisions with the production that makes this as great as it is, there are many other routes that he tries that could've made this a hot mess (watch some of the deleted scenes or other actors auditioning for Jack Dawson, good lord). That's kind of the endgame as a director - to avoid all of the tempting bad choices that are going to land the film in hot water. Titanic is definitely a team effort - it won 9 technical awards outside of Best Director and Best Picture. But something wild happens where he manages to not only reign it all, but he stamped his vision on everything. While period films are more commonplace now, I don't know if we'll ever see a similar sweeping romantic corny action-paced tragedy like this again, and that's something worth celebrating.