Oscar trivia: 2014’s 5 Best Directors – Who are they?

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Five of the world’s most distinguished directors have been nominated for 2014’s Best Director Oscar but could you list them all, or reel off their finest films to date? With little over 3 weeks away from the 86th Academy Awards, it’s time to get clued up. Hence we bring you our FilmsinFive Best Directors Cheatsheet…

1  DAVID O. RUSSELL (American Hustle)

Who: 55 year old director, screenwriter and producer.

From: New York.

Filmography highlights: Spanking the Monkey (1994), Three Kings (1999), The Fighter (2010), Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

Trademark: Screwball, kooky comedy with intense edge. As Neal Gabler from the NYT put it, good at “finding drama in comedy and comedy in drama”.

What else?… Apparently works largely on instinct; described as ‘mercurial’, some say a bit crazy and hot-headed. Clooney had a nightmare with him. Can only imagine the tomfoolery that goes on behind scenes with current muse, Ms Jennifer Lawrence.

2  ALFONSO CUARÓN (Gravity)

Who: 52 year old director, screenwriter, producer and editor.

From: Mexico.

Filmography highlights: Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Children of Men (2006).

Trademark: Long tracking shots – Hitchcock-esque.

What else?… Could be a bit unfocused? All his films are very different with no common thread. Good friends with fellow Mexican directors Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu – the trio often described as “The Three Amigos of Cinema.” His father’s a nuclear physicist who worked for the United Nations. Co-writes with one of his brothers, Carlos, and now with his son Jonás.

3  ALEXANDER PAYNE (Nebraska)

Who: 52 year old director, screenwriter and producer.

From: Well, look at that… Nebraska. Parents of Greek descent.

Filmography highlights: Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011).

Trademark: Realism; darkly comic, satirical depictions of American society. Makes wordy films. A bit of a champion of male middle-class losers.

What else?… often incorporates telephone monologues in his movies as a dramatic device. Had a rather messy divorce from Canadian actress, Sandra Oh (whom he directed in Sideways).

4  STEVE MCQUEEN (12 Years a Slave)

Who: 44 year old (and therefore youngest of this year’s director nominees) director, screenwriter and video artist.

From: London. Of Grenadian descent.

Filmography highlights: Hunger (2008), Shame (2011).

Trademark: Provocative; thought-provoking, hard-hitting themes.

What else?… Has received the Turner Prize for his artwork (he makes sculptures and photographs, as well as films), the highest award given to a British visual artist. Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2011 for services to the visual arts.  He’s worked with Michael Fassbender on all three of his feature films.

McQueen on Fassbender: “He’s a different class. There’s nothing else like him, for me at least. There’s a femininity to him, a fragility, which is so beautiful in a way that it speaks.” 

Crikey. Safe to say he’s a fan.

5  MARTIN SCORSESE (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Who: 71 year old film director, screenwriter, producer, actor and film historian.

From: Queens, New York.

Filmography highlights: Pheww. There are lots. Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006).

Trademark: Slow motion shots; slow motion flashbulbs and shutter sounds; long tracking shots. Themes include gang crime, Italian American identity, Roman Catholic concepts of guilt and redemption, machismo. Depictions of violence, heavy profanity.

What else?.. loves his protégés; it was Robert de Niro through the ’70s to the ’90s; who he collaborated with on 8 films. Now it’s Leonardo Di Caprio’s turn, with whom he’s collaborated on 5 films. The director has been married 5 times. There have been a total of 70 actor nominations under his direction. Holy shit.

So who should win in your view? My feeling is it should be Alfonso Cuarón. The man’s a genius… (then again, which of these world class directors isn’t?!) Whose win would be the most controversial?

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