We’re coming to the end of David Fincher week here at The Playlist: we’ve already looked at his music videos, his unmade projects, and ranked his movies. But there’s something else we wanted to address before we wrapped up, and before “Gone Girl” opens tomorrow: Fincher and the awards season.
The director is generally seen as one of the very best filmmakers of the past twenty years, but despite a couple of nominations, he hasn’t yet picked up a Best Director Oscar. Not that there’s any shame in that. Some, like Martin Scorsese, have to go through the wringer several times before taking home a little golden trophy. And plenty of other legendary directors, including Stanley Kubrick and Sidney Lumet, never got one at all (as we documented in our feature 20 Celebrated Filmmakers Who Never Won A Best Directing Oscar).
Fincher’s hardly alone at this stage, as many of his contemporaries have been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards without ever winning. Below you’ll find fifteen such filmmakers, including Fincher, who have previous nominations, but have never won the prize itself (those who’ve never picked up the nod will feature on another list down the line). Take a look below, and let us know who you think is the most deserving in the comments.
David O. Russell
Directing Nominations:”The Fighter” (2010), “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and “American Hustle” (2013)
Other Oscar History: All three of those films were also Best Picture nominees, and Russell picked up screenplay nominations for “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” the latter shared with Eric Warren Singer.
What He Should Have Won For: Once independent cinema’s enfant terrible, Russell has mellowed in recent years, and has broken through to the Academy establishment as a result. But if we were going to give him an Oscar for anything, it wouldn’t be for his “Yelling and Dolly Shots” trilogy, but for his third film, 1999’s “Three Kings.” Russell’s first venture into the mainstream and a box-office flop, the film looked on the surface like a sort of Boys-Own wartime actioner about a quartet of soldiers in the first Gulf War (George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze) who aim to steal some of Saddam Hussein’s gold bullion. But there was as much “M*A*S*H” as “Kelly’s Heroes” in the picture, and Russell smuggled a subversive, moving film about American foreign policy, fuil of savage wit about the futility of war, while still delivering a satisfying and funny action picture. The performances are excellent across the board, and Russell left himself off the chain stylistically with some bravura shots (the famous one that goes inside Mark Wahlberg’s body as he’s shot), and distinctive photography. It was one of the very best films of the era, and still the high watermark of Russell’s career.
Next Chance Of Winning: Russell will be competing again next year, with his re-team with Jennifer Lawrence on “Joy.”
Directing Nominations: “The Thin Red Line” (1998) and “The Tree Of Life” (2011)
Other Oscar History: Those two movies were also Best Picture nominees, and Malick picked up a Screenplay nod for “The Thin Red Line” as well.
What He Should Have Won For: The reclusive filmmaker was basically ignored by the Academy in the early part of his career (his “Days Of Heaven” scored a Cinematography win for Nestor Almendros), but his return with “The Thin Red Line” proved to be a real event, and the World War Two picture picked up seven Oscar nods (though Malick was beaten to the Oscar by Steven Spielberg and rival war picture “Saving Private Ryan“). And though Malick’s three subsequent movies have all been strong, we’d still give him the statuette for his comeback picture, “The Thin Red Line,” about as poetic, gorgeous and powerful a film in the genre as has ever been made. The film’s got a stronger narrative backbone than some of his later pictures (a relative term, perhaps), but Malick’s more concerned with the effect that war has on the landscape and on the soul, and the result is a film that lingers months and years after first viewing. Some of the starry cameos risk unbalancing the film, but it’s still the finest cast that Malick’s ever worked with (Elias Koteas being a particular standout). Spielberg’s picture might have captured the visceral horror of war, but it’s Malick’s that digs into every facet of conflict.
Next Chance To Win: Whenever Malick’s double-bill of “Knight Of Cups” and the still-untitled Ryan Gosling-starring picture arrive, hopefully next year.
Directing Nominations: “Black Swan” (2010)
Other Oscar History: “Black Swan” also picked up a Best Picture nod, and won Natalie Portman Best Actress that year. Ellen Burstyn picked up a Supporting Actress nomination for “Requiem For A Dream” a decade earlier as well, while “The Wrestler” got nods for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei.
What He Should Have Won For: Aronofsky’s work is always highly divisive, from debut “Pi” to this year’s unlikely Biblical blockbuster, “Noah.” But this is a case when the Academy probably got it right, at least by nominating his best work to date. “Black Swan” is among the most unlikely Best Picture nominees in recent years, blending classical ballet, “Persona” and a sort of giallo werewolf movie: that it works so well is mostly down to Aronofsky (not to forget Portman’s deseved Oscar-winning work). The filmmaker is often too sincere and unsubtle for many, but a stripped down, yet elevated genre picture is one of the best possible vehicles for his talents, and from the raw 16mm photography, the seamless effects works, the unnerving, nightmarish cutting and the bravura dance sequences, Aronofsky relishes the chance to let loose after his more understated, Dardenne-ish work on “The Wrestler” a couple of years before, like Michael Powell having a fever dream after too much Fantastic Fest queso. Surely that alone would have made him a more worthy winner than Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech” that year, right?
Next Chance To Win: Technically Aronofsky is in the running this year for “Noah,” though don’t hold your breath for a nomination on that one (had the film had a fall release, maybe things would be different, though likely not). Beyond that, the director hasn’t yet announced a new project.