2014 Calvin Awards: Best Director

By Kim Hollis

February 14, 2014

I like to torture my actors for fun and profit!

Martin Scorsese is a genius when it comes to exploring the dark side of humanity, as he has done in such films as Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. He continued on that course with The Wolf of Wall Street, which shows the excesses of a Wall Street brokerage boiler room. The movie piles on and piles on, making you despise the characters more with each passing scene. By the end scene, which shows Jordan Belfort in front of a crowd of suckers, we realize society has learned nothing from the negligent and dangerous actions of the people of his ilk. It’s biting commentary from Scorsese.

Fifth place belongs to the sibling duo of the Coen brothers for Inside Llewyn Davis, their study of a folk musician at the end of his ropes. It’s a thought-provoking portrait, focusing on the question of art versus commerce, not to mention the tenuous line walked by the creative spirit. A captivating story told well, it ends on an ambiguous note that invites the audience to come to their own conclusions.


Sixth and seventh go to directors two films whose only commonality is that they have one-word titles – Frozen and Nebraska. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee created an absolutely gorgeous world in Frozen’s Arrendelle, not to mention appealing, expressive characters (down to the snowman and the reindeer). In their hands, this animated feature becomes a touching tale of sisterhood and female empowerment, with two distinct heroines who take matters into their own hands when the situation calls for it. Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is a simple story filmed in black and white. On one side, it examines the aging process and how it impacts people in varied and dramatic ways, and on the other it is a simple story of a father and son. There is real beauty in Nebraska, and you’ll laugh a lot along the way, too.

Our final three directors are Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, Rush’s Ron Howard and David O. Russell for American Hustle. Greengrass tells a straightforward story with Captain Phillips, but man is it engaging. From the moment the captain realizes his ship is about to be under assault by pirates, we are on board for a thrilling ride. Ron Howard accomplishes something that would seem to be impossible on the surface. He takes a story about Formula One racing, something very few people know or care about, and makes it electrifying. We are fully invested in James Hall and Niki Lauda. And Russell has now finished in the top 10 in this category three out of the last four years, and the year off was only because he didn’t have a new film. American Hustle is a snapshot of a specific moment in time, and the director captures it perfectly. He combines humor and a caper-like sensibility, and will probably be lurking for his spot in the next Best Director list, too.

A few directors who just missed making our top ten include Abdellatif Kechiche (Blue Is the Warmest Color), Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and Shane Carruth (Upstream Color).

2014 Calvin Awards
Calvins Intro
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Character
Best Director
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

Top 10
Position Director(s) Film Total Points
1 Alfonso Cuaron Gravity 188
2 Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave 86
3 Spike Jonze Her 71
4 Martin Scorcese Wolf of Wall Street, The 66
5 Joel and Ethan Coen Inside Llewyn Davis 63
6 Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee Frozen 52
7 Alexander Payne Nebraska 50
8 Paul Greengrass Captain Phillips 41
9 Ron Howard Rush 36
10 David O. Russell American Hustle 34

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