2015 Calvin Awards: Best Director
By David Mumpower
February 13, 2015
It was an almost impossibly close race for Best Director this year. First place to third place was separated by only four votes. The candidates jockeyed for position all the way up until the final day, when the winner was eventually revealed to be Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu. The margin of victory was a mere two votes, although Iñárritu did receive six first place votes compared to three for the runner-up and one for the third place finisher.
Birdman explores many ideas and themes, including storytelling, artistic criticism, magical realism, loneliness, and more (pick your own interpretation. The film works on that many levels). The movie itself is claustrophobic and intense due to the fact that it appears to be filmed in a single shot. As mentioned in Best Use of Music, the drum-filled soundtrack is used as punctuation and commentary on the film’s scenes.
Even with the serious undertones dealing with suicide and loss, the film is at its heart a black comedy. Yes, there are melancholy moments, but we laugh at (and with) the characters, too. Iñárritu mentioned to Variety that he had realized that “we live our lives with no editing,” and he takes the audiences through the highest highs and the lowest lows of three days in the life of a former superhero actor trying to revive his career.
Our runner-up and near-winner is a man who spent more than 12 years developing and filming his passion project. The end result is a film that follows a boy and his family from his early youth all the way through high school graduation and his first day of college. To realize that Richard Linklater had a grand story in mind but was flexible with the details makes this film all the more awe-inspiring. He pulled elements of real life from the various performers and turned them into real plot devices. What is most impressive is to watch the evolution of the actors under his tutelage mature in their craft. From top to bottom, Linklater put real blood, sweat and tears into creating his cinematic masterpiece.
Also oh-so-close to a win was Wes Anderson, who once again used his extreme attention to detail and quirkiness to gift us with the utterly charming The Grand Budapest Hotel. With a bright palette and a meticulously crafted world, Anderson takes us inside the madcap story of Gustave H. and the hotel where he performs as the devoted concierge. It’s a delightful confection that still features a subtle touch of melancholy, which required a deft touch on Anderson’s part.
No one can say Christopher Nolan doesn’t go for it. Interstellar is a movie of big ideas done on a grand scale. The effects are magnificent, the music is awe-inspiring, the acting is touching and the story is complex and layered. Nolan brings all the elements together for a transcendent and thought-provoking movie-going experience.
Ava DuVernay also made a movie of big ideas, though her story was focused on a much shorter snapshot of time. Selma explores Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts at bringing the civil rights movement to Selma, Alabama. DuVernay has crafted an unflinching and engaging history lesson that has real relevance in today’s charged climate surrounding race relations.
Sixth and seventh go to a breakthrough director and a longtime BOP favorite. Damien Chazelle hit a bingo with his second directorial feature Whiplash, capturing the adversarial yet collaborative relationship between aspiring musician and hard-nosed mentor in an engaging, even thrilling way. And speaking of thrilling, David Fincher did a masterful job in bringing the popular novel Gone Girl to the big screen. In the process, he also managed to insert some dark humor and incisive commentary on the nature of celebrity.
Rounding out our top 10 are a guy known for chaotic sets but consistent results, a director whose artistic vision left our staff divided, and two collaborators who hit it out of the park twice in 2015. Doug Liman has a long-term reputation of productions spiraling out of control, but in the end he always seems to manage to come through with a shockingly good product. With Edge of Tomorrow, it’s rumored that he did reshoots on Day Two of everything they’d done on Day One. Still, you can’t argue with the finished product.
Jonathan Glazer has definitely had an interesting filmography as a feature director. He burst onto the scene with Sexy Beast in 2000, and then followed it up with the mega-creepy (and not in a good way) Birth. He returned in 2014 with the discordant Under the Skin, crafting a film that left a big impression on our staff.
Finally, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been BOP favorites for a long time. From Clone High to 22 Jump Street, they’re consistent providers of great entertainment. With The LEGO Movie, they put together a clever little film that actually subversively sends up the typical CGI animated property – and it looks terrific, too!
Directors who only just barely missed the cut include Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Anthony Russo & Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy).
2015 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
|| Alejandro González Iñárritu
|| Richard Linklater
|| Wes Anderson
||The Grand Budapest Hotel
|| Christopher Nolan
|| Ava DuVernay
|| Damien Chazelle
|| David Fincher
|| Doug Liman
||Edge of Tomorrow
|| Jonathan Glazer
||Under The Skin
|| Phil Lord, Chris Miller
||The LEGO Movie