2021 Calvins: Best Director
By David Mumpower
April 3, 2021
BOP voters followed their own path in the Best Director category. It was a weird year, so why not go with the unheralded (mostly) choices?
To wit, our winner in the category is Regina King, a woman who did not receive an Academy Award nomination for some reason. Her One Night in Miami is an intimate exploration of race, power, and the VERY recognizable historical figures who stand at the movie's center. It's hard to believe this is King's debut behind the camera, as the film is confident and thoughtful even as it serves as a crowd-pleaser. She expands the film beyond the play from which it is adapted, using clever techniques to keep the performers onscreen together.
Our runner-up took a dark thriller or horror story of sorts and turned it into a fascinating character study that feels all too timely as the #MeToo era continues. Promising Young Woman challenges the viewer, jarring us out of our comfort zones and reminding us that women deal with men who *think* they're good guys all the time. Emerald Fennell delivered a wild finale that still has us all talking, too.
Spike Lee also addresses social issues, as Da 5 Bloods deftly combines intrigue, history, friendship, and a bit of a caper. We see the Vietnam War through the eyes of the Black men who served there, with Lee helping us to see how these veterans would evolve and change with the world, all while carrying a terrible secret.
Up next in fourth place is Chloe Zhao, the front-runner to win the Academy Award for her work on Nomadland. A film that explores the forgotten victims of the Great Recession, this quiet character study moves slowly and deliberately, enrapturing the viewer all along the journey.
I believe I can honestly say that Pete Docter is my favorite storyteller working today. The Chief Creative Officer of Pixar is responsible for many of my most beloved films. For a long time, Monsters, Inc. was my top choice. Then, Up arrived - perhaps the movie that makes me most sentimental. Inside Out delights me; Soul inspires me. He constantly astounds with his creativity, and Soul is further proof that "In Docter I trust."
It's possible that sixth place is an unfair cheat. After all, Alex Lacamoire already won a Tony for his direction of Hamilton. That's okay. The filmed musical did a lot to get us through the summer of 2021, so we'll allow it.
BOP does love Sofia Coppola, and On the Rocks allows her to once again work with the amazing Bill Murray, who's perfect in the role. This slice of life is light and breezy, but not inconsequential.
Trial of the Chicago 7 allows Aaron Sorkin to work from his own screenplay, translating his vision to the screen. The film is riveting, fascinating courtroom drama, sometimes challenging because some of the circumstances seem so unlikely. He elicits bravura performances from all involved, resulting in a timely, important piece of work.
The singular mind of Charlie Kaufman has once again delivered an out-there film. I'm Thinking of Ending Things is classified as a psychological thriller/horror drama, one that follows its own path and doesn't necessarily provide satisfying, easy answers.
Our final nominee is Rhada Blank, who created a fascinating exploration of the life of an artist in The 40-Year-Old Version.
A few of the candidates who just missed the top ten include Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), and David Fincher (Mank).
|| Regina King
||One Night in Miami
|| Emerald Fennell
||Promising Young Woman
|| Spike Lee
||Da 5 Bloods
|| Chloé Zhao
|| Pete Docter
|| Alex Lacamoire
|| Sofia Coppola
||On the Rocks
|| Aaron Sorkin
||Trial of the Chicago 7
|| Charlie Kaufman
||I'm Thinking of Ending Things
|| Rhada Blank
||The Forty-Year-Old Version