Best Director, 2003
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)


Nominee
Sofia Coppola
Lost in Translation


7:1
Pluses

The film is obviously a director's achievement, intimate and personal in a way American movies rarely even try for—and it still found a sizable audience. Coppola is only the third woman ever nominated in this category, wouldn't it be nice to see the winner in a dress?
Minuses

Coppola refused to make her movie through any studio channels, which may earn her some admirers but also narrows her circle of friends. Unfortunately, the rarity of nominating a woman may be construed as victory enough—and she's bound to be honored in the Screenplay category.
Clint Eastwood
Mystic River


5:1
Few directors enjoy the avid industry respect that Eastwood does; actors gush about his sensitivity and economy, and studios can't get enough of his thrift and precision.
Sean Penn may well guarantee that Mystic River gets some high-profile awards lovin', and for many voters, that may suffice just fine. Plus, Eastwood's already won, and he hasn't broken the very mold of his craft as Jackson has.
Peter Jackson
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


2:1
Sure, some folks are probably jealous, but more than that, they're blown away by what Jackson has pulled off. And a passionate, visionary, artistically credentialed teddy bear who can make a mint of money three years in a row is not someone that Hollywood will want to see slip away.
Then again, the Directing category is full of all kinds of upsets: the list of who never won is even more galling here than in most of the other races. Still, I think Peter can feel safe writing that speech (and maybe even shop for some shoes).
Fernando Meirelles
City of God


35:1
Oscar has responded with surprising but deserved enthusiasm for Meirelles' daring and inspired extraction of epic filmmaking from the sloppiest streets of a downtrodden city. He made the movie Gangs of New York should have been.
Quiz question: how many Portuguese directors of violent Brazilian street epics not nominated for Best Picture have ever won this prize? Quick, how many?
Peter Weir
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World


12:1
Don't ask me why, but Peter Weir is the idol of a lot of people. He's a brand name people trust, and in fact, if someone else had directed this movie, I bet that nomination tally would be a lot lower. People just aren't sold enough on this movie to recognize Weir this year, when he's been in contention (and lost) for much more Oscar-friendly projects in the past (Dead Poets Society especially). Another Antipodean is going to have his day in the sun.

WHO WILL WIN: Peter Jackson
Among recent winners, Roman Polanski was a cineaste's choice, Ron Howard made a pile of money, and Steven Soderbergh showed that a nice guy can still be a smart, blockbuster director. Jackson rolls all three types of appeal into one plus-sized package.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Peter Jackson or Fernando Meirelles
There's no clear choice for me between these two auteurs, neither of whom made perfect films, but whose grand visions and inspired triumphs over huge logistical problems deserve the very highest praise..

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Fine, Oscar, treat The Company like dirt. Sony Pictures Classics has made it real easy, given that they've barely released the durn thing, and you have to hunt around for it even in cities where it's actually playing. But the Directors Branch, who have never honored Robert Altman (but felt fine decorating the supremely limited Franklin J. Schaffner and Ron Howard in years when he was nominated), missed a great chance to pay an old debt. Because Bob made a real jewel.



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