“This is one of the few years where it is easy to imagine the DGA nominations being off of Oscar’s Top 5 by at least two directors,” David Poland wrote in his most recent “20 Weeks to Oscar” column. I’ve read this sentence five times and the sucker won’t ring true. Let’s try it this way: “This is one of the few years in which it’s easy to imagine the DGA’s Best Director nominees being, in at least two instances, different than the directors of the five most likely Best Picture nominees.”
Cut to the chase and Poland is more or less saying that while Jason Reitman‘s Juno and Joe Wright‘s Atonement‘s are likely Best Picture nominees, Reitman and Wright haven’t quite shown the chops and passion one associates with a sturdy and unassailable Best Director Oscar nominee.
Rewriting Poland again, he says the following: “Due respect, but if you have (a) Paul Thomas Anderson‘s work in There Will Be Blood, (b) Julian Schnabel‘s work in The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, (c) a living legend like Sidney Lumet delivering, at age 83, a vibrant, rough film in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, (d) Todd Haynes bending time and personality in I’m Not There, and (e) Ridley Scott delivering the highest caliber of commercial cinema in American Gangster, is the DGA really going to go for a Joe Wright or a Jason Reitman?
“Moreoever, will they embrace a first-timer like Tony Gilroy? Can anyone miss the stride that Sean Penn, who has always been a very serious director, however you feel about the output, has made with Into The Wild?”
The thing about Penn and Into The Wild is this: having made a personal best (which he unquestionably has) doesn’t necessarily mean that Into The Wild, spirited and reaching as it may be, is finally a classic, world-class, power-punch achievement. The bottom line is that I don’t believe Penn gave me the whole-hog truth about Chris McCandless. The movie gave me his view of the guy and that’s fine…but it didn’t feel like enough.
McCandless could have lived and thrived and had a life that was about more than just saying “no” to his parents’ values, but he pissed it away because he was too arrogant to own a decent map of the area where his rusty bus was located — a map he could have used to save himself when he wanted to get back to civilization. And I don’t have any respect for a guy who refuses to write or call his parents for as long as McCandless did. He was brave and strong in some respects, but in others he was an asshole. And that’s fine. Everyone’s tangled up in this way or that. But at the end of the day this portrait of McCandless left me feeling a little distant.