Carrying on with one of the yearly series that I like to do on the site, we’re talking overdue writers and directors. Yes, I wrote last week about actors deserving of Academy Award nominations, so now it’s time to turn attention to filmmakers. Actors and actresses are the sexier group, but writers and directors are the backbone of the industry. There are plenty who have never been cited by the Academy, so that will be the focus today. I’ll be running down ten filmmakers who I feel are due a nomination. In a handful of cases, they’ll be more comedic storytellers, since Oscar voters can often overlook them. That’s a real shame in my mind, but that could be a piece for another day. Anyway, you’ll see them below, and obviously know that your own mileage may vary. So, without further delay, here goes nothing…
Here now are the ten writers and/or directors most due for their first Oscar nomination:
10. Kevin Smith – As always, I’m a lone Smith defender, but hear me out. Is Smith likely get get nominated at this point in his career? No. Still, having been snubbed in Best Original Screenplay for Clerks and especially Chasing Amy, he’s been worthy enough that he comes in as a “due” filmmaker. Both Red State and Zack and Miri Make a Porno were severely underrated, so his more genre friendly efforts of late are even less likely to get the acclaim necessary. However, if he ever gets around to adapting Hit Somebody, there’s a chance. Especially in light of his recent heart attack, this would be a feel good story. If nothing else, a fan can dream, right?
9. Nicolas Winding Refn – Having only really been in serious play for a nod once with Drive, Refn is a divisive filmmaker, to say the least. Still, unique visionaries like him can get in with the right project. Drive was probably the most likely one to do it, but it established him as someone worthy of keeping an eye on whenever a new flick is announced. If he finds the right marriage of material and his skills, watch out!
8. Jeff Nichols – A couple of years ago, Nichols had two separate opportunities to get that first nomination. Midnight Special probably was a long shot, but Loving on paper seemed like an almost sure bet. It ended up not being able to stack up with some of the more overt Oscar hopefuls, but Nichols seems likely to be back in play again soon. At this point, he’s established himself as someone well worth nominating.
7. Rian Johnson – Until this year, Johnson was best known for his snubbed yet really strong little works. Now, the man behind Brick and Looper is the filmmaker who made Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which actually had him in the Best Adapted Screenplay conversation. Depending on where he goes in between future Star Wars projects, he could easily score with the Academy.
6. Joe Wright – Early on, it seemed inevitable that Wright would be nominated in Best Director. He came pretty close to getting over that hump last year with Darkest Hour, though that obviously came up a little bit short. He’s very much the sort of director who makes Oscar friendly work, though work that’s easy to credit to others. In a way, he’s a Tom Hooper sort, before Tom Hooper swooped in and took home a statue, of course. Perhaps that changes in the near future?
5. David Gordon Green – For much of his career, Green has avoided overtly Oscar friendly projects. Still, amazing little works like All the Real Girls showed his talent, while last year he actually put out tremendously strong awards bait in Stronger. Voters didn’t bite, but with his Walter Kronkike biographical drama Newsflash possibly hitting in 2018, it may be hard to resist him this time. If nothing else, Green consistently tackles new genres (he also has his version of Halloween coming out this year), and chameleons deserve Oscar love too!
4. James Gray – If audiences would ever go see one of Gray’s films en mass, perhaps that would entice the Academy to finally cite him? Maybe Ad Astra can beat the odds, after The Lost City of Z couldn’t do the trick? Things like The Immigrant and Two Lovers have gotten torpedoed due to outside elements beyond his control, so if anyone should be in line for a nomination as an apology of sorts, it’s Gray. Ad Astra at least has an outside shot, if it comes out in 2018, so stay tuned there…
3. Derek Cianfrance – Very few in the industry are better at adult themed cinema than Cianfrance. Two years ago, he had a potential awards contender in The Light Between Oceans, though that ultimately fell short. Before that, however, the one two punch of Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines were near instant classics, even if the latter was completely ignored. His time is coming…you mark my words!
2. John Carney – Sigh. Despite two of his three biggest films having gotten Best Original Song nominations, Carney has never been cited. In 2016, he had more of a musical hand in Sing Street than ever before, but it sadly ended up being snubbed. As long as he keeps putting out charming and high quality work, it’ll happen. In this particular situation, it’s a question of when, not if.
1. Judd Apatow – Having Apatow at number one might seem a bit odd at first glance, but he has his hands in so many pies it seems strange that he hasn’t managed to be in contention. Whether it’s penning the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Funny People, for example, or helping to craft a Golden Globe nominated song in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, he’s always around. Maybe he’ll get that elusive nomination for producing something? After all, he was a part of The Big Sick, and that nearly got a Best Picture nomination. If Apatow keeps that up, it’ll happen. I just have a feeling…
Stay tuned to see if anyone on this list can pull off that first nomination in the next few years!