As I was constructing the new Best Picture charts -- yes, they're finally up. Have a looksie -- it occurred to me that I was foolishly betting against a lot of regular Oscar players. Why couldn't I find room for, say, George Clooney (Monuments Men), Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), and Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), for example? The answer came in three parts.
One. Willful Contrarianism.
I can be stubbornly off-trend and I believe you should be in very early predictions. A truth: before anyone has seen any of the films, anything is possible. Some of this stems from the wishful thinking of prophetic punditry i.e. if I refuse to believe that the Oscars are like the Emmys with the same shows (aka directors/actors) being nominated each year, than it will be so.
Two. 'Looks Good On Paper' Predictions Are Lazy.
If you only bet on the regular players you will usually score okay but never great in long lead Oscar nominations; Oscar lists are almost never made up of only obvious on-paper players. I have quite a solid track record in terms of year-in-advance predictions that I'd hold up against anyones. Sure I sometimes go 0 for 5 before anyone has seen anything but I've often scored 2 of 5 regularly with my year in advance pics (and 3 of 5 and higher in some rare cases) which is more than most can claim with any accuracy. Which is to say that usually when people claim to have been unusually prophetic a long time in advance they are the types who have faulty memories or change their predictions so often, daily and casually and with "or" and "and" caveats, that at some point or another they have predicted everything and thus predicted correctly. I trust you know the type of punditry, amateur and otherwise, I'm talking about.
Three. Nobody Gets Nominated Every Time.
Well except John Williams and Meryl Streep. But those are "special" cases. It's this last point I want to talk about. For instance, I know that I SHOULD predict Monuments Men since it's a Christmas release set in World War II from a multiple Oscar winner who everyone loves. But I just kept thinking about consecutive Best Picture nominations (not consecutive years but consecutive in directorial filmographies) so I looked into it a little bit.
Here are the 'they're always nominated!' assumed regulars vying for attention this year.
- Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). Up until this past decade he'd never had a consecutive Best Picture run, nope, not even two in a row. He did achieve three-in-a-row recently though (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and his only winner The Departed). I'm just not feeling Wolf at the moment which strikes me as more Shutter Island (0 noms) than Hugo (11 noms). You?
- The Coen Bros (Inside Llewyn Davis). They've won four Oscars together but their very peculiar movies aren't always in the AMPAS wheelhouse. Their only consecutive BP nods were A Serious Man (that's still so weird to think of as a Best Picture contender, right?) and True Grit.
- Alexander Payne. Nebraska, which I am betting on for a Best Picture nomination sounds too modest for Oscar but the inexplicable (to me) love for The Descendants suggests that he might be in the zone right now. If Nebraska does win the nomination that would be three Best Pics in a row (after Sideways, and The Descendants) which would be quite a turnaround since his earliest (great) pictures were roundly ignored by awards bodies.
- David O. Russell. He has virtually the same story as Payne... early great pictures routinely ignored until it finally clicked with Oscar. A nomination for American Hustle would also give him three in a row (after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook and with those cast lists fused). I already feel stoopid for leaving this at #12. Maybe it's the 70s setting throwing me or the title changes? Trivia Note: This is Russell's very first period piece and given that he reads so contemporary it'll be interesting to watch him try.
- George Clooney (Monuments Men). In the past seven years, Clooney has racked up 8 nominations and 2 statues from 7 different films (whew). In short, he owns Hollywood. This WW II Art Rescue drama with an all star cast marks his fifth directorial outing. The only one of the four previous he directed to win a Best Picture nomination was Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
- Bennett Miller. This 46 year old director is remarkably under-the-radar given his track record. But, get this, if Foxcatcher wins a Best Picture nomination (as I'm predicting) that'd be three in a row for him following Capote and Moneyball. That'd be three-for-three, too, since his only other feature is a documentary.
More Director = Best Picture Trivia?
Sure, why not...
Directors With the Most Best Picture Nominations
(which is not to imply that they were also nominated for producing, merely that their films were nominated)
He also holds the record for most Best Picture bids consecutively (*by year*) as he had a horse in the race in every Oscar competition starting with one of my favorite pictures (Dodsworth, 1936) and ending with a Best Picture winner (Mrs Miniver, 1942). Seven years! Such a great filmmaker. And prolific too so not all the pictures he made in that seven year run were nominated for the big prize.
Despite Spielberg's impressive Oscar record his golden triumphs aren't usually consecutive. The most he's ever managed "in a row" as a filmmaker is 2, which he's done a few times. And he definitely trails his fellow oft-rewarded filmmakers in the amount of acting nominations his films gather
If anyone knows who has the most consecutive Best Picture nominations in terms of the order of the films they made (not consecutive by calendar year since most directors don't make a picture every year) please share in the comments. Maybe it's Wyler but it could be Capra or Coppola (who both managed four) or someone else?