Could Woody Allen be a surprise Best Director nominee?

Posted by · 8:25 am · December 15th, 2008

Woody Allen at the 2002 Academy AwardsIn 1994, Woody Allen’s masterful “Bullets Over Broadway” was not really on anyone’s charts as a potential Oscar nominee. A very funny film about a playwright who enlists a gangster to help him bring life and reality to his play, it was one of Allen’s best works with hysterically funny performances from John Cusack, the great Dianne Wiest (who won an Oscar), Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly, Jack Warden, Mary Louise Parker, Rob Reiner, Jim Broadbent, and Tracey Ullman. The film premiered here at the Toronto International Film Festival with excellent reviews, but it seemed overshadowed that season by Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” without question the movie of the year.

The day the Academy Award nominations were announced, as expected, “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction” dominated, but in a huge surprise, Allen’s film was up in seven categories including Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Palminteri), Best Supporting Actress (Weist and Tilly) and a couple of technical awards.

I have always believed the film to be one of Allen’s funniest and finest films, with beautifully created characters and knockout performances throughout. Wiest is miraculous as a manipulative diva seducing the director/writer portrayed by Cusack because she knows it to be the only way to create a better character for herself. Her “don’t speak” becomes more and more insane throughout the film.

I have always felt the film was robbed of a Best Picture nomination, likely edged out by “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” but it really did not matter as “Forrest Gump would dominate the ceremony.

This year, Allen has directed and written a critically acclaimed film in “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” with a powerhouse performance from Penélope Cruz (the Oscar frontrunner), and solid work from Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, and Scarlett Johansson (two of them Golden Globe nominees). The film is funny, sexy and dangerous, both vintage Allen, but also a newer, darker Allen, a director evolving.

Is there a chance Woody could end up a surprise nominee for Best Director? It seems a given he will earn a nod for his screenplay, but could the filmmaker edge out another and land a directing nomination?  I think so.

He is certainly beloved by the Academy, nominated over and over again throughout the years despite his turning the otehr cheek when it comes to showing up for their annual celebration, making for a bizarre love affair.  He did, however, show up to give a magnificent stand-up routine in 2002.

Though he suffered through a weak period in the years after “Bullets,” leading up to 2005’s “Match Point” (his darkest film yet), Allen has always been considered one of the great American filmmakers. His output of one, sometimes two films per year is unequaled by any other major director at work (save perhaps Clint Eastwood as of late), and he has enjoyed a great deal of freedom with the studios, making the films he wants to make, something that has evolved only in the last few years.

Though there is rarely hope for huge box office with an Allen film, they are made on relatively low budgets, come in on time, and there is a degree of prestige with them that has become implied due to his reputation as a director. But in the last few years his films are either bang on, or way off.

There always seems to be one or two wild cards among the nominees for director, generally resulting in nods for filmmakers lacking a Best Picture nominee (the “lone director”), and this year it could once again happen for Allen Woody Allen. What a just award for him that would be.




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24 responses so far

  • 1 12-15-2008 at 8:28 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    You know what? This is one of your better calls this year. I could TOTALLY see this happening, not merely for the critical reception, but because it is one of Allen’s more auteur-ish outings, a definitive “director’s film.” There’s no denying it, really, and at the end of the day, this would make PERFECT sense.

    I’ve been going around in my head trying to decide who the helmer loner is going to be. I’ve settled on Darren Aronofsky for a while, but I like this call. A lot.

  • 2 12-15-2008 at 8:46 am

    Liz said...

    I really feel alone in that I didn’t think that much of “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” To me, the comedic parts of it weren’t that funny, and the more serious parts weren’t very compelling. At the end of the movie, I said to myself, “Is that it?”

  • 3 12-15-2008 at 9:16 am

    Ivan said...

    Liz, I respect your opinion but you must go to watch again Vicky. This flick is really one of the most pleasure experience in cinemas this year. Great music (that spanish guitar) the voice in off, beautiful locations and a sexy avantgard plot allowing four amazing characters. All that because of Allen, a master filmmaker reinventing himself

  • 4 12-15-2008 at 9:24 am

    tdr said...

    I’ve never considered Scarlett Johanson a great actress, but I really regreted that she was overlooked about her work on “Match point”- a performance that broke the image of innocence she had constructed with her previous films. She wasn’t the good girl now, but seductive and sexy. And I firmly believe that it’s because of Woody Allen’s guidences.
    But on the subject of him surprisingly muscling someone out from the Best Director spot seems very improbable to me- at that stage at least. He is a great director/screenwriter/actor, but is he that great?
    Just saying.

  • 5 12-15-2008 at 9:29 am

    John Foote said...

    Appreciate that Kris — might happen.

  • 6 12-15-2008 at 9:31 am

    Roger Durling said...

    “Bullets Over Broadway” showed at the Telluride Film Festival a week before Toronto. I think you’re right, and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” will get several nods.

  • 7 12-15-2008 at 10:26 am

    Ben M. said...

    Allen is the master of lone director noms (I believe 4 of his 6 director nods have been without picture) and with the film’s strong globe showing he is a solid contender. Lone director is often a real out of left field choice though, so I actually think there are a lot of people in play here.

  • 8 12-15-2008 at 10:49 am

    Billyboy said...

    I could totally see this happening too. If he wins Best Comedy at the Globes and grabs a nod for Best Ensamble at the SAG’s, his chances might increase.

    It seems to me Harvey Weinstein should be pushing much more for this film instead of The Reader. After all VCB has been gathering much more recognition than The Reader.

    Who knows? Maybe even Rebecca Hall could slip in as another Supporting actress contender, much like Jennifer Tilly in ’95.

    And as John said, he deserves it.

  • 9 12-15-2008 at 10:52 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yeah, I’m considering it too. (I predicted he’d land a Globe nod, but that didn’t pan out.)

    I think (and hope) there’s going to be one out-of-the-box Best Director nomination this year. Right now, I’m going with Matteo Garrone, but have also considered Aronofsky, Mike Leigh or even (perhaps in a parallel universe) Steve McQueen. Woody makes as much sense as anything.

  • 10 12-15-2008 at 12:04 pm

    Bing147 said...

    I also predicted him for a Globe nom but it didn’t happen… still, I think this is very possible.

  • 11 12-15-2008 at 12:57 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I highly doubt it. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is a pretty good film, but it’s an incredibly light, very inconsequential one. If you look at his Director nods in the past, they have all belonged to his more substantial and heavier-weight films.

    The lone Director spot, I believe, will go to Darren Aronofsky.

  • 12 12-15-2008 at 1:51 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    Speaking English: Actually, Woody Allen was not nominated for Best Director for “Husbands and Wives” or “Match Point,” two of his best “substantial” films, but he was nominated for “Broadway Danny Rose” and — as John notes — for “Bullets Over Broadway,” two perfectly enjoyable diversions. When I saw this article, I immediately thought that John was right on the money. Even Javier Bardem might have a chance at being nominated.

  • 13 12-15-2008 at 2:52 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Speaking English: Just because you have an opinion on a film doesn’t mean awards groups will see it your way. It’s not about projecting, it’s about predicting.

    To clear the record, Allen’s director nominations came for “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Broadway Danny Rose,” “Interiors” and “Annie Hall.” And indeed, as Ben said, four of them were lone director bids.

    This makes more and more sense the more I think about it.

  • 14 12-15-2008 at 3:27 pm

    Ivan said...

    Could Michael Fassbender be a surprise Best Actor nominee?

    Could Eddie Marsan be a surprise Best Supporting Actor nominee?

    Could In Bruges be a surprise Best Original Screenplay nominee?

    Could Claire Simpson/The Reader be a surprise Best Film Editing nominee?

  • 15 12-15-2008 at 5:14 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I guess I just don’t understand it, then. All of those films he was nominated for had something special about them, something that sparked, something dynamic, and something that really made itself clear was a “well directed film.”

    I’m quite surprised so many people think highly of “VCB,” a light souffle of a film that could be perfectly suited to a soap opera on television. It’s fairly enjoyable, but what makes it so well directed? The narration Woody chose is absolutely dreadful, the filmmaking, like I said, would be perfectly suited to an average television show, and everything about it (excusing Cruz) seems so awfully dulled down and stagnant.

    I’m a huge Woody Allen fan, but his work here mostly falls flat. It’s hardly quintessential Allen.

  • 16 12-15-2008 at 5:24 pm

    John Foote said...

    Speaking English, perhaps that is why the film succeeds: it is NOT vintage Allen but the work of a master continuing to evolve as an artist — for me there is simply more thrilling than seeing an established artist move away from his comfort zone and make something unlike anything he has done before — Allen did this with ‘Match Point” and “VCB” which both have dark edges to them —

  • 17 12-16-2008 at 4:16 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    John: I disagree with the notion that the “dark edge” to “Match Point” and “Vicky” represents something Allen hasn’t done before — though I’m a supporter of both films.

    The likes of “Crimes and Misdemeanours” and “Husbands and Wives” are considerably darker, and cut closer to the bone, than either of the more recent films, though they share some themes and motifs.

    Woody’s work has always been hard to pin down — he’s been genre-hopping since the 70’s, after all — so I’m not sure what his “comfort zone” is.

  • 18 12-16-2008 at 9:23 am

    John Foote said...

    I agree that “Crimes and Misdamenors” went to the edge but not all the way (more tragic than dark actually) and the Allen storyline was played for laughs and Alan Alda was too riduculous to be dramatic — “Match Point” went for drama, something he rarely does for a film entire — “Interiors” certainly did, maybe one or two others, but little else. The comfort zone I refer to is the love story merged with comedic happenings, which has dominated his films since his “Annie Hall”. I was impressed to see him move away from New York — genre hopping? Really, you think? I would never have accused Woody Allen of that, and that said, I am a huge fan, I just never thinking of him moving from genre to genre — his films, like the work of Kubrick are a genre on their own.

  • 19 12-16-2008 at 10:21 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Hopping within genre, really — bad choice of words on my part.

    “Sleeper” is a very different breed of comedy from something like “Annie Hall,” which in turn is a totally different animal from, say, “Zelig” or “Shadows and Fog.”

    I think because a lot of his best-loved films fall into the romantic drama-comedy bracket, people tend to his work with that brush, but there’s always been a lot of variation in his oeuvre.

  • 20 12-16-2008 at 10:22 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    * PAINT his work with that brush

  • 21 12-16-2008 at 12:43 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    It just occurred to me that the opposite of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” — that is, the film that is getting a lot of attention now but may not be among the top contenders — is probably “Frost/Nixon.” Oscar voting is done by rank order, so it sometimes is not enough to be listed among a voter’s top five. The number one ranking counts until the top film is eliminated; then the number two ranking counts. Numerous Academy members might include “Frost/Nixon” among their top five, but how many are going to put it (or Ron Howard or the script) at number one (or at number two with an odd outlier as number one that gets eliminated)?

    By the way, I’m halfway through the novel “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates. D-I-S-A-P-P-O-I-N-T-I-N-G. Maybe it will work better as a script.

  • 22 12-16-2008 at 9:43 pm

    Glenn said...

    I’ve thought Allen was in the fifth spot for a while now. It just seems like a “this might be out last chance” type of deal to reward Allen for something that’s actually deserving without coming off as idol worshiping (hello Clint Eastwood). And it does stick out in a year where every major contender is drama (which is why I keep thinking Allen or Mike Leigh will get the lone director spot, although Aronofsky is indeed probably more likely).

    But then I thought he would get a Globe nom and that seemed more likely than Oscar and so now I’m not sure. I always thought it made sense for Allen to be the lone director though.

    Director
    Supporting Actress
    Screenplay
    And, hell, maybe even cinematography on a lark.

  • 23 12-17-2008 at 2:34 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I was thinking the exact same thing after seeing the film. The screenplay is my favorite of the year, but it’s all Woody. The change of scenery really inspired him to do new things. The movie is delightful and truly enjoyable. Along with some Oscar-worthy performances from Cruz and Bardem (yes, Bardem again!).