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Oscars 2024: From Christopher Nolan to Martin Scorsese and Yorgos Lanthimos, a guide to Best Director

Mar 07, 2024 09:42 AM IST

Oscars 2024: There’s no doubt Christopher Nolan will take home the prize. But it’s interesting to see two first-time nominees recognised for foreign films.

The Oppenheimer juggernaut has ensured that some of the Oscar races are pretty much sewn up, and Director is one of those. Nolan’s masterpiece has steamrolled through all of the precursor awards and Sunday night is now just a formality. The movies nominated this year all speak to the very nature of being human, exploring the different ways in which innocence and cruelty can manifest in every human interaction. (Also Read: Oscars 2024: Barbie and Oppenheimer to Poor Things and Killers of the Flower Moon, a guide to Best Picture)

Anatomy of a Fall - Justine Triet

Christopher Nolan with Cillian Murphy on the sets of Oppenheimer.
A still from Anatomy of a Fall.

French filmmaker Justine Triet pulls double duty on Anatomy of a Fall as co-writer and director. Her clinical approach serves the material well; she never tips her hand or offers an opinion on the events that unfold. It’s the perfect blend of director and script, and director and actor (Best Actress nominee Sandra Hüller). The material requires a calculated precision, but that doesn’t mean Trier doesn’t know how to dial up the sentimentality when it comes to the son Daniel, and his dog, Snoop.

Killers of the Flower Moon - Martin Scorsese

Lily Gladstone with Martin Scorsese on the sets of Killers of the Flower Moon,
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Killers of the Flower Moon is the kind of epic that demands a director of Scorsese’s stature. It’s the story of America’s original sin as told by one of its preeminent directors. The sprawling nature of the story makes it a herculean task for any director, let alone an 81-year old Scorsese. And it’s unlikely he will get many more chances at his age. If this is to be his swan song, it’s fitting that the movie ends with him on stage producing the very story we’re watching, acknowledging his role as one of the great American storytellers.

Oppenheimer - Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan with Cillian Murphy during Oppenheimer shoot.

With Oppenheimer, Nolan finally gets his shot at the respect of his peers. It’s a given that he will take home at least Director and Picture, maybe even Adapted Screenplay if Oppenheimer pulls off a sweep. Oppenheimer is immaculately directed, though it does fall prey to Nolan’s usual narrative timeline trickery. It’s not the best directed movie of the year, but there’s no denying that Nolan has been a key figure in Hollywood and the theatrical business for the better part of two decades and it’s only fitting that his contributions are recognised.

Poor Things - Yorgos Lanthimos

Yorgos Lanthimos with Emma Stone during Poor Things shoot.

Lanthimos continues to let his freak flag fly with the absurd Poor Things. It’s a credit to his skillful direction that the film feels real and relatable despite the fantastical nature of its world. He’s been nominated six times in four different categories - Foreign Film, Original Screenplay, Director and Picture with zero wins so far. This will not be his year, but Yorgos is one of the most interesting and fearless filmmakers working in cinema today. And it’s only a matter of time before he gets his due.

The Zone of Interest - Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer during the shoot of Zone of Interest.

British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer takes a formalist approach to the weighty subject of the Holocaust with The Zone of Interest. Some critics have faulted the lack of sentimentality in the film, but it is precisely that quality that shows Glazer’s respect for the material and the harrowing events depicted in the film. The Zone of Interest is a difficult watch, but made urgent by Glazer drawing parallels to modern times with its focus on the banality of evil. Glazer has made only four films in 24 years, but each one has been a thought-provoking experiment.

Honorable Mentions

The elephant in the room is, of course, Greta Gerwig, who not only took on toy IP that no one believed in, but then turned it into the biggest movie of the year. And it’s not even an act of selling out, Barbie is arguably the most Greta movie to date. It’s truly a head-scratcher that she wasn’t nominated. Other notable directors this year who could easily have had a spot among the nominees include Celine Song for Past Lives, Cord Jefferson for American Fiction, Bradley Cooper for Maestro, and Sofia Coppola for Priscilla.

Read more from our coverage of the Awards Season 2024 here.

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