Countdown to the Oscars: Best Picture & Best Director

TIME ran an article by Daniel D’Addario before last year’s Academy Awards that is worth the time of anyone who’s ever wondered why the nominees for Best Director and Best Picture don’t always correspond. The basic answer is that Best Picture contenders are nominated by the entire body of Academy voters, while Best Director nominees are decided by their fellow directors.

I’ve often heard people explain that the Oscar for Best Picture is a “producers award,” Yet, producers aren’t the only ones who nominate films for Best Picture—much less should they be recognized as primarily responsible for the execution of an artistic vision. Film is a director’s medium. While producers are arguably the party most responsible for extending the list of nominees in recent years, their role is primarily to secure financing and organize the logistics of a production. Creative choices and decisions are made by directors, and their achievements should be synonymous with their products: pictures.

Contributors, especially producers who financially invest in the business of filmmaking, should be rewarded monetarily for the success of their productions; but statues that represent the artistic achievements of films should be awarded to their directors. Let box office results be the reward for the makers of popular films, and critical acclaim be the award for the makers of valuable films.

That said, particularly with the ability to extend the list of nominees to ten, it’s a shame the Academy chose not to recognize the artistic merits of Todd Haynes’s Carol, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton, or writer Alex Garland’s mind-bending directorial debut Ex Machina among the nominees for Best Picture.

While it’s promising to see Lenny Abrahamson’s taut direction of Room and Adam McKay’s bombastic vision of The Big Short recognized in both categories as well as audience-pleasers like Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, and John Crowley’s breakout turn at the helm of Brooklyn among this year’s nominees, there are only three films truly in contention for Best Picture.

Of the potential winners, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road represent the visual bravura and box office success of producer’s darlings like Argo, The Departed, and (more cynically) Crash. Oppositely, Todd McCarthy’s Spotlight is a masterclass in restraint and social conscience reminiscent of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, or (more deservingly) Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

Should the Best Picture of the year recognize the achievements of directors or producers? The voters seem just as confused as the viewers. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s results promise to continue one of the enduring byproducts of awards ceremonies in the first place: disappointment.

Who will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Who should win: Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Who should’ve been nominated: Todd Haynes, Carol; F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton; Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight; Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl; and Alex Garland, Ex Machina

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