Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
For Your Consideration: Best Director
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Screenplay: Tred Edward Shults
Realistic Nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Taylor Russell
Oscar Scene: Ronald and Emily share a confessional moment while fishing
“Waves” has had one of the more snub filled award seasons of the year. When it launched back in August at the Telluride Film Festival, the raves came hot and heavy, positioning it as one of the surprise contenders of 2019. A24 apparently had a potential hit on their hands. Then, the precursors more or less ignored it. With the distinct possibility that the film could be entirely snubbed by the Academy Awards, today we’re going to go to the mat for one aspect of the flick specifically. That would be Trey Edward Shults and his amazing directing. In a just world, he’d be in the thick of the Oscar race for Best Director.
This movie is a bold family drama, centering on a well off Florida clan who goes through things both incredibly specific and downright universal. Sterling K. Brown, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., and Taylor Russell lead the cast. This is the simple IMDb plot synopsis, which really gives nothing away about the story:
Traces the journey of a suburban family – led by a well-intentioned but domineering father – as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.
When the film debuted at Telluride, it was almost entirely fawned over. Pundits fell over themselves to describe the emotions of the experience. It really was the hit of the festival. Up in the mountains, our own fearless leader Clayton Davis had this four star rave review to contribute:
“Waves” is an engrossing experience. Admittedly emotionally draining, the audience is a better human for just taking the ride and experience with Shults and cast. Downright sensational.
Shults demonstrates an expert hand in telling this tricky story. The narrative is clearly drawn into two very different sections, which could have tripped up many a veteran filmmaker. The first half, intensely focused on Tyler, as well as the looming presence of Ronald, is a clinic in how to build tension. Once the bubble bursts and the film, as well as the audience, exhales, the focus moves to Emily and the emergence of love. Whereas anxiety, hate, and poor decisions rule the day initially, empathy, love, and forgiveness end up being what matters in the end. Not just any director could pull this off. Executing his own script brilliantly, Shults makes it all look easily, when it clearly had a huge degree of difficulty.
Best Director is poised to be a bloodbath this year, likely keeping Shults far away from the final five. The top three does appear to be Bong Joon-Ho for “Parasite,” Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman,” and Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” They seem to be competing for the win. Then, in the running to be nominated, we have the likes of Noah Baumbach for “Marriage Story,” Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” James Mangold for “Ford v Ferrari,” Sam Mendes for “1917,” Todd Phillips for “Joker,” and Taika Waititi for “Jojo Rabbit.” That’s only scratching the surface, too. It leaves Shults with no real room to maneuver, which is a real shame. What he’s accomplished stands toe to toe with everyone else higher up on the list of contenders.
Any chance for Shults in Director is fringe at best, but that doesn’t mean voters shouldn’t remember his impeccable helmsmanship. “Waves” hasn’t contended for awards like was expected, but that takes nothing away from Shults’ accomplishments. This is one of the best directorial jobs of the year, bar none. Shults is a true maestro, conducting this concerto with poise, style, and a deep sense of empathy. Oscar love or no Oscar love, it’s going to stand the test of the time. It just would be a more just world if he was in contention. Academy members, this one is on you. It didn’t have to be this way. Voters, you can swoop in and save the day. Don’t forget about Shults when filling out your ballot.