Six Circuit: Which 2000 Best Director Hopeful Got Shut Out For Double Steven Soderbergh Nominations?

4

Welcome to the forty-third entry in our Six Circuit series.

Rules prohibit actors from being nominated twice in the same category. That’s why performers like Kate Winslet pull “category fraud” to try and earn nominations in both lead and supporting (see the 2008 race). However, there is no such rule that prohibits a director from being nominated twice in the same category. Look no further than the 2000 Best Director category, where Steven Soderbergh earned two nominations, eventually winning. Though he made up 2/5 of the category, let’s take a look at who else he went up against.

THE NOMINEES WERE:

  • “Billy Elliot” — Stephen Daldry
  • “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” — Ang Lee
  • “Erin Brockovich” — Steven Soderbergh
  • “Gladiator” — Ridley Scott
  • “Traffic” — Steven Soderbergh (WINNER)

OVERALL SUMMARY

It was such a horse race for both Best Picture and Best Director in 2000 that the Oscars wound up splitting the awards between two films. While Ridley Scott’s film “Gladiator” won Best Picture, double-nominee Steven Soderbergh won Best Director for “Traffic” in honor of his successful year. Soderbergh was likely always going to have both nominations. “Erin Brockovich” was a massive hit from early in the year and “Traffic” was a late-breaking ensemble drama that peaked at the right time. The combined force of those two movies helped him earn tons of critics prizes, including wins from both Los Angeles and New York critics, along with the Critics Choice Awards. Though “Gladiator” won Best Picture, Ridley Scott had not won a major precursor that year.

The DGA Awards provide the strongest barometer for Best Director at the Oscars. This year, the DGA chose Ang Lee for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the international smash hit. This marks one of only four times the DGA Winner has not repeated at the Oscars since 1990. The others were Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”), Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) and Ben Affleck (“Argo”). Lee also picked up director wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards. Based on precursors, he was the odds on favorite to win the Oscar. However, voters likely were still skittish on giving a Foreign Language Feature a Picture or Director win in 2000. Lee would later win two Oscars – “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) and “Life of Pi” (2012).

The offbeat nominee this year was Stephen Daldry, who directed “Billy Elliot,” a heartwarming British import about a young boy enrolling in ballet. With only a BAFTA precursor and no Best Picture nomination for the film, Daldry was likely fifth. Which director did he edge out for the nomination?

THE SIX SPOT CONTENDERS ARE:

  • Daron Aronofsky – “Requiem for a Dream”
    • Precursors – Online Film Critics Society (WINNER), Independent Spirit Award Nominee
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn)
  • Cameron Crowe – “Almost Famous”
    • Precursors – DGA Awards, Online Film Critics Society
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Supporting Actress (Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand), Original Screenplay (WINNER), Editing
  • Lasse Hallström – “Chocolat”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Actress (Juliette Binoche), Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
  • Karyn Kusama – “Girlfight”
    • Precursors – Gotham Awards Breakthrough Director (WINNER), Sundance Film Festival Directing Award (WINNER)
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Kenneth Lonergan – “You Can Count on Me”
    • Precursors – Gotham Awards Breakthrough Director Nominee,
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Laura Linney), Original Screenplay
  • István Szabó – “Sunshine”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Lars Von Trier – “Dancer in the Dark”
    • Precursors – Online Film Critics Society, Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or (WINNER),
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Original Song
  • Robert Zemeckis – “Cast Away”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Sound

NEWCOMERS AND BOUNDARY PUSHERS

  • Daron Aronofsky – “Requiem for a Dream”
  • Terrence Davies – “The House of Mirth”
  • István Szabó – “Sunshine”
  • Lars Von Trier – “Dancer in the Dark”
“Requiem for a Dream” director Darren Aronofsky (left) stages a scene with star Ellen Burstyn (right), who would garner a Best Actress nomination for her performance.

Few movies have been as viscerally stunning and upsetting as “Requiem for a Dream,” by Darren Aronofsky. The tale of addiction was likely always going to be a tough sell for the more mainstream Academy. Aronofsky won the directing prize at the Online Film Critics Society and was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards. Yet, some were wondering if Oscar voters would be able to stomach the film. Still, Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn was able to reap a nomination for Best Actress, suggesting there were some fans of the film in the Academy. Also, Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” represented another “tough-to-watch” film that received a lone Oscar nomination (Original Song). There likely was not enough widespread support for either Aronofsky or Von Trier to break into Director. However, these nominations show they may have shown promise as a “David Lynch” esque surprise Directing nominee.

The year 2000 also introduced the world to some amazing, new directors. Karyn Kusama took the independent film world by storm with her film, “Girlfight,” starring Michelle Rodriguez in her film debut. Kusama won directing prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and the Gotham Awards. In terms of Oscar buzz, however, they seemed to take more notice for Kenneth Lonergan, playwright turned film writer. He had previously written “Analyze This” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” while writing and directing “You Can Count on Me.” That film earned Lonergan an Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay, while star Laura Linney also received a Best Actress nomination.

One of the more baffling “out-of-nowhere” nominations came at the Golden Globe Awards. “Sunshine,” a three hour epic about five generations of a Hungarian family, wound up with three nominations – Best Picture, Director and Original Score. Director István Szabó did not show up at any other precursors that season. Likely, the film was just an odd, personal love of the Globes.

OSCAR COATTAILS

Lasse Hallstrom directs “Chocolat,” a romance starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

Having a movie nominated for Best Picture usually puts a director in the awards conversation. However, “Chocolat” still stands out as one of the more reviled Best Picture nominees. The charming confection of a film wasn’t egregiously bad. Yet, it was synonymous with producer Harvey Weinstein and his quest for Oscar nominations and wins. Director Lasse Hallström had been an Oscar nominee before for directing “My Life as a Dog” in 1987 and “The Cider House Rules” in 1999. Yet, Hallström never factored into the Best Director conversation this year, even as his movie earned more traction.

The Oscar conversation around Cameron Crowe was another interesting case. The popular director had just missed out on a nomination in directing for “Jerry Maguire” in 1996. Some thought this Oscar IOU would help his case for “Almost Famous,” an autobiographical rock dramedy that earned critics love, but little money. He ended up winning the Original Screenplay for “Almost Famous,” but the movie received less Oscar love than he had originally hoped. Despite a DGA nomination, the film missed nominations in Best Director and Best Picture. It may have had lots of number one votes, but not enough overall votes for the win.

Much was made about the intense production of “Cast Away,” which re-teamed Tom Hanks with his “Forrest Gump” director Robert Zemeckis. The production started filming in 1998, only to shut down for a year while Hanks lost weight and grew out his hair. In the meantime, Zemeckis filmed “What Lies Beneath,” a nifty thriller which was a huge hit. Both movies made tons of money. This could’ve been a bulletproof Oscar narrative. Yet, neither the precursors nor the Oscars were interested in the movie beyond Hanks’ performance.

THE SIX SPOT FOR 2000 BEST DIRECTOR WAS:

CAMERON CROWE – “ALMOST FAMOUS”

Who do you think came in 6th place in the 1996 Best Actress race? Share with us in the comments below.