So the Directors Guild of America gave out their award last night to Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men, which almost guarantees their win at the Oscars next month. I haven’t seen that movie yet so I don’t want this particular rant to be about how they do or don’t deserve it in my opinion. But this picture above illustrates something interesting when you consider that Martin Scorsese took home this award and the Oscar last year for The Departed. What do they both have in common?
After the experimental and offbeat Bringing Out the Dead flopped with audiences, Scorsese tried his hand at something different. Gangs of New York and The Aviator were both bloated, Oscar-baiting epics that saw the director get some serious acclaim but mostly served to show that he was just a little bit out of his element. The Departed, however, was hailed by critics as a return to form. Good old Marty doing what he does best; a genre crime picture and he did it just as well as ever.
After O Brother, Where Art Thou? became their highest grossing film and The Man Who Wasn’t There won them Best Director at Cannes for the third time, the Coen brothers took a departure into screwball comedy for Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers and were met with the worst reviews of their career, proving that they were just a little bit out of their element. Now No Country for Old Men is being hailed as a return to form and the Coen Brothers back to doing what they do best; a genre crime picture. Again, I don’t want to put my personal opinion in here because I’m sure these are good films well directed, but is this really what the Academy should be honoring? Filmmakers retreating to their comfort zones and delivering what they’ve delivered in spades before, only maybe slightly better?
On the flipside, someone like Paul Thomas Anderson was able to step outside of his comfort zone and knock it out of the park. He proved his element is wherever he damn well wants it to be. Shouldn’t that count for something? Or are they basically saying that maybe if There Will Be Blood wasn’t very good and Anderson followed it up with a really phenomenal contemporary ensemble piece set in the San Fernando Valley, then he could win his Oscar.