1-Christopher Nolan-Memento (2001),The Dark Knight (2008), and Inception (2010)-The King of the snubbed directors, is also the best director of the last decade. Nolan has made numerous films throughout the last few years which have provided both entertainment to mass audiences while expanding his craft and influencing other directors. Memento changed the face of the indie film. A film told backwards, where the beginning was the end, and the end was the beginning, challenged audiences to think outside the box. The Dark Knight proved sequels can be better than the original, and a film based on a comic book can be much deeper. Nolan changed the landscape of action films proving that making audiences think may not be a bad thing. Inception is another film that proves over thinking may just have to happen. Nolan's direction keeps audiences on their toes while never pandering to the mainstream; he is true genius. Nolan has been nominated for Best Director from his guild but has never been nominated at the Academy Awards, a massive mistake! Who would he have replaced? In 2001, the actual winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) should not have even received a nomination. In 2008 Stephen Daldry proved the voters are suckers for a good Holocaust story, with The Reader. 2010-While I love Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), their direction did nothing to advance film making the way Inception did.
2-Darren Aronofsky-Requiem for a Dream (2000) and The Wrestler (2008)-2000 was a competitive year with a lot of great films, but after a series of shorts and a small obscure film named Pi, Aronofsky emerged with a brilliant film about the dark world of drugs. Requiem challenges the Best Picture nominee Traffic (that year) as the most realistic representation of drugs within film. The film is a brilliant character study, and Aronofsky rose above the challenge to make one impeccable film. After Requiem Aronofsky made the polarizing film The Fountain, which had beautiful direction but it was not until his third film, The Wrestler where his adept skills of character returned. The Wrestler follows Mickey Rourke's character as he tries to achieve his goal and work to be a small time wrestler who never made the big time. Aronofsky actually achieved a Best Director nomination in 2010 for his film Black Swan, but the above mentioned films deserved attention for him from the Academy.Who would he have replaced? Steven Soderbergh had one nomination for directing Traffic; he did not need a nomination for Erin Brockovich; he should have taken his place in 2000. I feel as though I am going to be picking on Stephen Daldry and Ron Howard a good bit, but in 2008 his direction far surpassed Howard's direction of the dry Frost/Nixon.
El laberinto del fauno (2006)-Moving past two men who were snubbed multiple times throughout the last 12 years. Del Torro's direction Pan's Labyrinth is some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen. The way del Torro blends the fantastical world in which Ofelia journey's and the modern day aspects of fascist Spain in 1944 is well done. Del Torro uses visual effects well, and while he sometimes lets them dominate his film or overcome the subject matter, this film has the perfect blend, and is one of my favorite films of all time. Del Torro was nominated for writing this film, but did not win; he has never been nominated in the director's category. Who would he have replaced? Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is a terrific director, and Babel is a solid film, but I feel as though Inarritu has shower rinse and repeat formula with his films, the way his direction blends the story together from the screenplay. Babel is his weakest film (which is not a bad thing), but he did not make the same accomplishments as del Torro.
4-Michel Gondry-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)-I could not ignore the director of the film, which was snubbed royally by the Academy. The film itself received one nomination for Best Original Screenplay, which it won. Gondry's direction is hauntingly beautiful; he knows how to capture the deep emotional material from Charlie Kauffman's screenplay. Gondry has a typical style, and I have seen all of his other films, and I have never liked, scratch that, loved a film as much as I love this film. In fact I do not like any of the other films he has directed. Gondry has skills as a director because he uses all of the elements to create one of the most perfect films. From the terrific performances, to the way he makes you emotional over the loss of memory. Gondry is a master director and this film is proof. Gondry wrote the story for the film and won the Oscar along with Kauffman, but has never received a directing nomination. Who would he have replaced? This is an easy one, 2004 had some of the worst Best Picture/Best Director nominees. Taylor Hackford's direction for the film Ray is like a formula, nothing out of the ordinary that adds to the landscape of cinema the way Gondry evokes new meta realities. I am actually sad as I type this that Hackford received a nomination for that film over Gondry.
5-Alfonso Cuaron-Children of Men (2006)-2006 had some of the best films, and also saw some of the worst snubs. Cuaron is an incredible director, and this film is living proof that this man can take you a journey to a variety of places ranging from a road trip where three people journey to find themselves, to Hogwarts, and apocalyptic 2027 where people can longer give birth to children. Children of Men is the latter, which focuses on the journey of one man who takes a pregnant woman on a journey to scientists to discover to secret to saving man. This film came at the very last moment in 2006 on Christmas Day, and oh what a gift it was to understanding great direction. When Cuaron steps behind the camera he depicts this dark/haunting world that often feels too close to a present day, meanwhile you feel the distance. This film is beautifully directed, and unfortunately this man missed out on a nomination, for directing this film. Cuaron has been nominated for three Oscars two screenplay nominations, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and Children of Men, and in the Editing category for Children of Men. Who would he have replaced? I hate to replace Stephen Frears direction for The Queen, because it was a wonderful film, and was a brillaint look at an interesting even in history, but Cuaron's direction is revolutionary.
6-Quentin Tarantino-Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)-One of the most ambitious directors of all time, and one of the most ambitious films of all time. Tarantino pays homage to old school marital arts films, with this tale of revenge. Tarantino's style works incredible for this film. Tarantino likes to break his film down in chapters/segments, and this does not always works. In this film it feels genuine, and that it makes sense like opening the chapters of the book. While many prefer Volume 2, I have always liked Volume 1 more because of the way it feels so naturally Tarantino. My favorite was his use of anime in telling the origins of O-Ren Ishii. While Tarantino's screenplays are usually the highlight of his films, this film is best because of his direction, and the great action sequences. Tarantino has been nominated for four Academy Awards, two for directing (Pulp Fiction, and Inglorious Basterds) and two for writing (Pulp Fiction, and Inglorious Basterds); he won the Original Screenplay Award for Pulp Fiction. Who would he have replaced? Peter Weir's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a snooze compare to Tarantino's film, and should have been easily replaced.
7-Baz Lurhmann-Moulin Rouge! (2001)-The return of the musical can be credited to this film, or well the modern day style of musicals. Some groan at that notion because they prefer old school musicals, but this film did a lot in making musicals accessible to modern audiences. Lurhmann is a style over substance director, his other films Romeo + Juliet, and Australia just do not pack the punches this film does. Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby looks to follow the same trend as those two films, but there was something magical about this film and his direction. This film is spectacular, spectacular! Lurhmann's direction and work with his creative team deserve a lot of the credit for making you truly fall in love with these characters while making this one of the most fun musicals of all time. This may be my most bias pick on this list, but I honestly do believe Lurhmann's direction is one of the most magical directing jobs in recent years. Lurhmann was nominated as a producer for the film, but has no other nominations. Who would he have replaced? I would hate to take away Robert Altman's last nomination (so I won't), I would have nominated Lurhmann over Ridley Scott's work in Black Hawk Down. This is really one of the best years for film of all time.
8-Nicolas Winding Refn-Drive (2011)-Winding Refn is the most recent snubbed director, so recent he was just snubbed last year. Winding Refn's Drive still has some time to get legs and become more of a cult film the way Memento did, or other small films, but Winding Refn's direction will go down as some of the best because his style proves talk is cheap. This is a strong film because of the direction, while there a few scenes where Ryan Gosling's lead man, known as "The Guy" speaks, his actions speak louder than his words, and this is mainly because of of Winding Refn's direction. Winding Refn camera work is brilliant capturing the brilliant action packed moments, focusing on unique angles as cars crash and bullets fly. Winding Refn also does a good of highlighting the most intimate moments making you feel as though you are an intruder on the private interactions like at the dinner table with Gosling, Mulligan, and the boy who plays her son; he has never been nominated for an Oscar. Who would he have replaced? While I love Alexander Payne his direction with the film The Descendants did not thrill me as much as his earlier work, so he would have been booted from my nominations.
9-David Cronenberg-A History of Violence (2005)-In one of the weakest years in film, David Cronenberg does what he does best with this film, and that jar your senses to provoke an ethereal reaction. The film is based on a graphic novel about a family whose world is turned upside down when the father is approached by someone saying he is a different person. Cronenberg's directions like in most of his films uses disturbing images the get those reactions. Yet I think one of the main reasons this is one of his best films, and best directing is because the film is straight forward dark roller coaster ride, where Cronenberg does not take you too far away from the subject at hand, but he tease at moments to give a glimpse of self. There is restraint yet darkness here, that is brutally real. Shockingly David Cronenberg has never been nominated for an Academy Award. Who would he have replaced? Easy, Paul Haggis and Crash, moving on.
10-Todd Haynes-Far from Heaven (2002)-I was torn on who to give this last spot to, and it was between two directors from this year, Todd Haynes (obviously), and Steven Spielberg for Minority Report. Spielberg has been nominated for 6 directing Academy Awards (won 2), so I did not pick him. I pick Todd Haynes for more than just that reason, I picked him because this is one of the most beautifully directed films of the 2000s. Haynes pays homage to the Douglas Sirk era of the 1950s and 1960s which highlighted the subtle cutltural problems at the time. Haynes directions brings things right out to the surface pointing out that what may have seemed beautiful and straight forward was claustrophobic. Haynes direction is not in your face rather its subtle touching on the basic human emotions of love. Haynes is brilliant at making the raw human emotions shine within his work, and this film is proof of his great writing and direction. Haynes was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for this film, but has never received a directing nomination. Who would he have replaced? Sorry Marty, I do not say that often, but Gangs of New York is by far his weakest film.
One of the interesting trends is that most of these men have been snubbed as directors, but been nominated in the screenplay categories, many of them winning. This just proves my theory true the writers branch is usually one of the most creative and open minded in the Academy.