Tomorrow, as that piece of string tied around our finger reminds us, the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards will be announced. There will be gasps, there will be snubs, there will be blood. And there will also be a lot of recycling of old clichés: about how it “just wasn’t x’s year;” about how y “lost momentum;” and, by those whose names are called, about how much of an honor it is “just to be nominated.”
That’s true, of course, but while that handy phrase is designed to set up a graceful loss, should it happen come Feb. 28th, it also has its flipside: If it’s nice “just” to be nominated, how about those poor wretches who’ve never been nominated at all? In previous years, we’ve looked at the directors who’ve never joined the elite club that is the Oscar winner’s circle, which is undoubtedly hard enough. But imagine, then, how bitter a pill it is to know that you never even gained entry to the less exclusive, relatively populous section of the club reserved for mere nominees?
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So today we’re looking at these wholly snubbed men and women who have never received a Best Director Oscar nod (though many have been nominated elsewhere). A few ground rules: It’s not a definitive list (how could it be?), just a selection of those whose exclusion seemed noteworthy to us. And we’ve kept it to living directors, so all of these picks could conceivably remedy their nom-lessness at some point; and avoided directors who work primarily in languages other than English, seeing as foreign language Best Director nominees are in a minority, and no one has ever won a Best Director Oscar for a film not in English. So no Jean-Luc Godard or Agnès Varda.
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We’ve also tried to keep it less of a pie-in-the-sky wishlist of our favorite filmmakers and a more realistic selection, in choosing directors who had at least one Academy-friendly title they can feel legitimately aggrieved not to have been nominated for. While the Achievement in Directing honor roll is being reeled off tomorrow, spare a thought for these 15 filmmakers who’ve never heard their names called.
Oscar History: While Cronenberg has directed some nominated performances (Viggo Mortensen for “Eastern Promises” and William Hurt in “A History of Violence” which also got an adapted screenplay nod for Josh Olson), he himself has never been nominated by name in any category.
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? It’s easy to suggest that a major sea change would have to happen in the tastes of the Academy before Cronenberg’s cerebral weirdness would be recognized, but let’s not forget that the not un-weird David Lynch has three directing nominations. So there’s no reason aside from plain bad luck (and of course rampant anti-Canadian bias) why Cronenberg has been so overlooked, especially since recently he’s offered up the kind of film that’s much more palatable to Academy tastes than the (genius) body horrors he started out in. “A Dangerous Method” especially would have seemed to tick a lot of boxes, though it’s not necessarily our favorite, while in a really fair world his direction of “The Fly,” as an early, more accessible title, would have been nominated (and perhaps even won over Roland Joffé‘s ponderous “The Mission”). And while in our own private fantasy his “Crash” would have figured too (never in a billion years), perhaps the most obvious misses are the aforementioned Viggo Mortensen-starrers that were liked enough to pick up nods elsewhere. Of those, he was most unlucky with “A History of Violence,” which gained two noms in what was not a particularly heavyweight year for the Directing category — Cronenberg certainly could have taken Paul Haggis‘ “Crash” spot or even George Clooney‘s slot for “Good Night and Good Luck” without much outcry from us.
Oscar History: Two nominations, no wins — one for Best Documentary Feature for “4 Little Girls” (he lost out to Holocaust survivor doc “The Long Way Home“) and one for Original Screenplay for “Do The Right Thing” (in a strong year, he lost to “Dead Poets Society” which, well, huh.)
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? “Do The Right Thing.” And he should probably have won — the Screenplay nod is an acknowledgment that it had pinged on the Academy’s radar, the film is not just his best it is one of the truly seminal films of the last 50 years, and that was the year Oliver Stone raised the trophy for “Born on the Fourth of July” which is not even Oliver Stone‘s best-directed film. In a dodgy period for the Academy (“Driving Miss Daisy,” basically the anti-“Do The Right Thing,” won for Best Picture), even just a nomination for Lee might have partially reclaimed the 1990 Oscars in history’s eyes, but no. Perhaps the film is too firebrand-y and controversial to have hit with the more conservative element (something that likely scuppered his chances with “Malcolm X,” too) but Lee has directed several movies since that could easily have seen him pick up a nod, if the tide was in his favor. “25th Hour” was maybe his best shot but zip; “Miracle at St. Anna” just didn’t pick up enough heat and got nada; and “Inside Man,” though a slick, accessible (and financially successful) thriller, was likely judged too lightweight, so bupkis. At this stage, it really feels like the Academy just doesn’t want to recognize Lee, and if he continues to turn in disappointments like his “Oldboy” remake and divisive curios like “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” and “Chi-Raq,” it’s hard to see them feeling the pressure to remedy that.
Oscar History: Nolan has three nominations — for Original Screenplay on “Memento” and “Inception,” and as producer of the latter he’s named in its Best Picture nod.
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? By rights, Nolan should have more than one Directing nomination by now, and that’s speaking as a non-acolyte. To start with, his snubbing for directing on “Inception” seems more egregious as time goes by, especially since that film should be exactly the sort the Academy recognizes any way it can: It had an original concept, huge ambition, a glossy cast, and — most importantly — it made shedloads of cash, north of $820 million worldwide. Also, that was the year that Tom Hooper picked up the Directing Oscar for “The King’s Speech,” which we all could have done without; and even beyond that, did the Coens really merit a nomination for the likable but slightly autopilot-y “True Grit“? Then of course, there’s Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, which made the director a kind of superstar among a specific audience and redefined (at least for DC) what a superhero movie should look like. “The Dark Knight” is the most impressive of the three, but it’s unlikely the Academy ever would have gone to bat (heh) for that one, but if Peter Jackson swept the boards for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” couldn’t Nolan at least have mustered a “services rendered” nod for “The Dark Knight Rises” in recognition of the whole trilogy? And finally, you’d have thought that perhaps wanting to make up for prior neglect, the Academy might do that funky thing where they nominate him for whatever comes along next, and Nolan gave them every excuse with “Interstellar” — another massive cast, another original script, another wildly ambitious premise. Five below-the-line nods were all it could glean, though, so no wonder Nolan’s not taking any chances with the next one: Expect to see his name expunged from lists like this when “Dunkirk” arrives in 2017.
Brian De Palma
Oscar History: Brian De who? One of the biggest names on this list, with the longest, most productive career, has never once been recognized by the Academy, though Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were both nominated for “Carrie,” and Sean Connery won for “The Untouchables.”
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? We’ll admit that a lot of the qualities that make De Palma movies so entertaining are exactly the things that traditionally might have seen him on the outs with the Academy: He works in genre, often (horrors!) horror; he has an eye for the lurid; and he is as barefaced about “homaging” the masters he’s studied as you can be without incurring copyright lawsuits. Tom Hooper he is not. But it’s not all “Obsession” or “Dressed to Kill” or even “Carrie.” A couple of times, De Palma has turned in films that, had they come from anyone else, feel like they might have been in with a shout. “Casualties of War” went perhaps too far into stony-faced grimness to really register, but “Carlito’s Way” could easily have garnered a nod for direction. However, he was unluckiest with “The Untouchables.” Boasting a stacked cast of previous and future Oscar-winners (and Sean Connery would win Best Supporting Actor for his role in it), it is based on a true story from American crime history, was written by David bloody Mamet, and is an almost indecent amount of cleverly directed fun. And for anyone still thinking, well, in the Directing category they tend to nominate stuffier, less genre films — that very year one of the slots went to Adrian Lyne for “Fatal Attraction.” So even though it’s hard to see where a nod would have come from in more recent years, we still reckon De Palma can be rightly sore at missing out there.
Oscar History: Somehow the Academy has managed to avoid giving Wright a single mention, while doling out nominations to his films like they were cucumber sandwiches: “Pride and Prejudice” picked up four nods, including one for muse Keira Knightley, “Atonement” got seven and won for Best Score, and “Anna Karenina” got four and won for Costume.
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? It’s a funny old world where Tom Hooper has a Directing Oscar, Morten Tyldum has a nomination, and Stephen Daldry has three, but Joe Wright has yet to merit so much as a second look from the Academy. His stock in trade so far has been the kind of lavish British period pieces, often with heavyweight literary heritage, that normally get voting members all hot under the collar. And in fact they have done so, just not for him: His Austen, McEwan and Tolstoy adaptations have between them netted a whopping 15 other nominations. Our own favorite is probably “Anna Karenina” which was a pretty dazzling display of directorial inventiveness, but we can see how it might have been too rich for the Academy’s blood. And sure, maybe the frequently adapted “Pride and Prejudice” felt just a little overfamiliar. But it’s really hard to see how he missed out for “Atonement,” which is made of Academy catnip: a tragic love story, a period wartime setting, a bestselling novel as a source. The Director field that year was strong at the top, with the Coens and Paul Thomas Anderson contending, but, though we defend the film, we’d have been perfectly ok with Jason Reitman not getting a Best Director nod for “Juno” and Wright slipping in there instead. His Oscar-baity “The Soloist” failed to create much noise at all, despite Important Themes and Previously Oscar-Winning Stars, so as of now it’s basically all hanging on “Pan.” Haha, just kidding, cold day in hell, etc.
Lars von Trier
Oscar History: The Danish provocateur/bad boy has one Oscar nomination and, hilariously, it’s for Best Original Song (for the admittedly great “I’ve Seen It All” by Björk from “Dancer In The Dark“)
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? There are problems with having up to twice as many Best Picture slots as there are Best Director nominations. One is that it automatically downgrades the Best Picture nominees who do not have a corresponding nod for Director (because statistically speaking, those two awards are likely to go hand in hand). And another is that it means that some of the most visionary directors, who turn in the kind of films that the Academy balks at but whose skill and craftsmanship are undeniable, never get a look in. Enter, probably pursued by a bear, Lars von Trier, whose outlandish, outspoken persona is only rivaled by the level of poke-your-eye-out directorial assurance he’s always displayed. Sure, his earlier, more experimental titles might have put him outside the fray (although “Breaking the Waves” did get Emily Watson a nomination) and recent titles like “Antichrist” and “Nymphomaniac” are just too explicit, but if the Oscar game was just a little bit more open, and just a little bit more about actual merit in the actual category, he could have picked up a nomination for 2011’s “Melancholia.” Bringing a stately new aesthetic to his work, featuring a career-highlight performance from Cannes Best Actress Kirsten Dunst, the film is apocalyptically gloomy, but still may be the closest Von Trier has come to courting the mainstream, before that notorious Cannes press conference saw him shoot himself in the foot that he’d just stuck in his mouth. And the directing nominations that year certainly had room for improvement: Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life” is unassailable, but Alexander Payne for the underwhelming “The Descendants” and eventual Oscar-winner Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist“? Idiotic remarks about Hitler notwithstanding, we’d have gladly seen LvT there for “Melancholia” instead of either.
Oscar History: Oscar loves Kasdan as a writer, and has nominated his screenplays three times: for “The Big Chill,” “Grand Canyon” and “The Accidental Tourist,” for which he, as a producer, also received a Best Picture nomination. Obviously, the box office and the general public love him as a writer even more: He’s behind the screenplays for “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and, of course, “Star Wars: the Force Awakens.”
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? Well, considering he also directed the three films he got Screenplay nods for, he should have been nominated in that category for at least one of them. That said, “Grand Canyon” is pleasant but not a particularly urgent or vital showcase of his directorial skills, so out of them we’d choose “The Big Chill,” which is a quietly era-defining dramedy. But the competition in 1983 was pretty fierce, and we wouldn’t want to have seen any of the existing nominees ousted, bar possibly Mike Nichols, who was already a Best Director winner, and whose “Silkwood” is not really among his top-shelf efforts. And Kasdan probably came even closer to a Directing nod with Best Picture nominee “The Accidental Tourist,” but again a strong field means that it’s hard to see where he could have slotted in, if not instead of eventual winner Barry Levinson, whose “Rain Man” has not aged particularly well. But actually, outside of those titles, if we were in charge of the Oscars, Kasdan would have been nominated for his very first directorial feature, “Body Heat.” The sultry, sizzling, surprisingly subversive neo-noir deserved more recognition than it got, and we’re not afraid to court controversy and suggest it’s easily a better directed film than the worthy snooze that was Mark Rydell‘s awards magnet “On Golden Pond.“
Oscar History: Twice Oscar-nominated as a screenwriter ( for “Primary Colors” and “Heaven Can Wait“), May’s “The Heartbreak Kid” also gleaned two Oscar nominations, for Supporting Actress (Jeannie Berlin, May’s daughter) and Supporting Actor (Eddie Alpert).
What Should She Have Been Nominated For And Why? Why, “Ishtar,” of course. Kidding! While the notorious, directorial-career-ending flop has been somewhat reevaluated recently, and is hardly as all-out toxic as its put-it-in-a-lead-coffin-and-bury-it-at-sea reputation, it’s still a very compromised, not at all “good” film. But that is both a shame and a surprise because the other ¾ of May’s directorial output (analyzed here) is gold. Her pitch black, tonally akimbo debut comedy “A New Leaf” was never going to get her a director’s nod, and it was also unlikely for her brilliantly pared-back, highly independent-feeling paranoia two-hander “Mikey and Nicky,” but “The Heartbreak Kid,” with its Neil Simon screenplay and achingly brilliant Charles Grodin performance, exists in a kind of Academy sweet spot and should have gotten more recognition. A bittersweet, insightful relationship film, it could almost have been a project from May’s ex-comedy partner Mike Nichols, whose own earlier venture into film direction was met with such spectacular Oscar success right off the bat (he was nominated for his first two features and won Best Director for the second, “The Graduate“). Yes, it’s probably a bit of a cheat to have someone with only four films to her name on here, especially being as she was so burned by the “Ishtar” debacle that she has not directed since, but May’s reputation deserves to be reclaimed from the shadow of that flop, and the near-perfect, hangdog ‘Heartbreak Kid’ is perhaps the best antidote. Fun fact: Had it merited her a Best Director nomination, it would have been a whole three years before Lina Wertmüller became the first female director to be so honored.
Oscar History: Burton technically has two Oscar nominations for films he directed, but they come in the Animated Feature category — “Corpse Bride” and “Frankenweenie.” His films also garnered an Oscar nod for Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd“) and a win for Martin Landau (“Ed Wood“).
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? Almost six years ago to the day, when we were a little Blogspot blog, we ran an Oscar-related feature in which we hoped that Tim Burton’s then-upcoming “Alice in Wonderland” would be better than his “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Such innocent times! ‘Alice’ came, broke box-office records and our hearts, and went, and it’s been a steady decline for Burton since on the live-action front, with even his mooted “return to form” “Big Eyes” proving a flaccid disappointment. With all that garishness fresh in the memory, it can be hard to dredge up too much outrage over Burton’s exclusion from the Best Director race, but early on he was nothing if not visionary. “Beetlejuice” was never an Academy-type prospect, but once his “Batman” had exploded into the $$$ phenomenon it became, Burton provided the Academy two great opportunities to reward him: first, the melancholy fairy tale “Edward Scissorhands” which was as original and heartfelt a film as he’d ever make; and then, perhaps even more mature in terms of his directorial style, “Ed Wood.” The latter especially feels like the kind of self-referential portrait that Hollywood loves to mark out, and with its eye-catching B/W cinematography, strong performances and gently progressive themes, it’s a mystery how he avoided being nominated here. But an ultra-safe Academy preferred to recognize Robert Redford’s stately helming of “Quiz Show” and eventual winner Robert Zemeckis for the deft but drippy “Forrest Gump.” At the risk of repeating the refrain of six years ago, let’s hope this year’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiars” sees Burton at least try to get back to that early form.
Oscar History: Reiner’s only Oscar nomination came as producer, for Best Picture for a film that, as is the way of these things, isn’t even close to his best picture — “A Few Good Men.” He also directed Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates and James Woods to acting nominations (Woods’ was for “Ghosts in Mississippi” which we’d forgotten all about), with Bates winning for “Misery.”
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? Let’s get one thing straight: Rob Reiner’s nine-year, seven-movie streak between 1984 and 1992 is among the greatest back-to-back runs any Hollywood director ever had, and it’s borderline criminal that he has no Best Director statue to mark it, let alone a nomination. “This Is Spinal Tap,” “The Sure Thing, “Stand By Me,” “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally…,” “Misery,” “A Few Good Men” — the only problem with this litany is that it’s comedy-heavy, and everyone knows comedy is super easy to direct [eyeroll]. In a just world, ‘Spinal Tap” would have been recognized somehow, as with it Reiner essentially created the mockumentary genre. And even if “When Harry Met Sally…,” so defining that our Oli Lyttelton wrote wondered if it “broke” the rom-com, was too lightweight for the Academy; “The Princess Bride” too kiddie; and “Misery” too horror, what about Best Picture nominee “A Few Good Men“? It was him doing “serious,” yet still an entertaining star showcase, and his most financially successful film, so even though it’s far from our favorite Reiner we’d have happily seen him nominated in place of Martin Brest for the sludgy “Scent of a Woman.” Our own choice would have been “Stand By Me,” though, because it’s perfect, and a lovely example of everything that Reiner does as a director, when he’s on form, better than anybody else.
Oscar History: Gilliam himself has one nomination, for the screenplay for “Brazil,” and he has directed three nominated performances — Brad Pitt in “12 Monkeys,” and Robin Williams and Mercedes Ruehl in “The Fisher King,” with Ruehl winning the Best Supporting Actress category that year.
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? Another example of a director whose visionary nature can’t be denied even if he often works in genres and styles that the Academy gets a little sniffy about, Terry Gilliam has nonetheless at least three films that could legitimately have netted him a nomination as director. After his time with the Monty Python squad, his early masterpiece “Brazil” still remains perhaps the purest and cleverest film he’s made, in which his taste for the grotesque is put to use for some impressive dystopian universe-building. But sci-fi doesn’t fly, as the old rhyme that we’ve just made up goes, and so nothing for Gilliam, while Sydney Pollack got nominated that year for directing Meryl’s accent in “Out of Africa,” and worse still, went on to win. That bias also likely did in “12 Monkeys,” Gilliam’s last truly great film (sorry ‘Fear and Loathing‘ fans), which is a shame because 1995 wasn’t a banner year for the category either with the wildly overrated “Il Postino” picking up a Direction nod for Michael Radford and Chris Noonan getting one, mostly for its clever CG, for “Babe.” And there’s really no reason Gilliam didn’t get a look in for “The Fisher King,” still his warmest, sweetest film, boasting great, Oscar-nominated performances and inventive visuals in a story that is both idiosyncratically his but also broadly accessible. He was never going to lift the trophy instead of Jonathan Demme for “Silence of the Lambs,” but he certainly deserved a director nomination over, say, Barry Levinson for dull biopic “Bugsy.” Nothing he’s made recently has really been up to similar snuff, but hope springs eternal.
Oscar History: Of everyone on this list, Cameron Crowe is the only actual Oscar-winner, having taken home the trophy for Original Screenplay for “Almost Famous.” He also has two other nominations, for the “Jerry Maguire” screenplay and, as one of its producers, for Best Picture too.
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? After enduring classic “Say Anything…” and amiable time capsule “Singles,” Crowe had marked himself out as a writer more perhaps than as a particularly visionary director. It’s a symptom of his talky, slangy, catchy scripts plus his unobtrusive visual style that you can look at a Crowe film from a narrow Academy mindset and not really see him directing. So perhaps that’s why when he finally did score with “Jerry Maguire,” he ended in director’s no-man’s land: his script was recognized and the film overall, just not his direction (pointedly, it was the only one of the five Best Picture nominees to not also score Best Director; Milos Forman subbed in for “The People vs Larry Flynt“). Sure, the film doesn’t have the period trappings and widescreen vistas of winner Anthony Minghella‘s “The English Patient,” but Crowe did get a best-ever performance from star Tom Cruise and it had instantaneous pop-cultural impact. Remember how people would not stop showing each other the money and having each other at hello? But fine, there are only so many slots and obviously “Shine” needed to be there, but that means there’s even less excuse for not giving Crowe a Director’s nod for “Almost Famous.” Certainly, he could have taken Steven Soderbergh‘s other slot that year (he won for “Traffic” but was also nominated for “Erin Brockovich“) or Stephen Daldry’s spot for “Billy Elliot.” Perhaps the Academy thought they’d get another go with Crowe soon, unaware that the new millennium would, sadly, see his quality control falter.
Oscar History: Marshall herself has never been nominated in any category, but films she’s directed have been: “Big” was nominated for Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Original Screenplay, while “Awakenings” got a Best Actor nod (Robert De Niro) as well as nominations for Adapted Screenplay and the big one, Best Picture.
What Should She Have Been Nominated For And Why? Oftentimes when an actor tries their hand at directing, the Academy falls over itself to award them. But whether because her acting background was mostly on the small screen (she played Laverne on “Laverne and Shirley,” among myriad other roles) or because of other reasons, like, you know, ingrained institutional sexism, Marshall didn’t experience that treatment, despite a credible run of would-be Academy-friendly titles in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Of those, her first proper shot was probably with the still-beloved body-swap comedy “Big,” which got two other major nominations and kicked Tom Hanks‘ career into a higher register. But, of course, it’s a comedy, and The Academy Does Not Laugh. Another outlier possibility would have been with the nostalgic 1992 Women’s Baseball dramedy “A League of their Own,” (a film that incidentally has aged a lot better than, say, “Scent of a Woman,” which did get a directorial nod that year), but despite a game cast and good box office, it didn’t trouble too many ballot sheets. And so really Marshall’s “Awakenings” marked her closest brush to date with joining the select club of women nominated for Best Director (there’ve been 4. Four. IV. Four. Out of 430-odd nominations!) The story is sentimental to be sure, but that has seldom been a turn-off for the Academy, and as flawed as it is, it’s nothing like as heavy-handed and self-serving as that year’s Best Director/Picture-winning “Dances With Wolves.”
Oscar History: Independent pioneer Sayles has two Oscar nominations, both for Original Screenplay — for “Passion Fish” and “Lone Star.”
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? There are some indie auteurs — Jim Jarmusch, for example — for whom it almost seems like an Oscar nomination would be an insult, a signal of selling out. But John Sayles’ socially aware filmmaking has always seemed pragmatically rather than dogmatically independent: He makes his films with whatever resources he can; it’s just usually big studios aren’t that interested. Indeed, as a writer he’s very eclectic, having supplied screenplays for schlocky Roger Corman productions like “Piranha” and “Battle Beyond the Stars,” as well as the odd studio venture like the recent “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” All of which is to say is that his output is diverse enough that there are a couple of times he could justifiably have scored a Best Director nomination. Early on, his retelling of the White Sox/World Series scandal “Eight Men Out” is the kind of prestige, period, historical true-life drama that has traditionally gone down well come Oscar time; and later “Passion Fish,” which brought him the first of his writing nominations, is the kind of elegant redemptive relationship story that you could easily imagine raking in silverware had a few more people actually seen it, or if it had featured bigger stars than Mary McDonnell and Alfre Woodard (who are both awesome, by the way). But the near miss that really hurts is “Lone Star,” a subtle, brilliantly performed, generations-spanning thriller/drama/love story that is textured, intelligent, humane and beaten only by “Fargo” to the title of best film of 1996. Certainly, Sayles deserved recognition in the category over Scott Hicks for “Shine,” dammit, and probably over eventual winner Anthony Minghella for “The English Patient” too.
Guillermo del Toro
Oscar History: Del Toro was nominated for Original Screenplay for “Pan’s Labyrinth” a rare feat considering it’s not in English. That film was also shortlisted for the Foreign Language Oscar, and garnered a further four nominations, winning three: Art Direction, Make-up and Cinematography.
What Should He Have Been Nominated For And Why? One of the self-dubbed “Three Amigos” that includes fellow Mexicans Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, if the world was a symmetrical place, this year would be del Toro’s to not just be nominated for Direction, but to win, after Cuarón did for “Gravity” and Iñárritu did for “Birdman” these past two years. The chances are nil, sadly, with del Toro’s “Crimson Peak” simply not gaining enough traction. The issue is undoubtedly that he’s associated in Hollywood most with a type of comic-book/genre movie that does not quicken the Academy’s pulse — so “Pacific Rim,” “Blade II,” and the “Hellboy” films enlarged his fanboy fanbase but that’s about it. But they’re only half the del Toro story — his actual masterpieces have been in his native Spanish, and are richly imagined, deeply felt, consummately directed period ghost stories. “The Devil’s Backbone” is a wonderful film, but it was underseen at the time, so the one that del Toro by all rights should have been nominated for is Spanish Civil War heartbreaker “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Yes, it’s in Spanish and no one wins a Best Director Oscar for a non-English film, but if it could pick up a screenplay nod (and arguably the brilliance of “Pan’s Labyrinth” is more in its directorial vision than its script), it certainly deserved a Director’s nomination too — possibly instead of Iñárritu himself for “Babel,” and certainly instead of Stephen Frears for “The Queen.”
A few other never-nominees we could have chosen and may look into in future: Sergio Leone, Jim Jarmusch, Nicolas Roeg, Sam Fuller, Nancy Meyers, Ben Affleck, Nicolas Winding Refn, Sam Raimi, John Hughes, Susanne Bier, Richard Lester, John Carpenter, Paul Verhoeven, John Landis, Nora Ephron, Werner Herzog and, travesty of travesties, Michael Bay, but no doubt that Benghazi film of his will stop the rot. And some of the most famous older names you might be surprised to know never got a Best Director nod include: Charlie Chaplin, Fritz Lang, Stanley Donen, Paul Mazursky, Robert Aldrich, James Whale, Sam Peckinpah, John Frankenheimer, Michael Powell, Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray.
So was there anyone here who you really, really thought had been nominated but wasn’t? Who do you think is the biggest oversight on the part of the Academy? Let us know below.