5. Martin Scorsese, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: Love Marty, but this isn’t his best work (what was the point of TWOWS and what was its message?), and wish someone else more worthy had been recognized.
4. Alexander Payne, NEBRASKA: This is a very understated, almost simple movie, but it has powerful gravitas, great (and subtle) performances. It’s not a flashy job by Payne, but one of his best.
3. David O. Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE: Russell clearly gets some of the best talent in all the land, and inspires some of their best work of their careers, and you never truly know what you’re getting with a David O. Russell movie. And I love it. I feel like this movie worked more for its acting than anything, but the brilliant characters (thanks, script) and Russell’s belief in his crew is remarkable.
2. Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE: Can Steve and Alfonso share the award? Both movies are worth lavish gifts, for entirely different reasons. McQueen’s unflinching honesty of America’s darkest hour is freakin’ fantastic, and the fact that this movie will be shown in schools until the end of time (or should), gives it more oomph. There’s also that never-ending take on Solomon while hanging from the tree that just made my heart rupture and my brain explode.
1. Alfonso Cuaron, GRAVITY: But this guy broke moviemaking. GRAVITY was a spectacle, one of the most technologically magnificent, creative, inventive and whatever other gushy adjectives you want to use to describe this touchstone of cinema. It might not have the most everlasting story, or the importance of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, but it’s the best MADE movie all year, and somehow managed to pair that with a moving story and fantastic performances by Bullock and Clooney. GRAVITY is what big movies should be like, and Alfonso Cuaron made it all happen. It was clearly his baby, and his vision, and there’s no Defying Gravity this time.
Next: The big un, Best Picture.