We've already looked at this year's contenders for Best Actor and Best Costume Design so now let's look at Best Director where I definitely have four spots taken, yet the fifth could go to any of the other men (or woman, thank you Sofia).
Anthony Minghella for Breaking and Entering
Breaking and Entering continues to linger on my mind. Whereas other films have stayed with me because of their thematic or visual tanacity, Minghella's film has stayed with me because of it's simple workmanlike unfussiness. It's just an ordinary tale of a man and a midlife crisis, so I can't help but think Minghella (and lead actor Jude Law) had something to do with it's ability to amaze me.
Alfonso Cuarón for Children of Men
I'm not sure what it is about British science fiction films, but they always seem to be so refreshingly off-centre and un-typical. Cuaron's vision for Children of Men is quite simple, but inventively and magically staged. He gives the film many of it's strengths. One of two futuristic art films on this list.
Neil Marshall for The Descent
What Marshall did with his claustrophic horror tale The Descent was, quite simply, that he created one of the scariest movies of the last decade. Once the scares come, they come thick and fast and not in the same old ways. Marshall finds the scares, but doesn't rely on cheap tricks. The Descent deserves a place on here for scaring the bejesus outta me.
Darren Aronosfsky for The Fountain
I feel for Aronofsky. Having followed the production of The Fountain I almost feel like giving him a spot in the final five just for finally getting the film out there (but it'll never be that easy in my awards). He gets a best-ever performance out of his star and created one of the most moving collisions of audio and visual that I saw all year (the final assention or... whatever it was that was happening towards the end.)
George Miller for Happy Feet
A mammoth undertaking by Miller, a man with no former education in animated film. The film just feels collosal. It was hard to believe I was watching animation for some of the parts of the film. Sure, it's hyperactive and sort of bonkers, but, uh hello, some of the greatest movies ever made are stark raving mad. Why should this one be looked down on just because it's about penguins?
Spike Lee for Inside Man
Taking the conventions of the heist sub-genre and tweaking them so as to appeal to Spike Lee's personal issues. He does it so well that many people didn't even realise he was doing it. It feels at once like a generic Hollywood thriller, but really Lee is just playing the audience like fiddle.
Ray Lawrence for Jindabyne
One of the finest directors around, yet only onto his third film, Lawrence tackles similar themes to his previous Lantana (including that film's sprawling, but more linked, multi-name cast). Here he plays with the audience, making them look at things and hear things we don't necessarily have to be, but should anyway. Hiding subtexts and unanswering questions is part of Lawrence's job. He does it splendidly.
Sofia Coppola for Marie Antoinette
After only three films you can certainly tell you're watching "A Sofia Coppola film". But that's not a bad thing, contrary to popular belief. Sofia takes the story of dauphine Marie-Antoinette and puts her own unique spin. She gets points for not copping out and following the book. She throws the book in your face, laughs at you, dances a merry jig and then sets the book on fire... which may explain why so many people were angry at her. She lit them on fire, too. (???)
Guillermo del Toro for Pan's Labyrinth
What del Toro puts on screen sure does pack a punch. Telling a tale that I could just tell he had wanted to tell for years (decades?), del Toro takes the audience by the scruff of the neck and leads them down the path (or, the labyrinth as the case may be) and dares them to play. What's inside is something to behold.
Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr for Ten Canoes
Much like Aronofsky, I feel de Heer almost deserves a spot in the final five simply for managing to get the film off the ground and made and then out to cinemas. Filmed in participation with the Ramingining Community (of which Peter Djigirr is a representative) Ten Canoes is a truly one-of-a-kind never-seen-before type of film that rewards all the way.
Paul Greengrass for United 93
Taking very sensitive subject matter and making it not only incredibly involving and intense, he also removes the jarring sentimentality that plagued Oliver Stone's World Trade Center and lets the material speak for itself. United 93's harrowing for it's entire running length, not just the moments of terror towards the final reels.
Pedro Almodóvar for Volver
Like a captain steering a steady ship, Almodovar doesn't appear to be doing much other than letting the movie speak for itself, but it's the minor shifts in tone and the slight twists he employs that keeps Volver afloat. Never deferring off coarse, but also never feeling anything like you've seen it all before.