28 Feb 2011 10:26 am

Christopher Nolan Get Del Toro'ed

I have a confession to make: I only made it halfway through the Oscars yesterday before I switched it over to "Castle" and "Chuck" on my DVR. Honestly, it's mostly because I'm still catching up on watching this year's nominees; I'm just now getting around to watching "Social Network." The only potential Oscar nominee I saw was "Inception" - once the trippy Christopher Nolan thriller collected its Oscars for best Cinematography, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects, my attention span was off to dreamland.

For as many awards and nominations "Inception" received (in addition to the opening, which featured hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway jumping from Best Picture to Best Picture via dream), I was a bit surprised the architect of "Inception" - director Christopher Nolan - was only nominated under the Best Original Screenplay category. This, however, isn't as surprising, as the coveted "Best Director" Oscar has the least amount of science fiction or fantasy in its eighty-three year history.

The last fantasy director to get an Oscar was Peter Jackson for "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in 2003. He's also the only such director to even win an award for a fantasy work in Oscar history. James Cameron was nominated for "Avatar" last year, and past nominees also include Steven Spielberg for "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark", George Lucas for "Star Wars" and even Stanley Kubrick for "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Of course, many of these directors went on to win Oscars for other works, such as "Schindler's List" and "Titanic". The same can be said for a whole slew of directors, who have their roots in genre works. Many forget last year's winner, "Hurt Locker" Kathryn Bigelow, directed the cult classic vampire western "Near Dark" (as well as the seminal surfing bank robbery movie "Point Break"). "Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle directed movies like "28 Days Later" and "Sunshine". "Forest Gump" director Robert Zemeckis did all three "Back to Future" movies. The list goes on and on.

But back to Christopher Nolan. This has all happened before, in eerie similar fashion. Guillermo Del Toro released "Pan's Labyrinth" in 2006 as the second part of his fantastic vision of the Spanish Civil War. The movie is a story of a imaginative young girl, living with her very-pregnant mother and her very-terrifying stepfather, a ruthless officer serving under Franco. Depending on your interpretation of the film, the girl is either a fantasy princess or highly delusional, but Del Toro blends both the fantasy Faerie world and the Spanish Civil War landscape in an exciting and unpredictable mix he describes as "a fairy-tale for adults."

Guillermo Del Toro's film won three Oscars, Christopher Nolan's won four. Both "Inception" and "Pan's Labyrinth" won for "Best Cinematography" - "Pan's Labyrinth" also won for "Best Makeup" and "Best Art Achievement". Like Christopher Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and like Nolan, he was overlooked for "Best Director."

Perhaps the practical reason for all of this is that the "Best Director" almost always paves the way for the "Best Picture." "The King's Speech" won this year for both "Best Picture" and "Best Director", among other things. I'm not disputing this decision; though I have not seen it, it looks to be a very deserving movie. The last "Best Picture"/"Best Director" split was in 2005, when director Ang Lee won for "Brokeback Mountain" but "Crash" nabbed the "Best Picture". This seems the better way of doing it - after all, shouldn't "Best Picture" actually be the best movie of the year, and not necessarily the product of the best director?

Of course, you've probably long since realized this is just how things are done in Tinsel Town. And maybe we like it that way. I'm not saying we geeks don't like getting the short end of the Oscar stick year after year, but at the very least, it keeps us feeling like underdogs. And maybe at the very most, it inspires us to break the mold and shoot higher - if we choose to shot towards Oscar gold at all. I'm not saying we'll ever see a movie "Blue Yonder" ever - but I will admit watching half of the Oscars last night did get me day-dreaming during the commercials.

And it wasn't a total loss for us fanboys. Rick Baker did win his bagillionth Oscar for his make-up on the "The Wolfman", which is why I shall refer to this movie as "The Oscar-Winning Wolfman" for the rest of my days.

(That's it for this week's rant - tune in Wednesday for the start of Blue Yonder's first full chapter!)

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