Oscar Watch

Opposite Directions

He Said/She Said: Who's the Best Director? Lisa Schwarzbaum and Owen Gleiberman take sides in a battle of survivors vs. new kids

Owen Gleiberman, Lisa Schwarzbaum
Image credit: He Said She Said Illustration by Eric Palma

EW's film critics scuffle over Best Director

Owen Gleiberman
February 25, 2003 9:45 PM
Lisa, did I happen to mention that it was my birthday last week? I turned 44, and let me tell you, it's these dawn-of-middle-age years that really do a number on your psyche. You have to make a cosmic readjustment to how the world looks at you. To put it mildly, your whippersnapper days are way, way behind you.

I have to say, however, that I think this sobering little lesson of life has been utterly lost on the analysts of this year's Academy Awards, perhaps because they're in denial about how many generations are coming up fast behind THEM. To hear these pundits talk, you'd think that the current slate of Best Director nominees -- and, indeed, the films they're cited for -- were the most daring, intense, industry-challenging rebels since 1994, when the showdown between ''Pulp Fiction'' and ''Forrest Gump'' became a paradigm for the drama of New Hollywood versus Old Hollywood. Sorry, but when I look at this year's directorial roster, what I see is a bunch of aging legends, coated in the amber of industry prestige, dutifully serving the public and crafting their films in a style of hallowed mediocrity -- doing, in other words, exactly what the Oscars have always honored.

It saddens me to say it, but I think the most striking, and ironic, instance of this phenomenon is Martin Scorsese. There's very little doubt that he's going to win the award, but it won't be for the airless, cardboard operatics of ''Gangs of New York'' -- it will be for his life's work, for getting passed over too many times and finally becoming an establishment monument. That's not what the Martin Scorsese I love has ever stood for.

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