Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland,
predicted to win big at this year’s Oscars, is not a terrible film. It’s a slight, sentimental Grapes of Wrath-ish journey through the Discourse, with essential Discourse stop-offs at an Amazon warehouse and the rust belt. It belongs in the New Yorker, not on screen. As with almost every film to win big since No Country for Old Men 13 years ago, you just think: the ‘highest honours in filmmaking’? For that?
Amid all the change that’s being trumpeted at this year’s Oscars — more women directors, more ethnic minorities — the one thing missing is any discussion about why the awards are such a lousy guide to great cinema.
It’s no secret that the list of great filmmakers is a list of those who have never won a Best Director Oscar: Eisenstein, Lang, Pabst, Vertov, Vigo, Renoir, Welles, Sirk, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Bresson, Godard, Rohmer, Pasolini, Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Hawks, Hitchcock, Peckinpah, Leone, Kubrick, Satyajit Ray, Varda, Greaves, Fassbinder, Ackerman, Mambety, Ottinger, Lynch, Kaul, Herzog, Weerasethakul, Cronenberg, Kiarostami, Hsiao-hsien, Breillat, Von Trier, Denis, Spike Lee, Dumont, Ade, Diaz, and so on.