Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith: Filmmakers most overdue their first Oscar nomination

Continuing on with a yearly series I like to do on those deserving of Academy Award wins or nominations, it’s time to turn attention to filmmakers. Actors and actresses are the sexier group, but writers and directors are the backbone of the industry. There are plenty who have never been cited by the Academy, so that will be the focus today. I’ll be running down ten filmmakers who I feel are due a nomination. In a handful of cases, they’ll be more comedic storytellers, since Oscar voters can often overlook them. That’s a real shame in my mind, but that could be a piece for another day. Anyway, you’ll see them below, and obviously know that your own mileage may vary. So, without further delay, here goes nothing…

Here now are the ten writers and/or directors most due for their first Oscar nomination:

10. Kevin Smith – Hear me out. Is Smith likely get get nominated at this point in his career? No. Still, having been snubbed in Best Original Screenplay for Clerks and especially Chasing Amy, he’s been worthy enough that he comes in as a “due” filmmaker. Both Red State and Zack and Miri Make a Porno were severely underrated, so his more genre friendly efforts of late are even less likely to get the acclaim necessary. However, if he ever gets around to adapting Hit Somebody, there’s a chance. If nothing else, a fan can dream, right?

9. James Mangold – No, Logan probably won’t get Mangold his first citation. However, Mangold should have been nominated for Cop Land back in the day, so he’s clearly overdue in my book. If anything, his recent Wolverine related output has just raised his stature and put him on a path to do something nomination worthy in the near future. 3:10 to Yuma and such have showcased his skills, so now it’s a matter of the right material coming across his desk.

8. Nicolas Winding Refn – Having only really been in play for a nod once with Drive, Refn is a divisive filmmaker. Still, unique visionaries like him can get in with the right project. Drive was probably the most likely one to do it, but it established him as someone worthy of keeping an eye on whenever a new flick is announced. If he finds the right marriage of material and his skills, watch out!

7. Jeff Nichols – Last year, Nichols had two separate opportunities to get that first nomination. Midnight Special probably was a long shot, but Loving on paper seemed like an almost sure bet. It ended up not being able to stack up with some of the more overt Oscar hopefuls, but Nichols seems likely to be back in play again soon. At this point, he’s established himself as someone well worth nominating.

6. Joe Wright – Early on, it seemed inevitable that Wright would be nominated in Best Director. He might very well finally get over that hump this year with Darkest Hour, though that obviously remains to be seen. He’s very much the sort of director who makes Oscar friendly work, in a way being Tom Hooper before Tom Hooper swooped in and took home a statue. Perhaps that changes in 2017?

5. Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – For my money the best writers in the business without Oscar noms to their credit, Neustadter and Weber are a very talented duo. This year, they have The Disaster Artist to hopefully be in contention with, though the snub for (500) Days of Summer is still a particularly egregious one. The same goes for The Spectacular Now and even The Fault in our Stars. Fingers crossed that this wrong with righted with their loving look at the making of The Room. They sure as hell deserve it.

4. James Gray – If audiences would ever go see one of Gray’s films, perhaps that would entice the Academy to finally cite him? Maybe The Lost City of Z can beat the odds? Things like The Immigrant and Two Lovers have gotten torpedoed due to outside elements beyond his control, so if anyone should be in line for a nomination as an apology of sorts, it’s Gray. The Lost City of Z has an outside shot, so stay tuned there…

3. Derek Cianfrance – Few in the industry are better at adult themed cinema than Cianfrance. Last year, he had a potential awards contender in The Light Between Oceans, though that ultimately fell short. Before that, however, the one two punch of Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines were near instant classics, even if the latter was completely ignored. His time is coming…mark my words!

2. John Carney – Despite two of his three biggest films having gotten Best Original Song nominations, Carney has never been cited. Last year, he had more of a musical hand in Sing Street, but it ended up being snubbed. As long as he keeps putting out charming and high quality work, it’ll happen. In this particular situation, it’s a question of when, not if.

1. Judd Apatow – Having Apatow at number one might seem a bit odd at first glance, but he has his hands in so many pies it seems strange that he hasn’t managed to be in contention. Whether it’s penning the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Funny People, for example, or helping to craft a Golden Globe nominated song in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, he’s always around. Maybe he’ll get that elusive nomination for producing something?

Honorable Mention: J.J. Abrams, Zach Braff, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, David Gordon Green, and Rian Johnson

Stay tuned to see if anyone on this list can pull off that first nomination this year!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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