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Golden Cages 2020: Best Director

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[2020 is finally over but before we send it off to the trash heap it deserves to be in, it’s time for the Golden Cages 2020 edition, Flixist’s extremely coveted prize! Each year the Flixist staff gets together to vote on the best and worst films of the year and gives you lovely readers our true and honest thoughts. Plus since there are no other awards shows this winter (suck it, Academy!) we’re now the de facto voice of truth in the film industry. So read on dear viewer and see which films win our lovely little award!]

In most years the Best Director category is closely correlated with the Best Movie category but this year our winner’s movie actually isn’t one of the best films of the year. Tenet is a flawed film, full of big ideas and complex storylines that never really pay off in a satisfying way. It’s a movie that bit off a bit more than it could chew and ended up a film that wasn’t as good as it could have been. It just had too many issues to truly successfully pull of its insanely risky premise and incredibly complex ideas.

Why then are we rewarding Christopher Nolan with a Golden Cage for Best Director? Because bold risks deserve recognition and even if he couldn’t pull this one off he still did something incredible with Tenet. The film’s running of time both backward and forwards at the same time is simply incredible and the fact that the movie is even slightly comprehensible deserves recognition. The technical feat with which Tenet was pulled off was something unparalleled in a year of very limited movies and even in a normal year would be impressive. The movie is full of everything that makes Nolan a great director (and the stuff that makes him problematic) and that means it is stunning visually and thought-provoking. The fact that he took the risk of making this movie and did something that’s so visually incredibly gets him this award.

Anyone who has seen Tenet can tell you that the undertaking is incredible. A film that plays out both in reverse and regular time at the same time all with the trademark “real” effects of a Nolan picture. It explodes onto the screen as car chases play out in different orders. It plays forward then backward as a hero relives events traveling backward in time. Nolan deftly handles action sequences that most directors wouldn’t be able to pull off in one direction, let alone two. There’s a car chase sequence that’s probably some of the trickiest shooting done by anyone ever and the final climactic battle is a massive, confusing, explosion of challenging cinema.

Yet, it does kind of fall apart. It’s hard to type those words when we’re giving him Best Director, but it has to be admitted. Nolan bit off more than he could chew with Tenet, often falling into his own tropes and ambition. When his prolific skills couldn’t quite reach where they needed to the film fell apart, exposing many of his flaws prevalent throughout his career. But ambition isn’t bad here and if Nolan couldn’t pull off Tenet it’s hard to imagine that anyone could. In this case, it may be that the film was just too much and too big for anyone, and the fact that Nolan did what he did with it is incredible in and of itself. There were plenty of other fantastic directors working this year but none of them dove headfirst into such a challenging project. So, while Christopher Nolan made not have made the best film of the year he pulls off Best Director for making the most challenging.

 

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.