1993 Best Director Oscar: Want a do-over?

Stevenspielberg_lI got to bask a tiny bit in the Oscar glory of Steven Spielberg’s victory at the 1994 Oscars. I had scored an invite to Elton John’s Oscar party, and after the ceremony was through, I looked over, and in came Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Bruce Springsteen, along with their wives and their multiple Oscars picked up earlier that evening. They all sat down at a booth together at the restaurant, Oscars on the table like so many extra salt shakers, casting a blinding glow of fame, glamour, and accomplishment, at once casually matter-of-fact and jaw-droppingly impressive.

Spielberg deserved his directing prize for Schindler’s List that year (he also won as a producer for Best Picture). You could argue that he was overdue after three previous unsuccessful nominations over the past 16 years, but I still think he won on merit. Aside from being a moving story told bracingly and unsentimentally (until the weepy last five minutes) that found an artful way to address the incomprehensible horror of the Holocaust, it’s also a dazzling display of technique, with every tool at the filmmaker’s vast arsenal brought to bear, and a tale told with the blazing urgency of a man determined to get off his chest before he dies the story he was born to tell. (It’s astonishing that he finished this and Jurassic Park in the same year.)

Good as the other directors were that year, no one really came close to Spielberg’s achievement. Robert Altman, hot off The Player, directed another sprawling masterpiece of social satire in Short Cuts, but the movie was lacking in heart, and Altman’s nod was its only nomination. Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father, a true-life tale of injustice and imprisonment, was nothing but heart, but it was otherwise a fairly conventional movie. James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day was the sort of elegant, literary chamber piece he’d been churning out for decades, finely polished but almost the same movie as Howards End, his film from just one year before. The only other real standout was Jane Campion, who told a unique and bizarre story in her romance The Piano, and who became only the second woman ever nominated for this prize. Her work here was visionary, and had she not been up against Spielberg, she might have won.

Looking back from today’s perspective, which of these directors doyou think did the best job? Vote in our poll, and list your comments below.(For a refresher, watch the clips embedded after the jump, whichmay contain some NSFW language.) Remember, we’ll be running the Recall the Gold surveys every Tuesdayand Thursday until January, so you may go back at any time and vote inthe other polls (click hereto see them all), reexamining the Oscar races of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25years ago. On Tuesday, Dec. 2, we’ll look at the 1983 Best Supporting Actorcompetition. Watch also for commentary and context throughout EW.com,including on Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.

addCredit(“Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images”)

Robert Altman’s Short Cuts

Jane Campion’s The Piano

James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day

Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father

Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List

Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • John Hazen

    You forgot to put a link for Steven Spielberg. What if we thought he should have won? We can’t vote for him.

  • Me

    You left out Steven Spielberg as an option!

  • Rob Grizzly

    *Yawn* Yes, Spielberg deserved to win. Schindler’s List was miles above the competition.
    I’ll keep complaining about these do-overs until they offer a real debate…

  • Editor

    Sorry folks! On some browsers, Spielberg’s name got cut off, but we’ve fixed the error.

  • paige

    this is probably the most pointless one yet! i’m sure he wouldve won any year he put that movie out and deservedly so…

  • Matthew

    What a stupid “do-over”. First of all, why is this thing never going beyond the ’80’s? There are many more worthy “do-over” wins from the 40’s-70’s. Second of all, Schindler’s List is without a doubt one of the most horrifically beautiful movies ever made. It’s a brilliant film and Spielberg’s Oscar was a 120% deserved. Aren’t these supposed to be about questionable wins?

  • Joe

    What is the point of this one? Is there even a question? Do over the best picture race of 1994! Pulp Fiction!

  • Alex

    Urm, why would you wanna do over this category in this year?
    When are we gonna do another worthwhile one like Gwyneth Paltrow’s win?

  • Kurt

    The only one who could’ve had a shot would’ve been Altman if it had been “The Player” this year, but with “Short Cuts”, the writing was on the wall. Personally, instead of this list, it would be nice to venture into some much earlier Oscar competition. Let’s re-evaluate and re-vote on the Streisand/Hepburn Best Actress tie.

  • MsDaisy

    Spielberg so deserved this one. No need for a do over.

  • Danny

    People still aren’t getting (after how many of these) that they aren’t just doing the big controversies. Some people have differing opinions than the masses, and to them this might be controversial. Get over it.
    And we already covered Gweneth Paltrow’s undeserving win. To vote you can go to the past polls using the “click here” link in the article.

  • Rahul

    This is ridiculous. I can’t imagine anyone who would think this deserves a recall.

  • Nix

    wait wait wait — “The Remains of the Day” was NOT “Howard’s End”? which one had the butler? oh lord, i’m having a breakdown.

  • jon

    fine i’ll swim against the tide. i’ve always thought ‘schindler’s list’ & spielberg’s direction were overrated. great, but not the greatest of the year.
    definitely that award belongs to jane campion and ‘the piano’. not really a question. altman is also a better director than spielberg any day of the year.
    i’m glad jane won the original screenplay but she also deserved the director’s oscar (doesn’t make up for it). o well. this is fun. people shouldn’t complain about this one. not everyone thinks ‘schindler’s list’ is one of the best films ever made. and spielberg certainly isn’t the best director.

  • jon

    fine i’ll swim against the tide. i’ve always thought ‘schindler’s list’ & spielberg’s direction were overrated. great, but not the greatest of the year.
    definitely that award belongs to jane campion and ‘the piano’. not really a question. altman is also a better director than spielberg any day of the year.
    i’m glad jane won the original screenplay but she also deserved the director’s oscar (doesn’t make up for it). o well. this is fun. people shouldn’t complain about this one. not everyone thinks ‘schindler’s list’ is one of the best films ever made. and spielberg certainly isn’t the best director.

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