The Oscar reviews are coming soon. Until then, here's how the directing category should look, because this really really matters:
Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married
Gus Van Sant - Milk
Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan - Slumdog Millionaire
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight
Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, NY
I like Ron Howard just fine. He's made a couple of great movies. Frost/Nixon is not an astonishing directorial accomplishment. It's a wonderful acting and writing accomplishment. I'm skeptical that Ron Howard's insertion of "intensity" here and "suspense" there was really needed at all by actors of this caliber, much less by the proceedings of the script.
David Fincher is one of the best living American directors working, as last year's ridiculously unrecognized Zodiac further proved. Why did Jason Reitman get a nod over Fincher's glorious puzzle piece? Fincher deserved it for that, not the aging paradox epic.
Stephen Daldry does not deserve the nomination. There is nothing special in his directing strategy. He does good work, but the work hasn't much of an original voice.
I don't think directing should get in the way of the story, but if we're going to give awards for best coordinated artifice, let's do that. Otherwise, hand out an award for individuals. In their work, I can see all five of the people I listed up front, and I'm not distracted by their presence one whit. I'm enlarged for a brief period by knowing another person. If the award ain't about that, it's not worth giving out.