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What's the significance of the Best Director Oscar?

What’s the significance of the Best Director Oscar? EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum answers reader questions

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Chicago, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Chicago: Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection

What’s the significance of the Best Director Oscar?

When the Oscar for Best Director goes to someone other than the director of the Best Picture, does that indicate that the best picture could have been made by any director? — Jean Pierce
Never say ”any.” Can we settle for ”one of many”? It’s much more common for the two awards to match. But sometimes a picture commends itself to Academy voters based more on star jazz (Chicago in 2003), visual energy (Gladiator in 2001), or buckets of winsomeness (Shakespeare in Love in 1999) than on directorial vision. And when that happens, it’s an opportunity (and subtle editorial comment) for voters to spread the joy: Roman Polanski won director’s gold for The Pianist in 2003, Steven Soderbergh for Traffic in 2001, and Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan in 1999.

(Got a movie-related question for Lisa or Owen? Post it here.)