Director Stephen Daldry has received Oscar nominations for all three of his previous films (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours” and “The Reader”), but the initial response to “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” has been mixed. In general terms, critics are either responding to the unrestrained sentiment or find it lacking, disingenuous, and/or saccharine. As Guy noted in Tuesday’s round-up, the BFCA nominated both Daldry (Best Director), his young star, Thomas Horn (Best Young Actor/Actress) and the film (Best Picture) but SAG and the Golden Globes passed.

Today the Palm Springs International Film Festival came out in favor of Daldry when it announced that he will be presented with the Director of the Year Award at the upcoming January 7 Awards Gala. “Stephen Daldry has garnered international acclaim as a director, bringing his consummate skill to both the cinema and stage,” said fest chairman Harold Matzner via press release. “In his latest work...he directs a virtuoso cast. For this haunting film and for all of his achievements as a 'director’s director,' the Palm Springs International Film Festival is honored to present the 2012 Director of the Year Award.”

I’ve not yet seen the film, but I must admit that I find the choice somewhat perplexing. I hesitate to take the cynical stance that Palm Springs is boarding what it assumes will be an Oscar-bound train, but my sense is that there are more interesting, underserved and possibly more deserving options for "Director of the Year."

If they wanted to throw the industry for a loop they might select Tate Taylor, who has received almost no critical acclaim despite the fact that his film, “The Help,” is a contender in a number of categories (including Best Picture). These films do not direct themselves, after all.

I’d like to see Steve McQueen honored for “Shame,” which feels all but out of contention at this point. And Nicolas Winding Refn is certainly worth spotlighting for “Drive,” which has a distinctive tone that speaks to Refn as an auteur.

Those are just three of several possible honorees who may have made a lot of sense in this year’s field. Perhaps I will feel differently when I see the "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," though.

Other honorees previously announced for this year's fest include George Clooney, Glenn Close, Michel Hazanavicius, Brad Pitt, Octavia Spencer, Michelle Williams and Gary Oldman. The festival runs January 5-16. Past Director of the Year honorees include Ang Lee, Anthony Minghella, Alexander Payne, Sean Penn, Jason Reitman and David O. Russell.

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