Ang Lee has won the Oscar for Best Director for his work on “Life of Pi,” taking the prize in one of this year’s strangest and most competitive Academy Awards categories.
With Ben Affleck not nominated for the Best Picture frontrunner “Argo” and Kathryn Bigelow similarly overlooked for the critically acclaimed “Zero Dark Thirty,” Lee beat a field that also included Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Michael Haneke for “Amour” and Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
In January, Affleck won the Directors Guild Award, which has gone to the Oscar Best Director winner all but seven times in its 65-year history.
Spielberg was initially considered the frontrunner after Affleck failed to land a nomination, but in recent weeks attention had shifted to Lee, whose film garnered 11 nominations and had widespread support among the craft branches of the Academy.
Yann Martel’s bestselling novel “Life of Pi” was considered all but unfilmable, so Lee received much credit for capturing the spectacle and the heart in Martel’s tale of a teenage boy adrift at sea with a Bengal tiger for a companion.
The award is the second time that Lee has won the Oscar for Best Director. He won for 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” which went on to lose the Best Picture award to “Crash.”