Time to once again put on my Oscar hat, ladies and gentlemen. For this post, I will be dissecting the Best Director race. Much like with the Best Picture race and the acting races, it is a little easier to try and decipher the Director race, since most of our contenders have already been seen on the festival circuit. So, thankfully there won’t be too much blood and guts on my messy surgical gloves.
The last time that Alfonso Cuaron, Barry Jenkins, Steve McQueen, and Damien Chazelle all had a film come out, their films made a splash at the Oscar ceremony. Now, it looks like history will repeat itself. All four directors currently have films that have received rapturous responses. But between those four, I’d say the one who’s the safest bet for a Directing nomination is Alfonso Cuaron. One reason is because of how he single handedly brought his vision to the big screen by not just directing it, but also producing, writing, shooting, and editing it. So, the Directors branch will likely respect his dedication to making his very personal story. Plus, out of all four directors, his film has the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating (98%).
Then there’s Damien Chazelle. After winning Best Director for La La Land, becoming the youngest winner ever in that category, he has returned with the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man. Along with Cuaron, Chazelle feels like a safe bet because of the afterglow effect. And also given the “tech achievement” factor. Because First Man will likely be a dominant force in the those categories (Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Score, etc.), Damien Chazelle will most likely be nominated for bringing his grand technical achievement to life, in the same manner as Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk and George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road.
But while Damien Chazelle will get the “tech achievement” slot, Barry Jenkins’ latest film, If Beale Street Could Talk, feels like it’ll appeal to the arthouse contingent within the Directors branch. As the nominations for David Lynch for Mulholland Drive and Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher have proven, the directors have shown that they’re keen on citing auteur filmmakers for their singular visions.
Speaking of directors with a singular vision, Yorgos Lanthimos is very much in the hunt for his first Directing nod. After helming the Foreign Language film nominee Dogtooth, and landing an Original Screenplay nomination for The Lobster, Lanthimos has directed what is perhaps his most accessible project yet. Even if he hasn’t written the script, anyone who has seen his previous work and the trailer for The Favourite knows that his esoteric vision feels very present. As a result of him maintaining his traditional style, he’ll likely be nominated in this category.
As for that final directing slot, I’m going to go with Spike Lee for his BlacKkKlansman. Despite having an illustrious career, he has not once received a Best Director nomination. But that might finally change with BlacKkKlansman, which is a critically acclaimed specialty hit, that captures our current political zeitgeist. He may have an Honorary Oscar on his mantle, but why not try and honor him with a competitive one?
My current predicted five:
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Now, for those on the outside looking in:
Bradley Cooper could follow the same footsteps as other actors turned directors before him, and score his first Directing nomination for A Star Is Born. However, because he’s a frontrunner for Best Actor and will compete in other categories, there might not be an urgency for him to be included here. Which means he could be left out entirely. Especially if the directors opt for their own passion picks, like with what happened in 2012. We all thought Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were sure bets for Directing nominations. Until they were left out in favor of Benh Zeitlin and Michael Haneke, who bulldozed their way in with little to no precursor support.
Unless Widows ends up mainly being a commercial play, Steve McQueen is still in the running for Best Director. The attention for that film seems to be more focused on its acting ensemble, but McQueen still has respect as a filmmaker thanks to his previous Directing nomination, and Best Picture win for 12 Years A Slave.
If Black Panther does end up becoming a Best Picture player, then director Ryan Coogler could easily get pulled along with the film’s Best Picture heat. Plus, he’s been making good on his early promise that he showed with his debut film Fruitvale Station. Maybe his time will finally come.
Inevitably, the issue of the near lack of female representation in this race will be brought up. The best shot at a female filmmaker making the field, though, is Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me?. One reason is because of the positive response her film received. And another is because she’s making good on her early promise that she showed with Diary Of A Teenage Girl.
Lastly, there’s Peter Farrelly for Green Book. Yes, you read that right. One of the guys who helmed films like Dumb And Dumber and There’s Something About Mary is in the running for an Oscar nomination. Then again, he did helm the film that won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. So, he could be honored for his career turnaround in the same manner as Adam McKay, another comedic director who went serious.
Now, your turn. What do you think of these predictions and who do you have predicted in Best Director? Please be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!