The Top 20 Contenders For Best Director This Year

So, I already gave my first thoughts on Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. We are on to the Best Director race, and an early look at the top 10 contenders in a very wide open race. I think only my top choice is an actual lock.

1) Steven Spielberg (The Fablemans)

Spielberg, who last year was in the race for his first musical with West Side Story, is unlikely to be left off for his look back at this deeply personal part of his life. Even with the film performing very lightly at the box office, a rarity for a Spielberg film, The Fablemans is still a front runner in the race, and i think he’s probably the closest thing this category has to a lock.

2) Sarah Polley (Women Talking)

Her film still has the benefit of not flopping at the box office, so she’s still strong. Waiting to see how this film is widely received has me on edge, but this category has been kinder to female directors as of late, and i think at least one of the five will be female, and Polly has the best shot right now.

3) Martin McDonaugh (The Banshees Of iinusharon)

McDonaugh missed out on this category for Three Billboards, which went on to win two acting nominations. He’s becoming known for getting great performances from his actors, making great films, writing great films, and i think this year, he might finally be recognized for directing great films.

4) Todd Field (Tar)

This one, until this posting, wasn’t in my top five. but, there’s a lot to be said about the visual test of directing, and Field being compared to Kubrick here is not something to be taken lightly. I think he just might have a shot at this race. He hasn’t directed anything since 2006, and this could be the director’s branch’s way of reminding Todd Field they’d like to see a lot more of him.

5) Edward Burger (All Quiet on The Western Front)

I’m rolling the dice on this one. The Oscars have been more and more warming up to the idea of picking directors from international features. I remember when it was a surprise that the director of Cold War became one of two nominees that year from the international race. If you’re paying attention to who gets added each year, it’s becoming more and more likely that each year, we will have at least 1 female, and at least 1 director of a foreign language title. He’s not the only one on this list though.

6) The Daniels (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

Do you know their names? Don’t look it up. Do you know why they are called The Daniels? Is it their last name? Are they related? I think the lack of knowledge about this duo is what will keep them from the final five. It’s not that I don’t think they deserve it, but in a category where name recognition is quite frequently a thing, you have to wonder if this duo can be nominated. Duo’s also are uncommon, compared to films directed by a single person, and I’m not always sure how directors feel about nominating them together.

7) Park Chan Wook (Decision To Leave)

Remember a second ago when i said there were other international contenders? I think Decision To leave and All Quiet On the Western Front both have profiles that can’t be ignored, with Decision To Leave having maybe even a slightly higher profile director. However, they do not have a proven distributor here that can campaign, or has the money to, whereas Burger has Netflix backing him. That’s why one is in 5th place, and the other is in 7th.

8) Damien Chazelle (Babylon)

Chazelle is still a rising director. i think he’s a bit high in this race, considering he’s directing a film that isn’t blazing hot out of its screenings, and it’s long as hell. Chazelle has already been nominated, so there’s not like a rush to get him a nomination. I think he’s trending downward, but if Babylon explodes, maybe I’ll change my mind.

9) Darren Aronofsky (The Whale)

Remember when I said that names matter? I don’t consider him a front runner, but I will not count out Aronofsky as he very much has fans. All of this will depend on how it performs, and A24’s ability to campaign multiple contenders (as they still have to push The Daniels in the same race).

10) James Cameron (Avatar: The Way of Water)

He’s stuck in the middle of the pack until we know how good the film is. yes, the original Avatar got a ton of nominations, but will the sequel? Probably not. But never count out James Cameron.

11) Joseph Kosinsky (Top Gun Maverick)

As Top Gun Maverick looks more and more like a serious Oscar contender, which still blows my mind, this guy is slowly climbing the list. Basically, he’s the equivalent of that sports team no one sees coming in that inspirational sports drama you love. he’s like the embodiment of The Mighty Ducks, and it could carry him to a nomination.

12) Alejandro Gonzalez innaritu (Bardo)

I’m like 50% sure I. Don’t even know how to spell his film, mainly because I think its Oscar chances were sealed when this film screened at 3 hours, and was called pretentious. However, innaritu did the thing most directors never do, and listened to feedback, and the Final Cut of the film is shorter, possibly making for a tighter film. I can’t eliminate the director of Babel, Birdman, and The Revenant, because he clearly has fans. A nomination here would not surprise me.

13) Maria Schrader (She Said)

if not Sarah Polly, then who? She Said has good reviews, but terrible box office. Schrader also has half the name recognition of Polley. It’s hard to say if she Said can get any nominations in acting categories, since the films strongest performances seem to come outside of the co-leads that are getting the Oscar push. There’s a very real possibility this film gets one nomination.

14) Guillermo Del Toro (Pinocchio)

Getting a nomination for directing an Animated feature is one hell of a feat. it also feels like the one that if anyone could do it, it would be Del Toro. If Pinocchio ends up being a contender for Best Picture, look for Del Toro to rise. He’s not falling, he’s rising.

15) Gina Prince Blythewood (The Woman King)

Technically, everyone loves this film. I just see it missing out in all the predictions. It’s like no one knows what to do with this film, but everyone agrees it was good. But somehow, not good enough? not Oscar bait?

16) Luca Guadanino (Bones And All)

This feels like a very outside shot, but he’s also the kind of director where I could see his branch appreciating his work individually, but the film not having enough widespread support in most other races. i can see this happening.

17) Antoine Fuqua (Emancipation)

not everything this guy directs is Oscar gold, so I’m going to need a bit more before I move him up the list. He would basically be the only Oscar push for Apple, which I’m sure has given up on The Greatest Beer Run Ever and Cha Cha Real Smooth.

18) Baz Luhrmann (Elvis)R

Remember when I said name recognition was everything? Yes. And I think like Guadanino, he’s a contender even if his film doesn’t hit the Best Picture race.

19) Ryan Coogler (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)

Looking at who is left, i think Coogler is on his way down. i don’t see Wakanda Forever getting a Picture nomination, and this pot was really between him or Rian johnson for The Glass Onion.

20) Charlotte Wells (Afterson)

One of the smaller films making a play rather late. I’ll acknowledge that this film has forward momentum, and she is headed in the right direction. It depends on how far Afterson can go. Or, is it another Mass?

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