Saturday, January 5, 2013

Oscar Predictions: Best Director

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 10th. As a result, most of the corresponding guilds won’t have announced their picks by then, so I’m making predictions in advance without being able to take those into consideration. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Terrence Malick (Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

This year’s locks: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)

Very likely: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Possible: Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) Michael Haneke (Amour), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Unlikely: Robert Zemeckis (Flight), Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises)

The rundown: Last year, the DGA announced its picks and threw David Fincher into the mix, only to see that turn out to be an Oscar false positive, with Terrence Malick making it through to the final five and “The Tree of Life” earning a corresponding, less expected Best Picture nomination. In the olden days, before there were between five and ten Best Picture nominees, there used to be a “Best Director” slot, a fifth nominee who wouldn’t correspond to a Best Picture entry and would often have made a foreign film. That would be where Michael Haneke (Amour) would fit in this year, and I’m doubtful of his chances. DGA announces its picks on Tuesday, so I’ll have time to change my mind if something startling pops up there. It’s been almost thirty years since all five Oscar-nominated directors were also selected by the Golden Globes, but that seems like the smart choice right now. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) are both past winners. Ben Affleck (Argo) is in because he made one of the most popular films of the year. Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) shouldn’t be as secure as he is, but I think he’ll be fine. And while Ang Lee (Life of Pi) might find his film left out, his direction is certainly strong, and he’s also a past winner who should get nominated on his merit alone. That leaves Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), who won two years ago, out in the cold. That concerns me since he’s clearly an Oscar favorite, but directors who had just won like Danny Boyle and the Coen brothers still managed to get snubbed when their latest films got nominated for Best Picture. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) may find his film’s momentum catapulting him to a nomination just like it did two years ago, and Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) is a dark horse who is going to need a big push to make it. And then there’s Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), whose film may perform admirably and could be delighted to find himself included for his first feature film. Past winner Robert Zemeckis (Flight) would be a threat if people were talking about him, Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom) would be too if precursors were on his side, and it seems crazy to think that Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) would earn his first nomination now after his previous high-profile snubs.

One possible crazy scenario: It turns out that Oscar voters actually loved “The Hobbit” and Peter Jackson earns another place in this category.

Forecasted winner: I think Bigelow makes history and takes this again.

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