Friday, January 20, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Director

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

This year’s locks: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Very likely: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Possible: Martin Scorsese (Silence), Garth Davis (Lion), David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Unlikely: Paul Verhoeven (Elle), Pablo Larrain (Jackie), Jeff Nichols (Loving), Clint Eastwood (Sully), Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures)

The rundown: It’s sad that the main defining aspect of this category the past few years has been what giant snub will take place. After both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were omitted in the shocking 2012 race, sure things Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Ridley Scott (The Martian) were left off for no apparent reason in 2013 or 2015, respectively. This year, there are three that are invincible, and I really believe that - Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea). Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) rallied with a DGA nomination and should be able to make it to Oscar. The question is who the fifth nominee will be. Garth Davis (Lion) scored a DGA nod but seems like more of an eventual Oscar pick, which might mean he won’t get it. It could be David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), whose film seems to be rightly beloved by many, or Golden Globe nominee Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals), whose film was divisive and downright terrible, in my mind, and isn’t expected to contend for Best Picture, no matter how many nominees. Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) has a rough road ahead of him given his reputation, but he might still manage a nomination. Denzel Washington (Fences) would be a respectable choice, but I don’t think his film has enough momentum. There are a handful of others who might garner votes, but I don’t think any of them will be popular enough to upset. Instead, the last slot is likely to go to Martin Scorsese (Silence), a veteran of this category whose film peaked very late but should still manage to earn the respect of voters.

One possible crazy scenario: A well-deserved cycle of enthusiasm benefits Andrea Arnold (American Honey), whose mesmerizing film has been all but forgotten despite early praise.

Forecasted winner: It could be Jenkins, but I think it will be Chazelle.

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