Saturday, February 23, 2019

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Director

The competition: Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Adam McKay (Vice)

Previous winners: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
My winner: Announcing shortly after the Oscars!
The facts: All of these directors have contended for Oscars before, but only two have been nominated in this category. Cuaron won this award in 2013 for “Gravity,” and, in addition to an editing win for that film and screenwriting bids for “Children of Men” in 2006 and “Y Tu Mama Tambien” in 2002, he contends for writing, producing, and shooting his film this year. McKay was nominated three years ago for “The Big Short,” winning for his screenplay, and he is also a nominee this year for writing and producing his film. Pawlikowski won the Best Foreign Film award in 2014 for “Ida,” and Lanthimos was a nominee there in 2011 for “Dogtooth” before contending in 2016 for his screenplay for “The Lobster.” Lanthimos is also nominated as a producer this year. Lee’s previous bids include a screenwriting nod for “Do the Right Thing” in 1989, a Best Documentary mention in 1997 for “4 Little Girls,” and an honorary award in 2015. He is also nominated for writing and producing his film this year. All but “Cold War” contend for the top prize and screenwriting honors. No film without a Best Picture nomination has ever won this prize. Both “Cold War” and “Roma” are nominated for Best Foreign Film, making this the first time that two honorees in that category are contending here. In addition to numerous critics’ prizes, Cuaron has taken home the DGA Award, the Critics’ Choice prize, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA. With the exception of when Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for an Oscar in 2012 for “Argo,” the DGA winner has gone on to win this award every year for the past fifteen years.

Who should win: I found McKay’s structuring of “Vice” to be deeply irritating, and I blame him more than most for why that film is what it is. I can appreciate the aesthetics of “Cold War,” but that film wouldn’t make my list. The same is true of “BlacKkKlansman,” which Lee leaves his mark all over. In a competition between Lanthimos and Cuaron, I’m not set on a winner since both are enormously deserving for two very different films.
Who will win: There are rumblings that Lee could earn his due after barely being nominated for his entire career, but there’s no reason to expect that Cuaron has anything going against him. A loss here would be the biggest surprise of the night.

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