Sunday, March 14, 2021

Oscar Predictions: Best Director

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Monday, March 15th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in all categories.

Last year’s nominees: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Todd Phillips (Joker), Sam Mendes (1917), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Bong Joon Ho (Parasite)

My choices: Coming soon!

This year’s locks: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

Very likely: Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), David Fincher (Mank), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

Possible: Regina King (One Night in Miami), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Darius Marder (Sound of Metal), Florian Zeller (The Father)

Unlikely: Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods), Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), Paul Greengrass (News of the World), Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah), Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?)

The rundown: This category is theoretically simple, and the race is technically down to six potential nominees, though anything could happen. I took a look at the overlap between the Oscar lineup and both the DGA list and the corresponding Globe category over the past few decades. It’s rare for any of them to match up completely. DGA aligned perfectly in 2009, 2005, 1998. The Globe list was the same last year, the first time it happened since 1980. That long gap doesn’t make me feel great about predicting a second consecutive year of Globe and Oscar being in sync, but I think I’m going to do it anyway. There’s no way in hell that Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) won’t be nominated, and, in addition to winning virtually every critics’ prize, she’s actually the only one who made the Globe, DGA, Critics Choice, and BAFTA lists (we’ll get back to that last one in a moment). In theory, both Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) and David Fincher (Mank) could end up snubbed, but I think there’s enough momentum for their films that they’re theoretically safe. Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) seems like she’s in too, though she peculiarly was left off DGA’s first-time director list but made the main category. The fifth Globe nominee, Regina King (One Night in Miami) only made the former, bumped by Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), who did manage to make BAFTA’s wildly surprising lineup. Both Darius Marder (Sound of Metal) and Florian Zeller (The Father) were cited as first-time directors and could easily disrupt this list. Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods) was expected to be a major player here but his precursor performance has been jarringly spotty, with only the Critics Choice Association including him on their roster. I’m intrigued by Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) making the cut with BAFTA, and there’s a possibility that he could follow in the footsteps of Pawel Pawlikowski, who transitioned from BAFTA to Oscar without a Best Picture bid at either organization (also, read my interview with him from earlier this week here). It’s also very unlikely but still within the realm of possibility that Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?), another BAFTA nominee who directed a Best International Feature frontrunner, could get in. Don’t count out Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah) either because that film is picking up steam in a big way. Both Kelly Reichardt (First Cow) and Eliza Hittman (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) will get votes, but I don’t think they’ll be enough to earn them spots. There’s no way that this category will be as shocking as BAFTA’s list, but it could be another 2012 where four likely nominees who hit all the right early marks lead to only two transferring, with both Sorkin and Fincher snubbed. I’m not bold enough to predict it, but who knows?

For your consideration: I so wish that one of those surprise 2012 nominees, Benh Zeitlin, would be back in the awards conversation for his wondrous follow-up, “Wendy.”

Forecasted winner: There’s no way Zhao loses.

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