Best Director is a much more interesting category than usual this year. With no set Best Picture frontrunner there is a lot that could go on here. The most interesting trends this year is that two of the major contenders are overdue genre favorites and two first-time directors that are best known as performers.
For the genre filmmakers you have two of the most beloved modern masters: Guillermo del Toro and Christopher Nolan. Neither have been acknowledged by the Academy as directors before, but are definitely considered due for Oscar recognition. Nolan, who was left out for Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar, plays the Oscar game for the first time. Meanwhile del Toro is a widely respected filmmaker who hasn’t had a film that matched up with Oscar tastes until now. With Cuaron and Inarritu winning this award three years in a row, del Toro is the remaining major Mexican filmmaker to win for a Hollywood film.
It is notable Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele have directed two this year’s biggest Oscar contenders. These are two debut films from artists that are best known as performers. This is something that AMPAS have not acknowledged in quite a while. While Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, etc. could win for transitioning from acting to directing, this has not been the case in recent years. Notably Affleck was left out for directing Argo. The last actor turned director to be acknowledged was Mel Gibson last year, who already won twenty years prior. With this track record it is expected for AMPAS to only nominate one of the two. Especially with their constant lack of diversity. Expect Gerwig, having nominate one of the frontrunners, to earn a nomination while Peele will have to wait.
Expect the other two nominations to go to Luca Guadagnino, whose film has been consistently mentioned in many categories. The Oscars will often go for a new director in this category if their film plays the Oscar game well. Also Martin McDonagh, who directed what I am currently expecting to be a frontrunner. He will pull a Kenneth Lonergan, as a playright who succeeded in directing. Although it won’t be a clean enough win to earn him a win. But with his previous respected films, McDonagh will make it thorough.
Other than Peele, the directors left out include Steven Spielberg for The Post which won’t catch the fire that was expected. Sean Baker, Dee Rees and Paul Thomas Anderson all have extreme outside chances. But don’t bet on it.
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird