Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016 Final Best Director Predictions

It is a race between Barry Jenkins for Moonlight and Damien Chazelle for La La Land.  As we've seen in three of the last four Oscars, a split between Best Director and Best Picture is possible (Argo/Ang Lee, 12 Years a Slave/Alfonso Cuaron, Spotlight, Alejandro Inarritu).  Either Jenkins or Chazelle will win, even if Manchester by the Sea ends up taking picture.  Going with my gut right now and predicting Barry Jenkins.

Manchester by the Sea is a strong enough contender to secure a slot for Kenneth Lonergan.  His film is more about the writing and acting than direction.  As he is primarily a writer, he needs to amass a larger body of film work or  develop distinct direction before he can win in this category.  Denis Villenevue is set for a nomination for Arrival.  He has been working a lot on quality projects, with the film's financial success he will receive a deserved first nomination.  The final slot will likely go to Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge, who has been present in precursors and has a strong-enough film.  There is some room for surprises, this is a category where that has happened recently.

Here are my predictions and analysis for the Best Director race:

Barry Jenkins,
Damien Chazelle,
La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan,
Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve,
Mel Gibson,
Hacksaw Ridge
This award could go several ways.  As of right now I am predicting Barry Jenkins to win.  This is the strong new director that the Oscars will support.  A lock for a nomination for sure, but the win is not certain.  Going with my gut right now.
Seems neck and neck with Jenkins, Globes gave him a slight edge.  Chazelle has a previous Oscar nominated film which helps.  His film will get the nostalgic vote, unsure how many that will carry to wins.
Lonergan is a writer who has never been up for an Oscar as a director before.  The strength of his film will get him a nomination, but Manchester needs to take the frontrunner place for Lonergan be considered to win.
Villeneuve has been on his way to an Oscar and he has a much talked about critical and commercial hit this year that is assured an Best Picture nomination.  Arrival isn’t strong enough for Villeneuve to win, but he will get his first nomination.
Gibson has been nominated in a lot of precursors.  The fact that Hacksaw Ridge is up for Best Picture and Best Actor shows that Gibson may be done with his exile.  Also worth noting that other directors will vote for this award, not actors.  Controversial directors have been nominated and won before.
Denzel Washington,
David Mackenzie,
Hell or High Water
Martin Scorsese,
Jeff Nichols,
Clint Eastwood,
Did a great job making Fences cinematic while still maintaining its theatrical aspects.  Washington directed a great ensemble, but he hasn’t been up for many precursors.  Directors of play adaptations aren’t always up for Oscars.  Director-actors haven’t been successful lately (Affleck couldn’t secure a nomination for Argo).
While not a frontrunner, this film is going to be up for several Oscars.  While the director hasn’t been seen in many precursors, this category can have surprises.  Benh Zeitlin and Michael Haeneke making it in 2012, Bennett Miller getting nominated while his film didn’t.  Mackenzie could ride the strength of Hell or High Water.
Scorsese is one of those directors who can get recognized for lesser work.  Silence has not been greatly received and is not up for many Oscars.  But the director’s respect for Scorsese and his passion for this project could come into play.
Nichols will get a nomination one of these days.  He is consistently making good films, but the Oscars have yet to truly embrace one.  If Loving gets a Best Picture nomination, Nichols could follow.
Eastwood can just be a sign of quality for some voters.  Sully did well enough financially that it isn’t out of the question entirely; he wasn’t in the conversation much before American Sniper’s nomination either.  But Eastwood has been divisive this year and his film lacks the passion of Sniper.
Garth Davis,
Theodore Melfi,
Hidden Figures
Tom Ford,
Nocturnal Animals
Mike Mills,
20th Century Women
Jon Favreau,
The Jungle Book
Lion will most likely get a picture nomination, so Davis could get in with little precursor love (ala Zeitlin).  Not likely though.
Hidden Figures is a star vehicle, not a director’s vehicle.  It isn’t popular enough to reward a serviceable director.
Some voting bodies are responding to Nocturnal Animals.  Ford got a Globe nomination over better competition.  But it will be a real long shot at this point.
Mills has his fans and supporters, but the film is a real long shot in most categories.  He is not a serious threat.
Some pundits still bring up The Jungle Book as a contender.  I suppose that if Ang Lee could win for Life of Pi then it isn’t inconceivable.  Favreau has worked enough to deserve an Oscar moment.  But this mainstream fare won’t be it.

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