As an auteurist, Best Director, maybe even more than Best Picture, is the Oscar category that most fascinates me. The interesting thing about the category is that it tends to simultaneously be both a point of pride and shame for the Academy Awards. On the one hand, the Directors branch has done a decent job of nominating directors who push and expand the boundaries of cinema, regardless of the genre they work in and from whichever country they hail from. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, Francois Truffaut, David Lynch, Akira Kurosawa, and Spike Jonze have all seen recognition in this category (some multiple times) for films that received very little attention from any other branches of the Academy.
On the other hand, when it comes to actually crowning a Best Director (which is a job given to the Academy as a whole, not just the Director’s branch), the Academy’s record isn’t so sterling. All of the aforementioned directors have never won the Best Director Oscar, while directors such as Tony Richardson, Barry Levinson, Kevin Costner, and Tom Hooper all have. Clearly, something’s not right.
However, when long over-due directors have finally received their golden statuettes, it has made for some of the best moments of Oscar history. In recent memory, perhaps my favorite moments in Oscar history came in the back-to-back years of 2007 and 2008 when the Best Director award was handed out to Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers, respectively.
In all honesty though, more than even joy for these masterful directors, the main emotion I felt was relief, relief for the Academy that they wouldn’t have to live with yet another embarrassing factoid that neither Martin Scorsese or the Coen Bros. had never won a Best Director Oscar. This is why every year I anticipate this category, hoping that the Academy will be able to mark off another preeminent director off their checklist before it becomes too late to recognize some of the numerously talented auteurs who have yet to win the Oscar.
Fortunately though, with the abundance of riches of talented directors doing top tier work this year, the Academy is going to have to work overtime in order to screw this up (as long as John Lee Hancock doesn’t win… just kidding… maybe). The two leading candidates for the award, Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron, are both would-be first-time nominees, but beyond this, the field is chock-full of respected names, many of which have previously been nominated in this category.
Between the likes of Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Joel and Ethan Coen, David O. Russell, Paul Greengrass, Alexander Payne, Spike Jonze, Lee Daniels, and Jason Reitman, there have been a lot of cumulative Oscar nominations in the group of potential nominees. As we saw last year with the somewhat surprising inclusions of Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin over the surprising omissions of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, the Directors branch holds its own court, which can make it difficult (and exciting) to predict if you’re an Oscar prognosticator such as myself.
Inevitably then, my predictions for this category are likely to change occasionally (maybe even daily, or hourly) all the way up until the announcement of the nominees. As of this time though, right here right now, in our current coordinates of Space-Time, these are my predictions for the 2014 Best Director lineup.
This article was first posted on November 2, 2013