Oscar Nominations Prediction: Best Director

Spike Jonze at Her

It supposedly used to be different in the good ol’ days. When there weren’t a million different critics, guilds and other film enthusiast groups giving out awards to the same four or five movies. Back then, it was probably somewhat surprising to see what movies, actors and directors were singled out as the best of the year by the Academy. Nowadays, the nomination process is very predictable. But even then, last year, the Academy’s directors branch managed to surprise everyone by snubbing two directors that were considered safe for a nomination (Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow) and giving those spots to a foreign master (Michael Haneke) and an independent newcomer (Benh Zeitlin). Will we see something similar this year?

Unless there’s a weird (and interesting) trend developing in the Academy, then I wouldn’t count on anything too surprising being announced next Thursday. Especially not as surprising as what we saw last year. It seems to me like there are four guys that are very much locked up for the nomination. They are Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell for American Hustle and Paul Greengrass for Captain PhillipsThe real blood, as it’s usually the case in most categories, will be shed in the fight for the fifth spot.

Earlier today, the Directors Guild of America (which has a history of sharing/predicting Oscar’s taste) gave the fifth nomination to Martin Scorsese. I wouldn’t just assume the Oscars will go with Marty, though. For starters, the DGA has a longer history of being in love with Scorsese, having awarded him for his work as a director of features, documentaries and television. If there was going to be a group that would go for Scorsese on name alone, the DGA might have been it. Also, The Wolf of Wall Street has raised a very heated debate about the morality in Scorsese’s depiction of the disgusting world of Wall Street brokers as so much fun. Is this situation similar to the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirtys depiction of torture? You know, the controversy, that may or may not have had something to do with Kathryn Bigelow not becoming the first woman ever to be nominated for Best Director twice.

If not Scorsese, then who? Alexander Payne got a Golden Globe nomination for Nebraskabut while the movie’s subject matter is sure to be something older voters can identify with, enthusiasm for the movie hasn’t really been all that loud. Although Scorsese and Payne are possibilities, I think the last spot goes to Spike Jonze. Her has been doing really well this awards season, receiving awards and being named the best movie of the year left and right. Some might think this tale of love in a digital age might be too modern for the traditional Academy, but let’s keep in mind that the Directors branch is composed of the kind of people that have nominated Mike Leigh, Pedro Almodovar and Terrence Malick in the past.

Will Be Nominated: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Spike Jonze (Her), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Should Be Nominated: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing), Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell)

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