For my early Best Picture predictions, click here.
Over the course of Oscar history, Best Director and Best Film Editing are the two awards that most often line up with Best Picture. It’s not common a film wins Best Picture unless it’s at least nominated in these two categories. So, they’re very important, specifically Editing, which some like to consider a “smaller category”.
We’ll start with who I feel are the 18 contenders for Best Director, ordered from most likely to be nominated to least likely.
The predicted nominees are…
1. Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
As close to a shoe-in as there is. Linklater’s direction has long been over-looked by the Academy and by every account he pulled off this incredibly ambitious project. I think he has a better shot to win than his film does.
He’s going to be nominated, but I think #’s 2 and 3 on this list have just as good of a shot at winning. Seriously though, how awesome is Richard Linklater? He did Slacker, Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and the greatest romance trilogy of all-time (the Before movies). His next film, That’s What I’m Talking About, is about a bunch of freshman college baseball players in the 80’s. He’s calling it a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused.
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)
Iñárritu is no stranger to nominations. Two of his films have been nominated for best foreign film and Babel scored a best picture nom while getting him nominated for best director in 2007 (he was, apparently, very close to winning but lost to Martin Scorsese). So much artistry went into Birdman on every level that it’s hard not to credit Iñárritu, especially considering he also had a hand in writing the script. He’s an artist capturing the struggle many artists go through.
Iñárritu is a shoe-in for a nomination but there are a couple of factors that may hold him back from winning. First, Birdman is a black comedy. Many of the other contenders deal with more “serious” issues than a washed-up actor trying to reclaim his glory (though, that’s not really what it’s about). Race is, unfortunately, always a factor with the Oscars and they just gave this award to a Mexican director last year when Alfonso Cuarón won for Gravity. I’m not saying voters don’t like Mexicans, but the historical trends indicate that they often switch things up. Age, race, subject matter, etc.
3. Ava DuVernay (Selma)
This category has been very tough over the years for women and African-Americans. Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) is the only woman to have ever won the award, and never has the award been handed out to a black man or woman. So Ava DuVernay, a black woman, is screwed, right? Wrong. She’s already proven to be a talent capable of breaking down these barriers, becoming the first African-American woman to win best director at Sundance in 2012 for Middle of Nowhere.
She seems to be a safe bet and the only thing that could hold her back is if Selma ultimately disappoints. MLK is a figure whom many are very passionate about and if people view her telling of the story as unrealistic or “too hollywood”, there could be some backlash. Remember, it is produced by Oprah and Brad Pitt.
4. Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Tyldum could be held back by simply not being a big enough name yet. Director is a very hard category to break into early on. Most winners make a handful of great films and get snubbed a few times before they ever receive a nomination. The directors branch doesn’t like to award people too early. However, Tyldum is a rising star in the industry. His 2011 film Headhunters is the highest-grossing Norwegian film of all time and received a lot of attention from BAFTA (though, not the Academy).
It seems like the more people that see The Imitation Game, the more positive the word gets. We’ve seen actors carry directors, writers, and other actors to nominations before. Not that Tyldum doesn’t deserve a nomination, but the buzz surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance certainly helps his chances. He’s far from a shoe-in, but his film is going to continue to gain steam, and it may be enough to push him in the top five.
5. David Fincher (Gone Girl)
I’m giving this last spot to Fincher because he’s a big name that has been snubbed too many times. He’s been nominated twice (for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network) but has never taken home the prize. The four I have listed above him aren’t nearly as well known and the Academy may more or less be forced to give the last spot to a popular director (which keeps Jolie, Nolan, and Eastwood very much in the hunt).
Gone Girl is far from Fincher’s best; but it made a ton of money, is based on a popular book, and will have support from the acting branch.
Didn’t make the cut this time around…
6. J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year)
Chandor became a name to watch due to Margin Call (which I highly recommend) and All Is Lost. Critics are calling A Most Violent Year his best yet and the fact that he also wrote the film, which is being praised extremely original and creative, helps his case. Then again, he’s young, and they may only give him a screenplay nomination.
Chandor making the cut would be a surprise to most, but like Tyldum, his film is gaining a ton of momentum. A Most Violent Year won best film from The National Board of Review and both the lead turns, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, are in the thick of the lead acting races.
7. Angelina Jolie (Unbroken)
We’ll have to see how good Unbroken actually is before we can really determine Jolie’s chances. Early reviews are praising the acting, production design, and cinematography…but saying some not-too-kind things about the overall tone of the film. It’ll also be interesting to see how seriously the directors branch (a DGA nomination would be huge) takes Jolie. She may have to make a few more films before people view her as a legitimate directing talent.
8. James Marsh (The Theory of Everything)
Marsh could get in, but The Theory of Everything is viewed as mostly an acting showcase at this point. He’ll need multiple nominations from major precursors.
9. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Only 29 years old, Chazelle is a name to watch moving forward but he’s simply too young to get a nomination this year. If they’re going to give a director nod for a small indie, it’s likely going to Chandor.
10. Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Miller was nominated as a director 10 years ago for Capote and many feel he should’ve been nominated for Moneyball. His film needs to pick up steam and prove its about more than just the A-list actors in it. It has a better shot in picture than director at this point. Though, Miller did win Best Director at Cannes this year for the film.
Also, Miller is dating Ashley Olsen of all people. She’s 20 years younger than him!!!!
11. Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)
Nolan is the biggest name in the game, changed the way the Oscars look at best picture, and continues to break the confines of what a blockbuster can be. Yet, he’s never been nominated in this category before. Interstellar is by no means his best film. This simply isn’t the year to talk about Nolan being snubbed.
Like I said in my best picture write up, the Academy already gave Nolan his “we’re sorry” nomination for Inception in best picture and screenplay.
12. Rob Marshall (Into the Woods)
We’ll have to see how good it is. Marshall left a sour taste in a lot of mouths by doing a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. We know he can do musicals (he got a director nomination for Chicago), but his filmography is fairly inconsistent. Some hits, some misses. He might be “too hollywood”.
13. Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner)
Leigh is a respected veteran who has never been nominated, but Mr. Turner might simply be too small. Besides, it’s being praised for the acting and cinematography more than anything at this point.
14. Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
Inherent Vice is just too quirky of a story. It’s not Oscar material. PTA has only been nominated in this category once (for the tremendous There Will Be Blood) despite being widely-considered the premier filmmaker of his generation. He’s too cool for the Oscars. He probably doesn’t care. He’s happy with having the most impressive filmography of the last 20 years (outside of maybe the Coen Bros.).
He has a better chance in screenplay.
15. Jean-Marc Valleé (Wild)
Reese Witherspoon has re-claimed her former glory and her performance may be enough to carry Wild to a few nominations but I doubt this is one of them. Valleé directed Dallas Buyers Club, which WON two acting awards. If Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto couldn’t carry him to a nomination, I doubt Witherspoon can.
16. Clint Eastwood (American Sniper)
Eastwood somehow just won best director from the National Board of Review. But the NBR has been very friendly to both Eastwood and Warner Bros. over the years (so much so that it’s suspicious). American Sniper isn’t being received all that kindly and any praise the film is getting goes to Bradley Cooper.
17. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Like PTA, Wes Anderson has been largely ignored by the Academy and I don’t think he really gives a damn. He’ll keep doing his thing.
18. Tim Burton (Big Eyes)
He’s Tim Burton, so he at least has an outside shot. Big Eyes stars Academy-darlings Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as well. Early reception on the film says it’s good but not great.
Time to move on to Best Film Editing, which is a VERY IMPORTANT CATEGORY.
And the predicted nominees are…
1. Douglas Crise (Birdman)
Birdman is a rare movie that forces viewers who doesn’t usually pay attention to things such as editing to appreciate the craftsmanship that went down in post-production. Movies with a lot of long takes tend to do well in this category (Gravity anyone?). Birdman is essentially PRESENTED as one long take with a few carefully-emphasized cuts. The editing contributes just as much to the film as the acting or cinematography.
Crise was nominated once before for Babel.
2. Sandra Adair (Boyhood)
Adair had a tough task one her hands with cutting 12 years of footage. By all accounts, she pulled it off. She has never been nominated before.
3. William Goldenberg (The imitation Game)
Goldenberg has been nominated four times and took home the prize for his work on Argo. If the film makes the all-around awards impact most expect, he’ll surely be in the mix.
4. Lee Smith (Interstellar)
Sci-fi movies tend to do well in this category (and a few others as well). His work here was impressive, and Smith already has two nominations, one of them for another Nolan movie (The Dark Knight).
5. Spencer Averick (Selma)
Still pretty new to the game but if Selma makes the impact it likely will, it’ll surely have a good shot at getting an editing nomination.
Didn’t make the cut this time…
6. Kirk Baxter (Gone Girl)
Fincher movies have won this award multiple times and Baxter’s work in Gone Girl is perhaps the most impressive part of the film. He certainly is in the hunt, especially if Gone Girl gets a best picture nom. Baxter took home the prize for The Social Network, and has two other nominations under his belt.
7. Tim Squyres (Unbroken)
Squyres was nominated for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This film could end up being a technical showcase if nothing else. If it scores a best picture nom, he’ll surely be in.
8. Tom Cross (Whiplash)
Many are calling the editing the most impressive part of Whiplash, but more people need to see the movie.
9. Dody Dorn (Fury)
Like sci-fi, war movies tend to do well here. Dorn was nominated, and probably should’ve won, for his work on Memento.
10. Joel Cox and Gary Roach (American Sniper)
Cox won in ’92 for Unforgiven. Both these guys have worked with Eastwood before and their collaborations have yielded good results. It’s a war movie.
I’ll be looking at Best Actor next, stay close.