This Academy Awards rundown is the third of several that I’ll be doing for the major acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture. Definitely follow this blog on either Twitter, Facebook, or WordPress to keep up!
Additionally, this list is in order of least to most likely to win, and per usual, are accompanied by gifs. The next in this series will be Best Actor. Enjoy!
Paul Thomas Anderson: Phantom Thread
With nominations for Best Director and Best Picture, Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson is now an 8 time Academy Award nominee. And he has next to no chance to win one this year. Phantom Thread, even for some of its weaknesses, is a masterclass in directing. In any other year, Anderson would be a runaway favorite. In fact, this is probably the strongest Best Director category since 2015, especially considering that major directors like Sean Baker, Denis Villeneuve, Martin McDonagh, and Dee Rees were all left out. In any case, Phantom Thread is spectacular. Every visual element of the film is superb, and next to Blade Runner 2049, I don’t think there’s a better shot film. Anderson’s steady hand and attention to detail is demonstrated at every shot, angle, and sequence. He won’t win, but as what has now become customary (unfortunately), one day he’ll break through.
Christopher Nolan: Dunkirk
You know it’s a fantastic category, when Christopher Nolan has no chance of winning for an epic as masterfully orchestrated as Dunkirk. Along with Anderson, Nolan has also never won the Academy Award, missing out on wins for Inception and Memento. Dunkirk’s overall Academy Award chances took a hit, not because it lacked quality, but because of the kind of film it is. Dunkirk lives and dies on Nolan’s strength to pull three competing off-time narratives together. There are no “major” characters. There isn’t someone like Lady Bird who we become totally invested in. Dunkirk is cold and lacking big personality, and no matter the directorial skill, it’s difficult for Academy voters to fully embrace that kind of film. Nolan’s success at pulling Dunkirk through is so great, that it’ll probably cost him an Oscar.
Greta Gerwig: Lady Bird
I love Lady Bird, but honestly when I watched it I did not think Greta Gerwig would be a Best Director nominee. Much like Denzel Washington in last year’s Fences, Lady Bird is rough around the edges. Gerwig slightly overdoes the expositional shots of Sacramento, which makes the first half a little bit languid. I would have much preferred Dee Rees or Sean Baker nabbing this spot. Nonetheless, Lady Bird is beloved by the Academy (and by myself). Gerwig will have a puncher’s chance of winning, but I personally don’t see it happening (and I think she may strike out on Best Original Screenplay too). Gerwig was not nominated for the Golden Globe nor the BAFTA, and lost at the DGA (Director’s Guild of America). While an upset is still possible, it would be a massive surprise.
Jordan Peele: Get Out
No Black Director has ever won Best Director, though a film directed by a Black Director has won Best Picture the last two out of four years (12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen and Moonlight by Barry Jenkins). Jordan Peele is the third African American Director nominated for Best Director in the last five years. Of the entire field, Peele has the best chance to upset Del Toro. Yes, Peele was snubbed at the Golden Globes and the BAFTA’s, but unlike Gerwig, he did win a DGA (for First Feature Film). Also, Peele has won the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America). That may point more toward Get Out winning Best Picture or Best Original Screenplay rather than Peele winning Best Director. Still, it also means that if Del Toro is #1 then Peele could be #2. Two things may hurt Peele: 1. Get Out is a horror film and the Academy has an awful track record of awarding the horror genre. 2. Moonlight won last year, and some voters may be weary of handing out another major award to a Black film (this rumor has been racing around film Twitter for sometime). If Peele can overcome that backwards sentiment, then he’ll have a real shot of making history.
Guillermo Del Toro: The Shape of Water
I’ll be honest, most of this post has been a futile effort to figure out how Guillermo Del Toro could lose. All of my efforts have gone for not, and for good reason. For all the historical reasons I want Peele to win, I don’t think there was a film that I had more fun watching than The Shape of Water (Get Out was fun too, but from a black perspective, in a much different fashion). The film geek in me loves when directors blatantly show off their influences, and quite frankly, it’s Del Toro’s time. I know, “it’s their time” isn’t a solid basis for quality. But I’m sure it’ll be enough for the Academy. And really, even if it wasn’t Del Toro’s time, he’s still deserving. The Shape of Water is unlike any Best Picture nominee before it. It’s a complete fairy tale in a world filled with racism and homophobia. Additionally, its two leads never say a word and if there was an award for most masturbation scenes, The Shape of Water would be winning in a sweep.
If Del Toro wins, he’ll be the third Mexican Director to win Best Director in the last five years (Alejandro González Iñárritu in 2014 and 2015 for Birdman and The Revenant, respectively, and Alfonso Cuarón in 2013 for Gravity). Quite frankly, I see no reason why Del Toro won’t win. He’s a lock.
Additionally, you can find Gerwig and Del Toro speaking about making their respective films in the video below, The Hollywood Reporter’s “Director’s Roundtable.”
Photo Credit: EW.com