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2018 Oscar Predictions – BEST DIRECTOR (March)

Top: Steven Spielberg, Alexander Payne Bottom: Dee Rees, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan, Joe Wright
Top: Steven Spielberg, Alexander Payne
Bottom: Dee Rees, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan, Joe Wright

The Best Director top five for March mirrors the Best Picture top five and right now that’s a ‘safe’ prediction. We know that the directing branch of the Academy always throws us for a loop right at the end but for now matching them up makes sense.

We are looking for Kathryn Bigelow to make a big Oscar comeback this year with her Untitled Detroit Riots Project after she hobbled by controversy with Zero Dark Thirty, her follow-up to her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker. She was snubbed in Best Director that year even after being nominated by the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the DGA and despite her film landing nominations in Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay and winning an Oscar for Best Sound Editing.

The top five we have has three directors looking for their first nomination here; Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck), Joe Wright (Darkest Hour) and Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk). Of the three you’d probably find things split right down the middle between fanboys (Nolan) and cinephiles (Haynes) as to whose career deserves a much overdue nomination but all three have gotten close to Academy glory in this category, hitting the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the DGA for their directorial efforts. Many feel Haynes was cruelly snubbed last year for Carol, as was the film in Best Picture. Nolan fans took to IMDb boards (when they still existed) to cry foul when he was snubbed for Inception after he was, like Bigelow, nominated by the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the DGA.

Looking at the 6-10 slots gives us a fantastically diverse set of possibilities, from possible first-time nominees to previous nominees and even a former two-time Best Director winner. Sitting just under that top 5 is Andrew Haigh, director of Lean on Pete, potentially A24’s big Oscar push this year. For a film about a race horse (named Lean on Pete), you can count on there being a lot of bets on how this movie will do and if A24’s Best Picture win this year for Moonlight will pay off this year as well. Previous nominees flood the list, including Paul Thomas Anderson (Untitled Fashion Project), Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049), Michael Haneke (Happy End), and Darren Aronofsky (mother!). Anderson’s 1950s set fashion empire drama feels like it has the most potential and Villeneuve heading right back into sci-fi could be a solid follow-up to his Best Director nomination this year. Haneke, back with recent Best Actress nominee Isabelle Huppert could find major kudos for his timely refugee crisis drama. Alexander Payne (Downsizing), who scored a bit of a surprise Best Director nomination for Nebraska in 2012, lands solidly at #2.

Looking at the 15 directors who received votes in our first month of predictions, one name stands out – Steven Spielberg (The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara). Of those 15, he is the only previous winner in this category and a double winner at that. Along with his wins for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg has been nominated five other times in this category. As much as I hate to make this comparison, let’s look at what happened this year where it looked like Best Director was going to be made up entirely of first-time nominees. Enter Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), a previous Best Director winner, to mess that up. It’s a category, like most other top Oscar categories, that loves its veterans and former winners. It’s why Spielberg must be considered as a major possibility here.

The contender that stands out for me the most is Dee Rees (Mudbound). Her film, about two men returning from World War II to the struggle of intense racism in Mississippi, was a huge hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (it’s currently at an 82 on Metacritic). Netflix paid a whopping $12.5M for the film but that’s the catch; the streaming studio has yet to secure a major Oscar nomination outside of the Documentary categories (where it won Short Subject this year) because its distribution model is not very theater-friendly. If Netflix is smart they’ll look to their main streaming rival Amazon Studios, who reaped Oscar success this year with one of last year’s big Sundance breakouts, Manchester by the Sea, by using a far more traditional rollout to theaters (via Roadside Attractions) before becoming available via streaming. The last time Netflix made a big push for Oscar success they did well with the Screen Actors Guild (where 2015’s Beasts of No Nation landed a Cast nomination and a win in Supporting Actor for Idris Elba) and BAFTA but was stopped at Oscars’ door. The main problem, I think, was that the theatrical release of Beasts of No Nation was day-and-date with its streaming release and the Academy just isn’t ready for that model yet. Opening box office headlines or sleeper hit stories are still part of what churns the engines of Hollywood. If Netflix wants this film, and Rees, to be nominated, they will rethink their rollout. I haven’t even gotten to the biggest thing about Mudbound and the Oscars though; Dee Rees has the real potential to become the first African-American female director nominated for Best Director. Rees would also be the first openly gay woman nominated for Best Director were it to happen, chalking up even more records and history. Coming off the extraordinary success of Moonlight‘s Best Picture win this would be building off of that in the best way possible. Also, let’s take a moment to think about the potential of not just one, but two women being nominated for Best Director in the same year. It’s crazy to think that it would take 90 years for that to happen (or for an AA woman to get there, for that matter) but it’s a real possibility and something that will be lauded and celebrated for decades to come.

Here are the first Best Director predictions of the 2018 Oscar season from the new Gold Rush Gang:

BEST DIRECTOR
ERIK
ANDERSON
BRYAN BONAFEDE
GREG HOWARD
EVAN
KOST
JASON OSIASON
KENNETH
POLISHCHUK
DENIZCAN SÜRÜCÜ
RICHARD
ANTHONY
ŞÜKRÜ SÖĞÜT
MATT DINN
TOTAL
POINTS
1 Kathryn Bigelow – Untitled Detroit Riots Project 1 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 97
2 Alexander Payne – Downsizing 2 3 8 3 1 3 2 3 2 3 80
3 Todd Haynes – Wonderstruck 5 1 5 2 8 1 3 5 2 67
4 Joe Wright – Darkest Hour 4 2 6 4 4 4 7 3 7 58
5 Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk 3 4 6 4 3 8 5 8 9 4 56
6 Andrew Haigh, Lean on Pete 7 5 8 9 5 7 5 6 8 39
7 Paul Thomas Anderson – Untitled PTA Project 8 3 7 4 4 5 35
8 Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049 8 7 9 6 6 9 8 24
9 Dee Rees – Mudbound 6 7 9 6 7 20
10 Michael Haneke – Happy End 6 10 5 10 8 9 18
10 Steven Spielberg – The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara 4 9 2 18
12 Alfonso Gómez-Rejón – The Current War 5 7 10 10 12
13 Darren Aronofsky – mother! 10 10 10 6 8
14 Dan Gilroy – Inner City 9 6 7
14 Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name 9 9 10 10 10 7

OTHER CONTENDERS
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Alex Garland – Annihilation
Garth Davis – Mary Magdalene
George Clooney – Suburbicon
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Martin McDonaugh – Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Michael Gracey – The Greatest Showman
Richard Linklater – Last Flag Flying
Sebastián Lelio – Disobedience
Stephen Frears – Victoria and Abdul
Woody Allen – Wonder Wheel

About Erik Anderson

Erik blames his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched them together since he opened his eyes. They also watched Miss Universe religiously every year (the pageantry!) and Erik came to the conclusion that the combination of these two things ultimately led him down the path to obsessing about awards and ACTRESSING. He began at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association), the International Press Academy and is the founder/editor of AwardsWatch.

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