That might not be that unique year to year but what is unique this year is amount of black directors who top tier contenders helming a host of Best Picture hopefuls.
Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Adapted Screenplay for Best Picture winner Moonlight) is back with Harlem romance If Beale Street Could Talk, earning raves. Steve McQueen, is after his Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave with the heist thriller Widows. Both lost their Best Director bids for their Best Picture winning films.
Spike Lee is back in a big way with BlacKkKlansman. One of his biggest box office hits, the tone-shifting period piece, which uses our current climate of race relations, should be his first Best Director nomination. Lee has had a rough history with the Oscars, earning just one nomination – Original Screenplay for 1989’s Do the Right Thing – and then an Honorary Oscar two years ago.
Then there’s the kid, Ryan Coogler. After a hugely successful reboot and reframing of the Rocky series, focusing on Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, 2015’s Creed was a box office hit and opened the doors wide for the then 29-year old and Marvel came knocking. His Black Panther adaptation opened all the way back in February of this year and became the highest grossing comic book movie of all time (domestically) and will end 2018 as the top grossing film with over $700M. He deserves a nomination and I think he’ll get it.
What this means is that we’ll see something that’s never happened before at the Oscars; the high likelihood of three black directors all nominated in the same year. There has never even been a year with two so we all but assured to see history made next January when nominations are announced.
Alfonso Cuarón (ROMA) and Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) hold strong this month, while Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) slips just outside of the top 5.
Peter Farrelly (Green Book) enters the top 10 but with the current backlash the film is getting for its white perspective (it is told through the point of view of its white protagonist) and the film’s middling box office it could be a very short trip for Farrelly.
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) takes a step forward into the Next Up section this month.
Rob Marshall is the sole debut, with his Mary Poppins sequel Mary Poppins Returns. Raves so far could push him (and the film) into the top 10 quickly. Marshall, like Jenkins and McQueen, is also a director whose film won Best Picture while missing out on a directing win.
Here are my predictions for Best Director on November 23, 2018.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – chart debut
1. Alfonso Cuarón – ROMA (Netflix)
2. Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born (Warner Bros)
3. Barry Jenkins – If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna)
4. Ryan Coogler – Black Panther (Disney)
5. Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features)
6. Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)
7. Steve McQueen – Widows (20th Century Fox)
8. Damien Chazelle – First Man (Universal)
9. Adam McKay – Vice (Annapurna)
10. Peter Farrelly – Green Book (Universal)
Marielle Heller – Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight)
Nadine Labaki – Capharnaüm (Sony Classics)
Pawel Pawlikowski – Cold War (Amazon)
Karyn Kusama – Destroyer (Annapurna)
Rob Marshall – Mary Poppins Returns (Disney)
Felix van Groeningen – Beautiful Boy (Amazon)
Joel Edgerton – Boy Erased (Focus Features)
Jon M. Chu – Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros)
Debra Granik – Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street)
Josie Rourke – Mary Queen of Scots (Focus Features)
Clint Eastwood – The Mule (Warner Bros)