This year is going to be chock full of powerhouse directors that have already been nominated for and won this award. Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) and Steven Soderbergh (The Laundromat) are all previous winners in the race once again with previous two-time nominee Quentin Tarantino returning with his 9th film, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Those are going to be tough competition but there’s another element that I think might come into play this year.
Last year we saw a handful of female directors contend to be just the 6th woman nominated for Best Director. Marielle Heller, Karyn Kusama, Josie Rourke, Chloé Zhao, Lynne Ramsay and Debra Granik all looked like (early on) that at least one of them might break through what is still a consistently an all boys club. None of them did. In fact, none of the Best Picture nominees were directed by women once again. This year is going to once again give us some very viable women directors who could join Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Greta Gerwig and still the only winner ever in 91 years, Kathryn Bigelow.
Interestingly enough, Gerwig is one of those names. Her remake of Little Women is coming this Christmas and a nomination for her would make her the only woman ever nominated twice. But is the directing branch going to care about the umpteenth remake of this story?
Marielle Heller, whose film Can You Ever Forgive Me? earned three Oscar nominations last season, is back with the Mr. Rogers biopic adjacent film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. This could be her year.
Three women of color could break through one more panel of that glass ceiling to become the first black female Best Director nominee(s) and/or first Chinese female director (s) nominated. Dee Rees, whose Mudbound became the first Netflix feature film to receive above the line Oscar nominations, is back at Netflix with The Last Thing He Wanted, the dramatic thriller starring Oscar winners Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck about a rogue journalist from the novel by Joan Didion. Kasi Lemmons, who broke out with Eve’s Bayou way back in 1997, was never given the opportunity to use that critically-acclaimed film as a jumping off point to a successful career. That could all change with Harriet, her first feature in six years, the biopic of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman that stars Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner Cynthia Erivo in the titular role. If Focus Features plays their cards (and festivals) right, Lemmons could be very much in this race. Then there’s Lulu Wang with her Sundance hit The Farewell. It’s a summer release and primarily in Chinese but if A24 takes care of it, and of her, we could be seeing a lot of her this season. Don’t forget Chloé Zhao, who has Nomadland with two-time Best Actress winner Frances McDormand this fall.
Here are my unranked 2020 Oscar nomination predictions in Best Director for April.
|Greta Gerwig – Little Women|
|Marielle Heller – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood|
|Sam Mendes – 1917|
|Martin Scorsese – The Irishman|
|Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit|
|Kasi Lemmons – Harriet|
|Dee Rees – The Last Thing He Wanted|
|Steven Soderbergh – The Laundromat|
|Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood|
|Lulu Wang – The Farewell|