Tue. Oct 15th, 2019

2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions: BEST DIRECTOR (July)

Lulu Wang (r) with Shuzhen Zhou (l) and Awkwafina on the set of The Farewell (A24)

Having a hard time moving the top four on my Best Director predictions anywhere at this point. Placeholders? Maybe one or two, unless they’re all spectacular failures. That isn’t to say that in June I feel like I have this race locked up. Even I’m not that arrogant. But for mid-summer, and with just one more month before the fall festivals kick off (which are really in summer, technically), they feel right? Right?

That being said, there’s still some significant movement this month! First and foremost is the jump into the top five for Lulu Wang with her second feature, The Farewell. This universally praised indie from A24 (Moonlight, Lady Bird) defied all expectations last week when it became the highest per theater average opener of the year, beating Avengers: Endgame. Apples and oranges, sure; one opened in 4000+ theaters, one in just four. But The Farewell also set the record for a non-English language opening weekend debut, blowing past Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution from 2007. This weekend will see its first expansion (just 30 or so more theaters), then another next week and then wide(ish) on August 2nd. While box office doesn’t have to be king for Best Picture, it doesn’t hurt. If The Farewell expands strong there won’t be much stopping Wang, who seems to have been everywhere in the world with this film charming voters and audiences alike, from being a top contender and possibly becoming the first woman of Asian descent nominated for Best Director.

Also moving up are Joon-ho Bong with his Cannes Palme d’Or winner Parasite. The Neon-distributed film lands in October so it’s definitely going to hit at least Toronto on its path and Bong could end up being a major player in the director race if the studio plays its cards right. Aeronauts has been moving up all of my charts this month and here is no different. Tom Harper, who already released the indie hit Wild Rose with Best Actress contender Jessie Buckley earlier this spring, finds a comfortable spot in the Next Up section. So does the rising star of Noah Baumbach with his most personal film to date, tentatively titled Marriage Story (shades of Bergman, no?). I’ve bumped up its actors across the board so it makes sense that he also rides that wave.

These rises means someone has to fall and this month it’s James Mangold for Ford v Ferrari. Yes, I just put him in my top 5 last month only to take him out this month but there’s wiggle room here. Ironically, as I have two female directors in my top five, two fall down into Other Contenders. Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) and Academy Award nominee Greta Gerwig (Little Women) are both distributed by Sony and with the new Tarantino opening next week that makes three high-profile awards films from a studio that isn’t known for juggling multiple films and campaigns. I still have Tarantino outside the top 5 too, which is more about the studio than it is about him or Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. A lot can change in the coming months but the big studios aren’t big risk-takers and they might find that Tarantino, a two-time Oscar winner and two-time Best Director nominee already, might be their best shot.

Here are my 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions in Best Director for July 19, 2019.

Green – moves up Red – moves down Blue – new/re-entry

1. Martin Scorsese – The Irishman (Netflix)
2. Kasi Lemmons – Harriet (Focus Features)
3. Sam Mendes – 1917 (Universal)
4. Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
5. Lulu Wang – The Farewell (A24)

NEXT UP (alphabetical)

Tom Harper – Aeronauts (Amazon)
Joon-ho Bong – Parasite (Neon)
James Mangold – Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
Noah Baumbach – Untitled Noah Baumbach aka Marriage Story (Netflix)

OTHER CONTENDERS (alphabetical)

James Gray – Ad Astra (20th Century Fox)
Marielle Heller – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/Columbia)
Tom Hooper – Cats (Universal)
Wes Anderson – The French Dispatch (TBD)
John Crowley – The Goldfinch (Amazon/Warner Bros)
Bill Condon – The Good Liar (Warner Bros)
Terrence Malick – A Hidden Life (Fox Searchlight)
Destin Daniel Cretton – Just Mercy (Warner Bros)
Dee Rees – The Last Thing He Wanted (Netflix)
Steven Soderbergh – The Laundromat (Netflix)
Greta Gerwig – Little Women (Sony/Columbia)
Gavin O’Connor – Long Time Coming (Warner Bros)
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland (Fox Searchlight)
Pedro Almodóvar – Pain and Glory (Sony Classics)
Armando Iannucci – The Personal History of David Copperfield (TBD)
Fernando Meirelles – The Pope (Netflix)
Melina Matsoukas – Queen & Slim (Universal)
Marjane Satrapi – Radioactive (Amazon)
Scott Z. Burns – The Report (Amazon)
Jay Roach – Untitled Roger Ailes aka Fair and Balanced (Lionsgate)
Todd Haynes – Untitled Todd Hayes aka Dry Run (Focus Features)
Jordan Peele – Us (Universal)
Trey Edward Shults – Waves (A24)
Behn Zeitlin – Wendy (Fox Searchlight)

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