You think the acting categories are tough? Best Director is looking like the most competitive in years, bursting with so many possibilities that we’re inevitably going to see some pretty shocking snubs no matter who the final five end up being.
The big change in this category is that 1917 has now been seen and reviewed and, as expected, overwhelming praise for the singular vision. I’m boosting Mendes all the way up to #2 this month but I do wonder, what if voters see the film as more of a triumph for cinematographer Roger Deakins than for Mendes as a director. It feels unlikely but it’s in the back of my head. Were Mendes to win, he would break the record for longest period between wins with a 20-year gap between 1917 and his Oscar-winning debut American Beauty in 1999.
Just as I was talking about the wealth of women director’s in last month’s predictions, the nagging reality of the status quo of male dominance in this category is starting to sink in. I look at my top 10 and while I have two women in it (Lulu Wang for The Farewell and Greta Gerwig – the last nominated woman in Best Director – for Little Women, the most likely contenders) they’re helming films that are probably on the fringe of Best Picture. Nominating Gerwig would make history; as there have only ever been five women nominated for Best Director, she would become the first ever to be nominated twice. Is there room for Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) or Spirit Award Best Director nominees Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) and Alma Ha’rel (Honey Boy)? There should be.
With all of that talk of great women directors this year, who moves up? James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari) and Todd Phillips (Joker), directors of two of the most extremely male-centric films of the year that are both gaining steam in the Best Picture race. You can gripe about Joker all you like but Phillips, after winning the top prize at Berlin, is poised to earn nominations at the majority of industry and guild awards, including the Directors Guild of America.
Here are my 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions in Best Director for November 29, 2019.
Green – moves up Red – moves down Blue – new/re-entry
1. Bong Joon-ho – Parasite (Neon)
2. Sam Mendes – 1917 (Universal)
3. Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story (Netflix)
4. Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)
5. Martin Scorsese – The Irishman (Netflix)
NEXT UP (alphabetical by film)
Lulu Wang – The Farewell (A24)
James Mangold – Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
Todd Phillips – Joker (Warner Bros)
Greta Gerwig – Little Women (Sony/Columbia)
WATCH OUT FOR (alphabetical by film)
Marielle Heller – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar)
Jay Roach – Bombshell (Lionsgate)
Lorene Scafaria – Hustlers (STX)
Clint Eastwood – Richard Jewell (Warner Bros)
Fernando Meirelles – The Two Popes (Netflix)
OTHER CONTENDERS (alphabetical by film)
James Gray – Ad Astra (20th Century Fox)
Alma Ha’rel – Honey Boy (Amazon)
Tom Harper – The Aeronauts (Amazon)
Tom Hooper – Cats (Universal)
Todd Haynes – Dark Waters (Focus Features)
Kasi Lemmons – Harriet (Focus Features)
Terrence Malick – A Hidden Life (Fox Searchlight)
Destin Daniel Cretton – Just Mercy (Warner Bros)
Pedro Almodóvar – Pain and Glory (Sony Classics)
Melina Matsoukas – Queen & Slim (Universal)
Jordan Peele – Us (Universal)
Trey Edward Shults – Waves (A24)