It’s Chloé Zhao’s world, we’re just living in it.
Ahead of the first critics’ awards I think any of us could have predicted that Chloé Zhao would win a healthy share of best director prizes for Nomadland. One week in and Zhao has swept all seven announcements so far, be it LA and NY or regional groups. It’s the kind of early domination that will make a Best Director Oscar win almost inevitable.
But hey, I’m not calling the race right here. It may be the end of December but in this crazy year, it’s kinda also just the end of October. We have four big movies opening today, on Christmas Day, and some will be formidable contenders.
News of the World (dir. Paul Greengrass) moves back up for me. I keep yo-yoing with this film but I still feel it could hit a big swath of voters. Promising Young Woman (dir. Emerald Fennell) has already won some plaudits for Carey Mulligan’s performance as well as Fennell’s script and direction as a first timer. Multi-Emmy winner Regina King has directed lots of television but One Night in Miami… stretches her strengths into the feature film realm. Animation king Pete Docter has Soul but I don’t see him making much of a dent in this race (at all, really).
Last month I was high on the idea of Kornél Mundruczó making a big splash with Pieces of a Woman but it was a fleeting moment. The film is even struggling with mentions for its stars Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn so unless there’s a big turnaround in January, he’s going to fall back down to the other contenders list. Maybe who we should be looking towards is Thomas Vinterberg for Denmark’s Another Round. A big winner at the European Film Awards, he could be the one the cracks the English-language barrier of this category like we’ve seen happen increasingly more and more over the last 10 years.
Like Greengrass, I’m back on the Spike Lee train after Da 5 Bloods performed magnificently with critics, where I think some of us had either forgotten it or didn’t think it would be able to hold and maintain momentum from its early summer release.
We finally have a date for Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah (February 12, 2021 from Warner Bros) and he moves back up into the top 10. It was announced yesterday that Paramount Pictures lost yet another property as Lee Daniels’ The United States vs Billie Holiday is getting scooped up by Hulu.
Here are my ranked 2021 Oscar predictions in Best Director for December.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – new entry this month
1. Chloé Zhao – Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)
2. David Fincher – Mank (Netflix)
3. George C. Wolfe – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
4. Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
5. Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
6. Paul Greengrass – News of the World (Universal Pictures)
7. Florian Zeller – The Father (Sony Classics Pictures)
8. Shaka King – Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros)
9. Lee Isaac Chung – Minari (A24)
10. Regina King – One Night in Miami… (Amazon Studios)
Other Contenders: Francis Lee – Ammonite (Neon), Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round, Kelly Reichardt – First Cow (A24), Ron Howard – Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix), Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Focus Features) Sofia Coppola – On the Rocks (Apple/A24), Kornél Mundruczó – Pieces of a Woman (Netflix), Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman (Focus Features), Christopher Nolan – Tenet (Warner Bros), Lee Daniels – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Hulu)
Image of Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao courtesy of Joshua James Richards/20 Century Studios