After Paweł Pawlikowski (2018’s Cold War) and Thomas Vinterberg (2020’s Another Round) made the cut in the best director category it seems like we’re all looking for the next non-English language film helmer to nab a ‘surprise’ spot in the Academy’s final five. Trouble is, this year we have so many contenders that could stake claim to it.
I choose the word ‘it’ because it’s probably realistic that as pundits we view this possibility as a single open slot. Not in the sense that it should be or that the directing branch of the Academy somehow secretly decides that there is one spot open for a non-English language film or director. It’s more that history has shown us that’s how it ends up, no matter how we get there. It’s often the same discussion we have about women directors making the cut; if there are ‘too many’ women contenders it makes it hard for voters to coalesce around one to ensure it happens, as if that’s the way they approach voting. Again, it’s not a likely scenario that the machinations play out with such dubious tactics but that when it comes to nominations that are rare it often requires an overwhelming frontrunner in order for it to happen. I mean, it was only just last season that we got two women directors nominated for the first time in the 93 years of the Oscars.
For the non-English language film contenders here it’s a very wide-ranging and eclectic bunch, full of Cannes winners, revolutionary films and exciting possibilities.
From Cannes alone we have Julia Ducournau with her Palme winner Titane. NEON is managing this and this would be a wild, WILD pick by the directing branch. But then, I have to think, if David Lynch had done it they’d gobble it up. We also have Asghar Farhadi with A Hero. He won the Grand Prize this year and is already a known Oscar entity, with two of his films having won the Foreign Language Film/International Feature Film Oscar (2011’s A Separation and 2016’s The Salesman) plus a writing nominee (A Separation). Amazon is heading that up. NEON also has Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, which won Renate Reinsve the Best Actress prize. Leos Carax, making his first English-language film with Annette, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, won the Cannes Best Director prize but is very unlikely to factor into this season’s Oscar race.
Elsewhere, like Farhadi, is Academy favorite Pedro Almodóvar with his Venice debut Parallel Mothers from Sony Pictures Classics that won star Penélope Cruz Best Actress there. Although Spain flubbed by not selecting Parallel Mothers to represent it at the Oscars (ironically, they chose The Good Boss starring Cruz’s hubby Javier Bardem), that might actually help Almodóvar rather than hurt him. Another Venice debut, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God, didn’t win any prizes but he’s also a known entity with Oscar with his film The Great Beauty taking home the FLF/IFF prize back in 2013. Netflix has that film, which is Italy’s Oscar submission.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s LGBTQ animated documentary Flee would be a history-making nomination, is also held by NEON and is Denmark’s Oscar submission. The Danish country’s history in that category is exceptional, having been nominated 13 times and won four (1987’s Babette’s Feast, 1988’s Pelle the Conqueror, 2010’s In a Better World, 2020’s Another Round).
Here are my ranked 2022 Best Director Oscar predictions for October 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Kenneth Branagh – Belfast (Focus Features) ↔
2. Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog (Netflix) ↔
3. Denis Villeneuve – Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↑
4. Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA) ↑
5. Reinaldo Marcus Green – King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↔
6. Guillermo del Toro – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) ↓
7. Joel Coen – The Tragedy of Macbeth (Apple/A24) ↔
8. Asghar Farhadi – A Hero (Amazon Studios) ↑
9. Pablo Larraín – Spencer (NEON) ↔
10. Jonas Poher Rasmussen – Flee (NEON) ↔
Other contenders: Siân Heder – CODA (Apple), Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up (Netflix), Paolo Sorrentino – The Hand of God (Netflix), Ridley Scott – House of Gucci ↓ (MGM/UA), Ridley Scott – The Last Duel (20th Century Studios), Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter (Netflix), Pedro Almodóvar – Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics), Rebecca Hall – Passing (Netflix), Lin-Manuel Miranda – tick, tick…BOOM! ♦ (Netflix), Julia Ducourneau – Titane ♦ (NEON), Steven Spielberg – West Side Story (20th Century Studios), Joachim Trier – The Worst Person in the World (NEON)