In a year with so many big names and previous winners in the best director race like Steven Spielberg,, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, James Cameron, Damien Chazelle and Sam Mendes, is there room for many first-timers, whether they’re veterans or new filmmakers? I think yes, and in a big way.
While the Directors Guild of America (DGA) can sometimes be less risky or adventurous with their choices, the directing branch of the Academy is much more willing to go for the international filmmaker, the indie filmmaker and more. At least at the nomination stage, the DGA and Academy line up for winners is as solid as it gets, with only seven DGA winners failing to win the directing Oscar in over 70 years and three of those were the DGA winner not being Oscar-nominated.
While the increase in nominations (and wins) for women directors and international directors is on the rise, there has still never been a Black woman nominated here. Realistically, there has probably only ever been one who was even close and that was Ava DuVernay for 2014’s Selma, who was nominated for a Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe but missed both DGA and Oscar noms, while the film was nominated for Best Picture. This year holds two possibilities to make history with Gina Prince-Bythewood for The Woman King and Chinonye Chukwu for Till.
While The Woman King has proven itself to be a crowdpleasing hit with its A+ CinemaScore and strong box office, it’s Till that is rising, and fast. With stellar reviews, Chukwu’s story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, the young Black boy whose brutal murder in 1955 in Mississippi was an integral part of the burgeoning civil rights movement in the South, is resonating. Not just with Danielle Deadwyler’s star-making turn as Mamie, but for Chukwu’s approach to the material, a feeling that has crossed gender and racial lines among critics and audiences (a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, 97% audience score). There’s true power in that and more often than not, for the Oscars to finally take note of long overdue history to be made, the effort itself has to be above and beyond (as is often the case for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community – the bar is always unfairly higher) and the support has to be universal and undeniable. Are we finally there yet? I feel like we’re getting very close.
Here are my 2023 Oscar predictions in Best Director for October.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new entry ♦
1. Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures)
2. Sarah Polley – Women Talking (UAR/Orion)
3. Martin McDonagh – The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures) ↑
4. Ruben Östlund – Triangle of Sadness (NEON)
5. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
6. Chinonye Chukwu – Till (MGM/UAR) ↑
7. Todd Field – TÁR (Focus Features) ↑
8. Alejandro G. Iñárritu – Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Netflix) ↓
9. Park Chan-wook – Decision to Leave (MUBI) ↓
10. Damien Chazelle – Babylon (Paramount Pictures) ↓
11. Edward Berger – All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix) ↓
12. Darren Aronofsky – The Whale (A24) ↓
13. James Cameron – Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios) ↑
14. Maria Schrader – She Said (Universal Pictures) ↓
15. Joseph Kosinski – Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)
16. Gina Prince-Bythewood – The Woman King (Sony/TriStar) ♦
17. Baz Luhrmann – Elvis (Warner Bros) ↑
18. Rian Johnson – Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix) ↓
19. Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix) ♦
20. S.S. Rajamouli – RRR (Variance Films) ↑
Other contenders (alphabetical)
James Gray – Armageddon Time (Focus Features)
Andrew Dominick – Blonde (Netflix)
Luca Guadagnino – Bones and All (MGM/UAR)
Hirokazuu Kore-eda – Broker (NEON)
Lisa Neugebauer – Causeway (Apple Original Films)
Lukas Dhont – Close (A24)
Sam Mendes – Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures)
Kasi Lemmons – I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Sony/TriStar)
Florian Zeller – The Son (Sony Pictures Classics)
Noah Baumbach – White Noise (Netflix)
Photo: Lynsey Weatherspoon / Orion Pictures