Making history at the Oscars is always a great thing to celebrate but it’s also a measured response tempered by the fact that it took so long to happen. On April 25th, Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) will become only the second woman to win the Best Director Oscar in 93 years and the first Chinese-American woman to do so.
In only her third film, the deliberate and contemplative work of Zhao has been a staple among cinephiles and fellow directors. Passion and empathy are the touchstones of her work, whether it’s the brother/sister bond in Songs My Brothers Taught Me, the simple beauty of the examination of masculinity in The Rider or the honest and raw approach to regaining freedom once you’ve lost everything in Nomadland, Zhao’s acute understanding of when to pull back and let the story tell itself and unfold is unmatched and her showcase of the American West is both classic and progressive.
Zhao is joined by two directors who, separately but in concert with her, also make history. Promising Young Woman‘s Emerald Fennell is the first female director to be nominated here for her first film. Being nominated alongside Zhao marks the first time ever that two women have been nominated in the same year. Lee Isaac Chung, director of Minari, is the first Korean-American director ever nominated and alongside Zhao marks the first time that two Asian/Asian-American directors have been nominated in the same year. Last year, Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) became the first Korean Best Director winner.
For David Fincher (Mank), his third nomination is his reward but it is not his time just yet. Another Round‘s Thomas Vinterberg earned his first nomination this year but I feel like it won’t be his last.
The 93rd Oscars will be held on April 25 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and the Union Station in Los Angeles.
Here are my ranked final Oscar predictions in Best Director.
- Chloé Zhao for Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) – GG, BAFTA, BFCA, DGA
- Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) – BFCA, DGA, GG
- Lee Isaac Chung for Minari (A24) – BAFTA, BFCA, DGA
- David Fincher for Mank (Netflix) – BFCA, DGA, GG
- Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round (Samuel Goldwyn Mayer) – BAFTA