This year’s Best Director battle boasts frontrunners who emerged from the year’s film festivals.
Breaking out at Sundance was writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s intense four-hankie family drama “Manchester by the Sea,” which is a frontrunner for Original Screenplay and Best Actor Casey Affleck (winning the New York Film Critics Circle for both). Lonergan landed Critics Choice, Globe and DGA nominations for his tragic portrait of a New England family dealing with death and loss, and won the Original Screenplay BAFTA.
Breaking out at Telluride was audacious show business musical “La La Land,” starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as struggling creative artists (see “Birdman,” “The Artist,” and “All that Jazz”). For his follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle won the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, DGA and BAFTA awards. “La La Land” swept the Globes with a record seven wins and the Academy voters went with nominations in 14 categories. Chazelle is favored to win Best Director.
COURTESY OF SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT
Also at Telluride, Critics Choice and DGA nominee Denis Villeneuve‘s gorgeously executed “Arrival” is a brainy sci-fi mind-twister in the mold of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” ably carried by Amy Adams, and audiences were responsive.
Gotham, National Board of Review and New York Film Critics winner Barry Jenkins, who also nabbed Critics Choice, Globes and DGA nods and a WGA Original Screenplay win over Lonergan, delivers a strong second feature with “Moonlight,” which picked up raves at the fall festivals and gained ground by playing well on the specialty circuit, backed by the best reviews of the year. The drama earned eight Oscar nods and could give “La La Land” some competition.
“Braveheart” Oscar-winner Mel Gibson earned strong reviews, good box office and an AFI Top Ten slot and Critics Choice and Golden Globes nominations for popular World War II movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” which scored six nominations, but he is still a question mark with the overall Academy.
Those hoping for women directors competing at the Oscars will have to look at the documentary (Ava DuVernay’s “13th”) and foreign language categories (Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann”).
1. Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”)
2. Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
3. Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”)
4. Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”)
5. Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”)