The past few years of Best Director winners have proven that cinema stylists who can deliver scale and scope often get rewarded: see Ang Li’s “Life of Pi,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” and A.G. Inarritu’s “The Revenant,” not to mention Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land.”
But the directors also recognize breakout talent (Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and great international directors such as Pedro Almodovar, Michael Haneke and Mike Leigh. And they appreciate films featuring a showcase performance or two.
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Sundance standouts “Mudbound” and “Call Me By Your Name” boast sprawling ensemble casts and lush rural settings in the American South and Italy, respectively. Will the Academy directors welcome Dee Rees and Luca Guadagnino into their ranks, or “My Name is Doris” director Michael Showalter, who delivered a small-scale heart-tugger of a true romance, “The Big Sick”?
They may welcome back Darren Aronofsky with Jennifer Lawrence vehicle “Mother!,” or lauded writer Aaron Sorkin, who makes his directorial debut with Jessica Chastain in the title role in “Molly’s Game.” Alexander Payne, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Haneke, Christopher Nolan, Roman Polanski, and Todd Haynes are among the familiar Oscar players who have 2017 projects bursting with impressive casts.
The field is also open for directors to land their first Oscar nomination, including “Lion”‘s Garth Davis, Colin Trevorrow, James Kent, Destin Daniel Cretton and “Logan” director James Mangold, who directed Oscar contenders “Girl, Interrupted” and “Walk the Line.”
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Coming up on the outside is rookie director Jordan Peele, who is most likely to land a writing nomination for his brilliant Hitchcockian sleeper hit “Get Out.” But his direction will also be remembered by critics at year’s end.
A list of early possibilities is below. No film will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it.
Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”)
James Mangold (“Logan”)
Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)
Dee Rees (“Mudbound”)
Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”)
Woody Allen (“Wonder Wheel”)
Paul Thomas Anderson (“Untitled PTA”)
Darren Aronofsky (“Mother!”)
Kathryn Bigelow (“Untitled Detroit Project”)
Sofia Coppola (“The Beguiled”)
Destin Daniel Cretton (“The Glass Castle”)
Garth Davis (“Mary Magdalene”)
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (“Battle of the Sexes”)
Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)
Alex Garland (“Annihilation”)
Michael Haneke (“Happy End”)
Todd Haynes (“Wonderstruck”)
James Kent (“The Aftermath”)
Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)
Alexander Payne (“Downsizing”)
Roman Polanski (“Based on a True Story”)
Aaron Sorkin (“Molly’s Game”)
Colin Trevorrow (“The Book of Henry”)
Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”)