The past few years of Best Director winners have proven that cinema stylists who can deliver scale and scope often get rewarded: see Ang Lee’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 Academy directors branch also recognizes 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.
Photo Courtesy of MACRO
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!,” Alexander Payne (“Downsizing”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”), Cannes Best-Director winner Sofia Coppola (“The Beguiled”), Steven Spielberg (“The Papers”) and foreign-film-winner Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”), among the familiar Oscar players who have 2017 projects bursting with impressive casts.
The field is also open for directors to land their first directing Oscar nomination, including Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”), “Lion”‘s Garth Davis (“Mary Magdalene”), Lynne Ramsay (Cannes Best Actor prize-winner “You Were Never Really Here”), Patty Jenkins (blockbuster “Wonder Woman”), Todd Haynes (Cannes hit “Wonderstruck”), James Kent (“The Aftermath”), Destin Daniel Cretton (“The Glass Castle”), “Logan” director James Mangold (who directed Oscar-contenders “Girl, Interrupted” and “Walk the Line”), or lauded writer Aaron Sorkin, who makes his directorial debut with Jessica Chastain in the title role in “Molly’s Game.”
Stewart Cook -Variety/REX/Shutterstock
Coming up on the outside is rookie director Jordan Peele, who will likely 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 possibilities is below. No film will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it.
Sofia Coppola (“The Beguiled”)
Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”)
Todd Haynes (“Wonderstruck”)
Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)
Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)
Woody Allen (“Wonder Wheel”)
Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”)
Darren Aronofsky (“Mother!”)
Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”)
Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”)
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”)
Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”)
James Kent (“The Aftermath”)
James Mangold (“Logan”)
Alexander Payne (“Downsizing”)
Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”)
Dee Rees (“Mudbound”)
Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”)
Aaron Sorkin (“Molly’s Game”)
Steven Spielberg (“The Papers”)
Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”)