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2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

Anne Thompson’s look at the Oscar race includes Guillermo del Toro, Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees and more. Updated 9/18/17.

Luca Guadagnino

Luca Guadagnino

Daniel Bergeron

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.”

READ MORE: 2018 Oscar Predictions

But the Academy directors branch also recognizes breakout talent (Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and great international directors such as Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Haneke and Mike Leigh. And they appreciate films featuring a showcase performance or two.

“Mudbound”

Photo Courtesy of MACRO

Sundance standouts “Mudbound” (Netflix) and “Call Me By Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics) 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” (Amazon Studios/Lionsgate)?

They may welcome back Alexander Payne (“Downsizing”), Steven Spielberg (“The Post”) 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: Christopher Nolan (action epic “Dunkirk”), Joe Wright (biopic “Darkest Hour”), Patty Jenkins (blockbuster “Wonder Woman”), Todd Haynes (Cannes hit “Wonderstruck”), “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.”

Two actress-writer-directors made a splash at Telluride: Greta Gerwig (coming-of-age tale “Lady Bird”) and Angelina Jolie (Cambodian-language Khmer Rouge drama “First They Killed My Father”).

get out jordan peele

Jordan Peele at the Los Angeles premiere of “Get Out”

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.

Frontrunners

Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)
Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”)
Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”)
Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)
Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”)

Contenders

Woody Allen (“Wonder Wheel”)
Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”)
Todd Haynes (“Wonderstruck”)
Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”)
James Mangold (“Logan”)
Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”)
Alexander Payne (“Downsizing”)
Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)
Dee Rees (“Mudbound”)
Aaron Sorkin (“Molly’s Game”)
Steven Spielberg (“The Post”)

Long Shots:

Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”)
Bong Joon Ho (“Okja”)
Sofia Coppola (“The Beguiled”)
Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”)
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (“Battle of the Sexes”)
Stephen Frears (“Victoria and Abdul”)
Angelina Jolie (“First They Killed My Father”)
Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”)
Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”)
Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”)

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