The Academy’s director’s branch, packed with overseas voters, tends to be the most receptive to non-American auteurs. Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and A.G. Inarritu have dominated the category in recent years. Cannes launched Bong Joon Ho’s brilliant and funny look at a poor family infiltrating a wealthy home, Palme d’Or-winner “Parasite” (October 11, Neon), which is the first-ever nominee from South Korea and a global box-office juggernaut ($133 million), scoring six Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
American auteur Quentin Tarantino returns after a decade with Cannes Competition hit “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (August 9, Sony) starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie. Tarantino’s ninth feature film stars DiCaprio as a past-his-prime television western star trying to break into movies in 1969 Los Angeles; Brad Pitt plays his loyal stunt double and driver. The director’s starry ensemble also includes Margot Robbie as sweet Sharon Tate. This directing nomination is Oscar-winner Tarantino’s third; he won Best Original Screenplay for “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained.”
As always, the fall film festival circuit yields plenty of Oscar fodder. Martin Scorsese’s New York Film Festival opener “The Irishman” (November 1, Netflix) was adapted by Oscar-winner Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) from Charles Brandt’s gangster saga “I Heard You Paint Houses.” The $160-million movie is the decades-long saga of a mob-friendly labor leader (Robert De Niro) who is close to both mafia boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Teamster chief Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Making a splash at Venice (where it won the Golden Lion) and Toronto was “Hangover” director Todd Phillips’ controversial “Joker,” an impeccably crafted character study and origin myth starring Joaquin Phoenix and set in the dark noir Gotham of the Christopher Nolan Batman films. The director’s branch welcomed Phillips over DGA nominee Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”).
Universal’s late December entry, Sam Mendes’ BAFTA, PGA and DGA winning World War I “one-take” wonder “1917,” landed ten Oscar nominations 20 years after the director’s debut “American Beauty” won five Oscars including Best Picture and Director.
Contenders are listed in order of their likelihood to win.
Sam Mendes (“1917”)
Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”)
Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)
Todd Phillips (“Joker”)