This year’s Oscar race for Best Director is a bit top heavy at the moment. There are some serious contenders that are very much in this race to win, but others that are merely fringe candidates at this point just looking for a nomination. Let’s break down this impressive list of filmmakers…
Where We Are At:
The clear and present frontrunner at this moment has to be Alfonso Cuaron for his masterful and personal work in Roma. This film will most likely be considered his magnum opus, his masterpiece, his career-defining moment, whatever title you want. It’s tough to envision him losing out on Oscar this year for that very fact. Roma is based on his childhood living in Mexico City during the 70’s. He takes you on that journey in both an intimate and grand way. He’s my easy #1 until proven otherwise.
Next, we have Bradley Cooper for his directorial debut in A Star Is Born. Cooper has exceeded expectations with this film, he has wowed audiences both in front and behind the camera. His film will most likely have the biggest box office among the other contenders, and it’s widely seen as a populist film with a tragic twist. All good news for Cooper. The one question is whether the director’s branch accepts him. Remember Ben Affleck for Argo in 2012.
Spike Lee is easily the most overdue of all the filmmakers on this list. His career has spanned several decades with thought-provoking, controversial, and timely works, yet the Oscar eludes him. That is a serious narrative to run on. This best director Oscar would be a career-rewarding trophy. His film BlacKkKlansman is arguably his best work since Do the Right Thing. This is the Academy’s chance to right a serious wrong.
Damien Chazelle is back for more with First Man. Still in his early 30’s, he is truly the next Steven Spielberg. First Man is an astonishing piece of technical filmmaking. A directing achievement if there ever was one. But at such a young age, is the Academy ready to give him his second Oscar? I’m not sure. Also, a struggling box office count could hold him back considering he’ll get plenty more chances in the future if he keeps it up at this rate.
Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite is the biggest wild card of the bunch. He has never connected with the Academy before, but this film is far more mainstream and easier to digest compared to his previous efforts. I’d like to see him get a nomination for this wonderfully whacky film, but he is far from a guarantee. However, at this moment, feet to the fire, I have him sneaking in.
On the Fringe:
Peter Farrelly for Green Book. A departure from his usual fare. Farrelly bounces back from a few recent duds and pulls off the crowd-pleaser of all crowd-pleasers. Not sure yet if the Academy will accept him as a serious filmmaker though.
Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk. Another exquisite work for Jenkins following Moonlight. He is certainly deserving of a nomination, whether he gets into the crowded field is another question.
Adam McKay for Vice. Still a question mark, but if it hits like The Big Short, McKay could be a serious player here. Still, I think his best chance for a nomination is in screenplay.
Ryan Coogler for Black Panther.
Steve McQueen for Widows.
Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
How I’d Rank ‘Em:
- Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
- Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
- Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
- Damien Chazelle (First Man)
- Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)