>>Kyle Buchanan, The New York Times
Published: 2019-01-02 13:34:51 BdST
Who else makes the final five is anybody’s guess.
Eleven other directors — including Oscar-nominated veterans and would-be first-timers — all have a legitimate path to those remaining spots. But who will come out ahead when the nominations are unveiled Jan 22? Below, going in alphabetical order, your Carpetbagger weighs their odds.
BO BURNHAM, ‘EIGHTH GRADE’
In his favour: Burnham’s junior high dramedy has netted many breakthrough awards from critics. Could he follow in the path of other first-time filmmakers like Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and crash the best-director category?
Working against him: This year’s race may be too stacked with heavyweight names for Burnham to slip through.
DAMIEN CHAZELLE, ‘FIRST MAN’
In his favour: Chazelle won the best-director Oscar for his last film, “La La Land,” and the man-on-the-moon drama “First Man” is even more of a technical feat. The directors category respects a special-effects movie that was difficult to pull off, and “First Man” has that feel.
Working against him: The movie has not lived up to its high expectations during this award season. Neither Chazelle nor his star, Ryan Gosling, scored nominations from the Golden Globes — “First Man” failed to crack the group’s best-drama category, too — and the Screen Actors Guild snubbed it entirely.
RYAN COOGLER, ‘BLACK PANTHER’
Ryan Coogler directing one of his stars, Danai Gurira. The New York Times
Working against him: “Black Panther” seems certain to crack Oscar categories where no superhero movie has gone before, but it’s possible this one will remain out of reach. Though “Black Panther” earned a notable SAG nomination for its ensemble and a best-drama nod from the Golden Globes, Coogler didn’t score one for the latter’s directing prize.
PETER FARRELLY, ‘GREEN BOOK’
In his favour: This fact-based, race-relations comedy about a black pianist and his white driver is a favourite for many in the academy, and considered one of the few outright crowd-pleasers in the category. Its stars, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, are near-locks to be nominated, and Farrelly’s path from co-directing “Dumb and Dumber” to helming an Oscar contender will charm voters.
Working against him: The best-director category increasingly favours auteurs who can display technical showmanship, which is not a trait “Green Book” has in abundance. Farrelly must also contend with criticism from the pianist’s relatives who say the film distorted his character.
DEBRA GRANIK, ‘LEAVE NO TRACE’
In her favour: Granik has won multiple best-director laurels from critics’ groups for this note-perfect study of a father and daughter living off the grid. Jane Campion, one of five women ever nominated for a best-director Oscar, wrote a letter to IndieWire recently arguing that Granik should be the sixth.
Working against her: It’s hard to get nominated for best director if your film isn’t favored to snag nominations for best picture and for its cast, and “Leave No Trace” — which has a lower-profile pair of stars in Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie — will have trouble breaking into those fields.
MARIELLE HELLER, ‘CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?’
Marielle Heller, left, on set with Melissa McCarthy. The New York Times
Working against her: Heller hasn’t found much traction with critics’ groups or awards organisations, and the Golden Globes failed to give the film a nomination for best drama.
BARRY JENKINS, ‘IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK’
Barry Jenkins, center, with his actors, including KiKi Layne, right. The New York Times
Working against him: It’s worrisome that the Screen Actors Guild snubbed “If Beale Street Could Talk” entirely, and may suggest that the film is breaking too late.
YORGOS LANTHIMOS, ‘THE FAVOURITE’
Yorgos Lanthimos, left, with a cast that included Rachel Weisz, right. The New York Times
Working against him: Might his avant-garde tendencies still prove a little too much for some members of the academy? Royal period pieces usually go a long way with this group, but Lanthimos films thrive on discomfort, and he isn’t afraid to push “The Favourite” into some untraditional places.
SPIKE LEE, ‘BLACKKKLANSMAN’
In his favour: Lee is one of the most famous and influential directors in Hollywood, yet somehow, he’s never been nominated for the best director Oscar. The academy has the perfect opportunity to make it up to him for the successful, critically acclaimed “BlacKkKlansman.”
Working against him: At the 1990 Oscars, presenter Kim Basinger famously used her screen time to criticise the academy for failing to nominate Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” in other categories besides original screenplay. The directors branch is very different now thanks to the academy’s diversity push. But has Hollywood’s old guard changed enough to embrace a provocative filmmaker who has made what some critics call his best movie in years?
ADAM MCKAY, ‘VICE’
In his favour: McKay won a best adapted screenplay Oscar for his last fact-based comedy, “The Big Short,” and his new film, a Dick Cheney biopic, is more technically accomplished. Stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams are locks to be nominated, which will only help McKay’s cause.
Working against him: The film is polarising, and reviews were wildly split, with critics calling “Vice” both the worst film of the year and one of the best. If Christmas audiences aren’t in the mood to watch a big-budget movie about Cheney, poor box office could further depress McKay’s chances.
PAUL SCHRADER, ‘FIRST REFORMED’
In his favour: A real director’s director, Schrader has never been nominated for an Oscar, not even for writing the screenplays to “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” His focused work on “First Reformed” had critics raving, and the directors category may seize its opportunity to recognise the man and his career.
Working against him: Major awards groups like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild totally ignored “First Reformed,” and many academy members still haven’t seen it. To his handlers’ dismay, Schrader has not been afraid to court controversy this awards season: He used his press tour to blast modern audiences as the culprit for bad movies and, on his Facebook page, advocated for the disgraced Kevin Spacey to win lead roles again.
© 2018 New York Times News Service