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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

AWARDS SEASON 2018: BEST DIRECTOR
Some Prospective Candidates (Or Winners) For Director



Dee Rees, the director and co-writer of "Mudbound". 
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Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Best Director sweepstakes for the 90th Academy Awards will be interesting.  At least seven directors may be on the minds of the Academy: Guillermo Del Toro, Greta Gerwig, Martin McDonagh, Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele, Dee Rees and Steven Spielberg.  (I see Paul Thomas Anderson as a long shot here, though his direction of "Phantom Thread" was brilliant and subtle.)

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences will make history if it nominates Dee Rees for her direction of "Mudbound".  Ms. Rees would be the first Black woman to be nominated for best director in the 90-year-history of the Academy.  Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird") could become the fifth white woman to be Oscar-nominated for directing.  Only one woman has ever won (Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker".)

The nominations will be announced in 20 days but here's who is likely to win Best Director in March: Guillermo Del Toro, for "The Shape Of Water".  I believe the Academy will award the Oscar to Mr. Del Toro more as a career award than for this film, although it is a film the director had been working on for decades.  Mr. Del Toro has a contingent of support (his fellow Mexican cohorts Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu have collectively won Best Director three times in the last four years.) 

If Ms. Gerwig and Ms. Rees are nominated in the director category they will be first-time nominees for all their excellent directing I don't know how much of a chance they have with a virtually 96% male Academy membership.  "Lady Bird" and "Mudbound" were exceptionally good films but are Academy members watching them?  Ms. Gerwig's "Lady Bird" is one hour and 33 minutes long; Ms. Rees' "Mudbound" is two hours and 12 minutes.  Mr. McDonagh would also be a first-time directing nominee.  I think his "Three Billboards" is too brutal for the Academy.  My guess is, I don't think many members are giving it a view.  Or have the patience for it.  At two hours long the film overstays its welcome and should have been at least fifteen minutes shorter.

Christopher Nolan has never been nominated in the directing category for Oscar -- not even for "The Dark Knight".  I think "Dunkirk" is his best directing effort and film, and I'd be surprised if the Academy omits him again from Best Director consideration.  Mr. Nolan may even strike Oscar gold in March.  Steven Spielberg has won in this category twice before ("Schindler's List", "Saving Private Ryan") and I do not think he wins for a third time on this occasion.

As for Jordan Peele, the sentiment -- at least publicly -- seems to be very strong in his favor.  "Get Out" was an extraordinary and highly intelligent film that entertained and thought-provoked.  Has "Get Out" had the same effect on most of the Academy?  Directors and actors alike have taken to trade publications and social media to extol the virtues of Mr. Peele's "Get Out" over the last 11 months since the film's threatrical release last February. 

Sometimes I am wary that overwhelming (or "polite"?) or effusive public praise of a well-loved film this far in advance from filmmakers and performers (many of whom are Academy members) may be a precursor to a let down -- and that Academy members, behind closed ballots if you will, will vote another way.  I prepare to be surprised.  Yet somehow while I expect Mr. Peele to win Best Director if, of course, he's nominated, I now see the Best Director Oscar going elsewhere, despite my social media pronouncement to the contrary last year.   Mr. Peele will almost certainly win best original screenplay, which "Get Out" is surely a lock for as a nominee.

All of this is to say that the biggest determinant of who will win Best Director at the 90th Academy Awards will be the Directors Guild Of America (DGA) Awards, which take place a few weeks prior to the Oscars.  In all but seven of the 70 years of the DGA Awards has the DGA feature film directing winner not also won the Best Director Oscar.  Will 2018 see an eighth?  Or will the reliable DGA formbook hold?


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