Predicting Best Director is the trickiest of the major categories. Since the Academy has decided they want to keep the number of Best Picture nominees secret until the announcement, and the number of Best Picture films could be anywhere from 5 to 10, Best Director no longer mirrors BP as much as it once did. From time to time, a director would grab a nomination and their film wouldn’t get a BP nod. Now, that idea is flipped, which feels weird. A film is good enough to grab a Best Picture nomination, but the director isn’t nominated?
Regardless, this year should recognize a few directors whose films were events, both during production and upon release. Like it or not, one specific director will be back in the pool a second consecutive year, but I’m not convinced he has the inside track to the win.
Desiste the fact discussions of The Revenant and its taxing shooting has created some of the most epic and absurd backlash in recent memory, Alejandro G. Iñárritu will enjoy his second straight nomination. Roll your eyes all you want, and sure the publicity train for this film is a little aggressive to the point of being tiresome. It doesn’t change the fact filming The Revenant was a troubling shoot, because Iñárritu had a specific vision. Chill out.
Fan favorite George Miller will get a nomination for Mad Max: Fury Road, because he absolutely deserves it. Mad Max had its own fair share of shooting issues and delays and an arduous schedule. But Miller pulled it off, and the momentum behind his film will trickle down to the brilliant work he did behind the camera. And then there is Ridley Scott for The Martian, another big-scope genre film with a difficult outdoor shoot. Scott is a middling director these days, but he manages to get everything lined up (thanks to Matt Damon) for The Martian.
Now the scale drops considerably, though the quality remains stellar. There are hopefuls whose films may sneak into the BP nominee pool, but their name will be left off here. Denis Villeneuve deserves credit for Sicario, but he won’t be able to fit into the top five. F. Gary Gray will be considered for Straight Outta Compton, but again will probably fall short. These filmmakers will probably be squeezed out by a late-rising film: The Big Short. Adam McKay, as crazy as this seems, will sneak into the Best Director pool. The fifth spot will land with Tom McCarthy, who deftly handles Spotlight with taste and subtle emotion.
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott – The Martian
Adam McKay – The Big Short
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight