Best Director is usually the easiest category to predict in the Oscar race. Even if there’s doubt about Best Picture, just look at what the DGA did–more than nine times out of ten, the DGA winner also wins the Oscar. But what happens when the DGA winner isn’t nominated for an Oscar? Chaos reigns.
It’s happened before–in 1985, Steven Spielberg won the DGA for The Color Purple, but was not Oscar-nominated, the same for Ron Howard in 1995 for Apollo 13. But things went according to plan anyway, as the Best Directors those years, Sydney Pollack and Mel Gibson, matched the Best Picture winner. That’s unlikely this year.
Ben Affleck’s snub by the Director’s Branch of the Academy has turned the Best Director category into a toss-up. I think there’s two possibilities–Spielberg, for Lincoln, and Ang Lee, for Life of Pi.
Spielberg was the early favorite, as Lincoln was seen as the favorite for Best Picture when the nominations were announced on January 10th. But a strange thing has happened–except for Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln has been beaten like a drum during the precursor awards. The explanations for this are mysterious–maybe industry folks find it too didactic–but it did get 12 nominations. Spielberg has won twice before, but I don’t know that his chances tonight are better than fifty-fifty.
Ang Lee is also a former winner, and might win tonight just for the technical problem of making a movie that takes place mostly in a lifeboat with a boy and a tiger as the only characters. Life of Pi quietly picked up 11 nominations, mostly in the technical categories, indicating that the behind the scenes folks admired it. Is that enough to push him forward?
The other three directors figure to be non-winners. David O. Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, has a better chance at winning Best Adapted Screenplay, as the film is really more of a writer’s success. The same could be said for Michael Haneke for Amour, who stands a chance in the Original Screenplay category. No director of a foreign language film has ever won a Best Director award.
Finally, Benh Zeitlin, director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, will surely be thrilled to attend.
Will win: Jeez, push come to shove? Ang Lee
Could win: Steven Spielberg
Should win: Steven Spielberg
Should have been nominated: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
In the Best Picture race, die-hard Oscar nerds have come to accept the inevitable: Argo will win Best Picture. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, not because Argo isn’t any good, but because the Oscar stats are against it. Only three films, and only one in the last 80 years, have won Best Picture without the director being nominated. When the nominations were announced, Ben Affleck’s absence in the Best Director category seemed a death knell for Argo. But then it one the Golden Globe. Ah, no big deal. Then the Producer’s Guild. Hmmm. The SAG for Best Ensemble–so did The Birdcage. BAFTA? Hmmm. Then Affleck won the DGA. There is really no case against Argo except for the snub by the Director’s Branch, and they are only six percent of the Academy. Argo will win.
But why? Was it feeling bad for Ben Affleck that did this? Maybe, but I think there’s more to it. Why Argo, a perfectly fine but not particularly revelatory film? It finally hit me–of course the film industry would love this film. It portrays the Hollywood community as heroes, who saved the lives of six hostages. Hollywood is, as one would gather, a narcissistic place, and how better to feel good about yourselves than honor a film that can paint a producer as played by Alan Arkin as a national hero?
That’s my opinion, anyway. The other eight films really have little chance, but if I were to rank them it would be Lincoln as the upset special, given that it has 12 nominations. Again, I’m puzzled as to why it’s been overlooked in precursors. Silver Linings Playbook is probably third, given that it has a lot of support from the acting branch, with Life of Pi fourth, with its support from the below-the-line branches.
Zero Dark Thirty won most of the critics awards, but got left in the dust with precursors, perhaps being punished for its torture scenes, or maybe it’s just one of those films that are loved by critics and not the industry. Amour, while ripe for upset wins in Best Actress or Best Original Screenplay, is a foreign language film, which has never won Best Picture (and this is a depressing film). Les Miserables, while a crowd pleaser in some quarters, is probably a bit too much for Best Picture (and the director was not nominated–oh, wait–that’s meaningless now). Django Unchained’s nomination is baffling, and I can’t imagine how anyone could justify it winning tonight (it has raised the ire of some in the African-American community) and as with Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild even being in this category is a victory.
Will win: Argo
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook
Should have been nominated: Moonrise Kingdom