2018 Oscar Circuit: Best Director

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The Academy Award for Best Director honors achievement in, you guessed it, film direction, and has been handed out ever since the very inception of the Academy Awards in 1927. The award was originally divided to recognize both Comedy and Drama, with Lewis Milestone (“Two Arabian Knights”) winning the former, and Frank Borzage (“7th Heaven”) taking the latter inaugural prizes. This division of the award lasted just one year, as the prize would merge to a singular achievement at the second Academy Awards.

The Directors Guild, who annually recognize the best in their craft, is largely made up of Academy members. This year, Guillermo del Toro received the top prize from the guild for his inventive fantasy flick, “The Shape of Water,” and has long been your odds-on favorite to win at Oscar as well. The winner of DGA has matched up with Oscar all but eight times in 69 years (88% efficient).

And the Nominees Are:

  • Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)
  • Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)
  • Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”)
  • Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)

Let’s stay with del Toro for a moment.

Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) has just about ran the table in precursor awards this year, winning the aforementioned DGA as well as the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice (BFCA), and the BAFTA. With 13 total nominations, “Shape” is the most represented film this year at Oscar, and was cited by several guilds leading up to the big show – including top honors from the Art Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and the Costume Designers guild. Other guilds to chime in with nominations include the Editors (ACE), Writers (WGA), Makeup and Hairstyling, Cinematographers (ASC), Sound Mixers (CAS), and Sound Editors (MPSE). It’s the wide-stretching support that makes del Toro, and possibly his film, the most likely to take home the Oscar.

Guillermo del Toro is up for three Oscars this year (including Picture and Original Screenplay), and was nominated once before for Pan’s Labyrinth (Original Screenplay; 2006). He has yet to win an Oscar, but I believe his odds are strong for that to change on Sunday night.

Hard to believe it, but this is the talented director’s first Academy Award nomination for Directing. Having twice been nominated for Original Screenplay – “Memento” (2001) and “Inception” (2010) – and once for Picture (“Inception”), this makes nominations number four and five (he is also nominated for Picture for “Dunkirk”). While he didn’t win any of the major awards, Nolan was still a constant on the awards circuit this season. Nominated by BFCA, Globes, BAFTA, and DGA, if you are looking for an upset pick, Nolan would be the next safest choice.
With Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), you have two historic nominations in a category that has been predominantly flooded with white males (yes, del Toro also fits in this conversation). Both missed with Globes and BAFTA, but received recognition from DGA and BFCA.
For Gerwig, she becomes the fifth woman ever nominated for Best Director. Along with being nominated for Orginal Screenplay, this is her first and second nominations.
For Peele, he becomes the fifth black filmmaker ever nominated for Best Director. He, too, is nominated for Original Screenplay, and is also credited as a producer for “Get Out,” giving him his first three nominations this year.
If either were to win, it would be an historical achievement.

Rounding out the nominees is Paul Thomas Anderson, director of “Phantom Thread.” Along with receiving a Best Picture nomination as a producer for the film, PTA now has eight career nominations. It is the second time he has been nominated for Director (“There Will Be Blood;” 2007). His nomination, perhaps, was the most surprising of the group, as he did not receive recognition from any of the four major precursors. This could be due to the late release of his film, or perhaps the divisive nature of its story. The Academy did not seem to have a problem with the latter, as “Phantom” is nominated for six Academy Awards.

It is a diverse and talented group of auteurs, with one singular front-runner ready to join his other two amigos as Best Director Oscar winners.

Could Win: Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) 
Should Have Been Nominated: Scott Cooper (“Hostiles”)

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE |

ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT | LIVE ACTION SHORT |