The two sure bets this year in the Best Director category could not be more diverse. The first one is enjoying his first taste of fame, and is an unknown in the world of the Academy. The second is an American treasure, a legendary filmmaker we have come to love for the past forty years. Michel Hazanavicius is the auteur behind The Artist, this season’s breakout favorite to take home a bevy of nominations and awards. The silent film surely took a deft touch behind the camera, and the French director Hazanavicius has done a job deserving of his first nomination. And then there is Martin Scorsese, a long time favorite of the Academy who won his first (and incredibly delayed) statue in 2006 for The Departed. Scorsese’s film, Hugo, is another picture sure to grab several nominations, and Scorsese is a definite lock here.
The next three slots are wide open. Woody Allen, who this year released his best film in decades with Midnight in Paris, has an excellent chance at nabbing this third slot. Allen has found new inspiration filming in Europe, and Midnight in Paris is the summation of his romantic eye for the city and the country. Next in line is Alexander Payne for The Descendants. Payne’s film is another favorite to win Best Picture, so his nomination in this category is the next best thing to a lock. Payne does a great job balancing the family narrative in The Descendants although I don’t see what is so wonderful or unforgettable about the film to be honest.
And here we are, once again, at the fifth slot. And like the acting categories, we have a list of hopeful directors. David Fincher has an outside shot for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, about as much as Steven Spielberg does for War Horse. But a bit of backlash towards both these films hinders their chances. Tate Taylor has the crowd-pleaser card in his corner with The Help. Bennett Miller has the advantage of his film, Moneyball, being both a crowd pleaser and a wonderful film. But if the Academy wants to take this category seriously, and I like to think they do, then this fifth and final slot belongs to Terrence Malick. The Tree of Life is the most ambitious film of the year, one of the most ambitious works in the history of film. Malick won’t win, but he should at least pick up a nomination. That is, if the Academy wants to take themselves seriously.
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life