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Oscar Predictions 2015: Wide Open Best Director Race, or Is It?

One of the most slippery categories, alongside Best Picture, is Best Director this year. There is really no precedent to what we’ve been seeing at all. While on the face of it, the circumstances look like 2012 all over again, where the consensus was rejected by Academy voters, swapping out the popular choices, Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck with Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin, indeed, the DGA itself broke with consensus by inserting Clint Eastwood (American Sniper) and Morton Tyldum (Imitation Game) for David Fincher (Gone Girl) and Ava DuVernay (Selma).

Here are a few things to look at. Only recently, since 2012, did the Academy push its date back to announce Oscar nominees before the DGA announced.  It was previously easier for the Oscar voters to rely on what the DGA said, especially if they really had no clue where the race was headed — or whether they even saw the movies up for contention. “Go with the DGA’s picks, it’s easier.” Also, that thing about humans wanting to be on the winning side? That comes into play big time with larger consensus votes.

In 2012 all hell broke loose with Affleck being shut out. Bigelow, it was silently accepted, “deserved” the diss because she made a movie “advocating torture.” But Affleck? He was just this nice guy making a fun movie that everybody liked. Why did he get shut out? Those mean old Academy members! And so it went.

But cut to: 2013, the following year, LAST year, there wasn’t much of a disconnect between the DGA and the Academy, even with the dates swapped. But last year, unlike this year, there was a clearer consensus. There were a handful of really strong films with popular directors – everyone was mostly in sync, give or take a Paul Greengrass.  Last year, Alexander Payne and Paul Greengrass duked it out.

But in the years since 2011, all the directors who got both Globes and Critics Choice nominations also got Oscar nominations for Best Director. Why?

Because the super-early ballot deadline happened before the Golden Globes, before the surge of a late breaking film. A lot longer ago than the race right now “feels like.”

The David Fincher Factor

He can’t really win with them, as you’ve all seen if you’ve been following this site. Any director with a movie as successful, critically acclaimed and talked about as Gone Girl, in any other era of the Academy’s history, would be in for so many reasons. Any Academy in the past would appreciate a director who makes an adult film that does that well. Only difference here? The woman factor. A movie written by a woman, starring lots of women, aimed primarily at women. Even the really great “Gone Girl honest trailer” proves what it is (straight) men can’t get around with Gone Girl: that he stays. Why can’t they get around it? Because 1) men hate to admit that they are easily pussy-whipped, and certainly don’t want to see that on screen. 2) They are used to having their cake and eating it too (Fatal Attraction) and 3) We are conditioned to see women like that get punished.  This all has to be factored in when predicting this category – because otherwise, looking at the stats, Fincher would be in.

The Globes + Critics Choice Factor

Like Fincher, Ava DuVernay received the Critics Choice and the Golden Globes honor for Director. Only one director since 2011 has not gotten in for Oscar with those indicators and it was Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips.  But Greengrass also had the DGA, making it even more surreal that he didn’t get in. If you go back to the beginning of the Critics Choice you only have one year, 2007, when two directors were nominated for both significant precursors and did not make either the DGA or Oscar and that was Tim Burton for Sweeney Todd and Joe Wright for Atonement. For whatever reason, they were replaced by the DGA for the more male-centric Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood and Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, both of those ended up heading for the Oscars.  Clint Eastwood was nominated for Invictus by both groups but was replaced by Quentin Tarantino for Inglorious Basterds.

In 2006, the year before, Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima and Paul Greengrass for United 93 both skipped DGA and got Oscar nominations.

The Macho Macho Man Factor

The directors are mostly straight white and male, let’s face it. You can’t get around that. Give them a war movie, a shoot ’em up, anything with violence — think GI Joe toys. This hurts both Selma (woman director) and Gone Girl (all womany up and down it).  ON THE OTHER HAND, in 2012 they picked Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour – hardly MACHO MACHO MAN stuff. Are the times changing? I don’t know.

Let’s look at our locks:

Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman
Wes Anderson for the Grand Budapest Hotel

Next, you have four names that could be selected:

Ava DuVernay, Selma
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper
Morton Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Next, factor in the BAFTA’s choice of Damien Chazelle for Whiplash.

The BAFTA did not choose Morton Tyldum for The Imitation Game, which is awfully strange, for it being a British film and all.  That seems fairly significant to me, enough that I personally am going to predict Chazelle in for Tyldum. ON THE OTHER HAND… Tyldum has the DGA, which is also significant and would be more important IF the DGA had announced before Oscar ballots were turned in.

That leaves my own list with four so far:

Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman
Wes Anderson for the Grand Budapest Hotel
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

That leaves one spot left. It’s the wild card slot and it could be filled with just about anyone, including Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler.

Gold Derby says:

gddirectorThe Gurus say:

gurusdirectorVulture’s Kyle Buchanan says:

Linklater
Inarritu
Anderson
Tyldum
Chazelle

Hitfix Guys:

Kris Tapley predicts:
Clint Eastwood, “American Sniper”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Gregory Ellwood predicts:
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Damian Chazelle, “Whiplash”

Scott Feinberg predicts:

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morton Tyldum, Imitation Game
Damian Chazelle, “Whiplash”

I see many different options here with many chances to be wrong. The safest bet is probably Kris Tapley’s above. He’s going 5/5 with the DGA. I don’t think that’s going to happen – it’s incredibly rare and hasn’t happened since the Oscars changed its date to turn in ballots before the DGA announced. So I don’t think it’s going to work – I do think the BAFTA’s decision to count Chazelle does matter.

My final predictions are:

Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman
Wes Anderson for the Grand Budapest Hotel
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
My sixth choice is Clint Eastwood for American Sniper.
But watch out for: Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler
Hope is the thing with feathers: Ava DuVernay for Selma
Same old song: Morton Tyldum, Imitation Game

The reason I doubt he’ll be included in the Oscar’s lineup is the date. American Sniper’s surge came later and surprisingly – with not enough momentum to gather steam. On the other hand, that the screeners alone were enough to get it in the for the Eddie makes a huge difference here. Morton Tyldum didn’t get in for BAFTA, and that makes me think he won’t get in for Oscar either. Take it all with a grain of salt – as always, follow the better predictors like Scott Feinberg and Hitfix for your office pool.

The only reason I don’t think Ava DuVernay will get in is because the straight white males seemed personally offended by the LBJ controversy that was hitting its peak during voting. It rallied and came back from that but I fear it was too late – I also think this might mean it misses out on a Best Picture nod but I’m not going to take that chance.

My full predictions coming later today.