Predicting Oscar winners and nominees for next year at this point might seem like a bit of indulgent, futile practice. However, this year’s results, as unexpected as they were with ‘Roma’ having to contend only with Best Foreign Film, and ‘Green Book’ picking up the golden statuette is testament enough to the fact that even the most calculated predictions and intelligible guesses can prove to take a U-turn when it comes to the final wines at Oscars and its jury. I am guessing that is what makes the entire process endearing, and therefore makes credible sense starting this early on.
In any case, this list is predictive by its innate nature. If you are a cinephile and have been even remotely following the works of one or more of these directors, you probably won’t be surprised to find their names on this list. Read on.. here’s the list of best director contenders for Oscars 2020.
8. Jay Roach, ‘Bombshell’
Jay Roach quickly made his name known across the scene with ‘Trumbo’ in 2015, and while he may not be the first name to come to your mind when it comes to best director nominations, the next film that he directs is very much in the interjectory of what is considered potential Oscar material. ‘Fair and Balanced’ is the story of several news anchors with the Fox network and their run-ins with the founder of the news network, Roger Ailes, who had multiple counts of sexual harassment against him and was forced to resign on their account. Although the #metoo movement gripped the world like a storm, there still is to be a film that can be definitive of the movement. Starring strong female actors including Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Kate McKinnon, looks like this might be it, and along with a socially relevant film, a nod for Roach as best Director perhaps?
7. Marielle Heller, ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’
Marielle Heller missed an Oscar nomination for ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’. However, she returns this year with ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’, a look at the lives touched by television icon Fred Rogers in a biography of sorts of the celebrated personality. While last year’s documentary ‘Won’t You be My Neighbour’ shed light on the positive life of Rogers, Heller attempts the same but from a third person, journalistic perspective. Plus, the casting of the extremely likeable Tom Hanks in the role is a definitive win-win for everybody involved.
6. Sam Mendes, ‘1917’
Sam Mendes knows a thing or two about what it feels to win an Oscar. He also knows what it takes to make a great film. So, when it was announced that his next project will involve a World War film that will basically play like one long continuous shot, we immediately knew that we have a big Oscar contenders on our hands. I am still waiting for how the film is received overall, but all the signs look really positive.
5. Greta Gerwig, ‘Little Women’
Greta Gerwig demonstrated what a formidable talent she is with her stellar directorial debut, ‘Ladybird’, also one of my favourite films from 2017. Her next film, ‘Little Women’, the eighth adaptation of the 1868 novel and stars her ‘Ladybird’ star Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen (who I happened to absolutely love in last year’s ‘Sharp Objects’), along with Timothée Chalamet. Two important notes here. The first: If ‘Ladybird’ is any indication of her ability in handling female coming of age tales, ‘Little Women’ is comfortable territory for her. The second: the success of ‘A Star is Born’ proved that the world is always ready for new adaptations as long as they are not complete rehashes and have something new to offer, and while that may in itself harm the film’s prospects of winning at the Academy, a nomination is all but guaranteed if it turns out to be a good film.
4. Bong Joon Ho, ‘Parasite’
What Bong Joon Ho has achieved with ‘Parasite’ is an extraordinarily feat: a socially relevant film that is wildly entertaining. At this point, it is a given that ‘Parasite’ will win Best Foreign Language Oscar. The more interesting scenario would be whether Bong Joon Ho could actually win Best Directing Oscar. Now, before ‘The Irishman’ premiered, I was quite optimistic about his chances. But now, with all the over-the-moon reactions to ‘The Irishman’, it is impossible to imagine anyone winning other than Scorsese. Still, if Bong Joon Ho can make it top five, which looks like he will, it will surely be a landmark moment in Korean cinema.
3. Noah Baumbach, ‘Marriage Story’
Noah Baumbach has always been known to be a master at understanding the dynamics of dysfunctional families. In ‘Marriage Story’, he shows, he also has a great understanding of the complexities of love, marriage and separation. I was particularly amazed at how adroitly he navigates the maze of emotions in the film. Baumbach’s writing is so powerful that many a times, a glance is enough to communicate thousand words. His directing has always been about being efficient, rather than being adventurous. ‘Marriage Story’ is no different in that sense. He allows the camera to linger a moment or two longer on actors. He also seems completely fine with actor taking the centerstage — and sometimes all the credit for the film too. That’s a trademark of a confident filmmaker. And I think the Academy will not miss that.
2. Quentin Tarantino, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
Following a 2015 dud in the form of ‘The Hateful Eight’, Tarantino returned with one of his most well received films in years, starring an ensemble of possibly two of the most well-known stars across the globe: Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Also starring are Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski’s wife, Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Timothy Olyphant and James Marsden, the full Tarantino house. As the title reveals, the film is set in Los Angeles and is the account of a TV actor and his stunt double trying to make it big in Hollywood, complete ofcourse with the signature Tarantino style. However, more than anything, I am interested in witnessing a potential clash of the titans if both Tarantino and Scorsese are nominated. A monumental occasion for sure.
1. Martin Scorsese, ‘The Irishman’
No other director on this list has as impressive, diverse or prolific a filmography as the master right here. It is not even a question why his name is on the list, but a de facto given by now. With the exception of a few years and films, Scorsese has landed the nomination for almost every film he has directed, winning it only once for ‘The Departed’. This year, with ‘The Irishman’, Scorsese returns to familiar territory directing a crime drama with an unprecedented cast including Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel. Based on the book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ by Charles Brandt, ‘The Irishman’ tells of the disappearance and death of labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), as recounted by Frank Sheeran (De Niro).
The good news for Scorsese fans is that the film couldn’t have received a better response. Words like “masterpiece” and “greatest work” have been used by several critics to describe the film. Unless, Netflix does some major goof up during the Oscar campaign, Scorsese’s second Oscar win for Best Director is sealed.
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