Every year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences baits us once more to tune into the Academy Awards, teasing us with nominations that are just for show and a make-believe ethic that the awards are purely based on quality. Nevertheless, we shall play your game, Academy, and try to whittle down the likeliest candidates for the main categories, taking into account all the exterior influences that the industry has to offer!
The Academy has notoriously underrepresented in this category in particular, with women only being nominated once in a blue moon. With that being said, I’m going to hold out hope this year that all directors get the recognition they deserve this time around, as optimistic as that may be.
Making her directorial debut over the summer, Olivia Wilde has proven herself to be, not just competent, but absolutely marvellous through her critically acclaimed comedy Booksmart. Although the film succeeded wildly in many aspects, the direction stands out as a key factor in its success. Booksmart belonging to the comedy genre may hurt its chances at nominations, however Greta Gerwig’s own coming-of-age comedy – Ladybird – earned her a nomination and so Wilde can’t be counted out completely.
Gerwig herself has another strong showing this year, with initial reactions to Little Women being overwhelmingly positive. Likewise, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell garnered an exceptionally strong 99% approval rating on review aggravator site Rotten Tomatoes. The Farewell blended themes of cultural and identity conflicts into a well-woven and thought-provoking comedy-drama. Unfortunately, as strong as the direction was, Wang seems more likely to be nominated and potentially win the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Similarly, it seems very likely that Scorsese will be nominated for Best Director, especially given The Irishman’s accessibility to the mainstream. That being said, a victory for Best Screenplay for Steven Zaillian is the more probably outcome. Admittedly, I cannot comment on the quality of Noah Baumbach’s direction in Marriage Story personally, having yet to see the film at the time of writing, but based on pending accolades it feels safe this place him as a nominee.
Finally, the director I’m betting the most on to win is Bong Joon-Ho for his black comedy thriller Parasite. Joon-Ho isn’t a complete stranger to the western market, having directed the poignant Okja for Netflix. Parasite is another beast all together though. The industry has been clamouring around it for weeks now and its limited theatrical release has grown exponentially to meet demand. Moreover, Parasite won the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival this year, laying down the foundation for its consideration in Best Director, as well as Best Picture.
After The Dark Knight failed to get the recognition it so rightfully deserved back in 2008, the Academy has been clamouring to reconnect with its viewership, which declined massively in the years following. Thus, Joker seems like a sure nomination for its combining of comic book and arthouse appeal, especially on the heels of Black Panther’s nomination in the category earlier this year.
Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood, Booksmart and The Irishman also have a similar sort of footing in the category, mixing the independent and arthouse with mainstream appeal to deliver a film that excels in both. Of course, The Irishman has the best chances out of the three dues to the wide attention it has received in the media, as well as edging out the others in critical testimony.
Parasite, almost definitely, and The Farewell, potentially, will receive nominations in this category. Both films predominantly feature international languages, but last year’s nominee Roma should be an indicator that this stigma is fading away. Finally, late comers Marriage Story, Uncut Gems and 1917 should round out the 10 nominations, with the latter two garnering particular recognition for their intensity and cinematography.
Last modified: 6th December 2019