The five (yes, always five) Best Director nominees almost always directed five Best Picture nominees. With a slate of ten nominees in the latter category, this seemed completely assured. Now, however, it seems merely highly unlikely for a director to be honored for an overall production that is ignored. It COULD happen in a year with only five or six BP nominees. If it did happen this year, it would probably be to give a nomination to Woody Allen.
As things stand now (buzz points in parentheses):
1. War Horse - Steven Spielberg (73) 2 wins, 7 nominations in this category
First Oscar friendly film in years from one of the greatest living directors. Then again...he's already won twice.
2. The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick (71) 0 wins, 1 nomination in this category
Iconic director many feel is overdue. Then again...the film is divisive and has many detractors (including co-star Sean Penn).
3. J. Edgar - Clint Eastwood (54) 2 wins, 4 nominations in this category
Aging, beloved director helming meaty biopic. Then again...he's been very hit or miss with the Academy in recent years.
4. The Ides of March - George Clooney (43) 0 wins, 1 nomination in this category
Whatever hat he wears, the AMPAS love them some Clooney. Then again...they could go with a different hat this year.
5. A Dangerous Method - David Cronenberg (43) never nominated
Respected director helming his baitiest project ever. Then again...Will the film still be too bizarre for Oscar?
6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - David Fincher (42) 0 wins, 2 nominations
Many feel he was robbed last year and is overdue in general. Then again...this is a graphic story, the kind Fincher does...too well.
7. The Descendants - Alexander Payne (42) 0 wins, 1 nomination in this category
Respected director, never won, heavy family drama. Then again...he still has a lot of time to win one, possible Clooney overload.
8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Stephen Daldry (29) 0 wins, 3 nominations
Clearly AMPAS respects his work and this piece is so timely. Then again...with so many living legends in the mix, he could slip through the cracks.
9. Hugo - Martin Scorcese (24) 1 win, 6 nominations in this category
One of the greatest living directors certainly deserves a second statue. Then again...this is a children's fantasy film and Scorcese is often snubbed when working outside of his gangster wheelhouse.
10. Young Adult - Jason Reitman (23) 0 wins, 2 nominations in this category
He and writer Diablo Cody paired well before on Juno. Then again...in a field this deep, they will have to at least match their last collaboration's level of quality.
Also with ten or more points: Contagion (Steven Soderbergh), Drive (Andrew Winding Refn), Midnight In Paris (Woody Allen), The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius), and We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe).
Last August I had all five wrong (abysmal):
1. Inception - Christopher Nolan
2. The Tree of Life - Terence Malick
3. The Way Back - Peter Weir
4. Hereafter - Clint Eastwood
5. Another Year - Mike Leigh
Of course, four of the five eventual nominees were in my top ten: The Social Network (6), The Fighter (7), Black Swan (8), and True Grit (10). Then again, the eventual winner, Tom Hooper of The King's Speech was not. In my defense, I can only say that NO ONE expected Tom Hooper to win, and very few expected his nomination, at this time last year. Anything can happen, and it often happens in September.
I expect this year's August predictions to be at least a little more accurate. Spielberg seems safe, at least for the nomination. He's been gone for a minute, and the early War Horse promotional materials look typically strong for this longtime Academy darling. Malick's chances, conversely seem to be fading as the year winds on. Eastwood, as usual, will be either a slam dunk or a total non-starter. Among the current runners-up, Daldry seems well poised to move into the top five should someone falter. Fincher usually has better luck with the awards season when operating outside of his gritty, violent wheelhouse which he did not do this year. Scorcese has the exact opposite problem.
But who seems primed to be this year's Tom Hooper, at least in terms of the nomination. My money would be on Hazanavicius, but Refn and Allen also seem like outside possibilities.
Beyond that...let's see what happens in Venice, Toronto, Telluride, and New York.
Watching movies till I croak,