Bennett Miller: 2015 Best Director contenders


As you folks all know, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen six months from now, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.

Today I’m continuing with the second biggest one out there…Best Director.

Here are the ten filmmakers that I have in play for Best Director, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:

1. Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) – I have Miller in the top spot for Foxcatcher due to how well received it was at the Cannes Film Festival. The director himself took home a prize, and for an awards bait American movie to do that, it shows some potentially strong legs to me. Miller is probably the closest thing to a lock that we have so far this year.

2. Angelina Jolie (Unbroken) – It’s basically a tie between Jolie and Miller for me, but I give the Foxcatcher director the edge due to his aforementioned Best Director win at Cannes. Without that, I’d probably have Jolie in the top spot. Her directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey showed off her skills and this war film seems tailor made for the Academy. If she nails it, she’s a surefire nominee in the directing category.

3. David Fincher (Gone Girl) – I think we can all agree that Fincher is going to win an Oscar one day, it’s just a matter of when. While I doubt he’ll be able to do it this year, he seems like he’ll very much be in contention for a nomination at least here. A lot will depend on if this is a Best Picture player or not. If it is, my guess is that he makes it in here.

4. Jason Reitman (Men, Women, & Children) – I’m higher on this one than many, but I adore the book and know that it’s right in Reitman’s wheelhouse. He’s at his best with satire, and this one is a great one. It may come down to how sexually frank he allows the flick to be. If it winds up something that Oscar voters aren’t made uncomfortable by, then Reitman should be back in the awards race again.

5. Tim Burton (Big Eyes) – If Burton can keep his odd touches to a minimum, he could be a perfect fit for this material. The film itself is likely an acting contender at worst, so there’s no reason why Burton can’t get himself at least close to the lineup. I’m not sure if he’ll make it in or not, but if he gets out of his own way, that’ll be a good start.

6. Richard Linklater (Boyhood) – He’ll have an uphill battle because it’s a smaller film, but few on this list will deserve a Best Director citation more than Linklater. What he set out to do here and what he achieved is the stuff of cinematic legend. It’s an indie, so that might make it a hard sell, but with the right campaign, I think Linklater could be the little contender that could.

7. Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) – We often see Leigh in play for Best Director nods, and that’ll be the case once more this year. I’m not sure he can pull out of a nom this time around, but if Mr. Turner does well with the precursors, he certainly has a fighting chance. You can never count him out of one of these races.

8. Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) – The Academy just doesn’t seem to be falling over themselves to give Nolan a nomination in this category. They’ve ignored him time and time again, so he might have an uphill battle unless this sci-fi story is truly epic and something special. I suppose we shall see in that regard.

9. Jon Stewart (Rosewater) – I have no clue if Stewart can direct, but he’s got such baity material here that if he’s made a successful directorial debut, I can’t imagine him not being in play here. As long as folks can take him seriously as a filmmaker, the work will be judged on its own merits and that could bode well for it.

10. Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice) – A lot will depend on if the material is awards friendly or not, but Anderson is the sort of filmmaker who always is in the conversation for this category when he has a new movie come out. This time around he seems to be playing around a bit more, and that could be appealing to Oscar voters. Or not…we’ll find out more once our first real look at the flick is revealed.

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans commentary here) for Best Director:

11. Stephen Daldry (Trash)
12. J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year)
13. Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild)
14. David Ayer (Fury)
15. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
16. Rob Marshall (Into the Woods)
17. Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them)
18. Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)
19. Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger)

Finally, here are ten more to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Saul Dibb (Suite française)
22. Justin Kurzel (Macbeth)
23. Ridley Scott (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
24. Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars)
25. David Dobkin (The Judge)
26. Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman)
27. John Carney (Begin Again)
28. Clint Eastwood (Jersey Boys)
29. David Cronenberg (Maps to the Stars)
30. Todd Haynes (Carol)

That’s what the Best Director race could very well be made up of folks. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Actor race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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