Ridley Scott: Looking at potential Best Director contenders

"Exodus: Dioses y Reyes" ("Exodus: Gods and Kings") Madrid Premiere - Arrivals

Ahoy! As you folks all know from last year as well as my article last week, 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 or so 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 once again 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 that’s out there…the Best Director category.

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

1. Ridley Scott (The Martian) – Yes, I’m out on a limb with this one, but I’m sticking with it for a while longer. Scott hasn’t made a truly great film in a very long time, but all it takes is the right material, and this one is amazing source material. If the film manages to be in play for a Best Picture nomination, Scott could be right there with the movie itself. I’m fascinated to see if it can contend like I think it can, so stay tuned there…

2. Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) – You really can’t make a list of the contenders in this category and not have Spielberg somewhere high up in your top five. Sure, this is perhaps a bit too standard of an Oscar bait type flick, but it’s that way at least in part because the formula works. As long as the film doesn’t disappoint, you can expect Spielberg and the project itself to be heavily in play all year long.

3. David Gordon Green (Our Brand is Crisis) *Possible 2016 release – A total hunch of mine, but if it winds up ready for release/dated for 2015, it could be an under the radar player to contend with. A political dramedy/satire can be catnip to the Academy, particularly if star Sandra Bullock is in the race as well. Green is overdue for awards attention, so perhaps this can finally be the one for him.

4. Todd Haynes (Carol) – Another contender almost everyone has to include right now, though the reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival suggest that you’re hardly taking a risk by doing that. Haynes has been in the awards race before, so it’s well within the realm of possibility that his topical period romance can get him in play to win a Best Director prize. As long as the film and his leading ladies Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara aren’t swallowed up by other contenders, expect this one to do very well.

5. Derek Cianfrance (The Light Between Oceans) *Possible 2016 release – My other big hunch that I’m playing is that this super baity flick gets a 2015 release date. Snubbed for both Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines, Cianfrance has a period melodrama here that happens to star Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. That has the makings of something to really take notice of. We’ll see if it hits this year, but if it does…watch out.

6. David O. Russell (Joy) – Honestly, I really should have Russell in my top five, since he’s been an Oscar favorite of late (in terms of nominations, at least), but I’m out on that limb just too many times. That might correct itself soon, but for now, Russell misses by THAT much. A lot will depend on if this is as Academy friendly as his last two flicks, but as long as it is and Jennifer Lawrence is in play for Best Actress, he won’t be far from another citation.

7. Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant) – Another director many would argue that I have too low, something tells me that Iñárritu might ever so slightly miss out after winning last year. I’m sure actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, as well as the film itself (not to mention the cinematography) will be in contention, but if there’s a popular pick that I think could be less likely to make it than most think, it would be this one here.

8. Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) – In the case of Tarantino, a lot will depend on how voters compare this to Django Unchained. They liked that one, so they’ll have to like this one at least as much, if not more to get him across. QT is a multi-time winner in Best Original Screenplay, but has never emerged triumphant in Best Director. I doubt that this will be the time, but anything is possible…

9. John Crowley (Brooklyn) – A recent trailer for this one suggested that it could be a major player, so that puts Crowley firmly in the top ten. He lacks name recognition among the main contenders, but his film could become one of the safer hopefuls for a Best Picture nod, which will help. That nom could get him into the Director race, though it’s still very early. He’s got a better chance than some realize though, so keep that in mind.

10. Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs) – Another beneficiary of a strong Trailer, Boyle could very well return to the category he once won with this biopic. The flick is seeming like a possibly divisive one, so we’ll have to see how it lands this fall before we know if it’s going to be a player beyond possibly Fassbender in Best Actor. I contemplated a few other options for this last spot, but Boyle just makes the most sense right now. Stay tuned for more on this one, as well as all the others…

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

11. Jonathan Demme (Ricki and the Flash)
12. Robert Zemeckis (The Walk)
13. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
14. Ron Howard (In the Heart of the Sea)
15. James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour)
16. Jean-Marc Vallée (Demolition)
17. Angelina Jolie (By the Sea)
18. Justin Kurzel (Macbeth)
19. Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl)
20. Garth Davis (Lion) *Possible 2016 release

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

21. Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen (Inside Out)
22. Bill Pohlad (Love & Mercy)
23. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
24. Peter Sollett (Freeheld)
25. Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
26. Scott Cooper (Black Mass)
27. Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
28. Judd Apatow (Trainwreck)
29. Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw)
30. J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

That’s what the Best Director race could very well be made up of folks. Stay tuned sometime 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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