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J.J. Abrams and Denis Villeneuve: Ten potential first time writer/director nominees for Oscar in 2015

JJ Abrams on Star Trek set 570x300
Much like I’ve been saying, of the many storylines that begin during awards season, few are usually as compelling as the ones centered around who’s most due for an Academy Award. I think that it’s usually pretty satisfying to see a former bridesmaid finally become a bride, as it were. The other side of the coin, which is just as exciting to me, if when a first timer can finally get in the Academy’s good graces. Continuing this list trend I’ve been, below you can see a list I made up of ten filmmakers who’ve never been nominated for Oscars but are in contention this year. I’ve more or less ranked them by how due they are, and just to be fair, as per the usual. Take a look at the writers/directors below and as always, I hope you all enjoy!

Here now are the ten writers and/or directors most due for their first Oscar nomination:

10. Judd Apatow – A filmmaker who traffics in comedy, Apatow had one of this most well received titles this year in Trainwreck. He’s always been more likely to be nominated for his writing than his directing, but anything is possible, especially considering he didn’t work on this script. Apatow is also a producer here, so if a Best Picture nomination can happen, he can finally join the club.

9. John Crowley – Here’s a below the radar contender. Crowley’s Brooklyn is looking like a possibly safe bet to score with the Academy in a number of categories, but could Best Director be one of them? Crowley might be a longer shot among the possible Best Picture nominees, but time will tell in that regard. He’s definitely going to be a player, that’s for sure.

8. Alex Garland – Mostly known as a writer, Garland made his directorial debut this year with Ex Machina. Almost out of nowhere, it became a crossover success, sparking some Oscar buzz. While his screenplay is the more likely nominee than his direction, both will have trouble against more prestigious titles. Garland is worth keeping an eye on though, as he’s well respected within the industry for his genre work.

7. Derek Cianfrance – You can almost feel the greatness radiate from the work of Cianfrance. We’re still waiting to see if his contender The Light Between Oceans comes out this year or not, but if it does…watch out. The odds favor a 2016 release, but if we have a 2015 player, his writing or direction will definitely be in play. Cianfrance seems like a surefire nominee one day, so it’s just a matter of when for him, not if.

6. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck – The duo of Boden and Fleck don’t get nearly the respect in the industry that they deserve. Next week they have their latest film Mississippi Grind hitting and it continues their excellent focus on character studies. Their direction might never be flashy enough to get them in, but their scripts are always worth keeping in mind. This might not be their year, but one day…

5. David Gordon Green – Few filmmakers are harder to pin down than Green. I’ve been high on his flick Our Brand is Crisis in my predictions, and while the initial Toronto Film Festival reception was mixed, there’s reason to still consider this one a contender. If it manages to become a big hit, there’s a chance that Green has his first crack at a Best Director nomination.

4. Drew Goddard – A writer/director who doesn’t work nearly enough, Goddard is the scribe behind the adaptation of The Martian, which got an incredibly positive reception at TIFF last week. Honestly, it’s hard not to have this in your Best Adapted Screenplay predictions right now, though it’s very early. Goddard has yet to do anything that isn’t top notch, so he’s due a citation by the Academy.

3. Cary Fukunaga – After True Detective, Fukunaga saw his star on the rise. He turned that opportunity into the movie Beasts of No Nation, which has rocked audiences on the festival circuit so far. A lot will depend on how Oscar deals with Netflix as a distributor, but if that isn’t an impediment, there’s no reason not to have Fukunaga as a potential Director or Screenplay nominee for the first time, or at least as a big contender.

2. Denis Villeneuve – I just spoke about Sicario yesterday, but it bears mentioning again, this time for Villeneuve. He’s going to be a Best Director nominee one day, I can all but guarantee it. This one might be a little to bleak to get enough voters on board with it, but he’s officially overdue in my book. It’s just a matter of time with Villeneuve too, so just sit tight and wait for the right moment. When it happens, we’ll all know it.

1. J.J. Abrams – The cinematic elephant in the room this year is of course Star Wars. Abrams is shepherding Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the screen and could wind up with his first nomination if it’s a hit. He has opportunities as a director, producer, and writer, so if it’s a strong flick and sets box office records, look for him to be rewarded in some way. Many are surprised Abrams doesn’t have more awards on his mantle, so that could easily change here…

Honorable Mention: Ryan Coogler, Scott Cooper, James Ponsoldt, James Vanderbilt, and John Wells

Stay tuned to see if anyone here can pull off a nomination this year!

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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