I'm actually excited that I timed this post after the BAFTAs. The big directorial upset (at least comparatively) has secured some confidence in my own predictions. The Directing Oscar is rarely distinct from the Best Picture Award; so much credit to the performance of a film rests on the Director's shoulders. I would not be surprised if the awards split this year though, more on that in a bit. For now let's start examining a slew of Directors Who Aren't Chris Nolan:
Best Achievement in Directing
David O. Russell for The Fighter (2010)
Russell did a pretty fair job on this one, but let's face it, he got in over Nolan by the skin of his britches. The Fighter is more of an actor's movie and Russell doesn't have nearly the momentum his cast does coming into this one. The story from a directorial standpoint isn't necessarily that challenging or innovative. I'd call something like Ron Howard's directing of Cinderella Man (2005) a bit more distinctive and interesting for similar subject matter.
Chances of Winning: 1/5
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for True Grit (2010)
The Academy apparently loves nutting over the Coen Bros (I do too) but this isn't their year. They haven't really had a dent in any other major Award Show (in fact most have ignored it entirely) and True Grit has none of the momentum or prestige No Country for Old Men (2007) or even Fargo (1996) carried. Not to say that it's completely bereft of praise but people have noticed it far more for acting (and cinematography, actually) and I'd still love a Costume Prize for it. As for Directing, the Coens just didn't launch themselves high enough this time around.
Chances of Winning: 2/5
Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan (2010)
Aronofsky deserves one of these some day. He's young enough to grow that rapist stache a bit more thick though. He has admitted that he's possibly too intense for really popular appeal, but that shouldn't really stop and Academy that has awarded both bloody crime drama The Departed (2006) and nihilistic paradise No Country Best Picture in recent years. Neither of these films contain the emotional intensity of an Aronofsky film though, which may hold him back. He's certainly an actor's director though, which should start bankrolling his Awards Career. While Mickey won just about everything but an Academy Award for The Wrestler (2008) and Natalie is about to wrap this one up.
Chances of Winning: 3/5
Tom Hooper for The King's Speech (2010)
After Tom's DGA win I was beginning to seriously question my pick of Fincher for this category. After losing the BAFTA in his own country though, there's no way Tom locks this up across the pond. The race between these two flicks is really heating up though, and the Best Director Category will be a fantastic battle ground.
Chances of Winning: 4/5
The only thing that made me doubt Fincher's lock was Hooper's DGA nab but I'd contend Fincher pulls through here even if The Social Network is losing some hype in other areas. In fact, I'd consider as of now the only lock for the flick really is Editing. Congratulations. That said, Fincher is still my pick here. Politics and trends aside, the direction is excellent. Fincher is able to make computer typing and programming not only interesting but thrilling. Same with stuffy court hearings. His career and critical status reminds me a lot like Aronofsky actually. They're both part of this new generation of spectacular directors with a good number of cult hits and not many Awards to show for it yet. While they've both been nominated and deserving there's always been someone better, at least until this year. Actually all of the Directing Nominees this year are relatively young, the oldest and most established are actually the Coen Bros at 53 (Ethan) and 56 (Joel) respectively. Anyway, Aronofsky waits, this is Fincher's year.
Chances of Winning: 5/5