While the Best Picture lineup has officially been expanded to ten nominees, this category has not. In the years in which the Best Picture numbers have fluctuated between five and ten, there has still been more that one occasion where a “lone director” has earned a bid in this race without a corresponding top mention. In the past five years, it’s happened twice, and both times, it was for a foreign film (Another Round and Cold War). The strong shortlists performance of his film suggests that, if the trend continues this year, that could be Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front). If it’s movie that people – and prominent filmmakers – seem to love, it could be S.S. Rajamouli (RRR). Or it could even be Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave), which would indicate voter enthusiasm for Korean cinema following the history-making Best Picture win for Parasite just three years ago. And Alejandro G. Iñarritu (Bardo) is a two-time winner in this category. But there are plenty of other contenders to review before deciding which one of these filmmakers could bump any of them.
Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans) is an Oscar favorite with nominations dating back forty-five years and two past wins. He won the Golden Globe but failed to even make the BAFTA longlist, but him being snubbed by Oscar voters would be a serious shock. Similarly, Critics Choice winners Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once) feel safe, and the same should be true for Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), though he was snubbed in this category for his last equally popular film. After that, things get trickier. The Golden Globes chose James Cameron (Avatar: The Way of Water) and Baz Luhrmann (Elvis). The Directors Guild of America opted for Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick) and Todd Field (Tár), who also scored with BAFTA. There’s also previous winner Damien Chazelle (Babylon) and wild card Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness).
This category has has female winners the past two years and now looks likely to have an all-male slate this year. The best bet to defy that unfortunate change is Sarah Polley (Women Talking), though her film has had a lackluster showing throughout awards season. Charlotte Wells (Aftersun) has won just about every first-time filmmaker prize, and if the film breaks through with voters, they could easily choose to reward her here too. Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King), a Critics Choice and BAFTA nominee, is also a possibility.
It’s hard to imagine Polley pulling through at this point after being overlooked by so many groups, but it may just happen and feels too enticing not to predict, along with another breakthrough showing by an Indian filmmaker who has delivered an epic smash hit.
Predictions: Daniels, McDonagh, Polley, Rajamouli, Spielberg