Oscar Contest: Category Highlight: Best Director

With our annual Oscar Prediction contest underway, now is the best time to look at the nominees and try and figure out who the favorites are and which films should just feel honored to be nominated. Today we look at Best Director and we actually have a real race in this category.

(Note: All previous awards listed are for directing only.)

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Tomatometer Score: 97% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe and DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: DGA
Director's Previous Major Nominations: None
Director's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: No woman has ever won an Oscar for Best Director. None. However, Kathryn Bigelow won the DGA Award, which has an amazing track record of predicting the Oscar winner. On the other hand, the Golden Globe went to her main competition, James Cameron. Avatar is also a much bigger movie, but didn't earn reviews that were quite as amazing (although still very impressive). Finally, Kathryn Bigelow doesn't have a track record during Awards Season, unlike James Cameron. In the end it is a toss up, but I would give Bigelow the tiniest of advantages over Cameron.

James Cameron for Avatar
Tomatometer Score: 82% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe and DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: Golden Globe
Director's Previous Major Nominations: One Golden Globe, One DGA, and One Oscar
Director's Previous Major Wins: One Golden Globe, One DGA, and One Oscar
Notes: James Cameron is competing against his ex-wife for Best Director. That's awkward. Kathryn Bigelow appears to be his only real competition for this category, and the factors are pretty evenly split. The reviews should be a decisive factor, but the technical expertise displayed in making of this movie might be enough to overcome the film's weakness in the story department. Will that be the deciding factor? Maybe, maybe not. It really is too close to call.

Lee Daniels for Precious
Tomatometer Score: 91% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Independent Spirit Award, Golden Globe, and DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: Independent Spirit Award
Director's Previous Major Nominations: None
Director's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Lee Daniels became only the second African-American to be nominated for Best Director (and the first African-American to direct a Best Picture nominee). At the beginning of Awards Season and this film's theatrical debut, the buzz was so strong I figured it would be a lock for more awards. However, the buzz has faded and while it likely won't be shut out, this award is probably out of reach and Lee Daniels won't become the first African-American to win a Best Director Oscar. At least not this year.

Jason Reitman for Up in the Air
Tomatometer Score: 90% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe and DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Director's Previous Major Nominations: Two Independent Spirit Awards and One Oscar
Director's Previous Major Wins: One Independent Spirit Award
Notes: For the second time in three years, Jason Reitman has earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director. However, while Up in the Air has picked up more Oscar nominations and more Awards Season buzz overall, he will likely walk home empty handed again, at least in this category. (He should be able to score a victory for the Best Adapted Screenplay.)

Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Tomatometer Score: 89% Positive
Movie's Previous Major Nominations: Golden Globe and DGA
Movie's Previous Major Wins: None
Director's Previous Major Nominations: Three Independent Spirit Awards, One Golden Globe, One DGA, and One Oscar
Director's Previous Major Wins: One Independent Spirit Award
Notes: Inglourious Basterds is the biggest hit in Quentin Tarantino's career, by a large margin. It is also his best movie since Pulp Fiction, which he won an Oscar for (albeit for the screenplay). While Inglourious Basterds is a favorite to win at least one Oscar, it's not the favorite in this category.

Conclusion: Best Director is one of the closest races out of the most prestigious awards, but it is mostly a two horse race. Kathryn Bigelow could be the first women to win this award for her work on The Hurt Locker, while a victory for James Cameron and Avatar would help cement that film's place in history, not just the box office, but critically as well. Which one will win? It is essentially a coin toss.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2010-03-06