Last Updated: February 6th
At long last we’re finally here—the Oscar nominations have been announced. This was a pretty intense race over the last few months, as early predictions had Denis Villeneuve potentially making the cut for Blade Runner 2049, Steven Spielberg was very much in the mix for The Post, Martin McDonagh was pegged as a spoiler for Three Billboards and there was buzz around whether relatively newcomers Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig would actually make it to the Oscar table.
All has been revealed, and indeed Peele and Gerwig scored Oscar nominations for Get Out and Lady Bird respectively, alongside fellow nominees Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread). The latter was the most surprising nominee of the bunch, as Anderson didn’t make the cut for the Directors Guild of America Awards nominations and Phantom Thread appeared to be somewhat DOA with the Academy at large. That clearly wasn’t the case when Oscar nominations were announced, as the film picked up Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design, and Score nominations in addition to Best Director.
So with the nominees revealed, where does Best Director stand heading towards the Oscar ceremony? Well unlike some other categories, there is a very clear frontrunner here. Guillermo del Toro has picked up a bevy of trophies over the last couple of months for his incredible work bringing The Shape of Water to life, and he won the DGA award recently, solidifying his frontrunner status. In the 69 years of the DGA Awards’ existence, the DGA winner has gone on to win the Oscar 61 times. The times when the DGA and Oscar winners didn’t match up were oddities, like when Ben Affleck (Argo), Ron Howard (Apollo 13), and Steven Spielberg (The Color Purple) won the DGA but weren’t even nominated for the Oscar.
So yeah, it is a very safe bet that Guillermo del Toro will win the Oscar for Best Director right now, which would complete the “Three Amigos” trifecta as he follows in the footsteps of Oscar winners Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman, The Revenant). The three Mexican filmmakers honed their craft together as young burgeoning directors in Mexico and have frequently offered notes on each other’s work throughout the years, so it’s kind of a beautiful thing that these three visionary directors would all go on to earn the top prize in their craft.
But after last year’s La La Land shocker I suppose anything is possible, so below I’ve ranked the Best Director nominees in order of likelihood to win the top prize. Nolan is probably the biggest threat here, and I could envision a scenario in which he comes away with the win. But Dunkirk also marks Nolan’s first-ever Best Director Oscar nomination, so if it took the Academy this long to recognize the filmmaker for his work, could he really come away with the win?
We’ll find out when the Oscars air live on ABC on March 4th. For now, check out my Best Director predictions below.