THE 2016 NOMINEES: Best Director

Photo: Kimberly French

Photo: Kimberly French

Chris Luckett

There’s just five days left until the Oscars. Having trouble finding time to catch up on all the nominated movies? Still want to be able to join in the Oscar conversations at work? Look no further than this six-part guide to the major category. Today, I look at the nominees for Best Director, arguably the most important award after Best Picture.


LENNY ABRAHAMSON

The Movie: Room
The Challenge: Turning Emma Donoghue’s award-winning book, about a 24-young-old woman and her five-year-old son living imprisoned in a rapist’s garden shed, into an endurable and visually stimulating film

Prior Oscar Nominations: 0
Prior Oscar Wins: 0
Lead-Up Awards for Abrahamson: Canadian Screen Award (Pending)
Chances of Winning: Pretty much nil; Abrahamson’s the only director of the bunch without a single major American award nomination (which makes the challenge all the harder, since member overlap between voting Academies is generally a substantial factor in whoever ultimately wins the Oscar)


ALEJANDRO G. IÑÁRRITU

The Movie: The Revenant
The Challenge: Shooting his film using only natural light, in the harsh, Canadian wilderness, with no additional heat, luxuries, or modern technology — while handling a mutinous crew and dealing with high expectations from winning Best Director last year for Birdman
Prior Oscar Nominations: 5 — Best Director (Babel), Best Picture (Babel), Best Director (Birdman), Best Picture (Birdman), Best Original Screenplay (Birdman)

Prior Oscar Wins: 3 — Best Director (Birdman), Best Picture (Birdman), Best Original Screenplay (Birdman)
Lead-Up Awards for Iñárritu: DGA Award (W), British Academy Film Award (W), Golden Globe Award (W), Critic’s Choice Award (N)
Chances of Winning: Short of a last-minute shift toward George Miller or a sweep for Spotlight, Iñárritu is five days away from becoming only the third director in Oscar history to win two years in a row


TOM McCARTHY

The Movie: Spotlight
The Challenge: Making a gripping thriller about journalism — a field notoriously difficult to make look exciting — that also explores a subject many prefer to not think about: child sex abuse

Prior Oscar Nominations: 1 — Best Original Screenplay (Up, 2009)
Prior Oscar Wins: 0
Lead-Up Awards for McCarthy: DGA Award (N), Critic’s Choice Award (N), Golden Globe Award (N)
Chances of Winning: Much better than McKay’s or Abrahamson’s, but still a long shot behind Iñárritu and Miller


ADAM McKAY

The Movie: The Big Short
The Challenge: Tackle the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, a subject both inaccessibly confusing to the general public and already depicted to brilliant effect in 2011’s Margin Call
Prior Oscar Nominations: 0

Prior Oscar Wins: 0
Lead-Up Awards for McKay: DGA Award (N), British Academy Film Award (N)
Chances of Winning: Less than Abrahamson’s chances


GEORGE MILLER

The Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Challenge: Make a new entry in a film franchise that “concluded” 30 years ago, without the original star, that audaciously aims to out-do all three earlier movies in grand vision

Prior Oscar Nominations: 4 — Best Original Screenplay (Lorzeno’s Oil), Best Picture (Babe), Best Adapted Screenplay (Babe), Best Animated Feature Film (Happy Feet)
Prior Oscar Wins: 1 — Best Animated Feature Film (Happy Feet)
Lead-Up Awards for Miller: Critic’s Choice Award (W), DGA Award (N), Golden Globe Award (N)
Chances of Winning: Fair-to-good; if anyone can pull a last-minute upset over Iñárritu, it’s Miller and the singular, brilliant vision of his that he brought to vivid, horrific life


Don’t forget to check out The Best Supporting Actor Nominees and The Best Supporting Actress Nominees. Tomorrow: Best Actor!

(Cover photo: Jasin Boland)

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