Oscars 2014 Cheat Sheet: Best Director

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As is traditional now that the Academy Award nominations have been announced, we’re profiling the nominees in each of the main categories and assessing their strengths and weaknesses going into the competition. We already profiled Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress and Best Actor. Today, we turn to the directors, the men (all men this year) with the megaphones. Who will be King of the World this year?

Steve McQueen - 12 Years A Slave

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. He’s one of the most fiercely artistic and uncompromisingly daring directors to emerge in the last ten years, and this film is on a bigger scale to anything he’s done to date. It’s also a hugely impressive film, simultaneously telling an individual human story and a large-scale political tale of monstrous injustice. 1. The uncompromising nature of McQueen’s films may put some voters off; he wasn’t nominated for either Shame or Hunger, and even the more accessible 12 Years A Slave may be a bit much for some. 2. He was DGA, BAFTA and Globe nominated and has won several critics group awards. 2. He lost out to Cuarón at all three of the big prizes so far, and while there’s a wind behind his film, which triumphed at the AFI and PGA awards, it may not extend to the director himself. 3. As a Turner Prize winning artist, he may sufficiently impress the Academy that they feel obligated to vote for him. 3. We’re not sure that Oscar voters are necessarily familiar with / impressed by one of the biggest awards in the art world.
David O. Russell - American Hustle

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. He’s made the most voter-friendly film of the lot – set in a period most voters remember fondly, involving a story they are at least vaguely familiar with, full of stars they recognise, lots of fun to watch – and made it well. 1. The film doesn’t have the weight, perhaps, of 12 Years A Slave, nor does it have the razzle-dazzle of Gravity. In a great year for movies, Russell may just be overmatched. 2. He was BAFTA, Globe and DGA nominated, and is a two-time previous nominee in this category. Could it be third time lucky? 2. Cuarón has beaten him to take the BAFTA, Globe and DGA so far, so there’s nothing so far to demonstrate that Russell can win it back on Oscar night. 3. He made a film that rhymes with his name! We feel like that should be rewarded somehow, just because it’s fun to say. 3. No. 3, left, is the worst reason for giving someone an award ever. Now be quiet!
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. Over a period of years, he basically invented (or had others invent) the technology necessary to tell the story he had in mind. Now that is visionary. 1. The Academy are kinda future-phobic. Hell, many of them are present-phobic. Will they appreciate the directorial vision that shaped the technological innovation? 2. He won the Director’s Guild award, BAFTA and Globe, and has been taking home a slew of critics prizes. Also, he has a respected and successful director already across a range of genres, conclusively proving that he has the staying power to make the Academy look good for choosing him. 2. Past awards wins are no guarantee of future success – even as many wins as in this case. And the genial Mexican may suffer because a minority found the film uninvolving beyond the visual, so it may prove an ominous sign that the screenplay wasn’t nominated. 3. The disgustingly talented Cuarón also co-wrote, co-edited and produced the film, in the process conquering a series of challenges that would have driven Cecil B. De Mille into an early grave. The result is spectacular looking, unfailingly moving and brilliantly pacy. 3. Is it possible that Cuarón spread himself too thin with work in all these different departments? Er. Or he might previously have run over the Academy’s dog. Look, there’s got to be some way he could lose. We’re clutching at straws here.
Alexander Payne – Nebraska

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. The film is a beautifully-told tale of family, aging and the triumph of hope over, well, knowledge. The black-and-white cinematography and down-at-heel rural setting give it a Depression-era feel that recalls past Hollywood triumphs like The Grapes Of Wrath. 1. We’re not sure the voters like to think about aging, so this may be on to a loser immediately. Also, while the film has a note of triumph at the end it’s not quite the feelgood blast that the Academy has gone for in the last few years. 2. He was Globe nominated for the film, and is a previous Oscar winner (albeit in the Adapted Screenplay category). 2. He has yet to win anything, as director, for this film, and wasn’t even nominated for the DGA, with Paul Greengrass essentially taking this spot, nor the BAFTA. 3. Nebraska is one of the “flyover” states that Hollywood denizens don’t know much about. They may consider spending time there the directorial equivalent of an actor losing huge amounts of weight for a movie. 3. That’s far too harsh on Hollywood! They’re not all mega-rich movie stars you know. Many of them probably come from Nebraska and envy Payne the chance to go back and eat, er, the popular local dish they all grew up on.
Martin Scorsese - The Wolf Of Wall Street

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. He’s Martin Scorsese, and right now he has the same number of Oscars as Eminem. That can’t be right. 1. He’s Martin Scorsese, and right now he has one more competitive Oscar than Hitchcock, so he’s not doing that badly. 2. He was been nominated for a BAFTA and DGA award for Wall Street, which is always encouraging, and has a matching Best Picture nomination. 2. He hasn’t won anything he’s been nominated so far this year, and with widespread reports of walk-outs during Wolf screenings, doesn’t seem likely to break that trend for the Oscars. 3. The film’s blisteringly good, looking more like the calling card of some enfant terrible than a man in his ‘70s. It’s arguably more relevant to the great plague of our times than any other nominee. 3. There’s swearing! And naughty bits! And a man doing things he really shouldn’t be doing with substances he shouldn’t own to parts of a hooker’s anatomy he shouldn’t be anywhere near! Voters will be clutching their pearls and running a mile.