Oscars 2011 Profiles: Best Director Nominees

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Whether you subscribe to the auteur theory or not, there's no denying that directors are important people in determining whether a film turns out well or not. And so we turn our attention today to the Best Direction category at this year's Oscars: which of the five nominees is looking strongest? Who's got what it takes to waltz off with the prize? And who had better prepare their resigned face? We examine the arguments for and against each of the final five...

Why He Will Win
The Fighter is a brilliantly modernised twist on a very traditional film subject - boxing - which has proved something of an Oscar season dark horse so far.Russell found a fresh way to film boxing that doesn't echo what's already been done. In itself, that's no mean feat.

The voters may be intimidated: imagine the screaming match that could erupt if he doesn't take the prize.

Why He Won't Win
While the film has received lots of love, Russell himself is yet to pick up any gongs - and the feeling seems to be that, while this is a shoo-in in the Supporting Acting categories, it's by no means as strong here.Russell doesn't have the sort of Oscar-friendly filmography behind him that's typical of most Best Director winners. This is, after all, the man who made a film called Spanking The Monkey.

Will that history of violence (well, violent language) count against Russell? Especially given his famous flare-ups with actors, who comprise most of the Academy's voters...

Why He Will Win
He directed what is the clear frontrunner for the big prizes, and that puts him in a really good position for Best Director as well.Credit where it's due: Hooper took a subject hardly known for its dramatic heft and turned it into an affecting and occasionally nailbiting story. Incidentally, let's hope he makes nailbiting the subject of his next epic!

While he hasn't been around for long, Hooper's already impressed in the US with TV series John Adams and Elizabeth I, which may have garnered him a fanbase.

Why He Won't Win
This is only his second feature, after The Damned United, and it usually takes a little longer to be crowned Best Director. Especially when you're up against heavyweights like Fincher and the Coens.While The King's Speech was very well directed, it wasn't very showily directed: there may be no single element that stands out to voters.

Will Hooper be too self-deprecatingly British to campaign hard enough?

Why He Will Win
He's easily one of the best directors working in America today, and this is his most mainstream - and most Oscar-friendly - film to date. What's more, this isn't a film where the performances grab all the attention: the ensemble is great, but there's clearly a director at work.The film makes a seemingly impenetrable subject crystal clear and completely fascinating - even to non-techheads. But it also doesn't over-simplify or offer too clear-cut heroes and villains, and that is no mean feat.

Fincher was nominated before, for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. The Academy may be at least a little anxious to avoid "pulling a Scorsese" where one of the best directors in the country is left ignored for decades.

Why He Won't Win
He may still be a touch too radical for voters, what with that Trent Reznor score and subject matter that involves these computer things that the kids seem to be using all the time. iMail? Facebrick? Something like that. In other words, the characters aren't clear-cut, the finish a little too ambiguous, the setting too contemporary and the tone a little dark for the Oscars - maybe.There's an argument (it's wrong, but it exists) that this is the Fincher film with the lightest directorial stamp - whereas writer Aaron Sorkin's fingerprints are more obviously visible.

The Academy still may not have forgiven him for what he did to that lovely Paltrow girl in Seven.

Why He Will Win
The Brothers have form here: it's the third time they've been nominated for the prize, and they've already won it once for No Country For Old Men.True Grit really showcases the difference that great directing makes: compare this to the 1969 film and you can see quite clearly how far superior the Coens' touch has made their effort.

This effort feels neither self-consciously Oscar-y nor self-consciously zeitgeisty: if Social Network and King's Speech split the vote, the Coens could drive a wedge.

Why He Won't Win
They are not up for the Director's Guild Awards, which suggests that they're far from favourites in the category this year.They don't have that Editing nomination either, which is another bad omen.

They're far too cool to campaign their way past either of these drawbacks.

Why He Will Win
Like Fincher, he's one of the unquestionably talented, undoubtedly talked-about directors coming up through the ranks of indie and cult hits into the Oscar mainstream - and like Fincher, he's beginning to look like he'll win one eventually. Why not now?He managed to take a subject that many people reject as girly and cutesy and give it real edge, using handheld, intrusive cameras to get all up in his leading lady's grill.

The elegant and creepingly subtle use of effects in the film is the sort of thing that clearly shows a director's expert touch, and may give Aronofsky an edge.

Why He Won't Win
So far the lion's share of the plaudits and attention has gone to his leading lady rather than her director.The film has received a few high-profile critical pans, and if enough voters share those views, its chances may be scuppered.

If the Academy hasn't forgiven Fincher for what he did in Seven, they also won't have forgiven Aronofsky for what he did in Requiem For A Dream.