Awards season is officially upon us and we're counting down the days until the Oscars on 24th February 2019. Here are our tips for the Best Director contenders...
Will Bradley Cooper win Best Director for A Star is Born?
If we're considering Best Director favourites, Bradley Cooper has to be up there. His directorial debut A Star is Born, the fourth take on the enduring story, has drawn widespread acclaim for its sensitive love story and authentic, impassioned musical sequences (many of which were shot incognito at some of the world's biggest festivals).
Cooper's confidence behind the camera and his selflessness in front of it, ceding much of the emotional fireworks to brilliant co-star Lady Gaga, has made him a popular choice in this year's Oscars. From obscurity to gross-out comedies like The Hangover to helming a must-see drama A Star is Born – Cooper's own career progression has something of a Hollywood fairy tale structure to it, and the Oscars may well come calling.
Will Widows filmmaker Steve McQueen win his second Oscar?
Being nominated for an Oscar is one thing – actually possessing one grants the director considerable clout, and may well position them as a favourite when they enter the race again. In 2014, artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen made Academy Awards history when he became the first black helmer to win Best Director for 12 Years a Slave. It was a momentous win and also honoured an acclaimed career that encompassed Hunger and Shame.
Now McQueen is being named as a possible frontrunner for his gritty heist movie Widows (released on 6th November). The movie has been acclaimed both as an exciting thriller and a bracing commentary on class and gender, as four bereaved women take up the mantle of their deceased husbands to become master thieves. Written by Gone Girl author-screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and with a cast led by Oscar-winner Viola Davis, critics have agreed the success of the movie lies with McQueen for threading it all together.
Is Damien Chazelle going to be Oscar-nominated for First Man?
In 2017, Whiplash helmer Damien Chazelle gloriously resurrected the Hollywood musical with the infectiously entertaining La La Land. Although he was notoriously deprived of Best Picture (it went to Moonlight after that much-reported mix-up), Chazelle did walk away with Best Director. This might stand him in good stead as far as new movie First Man is concerned, the affecting and inspirational story of astronaut Neil Armstrong's famed Apollo 11 lunar voyage.
The technical merits of the movie, not to mention its acting (Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy excel), appear to position it as a clear favourite. However, given it's struggled to stand out at the US box office and has been dogged by controversy over its depiction of Armstrong's planting of the flag, Chazelle may now be more of an outside favourite than shoo-in choice.
Is Spike Lee a Best Director contender for BlacKkKlansman?
The Oscars (in)famously have a tendency to shy away from spiky, provocative and controversial content – so consider BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee something of an outsider. If he were to be nominated, it would be an enormously exciting choice – as director, he brings the anger, humour, warmth and rage of his celebrated Do The Right Thing to bear on this true story of a black police detective infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan.
The movie triumphantly uses a period context to ask troubling questions about the modern day, but never foregoes big laughs or memorable performances as it pinpoints a troubling message about race relations. In fact, the movie's ability to make us wince and laugh at the same time is indicative of Lee's characteristic style – if there's a filmmaker who has his finger on the pulse in 2018, Lee is it.
Will The Favourite win director Yorgos Lanthimos an Oscar?
The Academy Awards love the prestige of a period drama – just think back to the multi-Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love in 1998 as proof of that. But haven't we seen it all before? Can a costume drama possibly bring anything new to the table in 2018?
Enter The Favourite – far from a conventional, corseted period piece, this wickedly entertaining black comedy gleefully tears up the rule book, which may well give the edge to Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Already an acclaimed filmmaker off the back of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lanthimos now presents what is possibly his most entertaining and incisive movie so far, an examination of the triangular relationship between the ageing Queen Anne and her two manipulative court suitors.
Packed with zingy insults, bad behaviour, off-kilter cinematography and delightful performances, critics have said this is a movie with its foot in the past that very much speaks to a present day audience. Topped with deliciously arch turns from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, Lanthimos could well walk away with his first Oscar.
Who are the other contenders for the Best Director Oscar?
Oscar-winning Gravity filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron delivers what may be his most personal movie yet in the form of Roma. This black and white autobiographical drama is set in Mexico City in 1970, and is remarkably intuitive and moving in its focus on a young nanny catering for the needs of a middle class family. Roma is released on Netflix this December.
Although his new movie isn't out in the UK until next February, Barry Jenkins is emerging as another front runner. If Beale Street Could Talk follows Jenkins' luminous Moonlight with another sensitively observed story, adapted from James Baldwin's novel about a young 1970s Harlem couple beset by racial injustice.
Director Debra Granik may emerge as a dark horse favourite off the back of her unanimously acclaimed Leave No Trace. This is the director's first film since 2010's Winter's Bone (the film that shot Jennifer Lawrence to stardom), a beautifully observed story of a father-daughter duo living off-grid in a society that seemingly has no place for them.
Finally, if we're talking about wild card choices, then we're opting for Chloe Zhao, whose beautiful film The Rider met with praise on its release back in September. Zhao has been enlisted as the director of Marvel's Eternals movie, but before we get there, she could well land an Oscar nomination for this moving story of a brain-damaged rodeo rider looking to get back in the saddle (real-life rider Brady Jandreau playing himself).
Who are you tipping for the Best Director Oscar? Tweet us your suggestions @Cineworld.
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