Willie Waffle is the movie critic for people who hate movie critics.

Oscar Predictions - Best Director - Who Wins When You Have No Favorite?


spielberglincoln.jpgThe day before the Oscar nominations came out, if you had told me Ben Affleck would get snubbed for Best Director this year, and Michael Haneke would be nominated instead, I would have asked you what you were smoking and drinking and are you related to Michael Haneke in some way? 

No one in their right mind would think Ben Affleck was going to get snubbed for Argo.  

No one in their right mind thought Kathryn Bigelow was going to get snubbed for Zero Dark Thirty.

No one in their right mind thought Tom Hooper would get snubbed for Les Miserables.

Yet, the directors went el loco and gave us the strangest and hardest to predict group of nominees in modern history.  

Who will emerge from the field to be named Best Director on Sunday night?

The nominees are:

Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Benh Zietlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

Michael Haneke (Amour)

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

The most reliable predictor of Best Director since the beginning of Oscar history has been the Directors Guild of America.  58 out of the last 64 years, the winner of the DGA award has gone on to win Best Director at the Oscars.  This year, that winner was Ben Affleck for Argo.  Uh Oh!

This leaves the field wide open for almost anything to happen. 

Some think Haneke will win because voters want to reward a lifetime of work and a career as an auteur.  Except, I don't think enough voters really know his history and filmography, since most of his work is European and successful in Europe.  Plus, Amour is a boring movie.  I am not lying when I tell you I couldn't make it through the first hour without giving up.  

Some think David O. Russell will win for Silver Linings Playbook because it is a dark horse for Best Picture and the Best Picture winner has been directed by the winner for Best Director 63 out of 84 times in Oscar history.  Also, it won nominations in all of the biggest categories and the team behind Silver Linings Playbook has brilliantly campaigned throughout Oscar season, rallying those who love the film with tales of how personal it was for the participants to make a movie portraying mental and emotional illness.  Heck, Robert De Niro even cried on the Katie Couric show.  ROBERT DE NIRO CRIED!!!  ON TV!!!!!!

But, while everyone who worked with Russell on The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook loves the writer/director, this is the same David O. Russell who got punched by George Clooney while making Three Kings, and had the lengendary blow up with Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees.  Will that reputation follow him forever and cause him to lose?  Maybe not forever, but it will for now.
Ang Lee is a strong contender for Life of Pi, but Life of Pi is the forgotten movie of this year's Oscar race.  With 11 nominations, I think it is more likely to tie the record for most nominations without a win.  Lee will win again, but when his movie clearly is the best of the bunch, not when it is an also ran. 

So, I think we are looking at a third Oscar win for Steven Spielberg. 

With 12 nominations, Lincoln is the movie with the most nominations this year, and Spielberg (with 7 nominations, 2 wins, and more classics and blockbusters in his filmography than all of the other contenders combined) is one of the most respected Hollywood players who has ever lived.  

Plus, it has to win something with all of those nominations, right?  If the voters want to honor someone with a great track record, and someone they want to work with in the future, Spielberg gets the nod.

Tomorrow, Best Picture

Oscar Prediction: Best Actress

Oscar Prediction: Best Supporting Actor

Oscar Prediction: Best Supporting Actress