State of the Race: Best Director

The director’s race for the Oscar is always exciting to follow, from new names in the race to legends contending for a first win in their career or another statue for their collection. The Best Director race in 2023 is between six men, who are also all nominated for their Original Screenplay’s as well. All of the nominees in the Best Director lineup are also represented in the Best Picture lineup, which makes for an interesting race this year!

Following the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards, the Daniels feel like a confident choice heading into the Oscars. Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of the front runners for Best Picture and feels pretty secure in picking up wins in Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Editing with a few more categories in which the film is at number two or three. Everything Everywhere All at Once has been performing well with precursors and guilds following a successful run with critics groups, picking up 36 wins for Best Director. The duo has been nominated at BAFTA and Golden Globes while they have won both Critics Choice and DGA. 

The closest competitor with critics’ wins is Todd Field with five wins. Field additionally has picked up nominations at BAFTA and DGA, while he was not nominated at the Golden Globes. TÁR is not a front runner to win Best Picture, but is definitely in the top five contenders. The Field film picked up some unpredicted nominations in both Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, which shows strength across multiple branches. TÁR is contending for a win in Lead Actress with Cate Blanchett in the lead with her BAFTA/GG/CCA wins. This is Field’s first nomination in the Best Director category. Before TÁR, he did receive two Adapted Screenplay nominations, and his directorial debut feature In the Bedroom did receive a Best Picture nomination.

Many could consider previous winner of the Best Director category (twice) Steven Spielberg as the number two in the category. This is Spielberg’s ninth nomination. He is the second most nominated director in Academy history (tied with Martin Scorsese and behind William Wyler with 12).  Spielberg has won the Golden Globe and was listed as the National Board of Review’s (NBR) Best Director, however neither of these have overlap with the Academy voting body. The Fabelmans did win the Best Picture Drama award at the Golden Globes, showing some strength, but since the Globes, the support for the Spielberg film has dissipated. It underperformed on the BAFTAs long list, including Spielberg not even making the long list for Best Director. The film was once considered by some to be in the hunt for a Best Picture win, but The Fabelmans is now looking as if it could leave empty-handed on Oscars night. 

Martin McDonagh has been in the Oscar conversation before, but never as a Best Director nominee. The Banshees of Inisherin landed the writer/director his first Director nomination. McDonagh has not won anything for directing so far this season, but he has been nominated everywhere – Golden Globes, DGA, CCA and BAFTA. In addition to all of his precursor nominations, The Banshees of Inisherin is also considered by most as one of the top contenders for the Best Picture prize. This could help McDonagh contend for a win in this category if voters want to recognize the film across the board. 

Sometimes it really is just a honor to be nominated, and that seems to be the case for Triangle of Sadness director Ruben Östlund. While the film did pick up an Original Screenplay nomination as well as a Best Picture nomination, all three categories feel as though Triangle of Sadness is sitting in the final slot. His nomination makes sense on paper as he has name recognition, previous work that was Oscar-nominated, and a sense of humor in the film that appeals to the Academy, but many believe the BAFTA Best Director winner, Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front), was very close to taking this final slot in the Best Director Oscar lineup. 

All Quiet on the Western Front won 7 BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Director. While the BAFTA Director lineup did not include Östlund or Spielberg, Berger did beat out the Daniels, Field, and McDonagh. While you can argue Berger’s win at BAFTA does not translate to anything, it does show some lack of strength for Everything Everywhere All at Once. The Daniels’ film only won one BAFTA (Best Film Editing), and this is the first award show of the season by a voting body with Academy overlap. However, at the same time, over the DGA’s 75-year history, their wins have been the best precursor for the Best Director Oscar. Only eight DGA winners have not translated their wins into an Oscar win, most recently Sam Mendes (1917).

On paper, it seems as if we are looking at the Daniels walking away with the Best Director trophy come Oscar night. The BAFTA shakeup is interesting and worth thinking about, however, the passion for Everything Everywhere All at Once overall seems stronger than anything else in contention. It’s hard to nail down a number two in the category, which signals a great sign for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

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