Awards analysis is provided by Sean from @MathTeacherMovies.
When the Best Picture category went back to ten nominees, the Best Director became an unofficial list for the traditional five Best Picture Nominees. However, in recent years the Best Director nominees have been far more unconventional, nominating movies one would see less often in the Best Picture or nominating more women and directors of foreign films.
In 2017, Greta Gerwig started to show signs of this trend. She’s not the first female director to be nominated but she was a huge standout for her film Lady Bird. Gerwig was then passed up for a nomination two years later for Little Women and her absence then was duly noted.
2018 was where many directors of foreign films were nominated including the front runner Alfonso Cuaron for Roma who ended up taking home the top prize. Meanwhile, the true surprise that year was Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War, a film that wasn’t even considered for Best Picture but still helped garner the film deserved attention.
Bong Joon-ho was not a surprise nomination but was the all star of the 2019 Oscars getting the win for the Best Director and leading that film Parasite to be the first Foreign Language film to receive such an honor.
Last year was a prime example of female directors and directors of foreign films dominating the nominations for Best Director. Emerald Fennell was nominated for Promising Young Woman and Chloe Zhao won for Nomadland. It was the first time that two female directors were nominated in the same category, an embarrassing statistic, but a step in the right direction.
In addition, Thomas Vinterberg was nominated this past year for Another Round and while that didn’t go the way of Parasite, yet it still helped acknowledge a great Director and solidify a film to win Best International Film.
It seems quite likely that the streak of a female director or a foreign film director getting a nomination will continue this year due to the frontrunner being Jane Campion for her direction of The Power of the Dog. If Campion were to win, it would be the third woman to win in the Best Director category and the first time there will be back to back wins for women in that category, which is once again an embarrassing stat. The Power of the Dog is a much more artistic movie and therefore it has a solid chance of winning Best Director to make those records happen.
The other female director that is getting buzz is Sian Heder for her direction of CODA. This will be a film that deserves to be talked about come Oscar season but will most likely come up short in at least the Best Director category.
In terms of foreign films, there are two directors who have a fairly high chance of being a part of the five this year. Pedro Almodovar is no stranger to Oscar wins and nominations and has been nominated for Best Director in the past. This year he is coming out with Parallel Mothers which has been receiving quite a lot of buzz but it might not be enough to help Almodovar get to that nomination. The other director is a bit more of a long shot for a nomination, which is Paolo Sorrentino for his film The Hand of God. Sorrentino is an acquired taste and The Hand of God doesn’t seem to be building up momentum even with its Netflix accessibility so it’s not likely either.
There is one more Director who meets both qualifications this year and she’s recently gotten quite a bit more buzz with her film Titane. Julia Ducournau came onto the scene with her film Raw and now she is garnering that awards consideration with Titane. This film now has a much higher chance of Oscar consideration as it became France’s selection to submit for the Best International Feature, which shows that a country that frequently gets nominated has high faith in a rather unconventional film. The one thing going against many nominations for this film is how absolutely bonkers it is, which can turn off numerous voters, but Ducournau is a director that deserves to be celebrated.
This trend of directors nominations being more international directors and women is a welcome and progressive move but it also opens up a greater world of film that many wouldn’t normally see and it’s therefore great on all fronts.