Each branch of the Academy chooses its own nominees, which are then voted on by the entire body in the final round. The directors skewed well outside the mainstream last year, famously snubbing Ben Affleck for Argo, as well as past winners Katherine Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, and Tom Hooper for Les Miserables. Those who did make the cut were Benh Zeitlin for the offbeat indie fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild and Michael Haneke for the grim, end-of-life drama Amour.
The prize ended up going to Ang Lee for Life of Pi, in recognition of the complicated technical mastery necessary to pull of that ethereal lost-at-sea saga. This year, the frontrunner is Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, another film packed with technical wizardry about one person cut adrift and trying to survive.
His fiercest competition is Steve McQueen for the savagely heartbreaking 12 Years a Slave, and Martin Scorsese for the decadent downfall story The Wolf of Wall Street. Expect the directors to throw in a few surprises — my guess is Spike Jonze for Her, an offbeat and imaginative story that creates an entire skewed world, much like Beasts did last year. Directors love seeing that kind of vision brought to life.
1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
3. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
4. David O. Russell, American Hustle
5. Spike Jonze, Her
6. Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
7. Alexander Payne, Nebraska
8. Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
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