Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
The gimmes here were Cuaron, McQueen and Russell. If any of those fellows had been snubbed, it would have been an affront of Affleckian proportions.
There are snubs, yes, but none as egregious as last year — when Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Tom Hooper were shunned. The 377 members of the directors branch are the most offbeat and contrarian of the various Academy groups. They like to choose from the margins of the mainstream.
That’s how we get Alexander Payne for the intimate, but incredible black-and-white father/son film Nebraska. And Scorsese proved the “shame on you” admonitions for Wolf were limited to a loud but small group.
I had Paul Greengrass as the wild-card for Captain Phillips, although many pundits had him as a sure-thing. The directors have shown a tendency to respect world-building over tension-building, however. That’s why I thought he might get overlooked.
Prize Fighter Score: 4 for 5.
I thought Spike Jonze would connect with the director’s branch for his visionary work in Her, but the Academy apparently thinks of that more as a writing accomplishment. (Still, not bad.)
Payne was a much longer shot, but transforming the small-town Midwest into a landscape of wonders and characters who were paradoxically colorfully bland is what got him on the list.
Next Page: Best Original Screenplay …