One Of These 20 People Will Probably Win Best Director At The 2015 Oscars

One Of These 20 People Will Win Best Director At The 2015 Oscars

best director

Welcome to For Your Consideration, HuffPost Entertainment's breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and Feb. 22, 2015, entertainment managing editor Christopher Rosen and entertainment editor Matthew Jacobs will pore over awards season and discuss which films will make the most noise at the 87th annual Academy Awards.

One of the year's most well-regarded directors took 12 years to make his movie. Another spent $165 million constructing new planets and advanced dimensions. Yet another took mere weeks to make a feverish film about jazz for just over $3 million. Now they may find themselves newly minted Oscar nominees. This year's Best Director crop could make history: Ava DuVernay may become the first black female nominee, and if Angelina Jolie joins her, it will be the first time in history that two women are recognized in the same year. But unlike Best Actor and Best Actress, this category's odds are more of a gamble. Regardless, when the Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 15, 2015, here are the 20 people most likely to garner recognition as Best Director:

Rupert Wyatt, "The Gambler"
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Director Rupert Wyatt stages his remake of Karel Reisz's 1974 film in a way that feels episodic, with Mark Wahlberg's Jim Bennett going from one talky situation to another. Wyatt gets great performances from everyone involved here -- highest marks go to John Goodman and Michael K. Williams as a pair of philosophical mobsters -- but it's William Monahan's profane, hilarious and profound script that ultimately steals the show. -- Christopher Rosen
Ridley Scott, "Exodus: Gods and Kings"
Three-time Best Director nominee Ridley Scott last appeared here for 2001’s “Black Hawk Down,” and most of the movies he’s made since have been far from Oscar’s radar. (Remember "The Counselor"?) That probably won’t change with “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” unless the Academy is especially taken with Scott harking back to his “Gladiator” days. The reception after 20th Century Fox screened 40 minutes of footage in October seemed favorable, with many saying the movie is reminiscent of “Ben Hur,” “Lawrence of Arabia” and other epics that used to dominate the Oscars. In a year where Hollywood consecrated a slew of religious movies, we’ll see how it plays when the tale of Moses and the deadly plagues opens on Dec. 12. -- Matthew Jacobs
Tim Burton, "Big Eyes"
John Shearer/Invision/AP
Before "Big Eyes," the last live-action movie Tim Burton made without Johnny Depp was 2003's "Big Fish." That alone gives "Big Eyes" (not a sequel) the distinct feel of a comeback for Burton, who has never been nominated for Best Director (but has received two Best Animated Feature nods). But the early word on Burton's latest is that it's a surface-level biography about painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) with a scenery-chewing performance from Christoph Waltz. That still sounds great to me, but it may be a bridge too far for Academy members. -- CR
J.C. Chandor, "A Most Violent Year"
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If J.C. Chandor wants to be the next Sidney Lumet, "A Most Violent Year" is a good start. The director's third film -- following "Margin Call" and "All Is Lost" -- is a slow-burn, New York-set thriller, the kind Lumet could have made in 1981, the violent year of the title. (In fact, he kind of did: That was the year Lumet released "Prince of the City.") But meditative regional thrillers aren't usually Oscar bait, so Chandor might have to settle for his second Best Original Screenplay nomination (he was also cited for "Margin Call"), and hope the Indie Spirit Awards have room for him to nab a nod for direction. -- CR
Clint Eastwood, "American Sniper"
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Clint Eastwood's last Best Director nomination came for 2006's "Letters from Iwo Jima." It was his third nod in four years, following 2003's "Mystic River" and 2004's "Million Dollar Baby" (for which he won the honor). Since, Eastwood's resume is littered with failed Oscar bait ("Changeling," "Invictus," "J. Edgar") and surprising snubs ("Gran Torino"). It's "American Sniper" that gives the 84-year-old his best shot at returning to the dance. Early reviews of the military thriller about the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history (played by Bradley Cooper) were solid, with some making comparisons to "The Hurt Locker." That film won Kathryn Bigelow her Best Director trophy, so let's at least consider Eastwood a contender for the association alone. -- CR
Paul Thomas Anderson, "Inherent Vice"
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The main thing that stands between “Inherent Vice” and next year's Oscars is comprehension. The plot of this dark stoner comedy is as kaleidoscopic as the Thomas Pynchon novel on which it’s based. The reviews that followed its New York Film Festival premiere were relatively positive, but that's probably not enough to net the well-regarded Anderson a second Best Director nomination (after 2007’s “There Will Be Blood”). Despite some decent performances and a "Boogie Nights" vibe, the movie doesn’t check off very many “traditional Oscar fare” boxes. -- MJ
Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Oscar voters have very short memories, which is a problem for Wes Anderson. The fastidious filmmaker released perhaps his most ambitious film yet, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," on March 7. That's a lifetime ago as far as awards contenders are concerned. So it's too bad more isn't being made of Anderson's chances: "Budapest" was a leap forward for the director, at once a typical Wes Anderson movie (those costumes!) and a downbeat look at the toll war takes on society. -- CR
James Marsh, "The Theory Of Everything"
Andy Kropa /Invision/AP
James Marsh's biggest obstacle is that he directed a movie in which the performances are king and queen. So when people discuss "The Theory of Everything," Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are taking up most of the oxygen with Stephen Hawking himself, the film's subject, close behind. That leaves Marsh -- an Oscar winner for the documentary "Man on Wire" -- to fight for the rest of the movie's buzz alongside the below-the-line contributors. "The Theory of Everything" stands a good chance of cracking this year's Best Picture list, but it doesn't feel like Marsh will be afforded the same courtesy in his category -- despite the fact that those performances didn't direct themselves. -- CR
Mike Leigh, "Mr. Turner"
Mike Leigh made the Best Director shortlists for 1996’s “Secrets & Lies” and 2004’s “Vera Drake,” two low-key British dramas that won massive critical favor. “Mr. Turner,” a biopic about famed 19th-century painter J.M.W. Turner, is a bit stuffier than those earlier endeavors. Still, this aesthetic achievement competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where lead star Timothy Spall took home Best Actor, and it trekked through almost every other major festival this year. As of now, those feel like fading memories. -- MJ
Rob Marshall, "Into the Woods"
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After a decade of making so-so movies like “Nine” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” Rob Marshall’s biggest challenge with "Into the Woods" will be recapturing the sort of kudos he earned for “Chicago.” One such hurdle comes from tests imposed by Stephen Sondheim purists. Deadline's Pete Hammond declares himself one, and he adored the film after its first press screenings this past weekend. Full reviews are still embargoed, but Disney has staged voracious early media attention for "Into the Woods." Maybe the studio is making up for last year’s “Saving Mr. Banks” shutout, or perhaps it has a bona fide modern classic on its hands, like Miramax did with “Chicago.” The movie’s Christmas Day opening won’t hurt. -- MJ
Christopher Nolan, "Interstellar"
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Christopher Nolan has two Best Original Screenplay nominations to his name, but no Best Director love. “Interstellar” is probably too divisive to change that. He micromanaged press chatter ahead of its release, and now a lot of the movie’s buzz is about whether its science is accurate and what sort of sound issues it may have. That said, plenty do admire Nolan’s vision, and the Directors Guild of America -- a voting body that largely overlaps with the Academy’s directors branch -- has included Nolan among its finalists three times already (for “Memento,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception”). -- MJ
Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Bennett Miller’s previous two movies -- “Capote” and “Moneyball” -- played well with the Academy, but Sony Pictures Classics will have to stump harder with “Foxcatcher." Critics agree that Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo hand in career-best performances in the true story of multimillionaire John du Pont's derangement, but some have challenged the accessibility of the movie’s overarching narrative. Don’t count him out, though: Miller nabbed the Cannes Film Festival’s director prize in May, and the movie notched one of the year’s strongest limited-release openings. -- MJ
Jean-Marc Vallée, "Wild"
Evan Agostini /Invision/AP
Jean-Marc Vallée broke out with last year’s “Dallas Buyers Club,” which coasted on a comeback narrative for Matthew McConaughey. This time it’s Reese Witherspoon who gets the renaissance treatment, in a movie that hails from one of the biggest literary successes of the decade. The feminist undertones of “Wild” make it especially pertinent, and Vallée employs raw and powerful finesse to capture the nuances of Cheryl Strayed’s Oprah-approved memoir about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. He deserves this nomination. -- MJ
Damien Chazelle, "Whiplash"
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Damien Chazelle is such a great young director he can even make jazz interesting. "Whiplash," about two singularly focused men on a crash course with each other, is a fascinating character study, a tense thriller and a hilarious black comedy. Chazelle's film is like "Black Swan" but without any supernatural stuff; it's like "Mean Streets" without the mafia. It's showy and confident and, buoyed by standout performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, one of 2014's most talked-about films. A nomination for the 29-year-old director is a long shot, but the comparable player here is Benh Zeitlin of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" fame. Like Zeitlin, Chazelle debuted his breakout feature at Sundance; like Zeitlin, Chazelle has withstood months of awards contenders because his film was simply so well liked. Zeitlin wound up with a nod. Can Chazelle complete the arc? -- CR
Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game"
Vince Bucci /Invision/AP
If Damien Chazelle's comparable is Benh Zeitlin, Morten Tyldum's comparable is Tom Hooper. Like Hooper, Tyldum was relatively unknown as a filmmaker before directing a Harvey Weinstein Oscar contender. Like Hooper, Tyldum's film is World War II-set and focuses on a man who overcomes adversity. The difference is that while Hooper's "The King's Speech" was a rousing affair, "The Imitation Game" is more subtle and downbeat. (Indeed, the film's ending is a heartbreaker.) Not that it matters: Early Academy screenings of "The Imitation Game" have gone over very well, and if the film winds up with the widespread support that many suspect, Tyldum could coast to a nomination. -- CR
Angelina Jolie, "Unbroken"
Only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director: Lina Wertmüller ("Seven Beauties"), Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation") and Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"). Bigelow won. This year, both Jolie and Ava DuVernay could expand that list thanks to, respectively, "Unbroken" and "Selma." Jolie has been penciled in for a nod since last year -- the film, about World War II hero Louis Zamperini, has all the trimmings of an awards juggernaut -- but she's far from a sure thing at this point. For starters, few have seen "Unbroken," a weird play for a movie so many felt was an Oscar slam dunk. (If it's good, why not screen it and start building buzz?) But assuming "Unbroken" is up to snuff, there's this: Jolie is an actor, and that means she has to weather prejudice from the directors' branch of the Academy. Remember: Ben Affleck wasn't nominated for Best Director when "Argo" was the favorite. Will Jolie face the same fate? -- CR
David Fincher, "Gone Girl"
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Every time David Fincher makes a movie, you'll find his name among predictions. That worked in his favor with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network,” and he arguably came close to another Best Director nod with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Possibly this year’s buzziest movie, “Gone Girl” is on track to out-gross all three at the box office. Fincher isn’t the fondest of campaigning for awards, but he’s stumped for his actors before (namely Brad Pitt and Jesse Eisenberg, both of whom earned nominations), so his presence will be felt somehow. Not to mention "Gone Girl" offers yet another literary triumph in its adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best-seller, directed with a dark accessibility brimming with contemporary commentary and sharp comedic relief. -- MJ
Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Birdman"
“Birdman” traversed the fall festival circuit to the most tremendous praise of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s career. He was last here for 2006’s “Babel,” a movie far less approachable than this sizzling dark comedy about a washed-up actor staging a Broadway play in hopes of finding a career comeback. The movie should be especially intriguing to voters because it’s about the mechanics of Hollywood, which helped the likes of Billy Wilder (“Sunset Boulevard”), Robert Altman (“The Player”) and Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”) garner Best Director nominations, and because it’s filmed under the impressive guise of a single continuous take. -- MJ
Ava DuVernay, "Selma"
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Ava DuVernay's "Selma" is an achievement of both technical and emotional brilliance. She manages to humanize an icon like Martin Luther King without bogging down in biopic cliches. It's timely while also honoring the past. "Selma" isn't yet an awards favorite, but it's the only 2014 movie so far that has a Best Picture winner feel. That means DuVernay could not only become the first black woman ever nominated for Best Director, but just the fourth black director (after John Singleton, Lee Daniels and Steve McQueen) to receive an Oscar nod in the category. She also might become the first black filmmaker to win (at least that's my guess). -- CR
Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
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The very premise of “Boyhood” -- a coming-of-age tale filmed in small chunks over the course of 12 years -- has been enough to keep Richard Linklater near the top of every Best Director conversation since the movie's buzzy July opening. Told with effortless grace, "Boyhood" is touching and relatable for young and old voters alike. It's also the best-reviewed movie of the year. IFC Films won’t need to do much to ensure Linklater, who earned screenplay nods for “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” but has been overdue for Best Director accolades, is included. -- MJ

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