Best Director, as a general rule of thumb, is often decided or at least pointed towards in the DGAs (Directors' Guild Awards).
In the same way you can tell how the Best Picture category is going to go from the PGAs (Producers' Guild Awards), it's often the case where one follows the other. Next Sunday, the Directors' Guild of America will announce their winner, with the likelihood being that the winner there will be the winner of Oscars night.
Before we get into parsing the category itself, here's who's on the ballot.
- Martin Scorsese - 'The Irishman'
- Quentin Tarantino - 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
- Bong Joon Ho - 'Parasite'
- Sam Mendes - '1917'
- Todd Phillips - 'Joker'
Best Director feels like an easier category to call this year, primarily because the nominees definitely more distinct than they have in years. Quentin Tarantino, well, he was always going to be nominated as was Martin Scorsese. Sam Mendes' skill and precision in '1917' was always going to be a solid nomination, as was Bong Joon Ho in 'Parasite'. Todd Phillips directing the most-talked about movie of the year was also just as likely.
In a way, this cuts to the heart of the problems people had with this year's nominees - it all went largely as expected. There was no real shock or surprise with any of it. In the same way that the DGA winner will most likely determine the winner here, this all feels too rehearsed and pre-ordained. Sam Mendes is far and away the favourite to win, and it's easy to see why. For one, '1917' was a technical achievement.
You only need to have a look around Film Twitter and see the amount of times that video of the trench sprint with George Mackay has been shared. Not only that, directors are always inclined to vote for the kind of movie that '1917' is. It's a fiercely made, precisely executed movie with a strong emphasis on setpieces and editing. 'Joker', for all the talk of the cinematography and guiding Joaquin Phoenix's performance to what we saw, didn't have that.
Martin Scorsese, sadly, is likely to come away from this with empty hands. For one, 'The Irishman' doesn't have the same kind of buzz that others in this category have, primarily because it's a Netflix movie. Yes, it's a meeting of Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci on screen and it's Scorsese's most ruminative, fascinating movie in years - but it's still a Netflix movie, and given how 'Roma' and its Oscar campaign garnered such controversy - even bringing Steven Spielberg out of an editing bay to slap it around - it's unlikely anybody can stomach a repeat of that.
No, the likely winner on the night will be Sam Mendes for '1917', and as far as deserving goes, he's definitely the most deserving candidate in the running this year.