Oscars 2016: Best Director Analysis

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Adam McKay (The Big Short):

Big Short poster

If you were to tell me a year ago that the director of Anchorman, the most overrated comedy in the history of cinema (yeah, I went there), was going to be nominated for an Academy Award, I would have gone to the darkest corner of the universe and cried my little eyes out.  While I’ve strongly disliked the man’s work in the past, I have to give credit where credit is due – he made one hell of a film.  It’s widely known McKay is deeply invested in this material, and it shows.  While he was blessed with a lot of talent, he gets top notch performances from everyone.  It’s not just the Bales, Carells and Goslings though.  McKay was able to conjure up stellar turns from many of the bit players as well.  Even a guy like Brad Pitt, who’s always been hit or miss for me, turned in some of his better work with McKay at the helm.  While the film can get convoluted and over stuffed here and there, he brings in an offbeat style that I would normally find obnoxious from guys like Edgar Wright or Joss Whedon, but he makes it work hook, line and sinker.  I’ve never been McKay’s biggest advocate, and maybe this is just a one hit wonder.  He won’t win, but definitely deserves to be here in one of the Academy’s most hallowed categories.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is the Direction Worthy of an Oscar?  Yes

Max Poster

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road):

I’ll talk more and more about Mad Max: Fury Road when we break down Best Picture, but the Academy finally came through.  They honored a picture that was outside their comfort zone, and the man who deserved a nomination most of all, got it.  Not only did Miller get a nomination, but he may be neck and neck with Inarritu for the win.  When you look at all the technical categories, Mad Max is right there with The Revenant.  That certainly speaks to the directing.  It’s hard to ignore the pure craftsmanship that went into creating the wonder and awe that is Mad Max: Fury Road.  The one element that could hurt Miller is goose eggs in the acting categories, even though Charlize Theron’s performance was widely praised.  While I strongly disagree, many felt Tom Hardy was solid as Max, but took a back seat.  This could ultimately cost Miller the award to Inarritu, who not only nails the technical aspects, but has two actors in their respective races.  Make no mistake though – Miller could very well take this thing.

Chances of Winning: High

Is the Direction Worthy of an Oscar?  Yes

Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant):

If Inarritu hadn’t won last year (Birdman), this would be a stone cold lock.  The Revenant is usually the type of film that is a slam dunk win for Best Director.  While the back-to-back factor definitely hurts you in the acting categories, it’s not as dire for this one.  Inarritu is clearly the man to beat, there’s not much more to say.  Filming in the elements.  Gets brilliant performances.  When you watch the film, it looks like a struggle to pull off.  Inarritu will be hard to take down, but Best Director is always a category more susceptible to upsets than most.

Chances of Winning: High

Is the Direction Worthy of an Oscar?  Yes

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Lenny Abrahamson (Room):

Poor Lenny is most definitely running last in this category, but I’m thrilled he’s here.  Room was a tough movie to pull off, and Abrahamson deserves all the credit in the world.  First of all, he gets a brilliant performance from a kid, Jacob Tremblay.  That’s no easy task.  Aside from Brie Larson, the movie is entirely contingent on him, and they nail it.  The way he films the tight quarters of the actual room gives you the atmosphere and feelings you are supposed to get when watching this film.  Trapped.  Gross.  Unease.  This was meticulously put together, and most of that credit goes to the director.  This won’t be the last time we hear from Lenny Abrahamson.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is the Direction Worthy of an Oscar?  Yes

Tom McCarthy (Spotlight):

While all the other directors on this list bring a strong sense of style and grandeur, McCarthy does not.  In this case, that’s a strength.  McCarthy read the script, and knew he just needed to let great actors go nuts, and that’s exactly what he did.  He stayed out of the way.  Getting great performances out of your actors is arguably the most important job of a director, so certainly we still give him credit for that.  In fact, I give him a lot of kudos for getting the best performance I’ve ever seen from Rachel McAdams, an actress I was never that enamored with.  McCarthy has a slight chance, but he’ll lose to the flashier guys.  While McCarthy will miss out on this Oscar, he’s guaranteed it for Best Original Screenplay.

Chances of Winning: Middle of the Pack

Is the Direction Worthy of an Oscar?  Yes

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.