Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Oscars see most diverse director nominees ever in 2018

02 Mar 2018, 22:24 ( 3 Months ago) | updated: 02 Mar 2018, 23:41 ( 3 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report by Julia Pierrepont
Director Guillermo Del Toro, actresses Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer, actor Richard Jenkins and composer Alexandre Desplat (L-R) pose prior to the premiere of the movie

This year's Oscar predictions have been a wild ride, since the Academy opened its forbidding doors to a greater diversity of directors than ever before. The 2018 nominees include a woman, a Hispanic, an African American and two male, Caucasian Brits.

The Contenders are Guillermo del Toro ("The Shape of Water"), Christopher Nolan ("Dunkirk"), Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird"), Jordan Peele ("Get Out") and Paul Thomas Anderson ("Phantom Thread").

Two of the nominees are first-time directors who hit the ground running the first time out of the gate, and all are unquestionably brilliant.

There is wide consensus that Guillermo del Toro, with his masterful lead, will take home the gold, with Variety, Yahoo, HuffPo, Entertainment Weekly, and many others predicting he'll come out on top.

GoldDerby.com, which runs a continuously updated poll on Oscar predictions, pegs Guillermo del Toro as the odds on favorite to win at 10 to 1. Nolan is in pursuit at 20 to 1, first-timers Greta Gerwig at 40 to 1 and Jordan Peele at 50 to 1, while Paul Thomas Anderson trails in last at 80 to 1.

But there are interesting sub-currents at play in the industry and the Academy this year, unlike other years, that could make for a surprise upset.

Del Toro has racked up an impressive lead at other pre-Oscar award ceremonies, which many pundits believe will give him the edge he needs to win. He scored Best Director Awards from the prestigious Director's Guild of America (DGA), the Golden Globes (GG), and the British Academy Film and TV Awards (BAFTAs), of which he and Nolan were the only two Oscar contenders on the list.

Other awards exert varying degrees of influence on Academy judges. In the past ten years, only four Globe Best Director winners have gone on to win the Oscar, but since the DGA aligned itself with the Academy Awards calendar in 1950, only six of its Best Director winners have not gone on to win the Oscars, and for the last 15 years, the DGA and Oscar Best Director winners have synched exactly. That bodes well for del Toro.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, who has an enviable track record of calling winners, also picked Guillermo del Toro to win for his superb vision on his retro fantasy thriller, "The Shape of Water." 

"Consensus agrees that it's time for the Mexican auteur to join his two compatriots Alfonso Cuaron ("Gravity") and Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu ("Birdman," "The Revenant"), in the Oscar winners circle," wrote Travers.

But, Rolling Stone cautions that Christopher Nolan can't be counted out yet for his masterwork, "Dunkirk", saying, "the ambition, technical expertise and passionate heart Nolan poured into Dunkirk is staggering."

Fellow Oscar nominee, Paul Thomas Anderson, also graciously expressed his awe of Nolan's recent work with Collider: "there's no greater pleasure than sitting in a movie theater and saying, "How the @#! did he do that?!" That was every single moment (with Dunkirk). Really."

Critics, Kevin Poloway of Yahoo and James England, predict Nolan will wear the crown, edging out del Toro by ultra slim margin.

But Fivethirtyeight.com concludes that Nolan is a long shot, "the only precedent for a win with Nolan's awards season record is Ang Lee ("Life of Pi"), who won in a year that Ben Affleck (director of best picture "Argo") was somewhat notoriously snubbed." 

Breaking down barriers is Greta Gerwig, only the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director by the Academy since its inception in 1929. Of the four others, Lina Wertmuller ( "Seven Beauties" ), Jane Campion ("The Piano" ), Sofia Coppola ( "Lost in Translation" ) and Kathryn Bigelow ( "The Hurt Locker" ), Bigelow is the only woman who has ever won, beating out her ex-husband, James Cameron for the statue.

When asked who she got directing tips from, Gerwig teased Nolan at the DGA's "Meet the Nominees" panel discussion recently, "I had to model myself after someone," she quipped, and picked Nolan. Clearly that gambit paid off.

San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle praised Gerwig's direction and script, calling the film, "simply beautiful" and "warm and inspired," while Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, called her direction, "A full-blown triumph." 

So, though Del Toro and Nolan may be the current frontrunners, its not inconceivable that Gerwig could get a surprise bump by the #TimesUp movement that's sweeping the industry.

When Nolan, del Toro, Gerwig, McDonagh and Peele all sat down together at the DGA to discuss their directing styles, Peele accidentally dropped his mike and joked, "That just goes to show you I don't belong here (with these other directors)."

But many top critics disagree: Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper raved, "the real star of the film is writer-director Jordan Peele, who has created a work that addresses the myriad levels of racism, pays homage to some great horror films, carves out its own creative path, has a distinctive visual style-and is flat-out funny as well."

Variety's Peter DeBruge gave Peele high praise too, stating, "Blending race-savvy satire with horror to especially potent effect, this bombshell social critique from first-time director Jordan Peele proves positively fearless." 

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