James Cameron for Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels for Precious
Jason Reitman for Up in the Air
This category seems to break down into three categories as regards the chance each has of winning the prize. In the last category, essentially the no-hopers, are Lee Daniels and Jason Reitman. Reitman is the kind of director who will consistently struggle to win this prize as his skill comes through his ability to manage performance and tone rather than anything visually spectacular or inventive. Up in the Air is a pristine film with some well-composed images, but it’s script and performance-driven, similar to Juno and Thank You for Smoking. He deserves plaudits, but they won’t be sufficient for the prize. Lee Daniels has promise as an inventive director, but too many choices fall flat in Precious and he won’t win.
The second category are the two potential dark horse winners, James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino. The latter is further outside, if not essentially out of the race. Inglourious Basterds is glorious, both in script and look, but probably doesn’t have the juice to take home the prize due to some middling reviews and so much praise going to Christoph Waltz and the rest of the cast. Cameron was the frontrunner, until people realised that Avatar is a great experience but not necessarily a great movie. Since that epiphany, and its phenomenal gross, the overall buzz has fallen away. If he won though, and he’s the most likely other contender, that wouldn’t seem an injustice given the skills he does show as director, even if the film itself is let down by the script.
Last then is Kathryn Bigelow. She has all the political components there to win the prize, particularly that her winning would be the first ever for a female director. Most of all, however, her film is the best directed of those nominated. Her sense of space and understanding of masculine dynamics is breathtaking, so she deserves and should win this year’s prize.
Predicted Winner: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker