2020 Oscar Category Breakdown: Best Director

Today we go over Best Director, a category we arguably could’ve gone over a week ago and nothing would’ve changed.

But hey, at least now we’ve got both DGA and BAFTA in, and they’ve confirmed what we already knew, so this one’s basically a walk in the park and there’s not much we need to discuss.

Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

David Fincher, Mank

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

This was a pretty straightforward category all the way throughout the process. The DGA category had everyone here except Vinterberg and had Aaron Sorkin on in his place. But one thing we know historically is that the DGA and Oscar categories almost never match 5/5, and Sorkin was always the most likely person to not make the final category just because the Academy has tended to shy away from writer-first directors here (like Martin McDonagh or even Peter Farrelly) in recent years and like to go for foreign options occasionally (Michael Haneke, Pawel Pawlikowski). So Vinterberg was definitely someone on my radar, especially after he managed the BAFTA Director nomination and his film did so well there. So ultimately, not the most surprising category, though some might consider it just because this wasn’t the neat little ‘American frontrunner’ package we tend to get here.

5. Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round — I don’t think anyone believes he’s got enough votes to contend for this. Granted, at this point the category is so locked you could put him second and it wouldn’t matter. But this is the least nominated film on the list and without him hitting the types of precursors the other nominees hit, it’s hard to think he’s coming anywhere close to contending.

4. Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman — This’ll sound crass, but given the male-dominated institution the Oscars have been (especially in this category) it fits: they already have their woman to vote for. PLUS, Fennell is poised to win Screenplay, which will for sure keep some people from taking her here (remember when George Clooney won Supporting Actor in 2005? What’s the first thing he said when he got up there? “So I’m not winning Director…”). That is legitimately how many voters think. And that’s why I’m not sure I can consider her higher than fourth choice here.

3. Lee Isaac Chung, Minari — Only one person has precursors, so this is all just guess-work. And it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, since this category always ends the same way. He’s third because Vinterberg and Fennell are fifth and fourth. I don’t see any of these three winning regardless, but he makes more sense than the other two here (also because his film has more nominations than those two other films).

2. David Fincher, Mank — You’re arguing against the wind here. You’ve got nothing to go on, so you’re just making up reasons. Zhao’s got all the precursors, so my rationale is — this has the most overall nominations and by this point, most people feel like David Fincher should have an Oscar. So, if for some reason someone doesn’t want to vote for Zhao, I have to imagine he’d be the most likely beneficiary of votes. That’s my reasoning.

1. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland — She’s won every precursor, the DGA winner’s only lost the Oscar 8 times ever, she’s the favorite. At this point it would be one of the biggest upsets of all time if she lost. No matter what you’re gonna choose to do on a ballot, there’s no denying she’s the overwhelming favorite to win this.

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