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Sam Mendes - 'Skyfall'
Pro: Since winning Best Director 13 years ago for his debut effort, “American Beauty,” renowned theater director Mendes has struggled to get back into critics' good books – and the Academy's. Strangely enough, it's by abandoning all highbrow pretense and submitting to cinema's longest-running genre franchise that he's finally found favor again: his Bond outing is sharp and sleekly crafted, revealing a genre-tailored skill set we didn't know Mendes had. With “Skyfall” set to be one of the biggest commercial hits of the season, directors may respect the leap he's taken.
Con: “Skyfall” may be as acclaimed as it is accomplished, but it's still a Bond movie. Though below-the-line voters may respond generously, many in the directors' branch will balk at handing top-tier nominations to the 23rd entry in a high-calorie action franchise, however polished and prestigious. BAFTA may bite, but Bond's always been a bigger deal on home turf.
- Guy Lodge