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John Madden - 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
Pro: Some may find it insipid, but this oldsters-abroad comedy has been one of the year's true sleeper hits, its $46m-plus gross proving the ticket-buying power of the senior demographic – a demographic that has a lot in common with the Academy membership, as it happens. The Fox Searchlight-backed film plays well to voters, and could find particular support from the Academy's British bloc – while the directors' branch might remember that they nominated John Madden 13 years ago for a little Best Picture winner called “Shakespeare in Love.”
Con: There's a reason Madden didn't win that Oscar in 1998: he may be a safe, actor-friendly pair of hands, but he's hardly a distinctive filmmaker. Even the biggest “Best Exotic” fans aren't exactly raving about the direction. The film would have to be an Oscar juggernaut to sweep Madden along with it, and with films like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Hitchcock,” Searchlight has bigger fish to fry.
- Guy Lodge