Surveying the field of helmers from debut filmmakers to weathered vets
Paul Greengrass - "Captain Phillips"
Pros: Greengrass scored a 'lone director' nod in this category seven years ago for "United 93" -- an expertly constructed, true-life tension exercise with which "Captain Phillips" shares some similar virtues. This time, however, Greengrass is behind a likely Best Picture nominee. It's patently a director's film, though he'll also get credit for bringing out previously unseen facets in Tom Hanks.
Cons: Not much specifically going against him at this point, unless the film -- already dismissed as a commendable also-ran in the top races -- falls victim to voting complacency. (Hey, we all thought "Zero Dark Thirty" was a director's film too, and look what happened there.) The sniping in some quarters about the film's veracity doesn't help.