This year's Best Director race got thinned out a bit recently as such heavy hitters as Bennett Miller and George Clooney took their leave of the 2013 film awards season. But there's still a healthy crop of hopefuls, from debut filmmakers to veteran craftsmen. How will the final line-up shake down?

What's immediately notable about this year's slate is how reflective of a hugely competitive year it is, just like virtually every other category. Last year the directors branch threw us for a major loops, snubbing the likes of Ben Affleck ("Argo") and Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty") while giving a huge boost to first-timer Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") and foreign film player Michael Haneke ("Amour"). Do they have more tricks up their sleeve this year?

Click through the gallery story below to read up on the 28 names we think are in contention this season and feel free to offer up your thoughts on the Best Director race in the comments section.