Best Director: 'Boyhood' vs. 'Birdman' teases the Best Picture battle
How many greats have found themselves on the short end of Oscar glory after being nominated for Best Director? Frankly, some of the greatest filmmakers of all-time: David Fincher, Gus Van Sant, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Pedro Almodóvar, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Terrence Malick, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman and Mike Leigh, among others. We're personally hoping that eventually "Birdman's" Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "Boyhood's" Richard Linklater and "The Grand Budapest Hotel's" Wes Anderson make it off that list, but only one will join the winner's club Sunday night.
Last year the Academy faced a similar quandary between the incredible work of Alfonso Cuarón ("Gravity") and Steve McQueen ("12 Years A Slave"). Eventually, Cuarón distanced himself from his contemporary and his win was "expected." That's truly not the case this season.
Linklater has earned raves for his 12-year journey making "Boyhood" since it debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival over a year ago. He took the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and won directing honors from both the New York and Los Angeles film critics groups. He also took home the Golden Globe and the British Academy prize, but his peers in the Directors Guild? That's another story.
After "Birdman" won awards from the Producers and Screen Actors guilds, the DGA bestowed its highest honor on Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The guild and the Academy do not always line up, though. In fact, this year was yet another example where the Best Director nominees did not match the DGA's, but the winners have generally been the same. Over the guild's 76-year history, there have only been eight times when Oscar produced a different outcome. Three of those were a result of the DGA winner not even being nominated by the Academy's Directors Branch, including Ben Affleck for "Argo" just two years ago. Ang Lee took the Oscar that year for "Life of Pi," and intriguingly, he is the only contemporary example of a filmmaker winning the DGA prize and then losing the Oscar to a fellow guild nominee ("Traffic's" Steven Soderbergh).
When looking at this category you have to wonder whether it will be part of a split with Best Picture (Linklater/"Birdman" or Iñárritu/"Boyhood"). But maybe history has already told us the winner. We're picking Iñárritu, but it does feel like anything could happen, so make sure you write a speech just in case, Mr. Anderson.
Biggest campaign moment: The night "Selma" and "American Sniper" debuted back to back at AFI Fest 2014, thrusting Ava DuVernay and Clint Eastwood into this race only to have them eventually get snubbed by their peers.
Should have been here: The absence of "Selma's" DuVernay and "Whiplash's" Damien Chazelle are the biggest head-scratchers here. Especially considering how both films earned Best Picture nominations and "Whiplash" earned Adapted Screenplay and Editing nods.
Will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "Birdman"
Should win: Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"