Oscars Watch Guide: Best Director

Michael Springthorpe
10 min readNov 20, 2022


In which we finally carve Steven Spielberg into Director Mount Rushmore. Updated 1/12/23

Best Director can be a mixed bag at times — sometimes a smaller movie will get a nod (like the recent trend of at least one international director getting recognized), and sometimes a sandworm-sized filmmaking marvel like Dune will win every technical award but not even muster a Best Director nomination. No matter what, though, it is a good indicator of Best Picture frontrunners. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s close.

As far as winners go, though, this year we’re set to break our two-year streak of awarding female directors. (Unfortunately, it’s looking like we may also break the streak of nominating female directors.) At least when we do it, it will be to acknowledge that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest to ever do it, give him his 3rd statue, something he’d share with only Frank Capra, William Wyler, and character-in-The-Fabelmans John Ford

In this series, starting below with the aformentioned category, I will outline my Predictions, On Decks, and Dark Horses to get nominated in the eight “major” Oscar categories. Hell, I’ve even thrown in Springthorpe’s Wild Card, a movie or role with zero chance of gettin nominated, but 100% worth your time. For each, I provide my take on the film and where (or when) you can find them. Let’s get going!


James Cameron — Avatar: The Way of Water

Where to Find It: In theaters now!

Power Ranking: James Cameron revolutionized filmmaking techniques to create an epic blockbuster smash barely contained by the silver screen. Then he worked for over a decade and attempted to do it again. But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about Avatar: The Way of Water here, I’m taking about the original Avatar, because Big Jim has already revolutionized moviemaking twice — all while making the highest-grossing film of all time along the way. He just recently lost out on a Director’s Guild nom, which hurts a lot, but I’m still confident the Academy won’t dare anger the Master of the Deep.

Springthorpe’s Take: Folks, the CGI in this movie makes the original look like Scorpion King. It’s one of the biggest movies ever made, even bigger than the first, and the technical prowess happening at every level is magnificent. You didn’t like it? I’m sorry for you. You purposefully haven’t seen it? Jealousy is a disease, get well soon ❤.

Daniels — Everything Everywhere All At Once

Where to Find It: On Showtime now, which is not a usual streamer, but is definitely worth it for more than just this (it’s A24’s go-to streamer home!)

Power Ranking: EEAAO is the little movie that could. From a small A24 release in March, it exploded, becoming the biggest word-of-mouth sensation of the year, and grossing more than any other A 24 film prior. There are plenty of stories, but a lot of what makes this movie really special came from the duo directing team of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. As creative geniuses behidn the madness, they’re getting pretty universally acknowledged by precursors, to the point they may have one of the most secure seats at the table.

Springthorpe’s Take: The Academy may be reticent to acknowledge this, but this movie is a directing MARVEL. An assault on the senses in the best way possible, the movie deserves to be nominated in every single eligible category (darn you, Visual Effects Shortlist!). If one performance or aspect of a movie is excellent, that’s good acting (or editing or sound or…), but if everything about the movie is excellent, that’s good directing.

Todd Field — TÁR

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: It’s clear that the Academy is set to have TÁR Fever (TÁRberculosis?) this year. As this movie dominates up and down the show, it all comes down to one man: Kubrick protégé Todd Field. Despite not being a scifi epic, this is one of the most “directed” movies this year. Loooooong shots, intense focus on Cate Blanchett, perfectly integrated sound. Then, on top of everything else, it’s a movie all about artists and criticizing the deification of stars. While the movie may falter elsewhere, Todd will definitely be a contender here.

Springthorpe’s Take: Look, my favorite directors are either Denis Villeneuve or Adam McKay. But Todd Field knocked my socks off with this joint! The best way I liked to describe it was that I felt secure. From the moment the movie started, I knew I was in good hands because of how expertly everything worked.

Martin McDonagh — The Banshees of Inisheerin

Where to Find It: On HBOMax now!

Power Ranking: Martin has been nominated four times for Oscars (winning just once, for his short film Six Shooter) and none of those are a Best Director nomination. Even in 2017, when his Three Billboards was the at-once frontrunner for Best Picture, he didn’t secure a nod. Banshees is better-liked than Billboards, and frankly, it’s much more artfully directed. As the movie meanders toward Best Picture Frontrunnership, Martin is sure to be lifted by the rising tide of Inisheerin.

Springthorpe’s Take: This is really a beautiful movie. All four of the major actors are excellent, but the way everything is shot and framed is (almost) a bigger deal. Taking place on an idyllic Irish island, Martin prisonifies the paradise, while also making you google “flights to Ireland”.

Steven Spielberg — The Fabelmans

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: Despite being the modern platonic ideal of a film director — and having a whopping 19 nominations — Steven Spielberg still feels like he hasn’t been recognized as much as he should be. It might be because he’s only won thrice — Picture and Director for Schindler’s List and Director for Saving Private Ryan. It took 18 years to get his first win, and it’s been 24 years since his most recent win. What I’m trying to say is: the question is not “Will Speilberg get nominated for his brilliant autobiographical film?” it’s “Will he win Director and Picture again?”

Springthorpe’s Take: Exquisite. Where TÁR is an expert showing off, The Fabelmans is a god creating worlds beyond comprehension before he even gets out of bed in the morning. It just feels easy to him, and you still can’t get enough. It’s also not unimportant that this is far-and-away Steve’s most personal work in a career famous for tinges of his personal life throughout.

On Deck

Joseph Kosinski — Top Gun: Maverick

Where to Find It: On Paramount+ now!

Power Ranking: Who could have expected the highest grossing film of the year (technically Way of Water beat it, but not until January) to be a sequel to Top Gun? Joseph, taking over for the late Tony Scott, had an unenviable job, but clearly pulled out all the stops and made an absolute knockout of a film. Add onto that the fact that TG:M is a lock for most, if not all, the technical awards AND Best Picture, and the director of Tron: Legacy could be get directing’s biggest nod this year. Plus, Big Jim didn’t get a DGA nom, but Speedy Joe did.

Springthorpe’s Take: It’s deserved. The film mostly takes place in fighter jets! I don’t even care about anything else, how do you even do that?!

Sarah Polley — Women Talking

Where to Find It: In theaters now!

Power Ranking: Even as its campaign has quieted recently as voters seem unsure who of the powerhouse cast to reward, Women Talking still feels poised to do well enough. Sarah Polley, as a quietly well-regarded director amongst those in the know, was once a layup for a nomination. Not to play the diversity checkbox game, but she’s the only woman with an even remote chance at the nom. Without a DGA nod (just ones from Critics’ Choice and Indie Spirit), Sarah may be out of luck this year.

Springthorpe’s Take: Another absolutely gorgeous film. There’s understandable confusion/dislike of the drab color pattern, but I loved it. Again, similar to EEAAO, if you have a cast thisbig and every one of them is getting buckets, that’s a sign of good directing.

S. S. Rajamouli — RRR

Where to Find It: On Netlfix now!

Power Ranking: India made the shocking decision of not selecting this movie — a genuine American hit for an Indian flick — as its candidate for International Film. Luckily, the movie is continuing to push on, with campaigns in all the major categories. Looking the most likely (outside of Original Song!) right now is Director, as S. S. Rajamouli just won the award from the New York Film Critics Circle, and gotten love from other (largely critics’) bodies. While a small precursor with no overlap with the Academy, the win bodes well for the movie’s chances of stealing the coveted One International Film slot in Best Picture and Director.

Springthorpe’s Take: Sometimes, you give out Best Director for the level of artistry, or the style of the craft. Sometimes it goes to an elder statesman who hasn’t had their flowers yet. S. S. deserves this because RRR is simply more movie than ever before. The film has multiple scenes with more extras, effects, and stunts than even the biggest Marvel movie. Plus, it has the magic touch in that all the CGI looks real, but the real effects look CGI.

Dark Horses

Baz Luhrmann — Elvis

Where to Find It: On HBOMax now!

Power Ranking: When I first published this guide, Baz was nowhere to be seen on the list. While Elvis did well, it was not that well received by critics, so I assumed it was destined for just a Best Actor nom, along with some technicals. But now it seems that the Academy is krazy for the King, specifically targeted at Austin and Baz! Getting your movie nominated for every technical award isn’t a guarantee for Best Director (just ask Denis Villeneuve), but Oscar loves it when the movie is musical and about a famous person they already know!

Springthorpe’s Take: I get it, I get it. Baz Luhrmann is the most “not everyone’s cup of tea” director out there. But he is so my cup of tea, I’m downing the cup and offering my shaking hand for another immediately.

Guillermo del Toro — Pinocchio

Where to Find It: On Netflix now!

Power Ranking: An animated movie has never been nominated for Best Director. If anyone’s going to break that streak, though, it’s one of the Academy’s all-time favorite directors. He hasn’t nabbed any serious precursors, but the vibe is still in the air enough that it may happen.

Springthorpe’s Take: James Cameron wins for me, but GdT is damn near close. They built all those little guys!

Ruben Östlund — Triangle of Sadness

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: The Academy looks set to buck more than just its trend of nominating female directors this year. No truly International film is safely getting a nod at this point. While RRR certainly has “more” directing, Triangle is poised ot clean up elsewhere — likely grabbing noms in Supporting Actress and even Original Screenplay or Best Picture! nominating Ruben would be cool, but if they go another direction he still has his TWO Palme d’Ors.

Springthorpe’s Take: The reason why he should be a bigger contender is that this movie slaps. While other directors like Todd Field or the Daniels could have their achievements eclipsed by a showy acting performance, the magic here is all Ruben.

Gina Prince-Bythewood — The Woman King

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: Twenty-five, forty-five, or sixty-five years ago, GP-B and The Woman King would be major players, if not frontrunners for Picture, Director, and countless other awards. The thing is, even ten years ago, GP-B would never have been given the chance to direct a sword-and-sandals epic like this. If the Academy decides they really love The Woman King, then Gina may be looking at a Best Director nomination, but unfortunately, a few things need to fall into place for that to happen.

Springthorpe’s Take: So deserved. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this movie is like Gladiator made in 2022. One of the biggest movies of the year, The Woman King feels tactile in a way that you just don’t get very often anymore. Sorry to say it, but da movieszh.

Springthorpe’s Wild Card

Domee Shi — Turning Red

Where to Find It: On Disney+ now!

Why It Has No Chance: If Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio only has a hair’s chance of getting nominated, then the first-time Pixar feature director’s comic book-y fantasy comedy about puberty is a flight of fancy.

Springthorpe’s Take: Brilliance! Brilliance! Brilliance! Not enough movies play with reality as a means to convey how the characters are feeling (and even perceiving the world). Turning Red, one of my absolute favorite films of the year, is very much a Pixar movie but is also so richly influenced by comic books and manga. Also, red pandas are great.



Michael Springthorpe

Camp Director, Teacher, Performer, and Writer who moved to New York City, then realized there's no woods here. @springthorpeman on Twitter and Instagram.