Can we begin speaking about the Best Director race by shouting out a man whose mug won't be thrust up on the screen when the Academy Award category is presented on Sunday night? Would that be dredging up sour — at this point, moldy — grapes? Too bad!
Let's kick off this installment of MTV News' Oscar previews by stating something that should not be forgotten: "Inception" director Christopher Nolan got robbed. Dude made maybe the brainiest popcorn flick in history — one whose story shifted between five separate realities, yet managed both to avoid being excessively confusing and to reward further viewings. It grossed over $820 million worldwide and earned Nolan directorial nods from the Golden Globes, Directors Guild of America and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). And yet, no directorial Oscar nod? Please! A Best Picture nomination at the Oscars is welcome, surely, but simply not enough. Mr. Nolan, we'll pour one out for you and continue on with the preview.
That snub aside, only two directors ever really had a chance to triumph in this category — Tom Hooper for "The King's Speech" and David Fincher for "The Social Network" — and on Oscar night, either one could win.
In Hooper's favor is the fact that "The King's Speech" has established itself as the general front-runner, leading the field with 12 Oscar nominations and dominating the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Producers Guild Awards and the DGAs, among others. The DGAs are historically a very accurate predictor of the Best Director winner at the Oscars; only six times has the DGA winner failed to win the Oscar, most recently in 2002 when Rob Marshall ("Chicago") won the DGA but lost out to Roman Polanski ("The Pianist") for the Oscar. What's more, Oscar blogger Sasha Stone points out that only once before — with "Gladiator" in 2000 — has a Best Picture winner with 12 nominations lost out on the Directing award. So if we accept that "The King's Speech" is a lock to win Best Picture, we'd be taking on serious odds if we argued Hooper will lose to Fincher.
Our heads, then, tell us Hooper will come out on top. Yet our hearts keep telling us the "Social Network" director will end up the victor. Not because he won the BAFTA. Not because we think voters don't have a vested interest in punishing Fincher for declining to endure the tiresome glad-handing traditionally expected of nominees and instead going off to shoot "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" in Scandinavia. No, we have a feeling Fincher is going to eke out a win because he's the most deserving nominee.
Like Nolan, Fincher weaved together several different realities — in his case, one Harvard-based present and two lawsuit-consumed flash-forwards — gracefully and without a touch of audience bewilderment. Credit, of course, also has to go to scribe Aaron Sorkin and editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (all of whom are nominated in their respective categories), but Fincher is a known control freak and, in the end, "The Social Network" is his baby. His storytelling facility combined with his movie's au courant theme of digital, often insincere interconnection at the expense of compassion and true relationship-building make for a potent combination.
With "The King's Speech" and "The Fighter" potentially dominating the major categories, voters might well decide "The Social Network" deserves some top-tier love in the form of a Fincher win. In fact, we're going to take a risk, avoid any fence-sitting and call it: David Fincher will win this year's Oscar for Best Director.
Will it be a regal evening for "The King's Speech"? Can "The Social Network" dial up Oscar gold? Don't miss MTV News' "2011 Oscars Live" at 6 p.m. Sunday, February 27, when we'll be chatting with your favorite Hollywood stars live from the red carpet on MTVNews.com, and stick with us all Oscar night for winners, interviews, photos and more!