Imagine with me — just for a moment — an alternate reality in which Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow hadn't been snubbed by the Academy for their compelling work on "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty." Oscar prognosticators would certainly have an easier time predicting this year's Best Director category ... because it would be one of the two.
As it stands, the field is an open and eclectic one, composed of up-and-comer Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), previous nominees Michael Haneke ("Amour") and David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook") and previous winners Ang Lee ("Life of Pi") and Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"). Will the new kid on the block school the veterans? Can a perpetual bridesmaid (bridesman?) finally consummate his relationship with Oscar? Or will it be business as usual for Lee or Spielberg? That's what we're here to discuss!
Who Should Win
Cover me, readers; I'm going rogue. Ben Affleck should win. He just should. And it's not just the slew of statuettes he's already collected (including a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Critics' Choice) that point to this conclusion, but also the Academy's own recognition of the gripping thriller, which did earn a Best Picture nomination. If a production begins as a jumble of puzzle pieces, then Affleck is a master assembler, crafting a narrative rife with drama, style and plenty of heart. Some observers (fine, this observer) might even dub the period piece the most enjoyable movie of 2012 (a statement I stand by). But until scientists put the finishing touches on that much-need time-traveling device, we'll have to keep our fingers crossed for a Best Picture win.
Who Will Win
Oscar predictions often rely on momentum — if a director's claimed a Golden Globe, or even more telling, a Directors Guild Award, he or she is usually a shoo-in for a Best Director win. But — surprise! — Ben Affleck won pretty much all of those, making this a tough one to call. But, with his film claiming a whopping 12 nominations, it seems most likely that "Lincoln" helmer Steven Spielberg will add to his impressive Oscar count. It could be close, especially with Ang Lee, but expect to see Spielberg at the podium.