October Update - Even with the unusual amount of competition this year I feel safe in saying there is no scenario where Cuaron and McQueen aren't included. After that pair all bets are off. And if Scorsese and Russell crash the race as well? Forget it. Blood bath time.
Still Waiting: American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street
Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
He's been an art house celebrity for years. This time he's tackled Oscar friendly material without sacrificing his signature voice. It's a directorial achievement for the ages and has to be considered the frontrunner to win, even with Gravity's WOW factor as competition.
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips is such an impressive showcase for Greengrass's skill as an action director that in mot other years I'd say it was a sure thing. With competition being as rough as it is this year I'd say it will have to settle for being a very likely nominee. Full Review
The Coen Brothers - Inside Llewyn Davis
They've gone from gonzo outsiders to directing icons. This only misses if it's too small and artsy for them (A Serious Man didn't get a directing nod to go with its picture nod) or if the competition is too strong (a real possibility this year)
Spike Jonze - Her
The director's branch found room for Being John Malkovich even when the rest of the Academy didn't. Even if the Academy at large doesn't quite "get" Her history may repeat itself. It's hard not to be impressed surprising amount of emotion he wrings from this complex, challenging material.
Jean Marc Vallee - The Dallas Buyers Club
Even with all the showy directorial showcases like All is Lost and Her the safest bet might just be a straight-forward drama with an emotional punch. Nobody isn't going to say they didn't "get it".
Alexander Payne - Nebraska
The Academy loves him. He's coming off two straight directing nominations. This time though, I feel he will likely get crowded out by bigger contenders. Full Review
Ryan Coogler - Fruitvale Station
Fruitvale is his first film, but the Oscars often saves a spot for the breakout talent of the year. Just look at Benh Zeitlin last year. Full Review
Lee Daniels - The Butler
If there were one branch least likely to go for The Butler it's the directing branch, which leans more high-brow than the rest of the Academy. Full Review
Abdellatif Kechiche- Blue is The Warmest Color
John Lee Hancock - Saving Mr. Banks
Woody Allen - Blue Jasmine
The directing branch loves him. It's nominated him four times for films which didn't receive Picture nods from the full Academy. So this one may look too small, but you can't count Woody out.
Richard Linklater - Before Midnight
He's been at the forefront of the indie world for ages and the Before Trilogy is his crowning achievement. Time for recognition. Full Review
Ben Stiller - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Like Richard Linklater, Baumbach has been turning out acclaimed films since the mid-90's. Frances Ha is a career best, but is likely too small and idiosyncratic for even the director's branch. Especially with no shortage of indie competition. Full Review
Shane Carruth - Upstream Color
He doesn't have a prayer but I want to live in a world where making a film as accomplished as Upstream Color places you in the awards conversation so that's where I'm putting him. Full Review