Steven Spielberg — you’re familiar, yes? — has certainly come out of the gate with a bang. The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, which isn’t even in theaters until Dec. 22, has already snagged the first bit of brass courtesy of the National Board of Review, which gave Streep and Hanks top honors and awarded the film best picture.
But Spielberg shouldn’t start clearing mantel space for another Oscar just yet. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which came out in July, deservedly wowed critics and audiences alike with its taut, thrilling, and unusual storytelling and sound (cue: tick tick tick tick). Nolan, shockingly, has never been nominated for directing. Could this be his year? His fellow Brit Joe Wright, whose Darkest Hour covers the same time period as Dunkirk but from Winston Churchill’s war room, has also never been nominated. His shepherding of Gary Oldman’s transformation into Churchill could put him within reach of the gold. But Guillermo del Toro has no previous nominations in this category either, and his magical and stunningly beautiful The Shape of Water is a sight to behold. Acclaimed playwright Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has a razor-sharp script, and his direction — of the insanely good Frances McDormand in particular — should not be overlooked.
But all of them will have to fend off the fizzy frisson of fresh voices. Jordan Peele got the year off to a rollicking start with the scary- smart Get Out. Greta Gerwig delivered the best-reviewed film of the year (so far), the poignant and charming Lady Bird. It would make her only the fifth woman — in 90 years — to land a directing nod. Dee Rees could make it six — and she would be the first woman of color. Her Sundance darling Mudbound has been making audiences weep since last January. Call Me by Your Name showcases director Luca Guadagnino’s gift for capturing lush romantic longing, and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project sneaks up on you with its heartbreaking power. Still unknown is whether voters will go for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread — a film about art and obsession and Daniel Day-Lewis being really awesome. And could the Academy reward Denis Villeneuve’s visually stunning Blade Runner 2049, even if it wasn’t a financial success?
Last but not least, there’s Ridley Scott. If he’s able to pull off the impossible — completing reshoots of All the Money in the World, scrubbing Kevin Spacey and replacing him with Christopher Plummer — and deliver a great film, Spielberg won’t be the only directing legend in the theater on Oscar night.