The Oscar contenders for Best Director -- Todd Solondz, Steven Spielberg, and John Madden are a few of our favorites

This much is certain: Steven Spielberg. With a best-director garland from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, a Golden Globe nomination, and his popularity among Academy members, his work on Saving Private Ryan makes him not only a shoo-in nominee, but most likely the one who’ll go home with his second directing statue on Oscar night. The other four nominations are up for grabs, though a Golden Globe nod bodes well for John Madden (Shakespeare in Love). The same can be said for Peter Weir (The Truman Show). Even though The Thin Red Line isn’t the crowd-pleaser that its war buddy Saving Private Ryan was, don’t count out Terrence Malick, a hero of just about every film-school alum working in Hollywood. (Since the Best Picture and Best Director nominations almost never line up exactly, Malick could be the odd man in.) Keep an eye on Roberto Benigni, especially if the Academy honors his Holocaust comedy, Life Is Beautiful, with a Best Picture nomination, and Sam Raimi, the stylish workhorse horror director who’s being taken seriously with A Simple Plan. Other possibilities include Warren Beatty (Bulworth), one of the most popular men on the Hollywood campus; Shekhar Kapur, already lauded by the Globes for Elizabeth; Bill Condon, for his quiet craftsmanship on Gods and Monsters; Gary Ross, whose high-degree-of-difficulty F/X-heavy work on Pleasantville has its share of devotees in Hollywood (despite a surprising snubbing by the Globes); and John Boorman (The General), the runner-up to Spielberg as the Los Angeles critics’ favorite director.

For Your Consideration
Dear voters, if you brave the graphic masturbation scenes and pedophilia plotlines of the much-discussed Happiness, you’ll find images that you’ve never seen before — and will probably never want to see again. Since Todd Solondz’s masterpiece/offensive oddity was dumped by Universal’s October Films (the production company Good Machine released it), a nomination for Solondz would acknowledge the noncorporate indie industry and strike a blow for out-there artistry.

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