Credit: Good Night and Good Luck: Melinda Sue Gordon

Best Director 2006: Oscar’s likely contenders

A Taiwanese-born filmmaker who brought Brokeback Mountain‘s uniquely American love story to the screen with striking sensitivity? Ang Lee is in.

But he’s got competition. Sophomore director George Clooney used Good Night, and Good Luck to explore political fissures with remarkable subtlety. Debut director Paul Haggis mined racial tensions in Los Angeles in Crash without being preachy and delivered a sleeper hit in the process. And despite Munich‘s rocky road in the awards season, Steven Spielberg‘s DGA nomination indicates that he’s a good bet for his sixth career Oscar nod.

Woody Allen scored a Globe nod for Match Point, but voters may conclude that ”his best film in a decade” isn’t high enough praise, while James Mangold will likely have to settle for backseat status while his two Walk the Line stars win acting nods.

The fifth slot could go to Capote‘s Bennett Miller, another talented newcomer who made the DGA short list. Or Peter Jackson could sneak in for King Kong — though his recent trophy-Hoovering for The Lord of the Rings doesn’t deem him overdue. Fernando Meirelles scored a nod two years ago for City of God and could be a spoiler again for The Constant Gardener, as could Michael Haneke, if enough voters are upset that Caché (Hidden) isn’t up for Best Foreign Language Film. But we think it’ll be David Cronenberg, the auteur who with A History of Violence brought his unique sensibility to a vividly human story of love, loyalty, and deadly double lives.