David Fincher "Gone Girl"
Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu "Birdman"
Ava DuVernay "Selma"
Angelina Jolie "Unbroken"
Other Contenders - Morten Tyldum "The Imitation Game", Rob Marshall "Into the Woods", J.C. Chandor "A Most Violent Year", Christopher Nolan "Interstellar", Bennett Miller "Foxcatcher", Clint Eastwood "American Sniper", Mike Leigh "Mr. Turner", James Marsh "The Theory of Everything", Paul Thomas Anderson "Inherent Vice", Jean-Marc Vallee "Wild", Damien Chazelle "Whiplash", Wes Anderson "The Grand Budapest Hotel", Tim Burton "Big Eyes", Ridley Scott "Exodus: Gods and Kings", Matthew Warchus "Pride", Chris Rock "Top Five", Xavier Dolan "Mommy", Lasse Hallstrom "The Hundred-Foot Journey"
Commentary - Unbroken remains the last contender to be seen by wide audiences, but I still think it will land well, and land Angelina Jolie her first directing nomination. But if it lands soft there are plenty of folks waiting in the wings. For example, a lot of people are picking Morten Tyldum and/or James Marsh to fill in what is now being called The Kings Speech/Tom Hooper slot, but the films have to land well and prove their initial buzz before I will include virtual unknowns. Christopher Nolan has a lot of work to do to overcome Interstellar's soft landing. Rob Marshall could be back in this thing, as the initial response to Into the Woods has been mostly positive, but musicals have landed here in a while. Bennett Miller is finally getting Foxcatcher into theaters, but a lot of folks are calling it too dark to make it in (although for my money, he is really one to watch for. JC Chandor has made his most Academy-accessible film to date despite its darkness, Clint Eastwood is always a threat, Mike Leigh is beloved among the directors branch, many felt Jean-Marc Vallee was unfairly left off for Dallas Buyers Club, Damien Chazelle is a hot newcomer, and names like Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Tim Burton, and Ridley Scott are not to be ignored. But how about those other four slots? Gone Girl is one of those that is still flirting with Best Picture, but I think that the directors will love Fincher's work, and its box office total is proving that it is a well-liked film among broader audiences. Fincher barely missed the cut with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and this film seems to be much more accessible to voters. Selma came bursting on the scene at AFI Fest as a real contender, and we could have an historic race with two female directors nominated at the same time, and the first African American female nominated, as critics are praising DuVernay's direction as one of the key elements to the film's triumph. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is a previous nominee, and Birdman is his most praised and boldest work to date, and I expect the director's branch to jump all over it. Finally, I have left Richard Linklater off the list for months now, simply because I thought Boyhood would be to experimental, too subtle, and too small, despite the fact that it is brilliant, to survive the fall onslaught of major Oscar players. But despite the fact that most of the big players have turned out to be contenders, Boyhood has hung on. I am still a bit skeptical that the industry and the Academy may not love it as much as the critics, but it is the little film that could, and Linklater could get his first directing nomination.