Todd Haynes "Carol"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu "The Revenant"
David O. Russell "Joy"
Steven Spielberg "Bridge of Spies"
Quentin Tarantino "The Hateful Eight"
Other Contenders - Tom Hooper "The Danish Girl", Ron Howard "In the Heart of the Sea", George Miller "Mad Max: Fury Road", Ridley Scott "The Martian", David Gordon Green "Our Brand is Crisis", Danny Boyle "Steve Jobs", Sarah Gavron "Suffragette", Scott Cooper "Black Mass", Cary Fukunaga "Beasts of No Nation", Thomas McCarthy "Spotlight", Robert Zemeckis "The Walk", Stephen Frears "The Program", John Crowley "Brooklyn", Denis Villenueve "Sicario", Angelina Jolie "By the Sea", Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen "Inside Out", Judd Apatow "Trainwreck", Paul Feig "Spy", Alfonso Gomez-Rejon "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", Bill Pohland "Love & Mercy", Rick Famuyima "Dope", Alex Garland "Ex Machina", Michael Grandage "Genius", Jodie Foster "Money Monster", Paul Weitz "Grandma", J.J. Abrams "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens", Peter Sohn "The Good Dinosaur", Oliver Stone "Snowden", Marc Abraham "I Saw the Light", Courtney Hunt "The Whole Truth", James Vanderbilt "Truth", Paolo Sorrentino "Youth", Sean Penn "The Last Face", Justin Kurzel "Macbeth"
Commentary - It is funny how some races can change dramatically, yet some say the same. My top five has not changed since my early predictions, and unless something either dive bombs or rises meterorically at the fall festivals trio (Venice, Telluride, and Toronto), I don't see this lineup changing very soon. Todd Haynes is the only known entity at this point, and after years of quality work, Carol might be the first film that earns him a directing nomination. The other four are based on recent work, and their total careers. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu just won for Birdman, and the initial footage of The Revenant looks strong. David O. Russell now has three nominations in a row, and with that kind of streak, the Academy might finally give him the win, if Joy continues his streak of great films. Steven Spielberg is always a threat, and Bridge of Spies looks right up his alley. Finally, Tarantino would have been nominated for Django had Weinstein not bungled the initial release. It caught up in a lot of categories, but it probably needed more time for that tough director race. Either way, the Academy voters, after years of ignoring him (post Pulp Fiction), seem to finally being the insanity of Tarantino's brilliance, and The Hateful Eight looks like another hit. So that's it right? Of course not. Ridley Scott has The Martian, Tom Hooper has The Danish Girl, Ron Howard - In the Heart of the Sea, Danny Boyle - Steve Jobs, Steven Frears - The Program, Oliver Stone - Snowden, and Robert Zemeckis - The Walk. All previous nominees or winners, and all respected directors with great track records. Then there are those looking for their first nomination, something that always seems to occur. Thomas McCarthy has a great cast and a timely subject in Spotlight. David Gorden Green, the same, with Our Brand is Crisis. Cary Fukunaga could benefit from Netflix's crazy campaigns, John Crowley has a Sundance hit, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon a feel good hit, and Judd Apatow/Paul Feig, yet more successful blockbuster comedies. Then there is Scott Cooper, Sarah Gavron, Denis Villenuece, Angelina Jolie (on the directors side), Alex Garland, Justin Kurzel, Bill Pohland, Michael Grandage, Jodie Foster (another directing first potential), and Marc Abraham. Then there are big guys like the Pixar folks, J.J. Abrams bringing Star Wars to life once again, and of course the great George Miller, who not only deserves a nod for Fury Road, but for a stellar Hollywood career, and for taking an old concept and finally getting it just right. If there is justice in this world, he will not be forgotten come January.