Damien Chazelle "La La Land"
Ang Lee "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"
Martin Scorsese "Silence"
Morten Tyldum "Passengers"
Denzel Washington "Fences"
Other Contenders - Jeff Nichols "Loving", Nate Parker "The Birth of a Nation", Denis Villanueve "Arrival", Clint Eastwood "Sully", Warren Beatty "Rules Don't Apply", Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester By The Sea", Robert Zemeckis "Allied", Derek Cianfrance "The Light Between Oceans", John Lee Hancock "The Founder", Barry Jenkins "Moonlight", Tom Ford "Nocturnal Animals", David Frankel "Collateral Beauty", Stephen Frears "Florence Foster Jenkins", Oliver Stone "Snowden", Ewan McGregor "American Pastoral", Mike Mills "20th Century Women", Theodore Melfi "Hidden Figures", Yorgos Lanthimos "The Lobster", Tate Taylor "The Girl on the Train", Garth Davis "Lion", James Gray "The Lost City of Z", Cedric Jimenez "HHhH", David Michod "War Machine", Mel Gibson "Hacksaw Ridge", John Madden "Miss Sloane", Amma Asante "A United Kingdom", Peter Berg "Deepwater Horizon", Jeff Nichols "Midnight Special"
Commentary - Can Martin Scorsese win a second Oscar? A director who ranks up there with other multiple Oscar winners like Spielberg, Ford, Capra, Wyler, should have more than one Oscar on his mantel. But there is still competition this year. Ang Lee, another all-time great, challenges his personal best for Oscar number three, in a film that is my most anticipated of the year. Right behind these two legends is a legend in his own right. Of course I'm talking about Denzel Washington. Like other actor-directors Gibson, Beatty, Affleck, Redford, Eastwood, Denzel is hoping to make that jump to directing. The difference? He is already a two-time acting winner. Those other guys all won their Oscars in other races. If Fences is as good as we think it could be, then Washington is one to watch. I was kind of surprised when Chazelle missed the cut with Whiplash considering how much Oscar voters loved that film. He returns with an intriguing new musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Finally, after The Imitation Game was such a success, look for Morten Tyldum's foray into sci-fi with Lawrence and Pratt to be a big contender. Right on the outside is Nate Parker, due to recent controversies, Jeff Nichols who has yet to make a splash with Oscar voters despite great projects, indie favorite Kenneth Lonergan, Denis Villanueve's Sicario followup, and a slew of legends like Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, Stephen Frears, Mel Gibson, Oliver Stone, and John Madden. I am also intrigued by Derek Cianfrance, Peter Berg, Tom Ford, John Lee Hancock, and Tate Taylor's latest projects given Academy notices in the past. Finally, a slew of potentials are looking for some Oscar love including Barry Jenkins, actor turned director Ewan McGregor, Yorgos Lanthimos, Mike Mills, Theodore Melfi, James Gray, Garth Davis, Cedric Jimenez, David Michod, Amma Asante, and David Frankel.