2013 Oscar Predictions: Best Director - Ben Affleck Tops First Predictions

2013 Oscar Predictions: Best DirectorI didn't want to kick off the first batch of 2013 Oscar predictions with Best Picture. I felt it would dominate the conversation moving forward for the rest of the week and wanted to make sure we built toward Picture instead. However, I didn't want to go straight to acting either, figuring that would diminish a focus on the films themselves to start off the week (not to mention I'm seeing Won't Back Down tonight and I'd rather wait and see that before commenting on the actress races). That said, what better way to begin the Oscar conversation than with Best Director?

Looking at the field of directors we can not only discuss their work, but also the picture and the performances they were able to get out of their actors, which will hopefully set us up for a busy week of early dissection and continued anticipation for films seen, unseen and many to be watched again.

At this moment, I have 21 directors (technically 23 considering Cloud Atlas has three) on my predictions list. Of the 21 films they directed I have seen 12 of them with the likes of Django Unchained, Flight, Hitchcock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Promised Land and Zero Dark Thirty still to be seen.

Inside those nine films we see Quentin Tarantino, Robert Zemeckis, Sacha Gervasi, Peter Jackson, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg, Gus Van Sant and Kathryn Bigelow. These nine directors account for 17 Best Director nominations and seven Best Director wins. Among them six have won Best Director with Tarantino and Van Sant both nominated twice but never winning and Gervasi being the only one without a nom or win. I think we'll give Gervasi a pass as Hitchcock is only his second directorial outing and his first (Anvil: The Story of Anvil) was a documentary.

So, yes, it's still very early in the game and there is still a lot left to see from major talents, but you have to start somewhere and they wouldn't be called "predictions" if the end result was already known.

ArgoAs of now, my top five contains three directors whose work I've seen and three I have yet to see. I feel relatively confident in my top three, which currently places Ben Affleck (Argo) as my front-runner. With Argo, Affleck shows incredible control of a tight narrative that grows in intensity over its duration as he continues to prove he isn't a fluke filmmaker. He's yet to be recognized for Best Director after Gone Baby Gone and The Town, but that will certainly end this year. The only question now is just how much steam Argo gains after it hits theaters on October 12 and if it can maintain that buzz through December once all the heavy-hitters have been released.

Just below Affleck, and a name I almost moved into #1 at the last second, is the Oscar-winning director of The King's Speech, Tom Hooper. Hooper's win over David Fincher (The Social Network) in 2011 set the Internet on fire and it seemed like a win that would probably be his first and last, but in what seems like a scripted decision, Hooper goes and chooses to direct a musical as his follow-up and he decides to make that musical Les Miserables. On top of that, the pitch here is that the actors are singing live during filming rather than pre-recording, lip-synching and dubbing. What we have here, is a hook.

Of course, Slate's Aisha Harris has already taken the idea that this is a ground-breaking tactic to task, wondering if what Anne Hathaway said in the video you see embedded here is true. Hathaway says, "This is the first time anyone's ever tried it like this." Not true says Harris, citing films from 1932's Love Me Tonight up to Meryl Streep's Mamma Mia! only a few years ago. Granted, Mamma Mia! attempted this feat only to later have very little of the live recording used in the film, something Harris speculates will happen with Les Mis, but has the pitch already been sold?

The MasterIn third position I have Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master, a film that inspired a lot of conversation on this site over the weekend and one that will almost certainly earn Anderson a nomination, but I don't see him having much of a chance at a win. Once everything has been seen, he could become one of the directors that gets a nod because the Academy will feel the pressure to give him one, but won't likely end up handing him the trophy.

The Master, for that matter, poses an interesting question as to which film and filmmaker will The Weinstein Co. put most of their attention behind? Three major films from the Weinsteins are arriving in theaters in the coming months -- Silver Linings Playbook (dir. David O. Russell), Killing Them Softly (dir. Andrew Dominik) and Django Unchained (dir. Quentin Tarantino) -- and of those three where will they decide to make the greatest Oscar push? Will they divide their attention, perhaps pushing Silver Lingings for Picture and another name for director? Harvey Weinstein is the king of Oscar, and his strategy here will be interesting.

Silver Linings PlaybookSpeaking of Weinstein, in fourth I'm going with David O. Russell whose Silver Linings Playbook wowed Toronto audiences and captured the attention of film critics. It's a film that will likely make big waves once it hits theaters on November 21 and with Harvey behind it, he won't pass up the opportunity to take full advantage of the early buzz.

Finally, in fifth I have Ang Lee for Life of Pi, a film that looks extraordinary and earned plenty of buzz when it was teased at CinemaCon earlier this year. Lee has been nominated for Best Director twice before and won in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain. He's no stranger to Oscar and Life of Pi will have its coming out party very soon as it will open the New York Film Festival on September 28 before hitting theaters almost two months later on November 21. What will the early reactions tell us?

FlightWhen it comes to those below the bubble line, I am really looking hard at Robert Zemeckis and Flight. I feel there is still a film out there left to surprise us and this seems to be the only one that has earned a strong reaction from its trailer and one that seems to be positioned to blow the doors off. Not since Cast Away in 2000 has Zemeckis directed a live-action film and now his latest, starring Denzel Washington, will serve as the closing night film at the New York Film Festival on October 14 and was named the closing night film at the Chicago International Film Festival on October 25 before it hits theaters on November 2. I feel Paramount has something up their sleeve with this one and we could see a surprise trifecta of Picture, Director and Actor.

I'm also currently unsure of what to do with Michael Haneke (Amour). Directors of foreign language features aren't strangers to the Best Director category, but I'm not sure Amour will be looked at the same as films such as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, City of God or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's a film that could end up with multiple above the line nominations or could simply be relegated to Foreign Language Feature. Early kudos and reaction in December will help decide where it lands.

Other names that could easily climb the list as films fall by the wayside include Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild). I feel Joe Wright (Anna Karenina) may be on the outs should Les Mis end up the success many are thinking it will be and I'm not sure what will come of Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) as both return to territory they've already explored in Oscar-winning efforts.

Everything said, I have listed my top five below, but you can click here to check out the ranking of my full field of 21 picks as the 2013 Oscar predictions are now underway and will continue throughout the week and the rest of the year and into the next.

I will begin updating and revealing categories as the week goes by and throughout the month of October and you can keep up-to-date with the full list of categories right here. This is just the beginning and there is much more to come.

  1. Ben Affleck (Argo)
  2. Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
  3. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
  4. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
  5. Ang Lee (Life of Pi)


  • MajorFilmFan

    I think the winner will be either David O. Russell or Paul Thomas Anderson, but Ben Affleck has a chance

    My List

    Ben Affleck
    Paul Thomas Anderson
    Peter Jackson
    David O. Russell
    Tom Hooper

  • Winchester

    I think at present that's a reasonable list to propose, but I have the same feel that Flight could become a late contender and Zemeckis could squeeze in - probably at the expense of Ang Lee.

    I don't see Hooper winning again so soon, nor Anderson. I won't pretend to be especially big on Affleck and his previous films but Argo probably will be a contender. I think Weinstein will concentrate on Anderson and Russell at the expense of his other players unless the reception picture changes.

    I do think Bigelow could contend but Zero seems very similar to the arena covered in Locker so I doubt she would be nominated/win so soon for the same sort of topic in a film.

  • http://thesketchydetals.net Robert

    This is the first I've heard of a live piano track on a monitor being used when a director goes for live vocals in a music. Hedwig and the Angry Inch did live vocal to prerecorded backing tracks. Mamma Mia had to have tried the same--that music doesn't lend itself to much rhythmic freedom.

    As for Best Director, unless Les Mis is a disaster, Hooper will be nominated. I don't think he'll win. I can see Bigelow getting in just because we know at this point she has a strong base of support in the Academy and she's hitting on topical material. Again, I can't see a win but I could see the nomination. Zemeckis could play in the field if Flight is well received. Seems like a strong showcase for a good director.

  • http://cinesnatch.blogspot.com Cinesnatch

    1. Affleck
    2. PT Anderson

    3/4/5. Hooper / O. Russell / Spielberg / W. Anderson / Haneke / Lee *

    *. Dominik / Tarantino / Zemekis

    looks about right.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

    Obviously I haven't seen hardly any of these movies so at this point this is purely guesswork based on others opinions. Statistically though the majority of the time (i believe its around 75-80%) a director wins an Oscar the movie itself wins Best Picture and i can't go against such high numbers. I have Les Miserables taking best picture so i can't bet against Hooper taking home the best director Oscar. If this does happen he may well be the first director to win two oscars with his first two nominations.

    • Winchester

      That would actually be too hilarious for words watching the internet go into nuclear meltdown if Hooper won over Fincher and THEN Anderson two for two.

      I almost want that to happen now just to bear witness to it all.

  • Luke M

    You don't see PTA having much of a chance at winning? He's got the best chance in my opinion. Tom hooper just won two years ago, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is too feel good. And Ben affleck really? The academy won't give the Oscar for best directing to the guy who played daredevil over Paul Thomas Anderson. I'm sorry.

  • Jack

    At first, I was predicting Playbook for the win, after consideration I think it's gonna be Les Miserables. With the new voting, it's bound to be one of the last films watched, and even though there's a longer time to fill out final winners, I doubt the cranky old Academy members will change their mind after seeing it.

    I'm also predicting a Chicage type year-win for Les Miserables, and that means Hopper will not win Best Director. There will be a split and the winner will be Paul Thomas Anderson. Why? Because there is no way The Master wins best picture. i think it'll get nominated in the 3-5 slot. And I also don't think he'll win best original screenplay either-usually ambigious movies don't win screenplay.

    Mostly because he won in Venice, without the film winning best film. The complaint I hear is it's excellent filmmaking but not an excellent film, I disagree, it's the best film since probably Social Network or even There Will Be Blood. Plus, he's backed by Weinstein who, while campaigning all his films, will go hardest for Playbook in Picture and PTA in director. Hopper pulled off an upset against Fincher only 2 years ago, I doubt the academy will award a DIRECTOR twice that fast, it would be extremely rare. And I don't see a split with anyone else, because if their films win, they win best director.

    1. Paul Thomas Anderson
    2. Tom Hooper
    3. Ben Affleck
    4. David O Russell
    5. Steven Spielberg

    Ang Lee, Gus van Sant, Michael Haneke,Kathyrn Bigelow

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

    I think both our predictions are pretty much the same. The order is just different.

    1. Paul Thomas Anderson
    2. Ben Affleck
    3. Ang Lee
    4. David O. Russell
    5. Tom Hooper

  • Unknown/Anonymous

    If the Academy doesn't award Anderson with Best Director, then BAFTA most certainly will. This is because unlike AMPAS, BAFTA are more willing to give film awards to films that don't conform to a certain formula. Granted the two organisations agree on some occasions but BAFTA is an organisation that:

    Gave Best Film and Director noms to 'Drive' and Nicolas Winding Refn
    Nominated Chris Nolan for Best Director for 'Inception'
    Awarded the above prize to David Fincher for 'The Social Network'
    Gave 'Brokeback Mountain' the Best Film prize of 2005
    Awarded Martin Scorsese a more deserving Best Director award (for 'Goodfellas')

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    Here are my predictions in every category. Note: As far as the major categories are concerned, I'm only including films or people I feel are definite locks as of this moment in time. This list will change, naturally, as the weeks and months progress.

    Best Picture:

    Lincoln (mortal lock) - As of this moment, I have this as my favorite in most categories.
    The Hobbit (mortal lock) - Almost every year (with the exception of 2011) there is always at least one film that strikes a balance between critical reception and box office success. (2010 - Inception, 2009 - Avatar, 2008 - Benjamin Button, 2007 - Juno, 2006 - The Departed). The Hobbit will be that film.
    The Master (safe bet) - I agree with Brad's analysis. It's far too complex and abstract to win, but Oscar will definitely recognize PTA with a nomination.
    Silver Linings Playbook (safe) - I'm basing this prediction on the reaction from TIFF. I don't think it has a chance of winning. It doesn't feel significant enough and between now and January, buzz could drop significantly.
    Argo (safe) - This feels like it's right up Oscars alley. Smart, competently made, entertaining with good performances. It could win, but as of now, I don't think so.
    Les Misérables (pretty safe)
    Moonrise Kingdom (reasonably safe) - I see this falling into the late spring/early summer slot. We'll have to see how much buzz it picks up in the coming months to determine how much of a lock it is or if Anderson has a shot a director nomination.

    Best Actor:

    Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (lock) - The film could be terrible and he'd still get nominated.
    Joaquin Phoenix for The Master (lock) - He's in, and he might win, but we'll have to see.


    John Hawkes for The Sessions - I recently saw the trailer, and this doesn't feel like a serious Oscar contender to me. I'm only mentioning it because of Brad's review. If he got in, I feel it would be in the 4th or 5th slot (like Demián Bichir last year).
    Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson - The movie has been cast aside, but I feel he's still a contender.

    Best Actress:

    Keira Knightly for Anna Karenina (as of now, I feel she's safe)
    Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone (we'll have to see)
    Laura Linney for Hyde Park on Hudson (fairly safe)
    Helen Hunt for The Sessions (we'll have to see)

    Best Supporting Actor:

    Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (mortal lock)
    Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained (lock) - If Django Unchained gets nominated for nothing else, it will get nominated in this category.

    Best Supporting Actress:

    Amy Adams for The Master (safe)

    Best Director:

    Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (lock)

    Best Original Screenplay:

    Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master (lock)
    Richard Nelson for Hyde Park on Hudson (we'll have to see)
    Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom (fairly safe)

    Best Adapted Screenplay:

    Chris Terrio for Argo (lock)
    Paul Webb & Tony Kushner for Lincoln (mortal lock)
    Tom Stoppard for Anna Karenina (we'll have to see)

    Best Documentary:

    Impossible to predict

    Best Foreign Language Film:

    Amour (mortal lock)
    Rust and Bone (we'll have to see)
    The Intouchables (safe)

    Best Original Score:

    The Master (lock)
    Lincoln (mortal lock)
    The Hobbit (lock)

    Best Cinematography:

    The Master (mortal lock)
    Lincoln (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (safe)
    The Dark Knight Rises (fairly safe)
    The Hobbit (mortal lock)

    Best Visual Effects:

    The Dark Knight Rises (mortal lock)
    The Avengers (mortal lock)
    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Cloud Atlas (safe)
    Life of Pi (mortal lock)

    Best Editing:

    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (safe)
    Lincoln (lock)

    Best Sound Editing:

    The Dark Knight Rises (safe)
    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (lock)
    Lincoln (lock)

    Best Sound Mixing:

    The Dark Knight Rises (lock)
    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (lock)
    Lincoln (lock)

    Best Art Direction:

    Lincoln (mortal lock)
    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (mortal lock)
    Life of Pi (lock)
    Anna Karenina (safe)

    Best Makeup:

    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (lock)
    Cloud Atlas (mortal lock)
    Lincoln (mortal lock)

    Best Costume Design:

    The Hobbit (mortal lock)
    Les Misérables (mortal lock)
    Cloud Atlas (lock)
    Anna Karenina (mortal lock)

  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    I don't think it's PT's time yet... I think it's going to Hooper or O. Russel.

  • https://cinemaconfessions.com Gautam

    Nice to see you maintaining the subjectivity despite not liking some of the films above. I hope to see the same neutral judgement in other categories too.

    Just one queston, based on whatever I have read, and the buzz, aren't you giving too much importance to Anna Karenina. Currently it has RT of 70 which I expect will go down further once it releases for wide audience. Or are you going just by the material which you saw and thought "even though I didn't like it Academy is goign to appreciate it" ??

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AndrewJ.S./ Andrew J.S.

    1. Spielberg
    2. Affleck
    3. Hooper
    4. PT Anderson
    5. Tarentino

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

    I think the top three are all pretty safe, though I'd put Hooper in first as I really think Le Mis is the Best Picture frontrunner. The last two are pretty open, though I'd probably put Russell in there and I have no idea about #5.

    As far as the whole Weinstein question, I think they'll push Silver Linings hardest, as that will be the most palatable film to the Academy by far. They may give a little effort to The Master, but don't think Django or Killing Them Softly will get much love.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Cordia/ Cordia


    think the first 4 are pretty safe.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Andrew13/ Andrew13

    1. PTA
    2. Tom Hooper
    3. Ben Affleck
    4. Steven Spielberg
    5. David O. Russell

    I agree with others that if Silver Linings or Les Miserables wins Best Picture I see a split between Picture and Director, with PTA being recognized for The Master. Regardless of your views of the film (I happened to love it), it's hard to deny what a great directorial achievement it was. I think it's also a little early to rule out Spielberg, despite the lukewarm reception the trailer received it appears to be a beautifully shot and carefully constructed film, and we all know how much the Academy loves him. Maybe it's time for number three? Right now my vote's for PTA though.

  • aza124

    Top 5:

    1. David O. Russell
    2. Paul Thomas Anderson
    3. Ben Affleck
    4. Tom Hooper
    5. Steven Spielberg

    Dark Horses:

    Robert Zemeckis, Ang Lee, Michael Heneke, Quentin Tarantion, and Kathryn Bigelow.

    I think O. Russell, PTA, and Affleck are pretty much locked at this point. The other two spots would depend on the reception of the 6 films sight unseen (with Heneke getting in if everyone else falls through). It is still early in the season but I have a feeling O. Russell will win it this year.

  • http://www.filmrecord.wordpress.com Henry

    My top 5:
    1. PTA
    2. Steven Spielberg
    3. David O. Russel
    4. Ang Lee
    5. Quentin Tarantino

  • Jack

    1. Tom Hooper
    2. Ben Affleck
    3. Paul Thomas Anderson
    4. David O. Russel
    5. Quentin Tarantino

    It would be very interesting to see Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino in a face off, being that they are best friends and rivals who influence and inspire each other.

  • win

    Hey guys, Lincoln is gonna to sweep!!!!!

  • Ritesh Chhabra

    Top 5: 1.PTA 2.Spielberg 3.Affleck 4.Hooper 5.O'Russel

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    Nice work on the predictions, Brad. Granted I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard lots of good buzz for Looper - actually only positive. Slim chances for a Rian Johnson directing Oscar nom?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/urutete/ urutete

    I would like another name in the discussion. For me Sam Mendes can and probably will earn a first nomination for James Bond director. Judging from the trailers, I believe he has created something both spectacular and emotional, things that should not be overlooked.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mv11391/ Michael

    1. Ben Affleck (Argo)
    2. Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
    3. PTA (The Master)
    4. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
    5. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

    6. Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
    7. Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
    8. Ang Lee (Life Of Pi)
    9. Robert Zemeckis (Flight)
    10. Michael Haneke (Amour)

    11. Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises)
    12. Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
    13. Gus Van Sant (Promised Land)
    14. Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
    15. Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly)