“Neruda” has received universal acclaim from critics and has already been cited for Best Foreign Language Film by the National Board of Review and Critics’ Choice Awards, so the Chilean biopic starring Gael Garcia Bernal from director Pablo Larrain is in excellent shape for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Oscars. Larrain also directed his English-language debut this year, the biopic “Jackie,” and “Neruda” could potentially give him a pivotal boost in the Best Director race for the Kennedy docudrama.
“Jackie” is favored for nine Oscar nominations according to our racetrack odds: Picture, Actress (Natalie Portman), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, and Score, plus expected wins for Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling. But on the heels of his surprising snub at the Critics’ Choice Awards, Larrain is an underdog with 40/1 odds in the Oscars’ Best Director race, on the bubble for a nomination in seventh place.
However, we might be underestimating him as a contender. The directors’ branch of the academy often picks an arthouse filmmaker who had been overlooked by many of the major precursor awards. Consider Lenny Abrahamson (“Room,” 2015), Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher,” 2014), Michael Haneke (“Amour,” 2012), Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” 2012) and Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life,” 2011).
And it’s especially advantageous when a director has had two simultaneous awards contenders. The 2000s began with Steven Soderbergh picking up dual Best Director nominations for “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich.” That marked the first time since 1938 that such a feat had been achieved, as the rules had been amended in-between to prevent such an occurrence from happening for several decades. Soderbergh had won Best Director jointly for the two films from other awards groups — Critics’ Choice Awards, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association — but when he was nominated separately for the two films he lost to Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Directors Guild Awards. Ultimately, support was mobilized around him for “Traffic,” and he won the Oscar.
Steven Spielberg won the 2002 Critics’ Choice Award for Best Director for dual efforts: “Catch Me if You Can” and “Minority Report.” Although he received no other major nominations for his directing that year, both of his films were Oscar-nominated: Sound Editing for “Minority Report” and Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken) and Score for “Catch Me If You Can.”
Also that year, Phillip Noyce won the National Board of Review Award for Best Director jointly for “Rabbit-Proof Fence” and “The Quiet American.” Noyce failed to receive other major nominations for himself, but those two films remain among the biggest awards successes of his decades-long career. “The Quiet American” is his only film that has received an Oscar or a Globe nomination for acting (Best Actor for Michael Caine at both events) and “Rabbit-Proof Fence” is his only other film to receive a Globe nomination (Score).
Spielberg’s prolific nature manifested a couple more times this millennium. He received no joint nominations in 2005 when he helmed both “Munich” and “War of the Worlds,” but “Munich” still went on to earn five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Director for Spielberg. Maybe it was the blockbuster “War of the Worlds” — itself nominated for three below-the-line Oscars — that pushed Spielberg over the line.
Then in 2011 Spielberg’s “War Horse” scored another Best Picture nomination (though not Best Director). He also had the animated film “The Adventures of Tintin” out that year; it was nominated for Best Score.
Also in 2011, Martin Scorsese contended for both “Hugo” and the George Harrison documentary “Living in a Material World.” Although the latter was ultimately snubbed at the Oscars, it built plenty of momentum for Scorsese in the run up to the Oscars and was nominated by most precursors, including Best Documentary nominations from BAFTA and the Directors Guild, and a win at the Critics’ Choice Awards. “Hugo” then went on to win five Oscars from 11 nominations, tying “The Aviator” as a career-best result for Scorsese. He also won Best Director at the Golden Globes and National Board of Review.
Clint Eastwood is another famously efficient director. His 2006 companion pieces “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” jointly earned him the runner-up position for Best Director with the Los Angeles critics, and he was nominated separately for both films at the Golden Globes. At the Oscars Eastwood himself was nominated for Best Picture and Director just for “Letters from Iwo Jima,” while “Flags” only contended for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Jackie” and “Neruda” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.