Best Director upset at the Oscars: Who is likeliest to beat Alfonso Cuaron?

The Best Director race can be summarized in two words: Alfonso. Curaon. The “Roma” director looks like the definition of a lock to win his second Best Director Oscar and his fourth Academy Award overall. He’s won at every precursor so far, including the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and DGA – plus more than a smattering of critics awards, too.

But if there was to, somehow, be an upset in this category, who would it most likely be? Here’s the rundown:

Spike Lee – “BlacKkKlansman”
Lee is long overdue a competitive Oscar, having only been given an honorary award in 2016. Like Cuaron, Lee is very much an auteur filmmaker who has a dedicated following. That impassioned support could see him pick up a few voters, and with Lee having made 25 films over a 35-year career, he has now reached veteran status. Plus, “BlacKkKlansman” is a great film that voters can really get behind, with its themes and story sadly just as relatable in today’s society as it was in the film’s 70s setting.

Pawel Pawlikowski – “Cold War”
A surprise nomination for many, Pawlikowski turned his BAFTA nomination into an Oscar one bumping out one of the DGA nominees (Bradley Cooper and Peter Farrelly). Academy voters clearly love “Cold War,” since it received three nominations in total. The internationality of today’s academy could appeal voters to vote for Pawlikowski. They’ve already handed Cuaron three Oscars – they may want to recognize another international filmmaker.

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Adam McKay – “Vice”
McKay’s movie is obviously not as polarizing as many of us thought. Yes, we keep hearing that some people love it and some people hate it, but how polarising can it really be if it can earn itself eight Oscar nominations? It’s also only one of two films to earn bids for all of the major categories: directing, acting, editing, and writing. It’s got support. And “Vice” is clearly its director’s film. It wears McKay’s style for all to see and is proud to do see – voters may want to appreciate such a singular, bold vision.

Yorgos Lanthimos – “The Favourite”
“The Favourite” was the other film to earn bids for directing, acting, editing, and writing, plus it earned the same amount of nominations that Cuaron’s “Roma” did – a leading 10. So, Lanthimos’ film has clear support across all categories and from every department of filmmaking. That cannot be ignored. Lanthimos, like Cuaron and Pawlikowski, is a foreign auteur – so again the internationality of the academy could come into play here. Only two of the last 10 Best Director winners have been American – Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” (2010) and Damien Chazelle for “La La Land” (2017). And Lanthimos, like McKay, is a director oozing his own, unique style. Voters could appreciate his singular vision, too. And, again like Cuaron, Lanthimos directs a female-led story – with three amazing roles. That could appeal voters to get behind his film, too.

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