Oscars 2020: Best Picture/Director split is looking inevitable, but for which pairing?

The Oscar nominations for the films of 2019 have arrived, and once again we find ourselves with the possibility of a Picture/Director split. Five of the nine Best Picture nominees are also nominated in Best Director: “The Irishman” for Martin Scorsese, “Joker” for Todd Phillips, “1917” for Sam Mendes, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” for Quentin Tarantino and “Parasite” for Bong Joon Ho. The presumed Picture frontrunner is “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” after winning at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards, but Mendes won the Directing Golden Globe and tied with Bong at Critics’ Choice. While Tarantino has been hailed for his directorial flair, it’s looking less and less likely that he will win his first Oscar for directing.

In the first 91 years of Oscar history, Picture and Director have split 26 times, with 30% coming just in the 21st century. This decade, it is statistically more likely that the Best Picture and Director winners are two different films, happening in five of the last seven years.

  • 2012: Picture: “Argo” / Director: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”
  • 2013: Picture: “12 Years a Slave” / Director: Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity”
  • 2015: Picture: “Spotlight” / Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu for “The Revenant”
  • 2016: Picture “Moonlight” / Director: Damien Chazelle for “La La Land”
  • 2018: Picture: “Green Book” / Director: Alfonso Cuaron for “Roma”

There is still the possibility of Tarantino turning the tides in Best Director, but Bong and Mendes fall much more in line with what the academy has rewarded in this category in the 2010s. They love accomplished technical achievements, of which “1917” is a clear showcase. The World War I film just about maxed out with 10 Oscar nominations, only missing for acting, costumes and film editing, all of which were unlikely anyway. To get support from all other branches including a surprise nom for Original Screenplay is a major sign of support. Mendes was the Best Director winner for his debut film, “American Beauty,” 20 years ago.

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Then you have Bong, who has charmed on the campaign trail and created one of the most unique visions of the decade in “Parasite.” Bong has been creating compelling genre films for years, like “Snowpiercer” and “The Host,” and now he’s finally gained the attention of the academy. It is a similar spot Guillermo del Toro found himself in with “The Shape of Water” two years ago. Of course, del Toro had already been on the academy’s radar with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but there was a compelling narrative about a visionary director finally getting his due, and it’s easy to see Bong having a similar driving force behind him.

This is not to count out Scorsese or Phillips, who both have a lot to be proud of considering “The Irishman” and “Joker” earned double-digit Oscar noms. Scorsese is the biggest legend of the lineup and has been a surprisingly consistent newsmaker thanks to his comments about Marvel, and there could be a last-minute push to get him this win. Then there’s Phillips, who has the film that leads all nominations at 11 with support from almost every branch of the academy. Perhaps the least likely scenario is Tarantino winning Director and another film winning Picture but in a fluid race, anything is possible. With two Oscars for screenwriting under his belt, Tarantino isn’t exactly hurting for hardware, but an overdue factor could kick in if voters realize he still hasn’t won a Director prize.

Be sure to make your Oscar winner predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the ceremony on February 9. And join in the thrilling debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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