With his ninth nomination in this category (and 20th overall), Steven Spielberg ties Martin Scorsese as the second most recognized director of all time. The three-time Oscar winner leads a pack of new inductees to the golden directors circle, including Todd Field, Martin McDonagh, Ruben Östlund and Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The Daniels’ nod is the fifth ever for a directing duo and the first one since Joel and Ethan Coen in 2010.
Todd Field, Tár
In his first film since 2006’s “Little Children,” Field tautly holds our attention for two hours and 38 minutes as he unspools his psychologically barbed tale of a mighty symphony conductor (Cate Blanchett) as she comes apart at the seams. Though he has been nominated previously for screenplay and picture, he is “thrilled” to be recognized as director for the first time. “Having the Academy acknowledge any work you might do on a film is something we all think about as kids — dream stuff,” he said.
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
There were as many opportunities for this film to careen spectacularly off the rails as there are multiverses in the story. But for Kwan and Scheinert, the muchness of their maximalist movie is the very thing that holds the everything, everywhere together. “We’ve stumbled into biting off more than we can chew,” Kwan said. “That makes a better movie at the end because we work twice as hard.”
Martin Mcdonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Only McDonagh could pull off the tonal highwire act of this film set on a remote Irish island idyllic in appearance only. The film explores mortality and loneliness with some shockingly gruesome violence. As Steve Pond wrote in his review, “‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is lovely and disturbing in equal measure, turning its darkest urges and blackest humors into a touching and evocative portrait of a time, a place, a community and a pair of crazy men.”
Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness
Östlund’s class satire set aboard a luxury yacht won the Palme d’Or at Cannes before earning three Oscar nods. “We worked really hard on making a movie that would work for an audience in the cinema,” the Swedish director said. “I wanted it to be an experience to watch together with other people. …The people who know about filmmaking, in the directors’ branch, also liked it. And that makes me especially proud.”
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
A coming-of-age story about a kid who falls in love with movies as his family falls apart, “The Fabelmans” is based on Spielberg’s life and is infused with the director’s familiar touches (like a child’s sense of wonder). As screenwriter Tony Kushner noted, “The big act of courage here is this guy, who’s a fairly private person, who’s used a lot of his family, his experiences, as a young person in all of his films. I mean, ‘E.T.’, when you watch ‘The Fabelmans,’ you see, oh, that’s where that came (from).”
In recent years, there has been a pronounced split between Best Director and Best Picture (only four matches in the last 10 years), and a clear frontrunner almost every time: Jane Campion in 2022, Chloé Zhao, Bong Joon Ho and Alfonso Cuarón before that. This year, the frontrunner is shakier; it might be Spielberg for making his most personal movie, but it’s hard to rule out the Daniels if “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the big winner.