If you are getting a sense of déjà vu from this year’s director race, you aren’t far off. Several past Oscar winners in the category are back competing for another go at the gold. Even one of the frontrunner-newcomers, Argo’s Ben Affleck, is a past winner in the original screenplay category (Good Will Hunting), as is two-time directing nominee Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds) going for a third try with Django Unchained. Two of the best director winners in the past three years, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), are already back in the thick of the race trying for a matching Oscar for their followup film, a rare feat if either one can pull it off. Then there are the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Peter Jackson, Robert Zemeckis, and Sam Mendes—all past winners attempting to make room for another Oscar on their mantel. Some prominent past nominees are also back trying for a first win including Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, and Gus Van Sant. And could this be the year Christopher Nolan finally gets some love from his peers in the small Academy directing branch with his final Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises? Here’s a rundown of the top contenders for best director.
BEN AFFLECK | ARGO
Early in his career, Affleck took home an Oscar with cowriter and star Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting in the original screenplay category. But after an up-and-down career as a leading man, he found new respect behind the camera with his first two directorial efforts—Gone Baby Gone and The Town—winning critical acclaim and comparisions to Clint Eastwood. With Argo, in which he also plays the lead role, he has cemented his reputation as a directing force and has been a frontrunner in the category since the film’s debut at the Telluride Film Festival. But can he keep up the momentum all the way to February?