From Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron to American Hustle’s David O. Russell to Inside Llewyn Davis’ Joel and Ethan Coen, writer-directors seem to dominate this season. And with so many in the race, there’s likely to be at least some overlap when Oscar nominations in the screenplay and directing categories are announced January 16. But these two categories can also be sources of surprise.
Last year saw the directors branch come up with one of the most astonishing twists of fate in Oscar history by trading Bens—Ben Affleck for Benh Zeitlin. Affleck was considered a frontrunner for Argo, but he was completely snubbed by his fellow helmers. Instead, the directing branch threw a curve ball into the race by nominating Zeitlin, the director of the indie darling Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Although Argo did go on to win best picture (and Affleck received a statuette for that as a producer), it became only the second film in modern times to achieve that feat without a directing nom, the other being Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. It makes you wonder what the quirky branch has in store this year.