Jane Campion – “The Power of the Dog”
The New Zealand filmmaker became the second woman ever granted a Best Director spot on the ballot when she competed for 1993’s “The Piano.” (There have only been five more since.) She also won for her original screenplay. But Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” swiped both the Best Director and Best Picture prizes that year. After a 12-year break since her last film, “Bright Star,” Campion has come back with a bang with her Western that stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a toxic cowboy who messes with his brother’s new wife as well as his new step-nephew. Campion could become the third female to win, following Chloé Zhao last year for “Nomadland.” Zhao’s predecessor was Kathryn Bigelow, who was the first female filmmaker to win Best Picture and Best Director for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker.”
George Clooney – “The Tender Bar”
Clooney earned a Best Director and Best Picture nomination for his 2005 historical drama “Good Night, and Good Luck,” about the conflicts between newsman Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy and his anti-communist agenda. He was also up for Best Original Screenplay and won for his supporting role as a CIA officer in “Syriana” that same year. He was a co-producer of “Argo,” which won Best Picture in 2012. Clooney has also earned Oscar nods for Best Actor for 2007’s “Michael Clayton,” 2009’s “Up in the Air” and 2011’s “The Descendants.” As for this year, his current film is a coming-of-age tale of fatherless young boy who hangs out at a bar with his uncle, based on the hit book.
Adam McKay – “Don’t Look Up”
Adam McKay, who got his start directing and co-writing such Will Ferrell comedies as 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and 2008’s “Step Brothers” switched gears a bit when he took on the 2015 adaptation of “The Big Short,” which dug deep into how the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 came to be. He would receive Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 2018, he took a darkly comical look at the foibles of the former Vice President Dick Cheney. The movie, “Vice,” earned eight nods, including Best Picture, and won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. His latest stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, and many more, and premieres on Netflix on December 24th.