Feinberg Forecast: Directors

DreamWorks II Distribution Co.

THR.com awards blogger Scott Feinberg shares his top five picks for best director at the 2012 Academy Awards.

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Hazanavicius, heretofore best known for directing the two OSS 117 comedic spy movies in France, has been warmly embraced stateside for daring to make -- and doing so beautifully -- a black-and-white silent movie in the 21st century. The unlikely best picture Oscar front-runner stars his OSS leading man and his own wife, provokes every emotion and has received a best director nod from the New York Film Critics Circle and noms from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Golden Globes.

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

This living legend has nothing left to prove, which makes his decision to work in 3D for the first time all the more admirable, and his mastery of a new medium, at the age of 69, particularly impressive. Moreover, for someone who always has been closely associated with very violent films, he demonstrates in this family film remarkable tenderness and heart. He has been voted best director by the National Board of Review and received noms from the BFCA and the Globes. He also will receive special tributes at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Critics' Choice Awards.

Alexander Payne, The Descendants

This master of dry humor has earned high praise for his first film in seven years, which many regard as his most mature yet. On Descendants, he traded in Nebraska (where he was born and raised, and where he has set most of his films) for Hawaii, and character actors (see Sideways) for an A-list leading man. Thus far, he's been rewarded with best director noms from the BFCA, Globes and Satellite Awards. He has an Oscar on his mantel for best adapted screenplay but has never won for directing.

Steven Spielberg, War Horse

The six-time best director Oscar nominee and two-time winner is back with his strongest Oscar contender since he last won 13 years ago for Saving Private Ryan. This film blends the intimate and the epic -- a family story and a war story -- in the same visually stunning and emotionally stirring way that his greatest films always have. (What's all the more amazing is that he made it while simultaneously finishing The Adventures of Tintin and prepping Lincoln!) He recently received a best director nom from the BFCA for his efforts.

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Even during the "rut," of sorts, that Allen has been in for the past few years, he still garnered many Oscar nominations for his actors and screenplay noms for himself. Now, with this tremendous comeback film -- a humorous and poignant tale about a neurotic writer nostalgic for a romanticized past that he has read about and now magically gets to experience -- he may well wind up with his first best director nom in 17 years and seventh overall (he won for Annie Hall). He received a best director Golden Globe nom Dec. 15.