NAME: Alfonso Cuarón
OSCARS HISTORY: 3 nominations (Y Tu Mama Tambien - best screenplay; Children of Men - best editing and adapted screenplay)
Cuaron’s breathtaking, head-spinning film about a pair of astronauts separated from their space-shuttle could well bag the Mexican his first Oscar win. This is his first directing nomination, and would be an extremely well-deserved win; Gravity received over 25 five-star reviews from major publications including Empire, Total Film, and ourselves.
NAME: Steve McQueen
FILM: 12 Years A Slave
OSCARS HISTORY: n/a
The only British director on the list, McQueen is a big favourite to take home Best Director for his take on the novel Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, Citizen of New-York. McQueen, 44, is the youngest director on the list. Incredibly, he would be the first ever black winner of an Oscar for Best Director.
NAME: David O Russell
FILM: American Hustle
OSCARS HISTORY: 2 directing nominations (The Fighter; Silver Linings Playbook)
Russell missed out on the gold in both 2011 and 2013 but will be one of the favourites to win this year, for his crime comedy-drama set in the 1970s and 80s based on Abscam, an FBI sting operation. He may be helped by the star of the moment Jennifer Lawrence and leading lady Amy Adams who both won acting prizes at last Sunday's Golden Globes.
NAME: Martin Scorsese
Film: The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar history: 1 win (The Departed) and 6 directing nominations (Hugo, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, Raging Bull)
It beggars belief that Scorsese has won only one Oscar for Best Director, given that we are talking about the eyebrows behind Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, and Goodfellas. The Wolf of Wall Street has attracted a great deal of attention for its depictions of bankers engaging in what its critics are calling sex- and drug-fuelled decadence; given this hostility, it is unlikely that Scorsese will be named Best Director, but the veteran is always in with a chance.
NAME: Alexander Payne
OSCARS HISTORY 2 directing nominations (Sideways; The Descendants)
Filmed entirely in black and white, Nebraska tells the story of an elderly father and his son travelling from Montana to Nebraska in order to collect a million dollars in prize money from a competition the father has won. Kermode and Mayo listed Payne’s odds of winning as 100/1 and he will do phenomenally well to beat contenders like Cuaron and McQueen.