This year’s nominees for Best Director include two previous nominees and three newcomers, and even though the winner has yet to be announced, the verdict is already in on who will walk home with the golden statue this Sunday night.

Jason Pesick
<p>Martin Scorsese looks to win the Oscar for Best Director</p>
<p>Courtesy of Miramax</p>

The frontrunner for the Best Director trophy is undoubtedly Martin Scorsese, whose “Gangs of New York” is nominated for 10 Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture. Scorcese has been nominated three times previously in this category for “Raging Bull” (1980), “The Last Temptation of Christ” (`1988) and “Goodfellas” (1990).The Queens-born Scorsese was snubbed each time, and many critics feel the innovative director is long overdue. Unfortunately, Scorsese was nominated this year for the wrong reasons. Many feel his nomination is more of a lifetime achievement award than a celebration of “Gangs of New York.” His latest film polarized audiences and critics; some called it a masterpiece and others called it a sprawling mess of an epic. Having already taken home a Golden Globe this year for “Gangs,” a matching Oscar is sure to follow.

Roman Polanski, perhaps the most talked-about nominee in any category of the 75th annual Academy Awards, is nominated for his work on the Holocaust film “The Pianist.” This is the third nomination for Polanski, who was previously acknowledged for his work on “Tess” (1980) and “Chinatown” (1974). Despite his recent nomination, Polanski will not be in the Kodak Theater this Sunday, as he is not legally allowed to enter the United States following accusations that he committed statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Following the rape charge, the controversial director fled the country and has not returned in more than a quarter-century and authorities have warned the Jewish filmmaker that he will be jailed if he tries to set foot on American soil.

Stephen Daldry, director of “The Hours,” is the longshot in this year’s race for the Best Director trophy. Daldry made his mark in 2000 with the surprise hit “Billy Elliot,” his second feature film. While Daldry’s work is adequate, his directorial style is overshadowed by the brilliant performances of his three leading ladies and Academy voters are likely to reward the actresses of “The Hours” before the director.

While “Chicago” is bound to take home the Best Picture trophy, director Rob Marshall is unlikely to take home an Oscar for himself. The first-time director has fierce competition and the Academy generally favors the veteran filmmakers. There is always the rare exception, as noted in 1999 when fellow theater director Sam Mendes won for the grossly overrated “American Beauty” in his film directorial debut.

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is up for his first Academy Award for the critically-acclaimed international arthouse film “Talk to Her.” The nomination came as a surprise to many as foreign directors are often overlooked. “Talk to Her” is a visual treat thanks to Almodovar’s creative genius, but the Academy rarely rewards such unconventional films.

One glaring ommission from the nominees this year is Peter Jackson, who was expected to be nominated for the second installment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Two Towers.” Jackson was nominated last year for “Fellowship of the Ring,” but the Academy seems to believe that because the trilogy was filmed all at once the sequel isn’t deserving of the nominations the first installment received (notice the absence of “The Two Towers” from the makeup and muscial score categories). Although Jackson’s absence is a travesty, the Oscar would have gone to Scorsese regardless of who the other nominees were.

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