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Oscar nominations: the director's cut

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 02 February 2010

Nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards are announced this lunchtime. And the most hotly debated award this year is the "best director" category.

The battle for the best director award at this year's Oscars is curiously reminiscent of the last American election. Two directors hotly tipped for the award, Lee Daniels, director of Precious, and Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker, could be vying to become the first black winner and first female winner respectively.

But it is not just a case of firsts, it is also one of exes: the third director tipped to be nominated, and odds on to win, is James Cameron, for Avatar, the highest earning film in cinema history (grossing even more than Titanic, another of Cameron's directorial forays).

Tipped, that is, until last Saturday, when his ex-wife Ms Bigelow won the Directors' Guild Award for her modestly budgeted film about the Iraq war, which has been compared to Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.

Despite the film's success at the Golden Globes last month, Avatar's special effects may have trouble swinging the vote against a powerful precedent: in all but six times in 61 years, the winner of the Directors' Guild Award has proceeded to win best director at the Oscars.

The Oscars, however, have an even more notable precedent: no female winners of the best director award in its entire 81-year history. If Kathryn Bigelow succeeds, she will be the first woman to win the coveted award.

But will she turn out to be Hillary Clinton to Daniels's Obama? The two were already pitted against each other for the Directors Guild of America awards. Daniels was the first African-American to be nominated in that category, and Bigelow the seventh woman to be nominated.

Only three of the six women previously nominated by the DGA have been similarly recognised by the Academy, and the only other black director to be nominated for the Academy Award was John Singleton for Boyz n the Hood in 1991.

Daniels's movie has received a good reception at the Sundance, Cannes and Tornonto film festivals throughout 2009, and his nomination tomorrow is widely expected.

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