Who will win?
This is a hard category to predict. Five stellar names are nominated: David O Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). And let's not forget the old adage that the Best Picture and Best Director prizes rarely go to different films (although it did happen last year with Argo and Life of Pi).
That said, we think that Alfonso Cuarón could actually steal this category whether or not 12 Years a Slave or American Hustle wins Best Picture. With ten nominations, Gravity is clearly hugely favoured by Oscar voters, and yet its lack of a screenplay nomination suggests that their admiration isn't total enough to give the film the Best Picture prize. If Cuarón doesn't win, then the winner of this category will also win Best Picture. At this stage, we believe that thinking just about equals a double win for American Hustle and David O Russell, although even a slight change in the wind could favour 12 Years a Slave and Steve McQueen come March 2.
Who else is nominated?
Martin Scorsese is nominated for his epic tale of badly-behaved bankers The Wolf of Wall Street and Alexander Payne is nominated for his black-and-white road trip comedy-drama Nebraska. Both will surely turn out to be also-rans.