Last year, Peter Jackson was a virtual shoo-in. But there's no clear front-runner among this year's contenders. It all depends on politics, and as we've learned as a country during the last few elections, you can't depend on politics to ensure the votes are counted correctly. Getting the 5,000 or so Academy Award voters to mark down Mel Gibson or Michael Moore will take some heavy campaigning. Can they pull off a nomination, or will voters pick a less controversial list?
The likeliest five: Bill Condon (Kinsey), Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ), Mike Leigh (Vera Drake), Martin Scorsese (The Aviator)
Other top contenders: Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), Taylor Hackford (Ray), Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), Joel Schumacher (The Phantom of the Opera), Oliver Stone (Alexander), Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers)
Last year's winner: Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)