Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
An ostentatious and often obvious cinematic exercise, but one executed with Aronofsky's singular and simple vision. It's hard to find fault with all the directorial flourishes and experiments when they're this controlled.
Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine
Every scene feels infused with humanity and authenticity. The actors are being guided by a sure and steady hand that gives them room to breathe, while knowing all the right emotional beats to hit. I can't wait to see what he does next.
Yorgos Lanthimos for Dogtooth
His sick little vacuum of a universe is expertly constructed and he seems to know exactly what he's doing. Every actor is on the same page and there is a magnificent control at work behind the scenes of this absurdist and arresting portrait of a disturbed family.
David O. Russell for The Fighter
If you walked into The Fighter expecting just another tired retread into the world of cinematic boxing, Russell assuages your fears from the first frame. It's clear that Russell isn't sanding his edges and his directorial stamp runs through this live wire of a film.
David Fincher for The Social Network
I truly believe that a lesser director (or certainly one not as inventive as Fincher) would have receded into the background and let the exercise become Sorkin's film. He does allow the script to do some heavy lifting at appropriate moments, but it is Fincher's direction that elevates The Social Network into a thing of visual splendor.
Debra Granik for Winter's Bone. The process of improvisation and long rehearsal has paid off once again for Mike Leigh in Another Year. David Michôd crafted a haunting debut with Animal Kingdom.
Danny Boyle for 127 Hours.
Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right.