Mel Gibson has been called the comeback kid after bouncing back from years of bad press to snag an Oscar nomination in the directing category. Gibson isn’t actually a kid — at 61, he’s the oldest director in this race. There is, however, a contender so young that his win would set an Oscar record.
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
The dazzling visuals of this musical seem likely to earn Chazelle the Oscar in this category. If he wins, he’ll be the youngest director ever to do so. Chazelle turned 32 in January, which means he’d beat the previous record-holder, Norman Taurog (who won for 1931’s “Skippy”), by about seven months.
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
The drunken driving, the crude language, the slurs — all have been forgiven thanks to Gibson’s new film, about a World War II soldier who refuses to carry a weapon but saves the lives of 75 men.
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
This director seemed to come out of nowhere with “Moonlight,” an artful and haunting drama about a gay kid growing up in a poor Miami neighborhood. Jenkins seems unlikely to win the Oscar, but the nomination should keep him in the Hollywood spotlight for a while.
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
This is the third film from the Bronx-born playwright (“This Is Our Youth”) who has become known for capturing sublime performances from top-notch talents like Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney. An Oscar might help everyone forget his screenwriting credit for 2000’s “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
Denis Villenueve, “Arrival”
The French Canadian director hit mainstream success with the moody crime thriller “Sicario” (2015). His science-fiction drama “Arrival” has been a hit — moody and shivery, with slow-burn pacing and a head-spinning climax — all of which could bode well for his sequel to “Blade Runner,” which comes out later this year.