Who will win Best Director? This is one of Oscar's most heated races.

We're just days away from Hollywood's biggest night -- the 89th Academy Awards (Feb 26 at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on ABC) -- which means it's crunch time. Time for you to fill out your Oscars ballot and lock in your picks!

Moviefone's editors are checking off their choices for who will -- and should -- win in all the major categories. And the nominees for Best Director are...

Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival")
Mel Gibson ("Hacksaw Ridge")
Damien Chazelle ("La La Land")
Kenneth Lonergan ("Manchester by the Sea")
Barry Jenkins ("Moonlight")

Here, we're sharing who we think will win, as well as who we feel truly deserves to take home the Academy Award.

Tim Hayne
Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle. I don't have much to say about this other than he is a shoo-in. He's already nabbed all the major directing awards (Golden Globe, BAFTA, Directors Guild), so if he doesn't win, it'll be a huge surprise.

Who Should Win: Kenneth Lonergan. Um, have you seen "Manchester by the Sea"? The man masterfully balances nuance and emotional heft to get the best possible performances out of his actors -- hey, it earned Casey Affleck a nomination for Best Actor. While I'd be surprised by a Lonergan win, I take comfort in knowing that, if he keeps making movies of this caliber, he'll surely be nominated again.

Phil Pirrello

Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle. The winner of the Director's Guild Award is usually expected to take home Oscar, and Chazelle won that prize and many more throughout awards season. His musical is confection Hollywood (and the Academy) seemingly can't get enough of -- and the Academy loves to award movies about movies/acting (see past Best Picture winners "The Artist," "Argo," and "Birdman"). Chazelle's "Whiplash" earned him Oscar attention; expect his latest film to net him Oscar gold.

Who Should Win: Kenneth Lonergan. Directing a flashy, original, LA-set musical isn't easy, and several moments in the film are swoon-worthy for Oscar voters. At the same time, writing and directing a movie as emotionally complicated and honest as "Manchester" -- without hitting a false note or veering into melodrama -- feels even harder.

Going into Oscar season back in September, Lonergan felt like the shoo-in for both Original Screenplay and Director -- maybe losing some edge on the latter to Chazelle. Buzz has cooled on "Manchester" as the hype has reached near fever-pitch on "White People Struggling in LA: The Movie" "La La Land." As a result, Chazelle is most likely to go home with the award, but I think in five or ten years, when "Manchester" is better appreciated as the masterpiece it is, voters will realize the Oscar should have been Lonergan's.

Rachel Horner

Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle. Oscar night is just a bit too predictable this year. I didn't love "La La Land." Not as much as every one else. The Academy can't stop praising this overrated film, so they might as well give him his first directing Oscar.

Who Should Win: Kenneth Lonergan. I have no idea what it took for Lonergan to make such a gut-punch of a movie, but I feel confident that it is worthy of an Oscar. If only his film came out a year after "La La Land" stole all attention.

Tony Maccio

Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle. Regardless of whether or not you feel there is too much hype surrounding "La La Land," it's hard to deny the talents exhibited by its director. His follow-up to "Whiplash" is an ambitious undertaking that, on paper, looks like a logistical nightmare. Onscreen, however, Chazelle seems to pull it off effortlessly, conveying the beauty and sorrow of trying to make it in Los Angeles.

Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins. Jenkins has a deep personal connection to the story that helps make his film so emotionally profound. The powerful nature of growing up in Liberty City gave Jenkins the ability to direct "Moonlight" from the most realistic place possible, resulting in a film that you can't help but talk about long after you leave the theater.

Drew Taylor

Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle. Quite frankly, the "La La Land" train cannot be stopped. With 14 nominations, tying it for the most Academy Award nominations of any movie ever, it's engendered the kind of goodwill that makes it virtually indestructible. (Honestly, the "backlash" that has been written about so much recently seems to have barely registered.)

Chazelle is already an Oscar darling; his last film, "Whiplash," was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and so for some this might seem "overdue" (even though its only his third feature and he is only 32 years old). Academy voters love a big-hearted, swing-for-the-fences type of feature, especially if its directed back at itself, and God knows there's enough "magic of Hollywood" cheeriness in "La La Land" to wrap around the entire globe (twice).

Who Should Win: Kenneth Lonergan. For some reason, the heat around "Manchester by the Sea" has become muted these last few weeks, possibly because of the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the film's star, Casey Affleck.

And it's a shame because the movie is so, so good. And much of that has to do with the naturalistic direction of Kenneth Lonergan (who also wrote the screenplay). Lonergan is a notorious tinkerer, a character trait that nearly derailed his last film, the fussy, incomparable "Margaret," and part of what makes "Manchester by the Sea" so miraculous is that it feels like it was sprung, fully formed, from his imagination. Few films were as profound or moving as "Manchester." And it's because of Lonergan's sure-handed direction that it plays so well.

La La Land Movie Poster
La La Land
PG-132016
Based on 53 critics

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