Oscar nominees: Director

Why he’ll win: Fincher’s rep has been growing with films such as “Fight Club” and “Zodiac,” and the Academy’s broad admiration of “Benjamin Button” may be the breakthrough he needs to take home a trophy. The risks Fincher took in making a film long thought unfilmable also should impress many voters.

Maybe not: For all its fine craftsmanship, Button may be admired far more than it is loved. The emotional distance many feel from the film may downgrade it enough in the face of more ebullient fare for it to fall short with voters.

Critical quote: “Benjamin’s saga is singular yet universal: Anyone who has contemplated his own mortality will find it hard not to be moved by Fincher’s evocation of the fickleness of fate. Lyrical, original, misshapen and deeply felt, this is one flawed beauty of a movie,” says David Ansen of Newsweek.

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