Dark horse directors vie for Oscars

Woody Allen seeks elusive nom for 'Barcelona'

A number of films this year stood out for their important subject matter or for deliciously entertaining audiences, but that doesn’t always translate to awards in the director category.

It’s a lesson Woody Allen knows well. Since his first statues for “Annie Hall” in 1978, Allen has been nominated 13 times for his writing and only five times for directing. His “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” was deemed one of his most entertaining films in recent times; could it pave the way to a director nom?

Or will a never-nominated Ed Zwick finally make it into the director race with his holocaust-vengeance story “Defiance”? Could the never-nommed Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects”) bust into the category with another WWII pic, “Valkyrie”? How about John Patrick Shanley — whose only prior directing credit was “Joe Versus the Volcano” — impress the Academy with his much more serious theater-to-screen adaptation, “Doubt”?

Newbies, on the other hand, sometimes break in on their first try. Sundance darling Lance Hammer could pull such a feat with his quiet Southern tale “Ballast.”

An update was made to this article on Nov. 5, 2008.