Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) - Sam competently directs his missus (Kate Winslet) and her old mucker (Leonardo DiCaprio) and paints a queasy picture of the American suburban dream gone askew.
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) - Shooting in India earned Boyle lots of respect and the movie is a sturdy critic-punter crossover favourite.
Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight) - Nolan crafted a comic book movie like a crime flick and stemped his own personal, psychology-obsessed touches all over it. We're more confident of seeing a nomination here than in the Best Picture category.
David Fincher (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) - Scandalously, the Academy ignored Zodiac. This could be where they put right the Fincher-wrong.
Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) - Aronoksky strips back his visual style and adopts a more naturalistic approach. Subtle and yet still stylised, he's become the kind of left-field indie - and the Academy likes to tip its hat to those types once in a while. (Also See: David Lynch).