The five film-makers nominated for the best director Oscar this year are among the most visionary and risk-taking in North America today.

Anderson roars back to the screen and could land his first directing Oscar nomination (he has two writing nods to his name) for his wildly ambitious and inventive adaptation of parts of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! From the opening, wordless section of one-man diamond mining to the volcanic finale in the bowling alley, he has crafted a dark and wonderful epic.

WHAT SCREEN SAID 'As an anti-western that shuns Hollywood romance in its drama and landscape, There Will Be Blood should play well in Europe and Japan, given its many unstated parallels to today's political and moral dilemmas. Anderson's film joins a long line of moral dramas about the allure of riches and the corruptibility of Americans in the stampede to accumulate wealth.' David D'Arcy

The Coens soared in 2007 with their bravura Cormac McCarthy adaptation, one of the favourites at Cannes this year and an end-of-year box-office hit for Miramax. An enormously confident slice of film-making from the co-credited brothers and easily their best film since Fargo. They have scored four nominations apiece this year, for producing, directing, writing and editing (under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes).

WHAT SCREEN SAID 'No Country is guaranteed to attract a healthy audience on the basis of the track record of those involved, respect for the novel and critical support. These will create the potential for a more commercially rewarding Coen brothers venture than recent comedies Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers.' Allan Hunter

TONY GILROY Michael Clayton
Gilroy made one of the most talked-about directorial debuts in years with his sharp-edged thriller about corruption in corporate America. An accomplished screenwriter of big-ticket Hollywood items such as The Devil's Advocate, Proof Of Life and the Bourne films, Gilroy leapt to the top of the directing A-list with Michael Clayton which has only gained in awards momentum since its release last September.

WHAT SCREEN SAID 'Michael Clayton is a slow, moody and insomniac thriller which wears its social conscience very much on its sleeve.' Roger Clarke

Reitman confirmed the promise of his first film, Thank You For Smoking, with a charming comedy whose success rests on the confident guidance of its young director. Perhaps a surprise inclusion in the final shortlist, the 30-year-old son of never-nominated Ivan Reitman has also scored the biggest hit of the awards season: Junohas stormed the US box office.

WHAT SCREEN SAID 'Reitman has taken his second feature far beyond the success of the uneven Thank You For Smoking. In Juno, he is more adept at balancing an ensemble cast. This is not easy language to have your actors speak, but Reitman's direction ensures you are laughing, and not thinking about the degree of difficulty.' David D'Arcy

JULIAN SCHNABEL The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Schnabel's third film is a directing tour de force, breathing spectacular life into the potentially static true story of a man who can move only one eyelid. Winner of the directing prize at Cannes this year and the Golden Globe for best director, Schnabel is not the first US film-maker to be nominated for a foreign-language film. Clint Eastwood snared a nomination last year for his Japanese-language Letters From Iwo Jima.

WHAT SCREEN SAID 'Julian Schnabel's flawless adaptation treads a similar line between the heartbreaking and the life-affirming to create a deeply moving film with the emotional power of My Left Foot or The Sea Inside.' Allan Hunter