​Oscars 2016: Take our Best Director poll

Nominees for the Best Director Oscar, from left: Adam McKay, "The Big Short"; Lenny Abrahamson, "Room"; George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"; Tom McCarthy, "Spotlight"; and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "The Revenant."

CBS News

Which of this year's nominees for the Best Director Academy Award do you think should take home the Oscar?

Check out clips of each nominated film below; then, vote in our poll at the end of this article!

Adam McKay, "The Big Short"

McKay, whose previous credits include the Will Ferrell comedies "Anchorman," "Talladega Nights" and "Step Brothers," told "CBS This Morning" that he found the characters of Michael Lewis' bestseller, "The Big Short," extremely compelling, bringing a human perspective to the 2008 Wall Street crisis. The story was also personal for him, as McKay had a close relative who lost a home, and several friends who lost jobs, as a result of the financial crash.

He said the film's comical twist helped convey a serious topic to the general public.

"So we sort of looked at popular culture and celebrity culture and have the idea of, 'What would happen if every time Kim Kardashian were on camera, she described the Libor rates scandal...?'" McKay said. "So it came from sort of poking fun at our celebrity culture and at the same time, wanting to convey information in a fun, light way because we didn't feel this was heavy material."

Out of that came the film's quirky, shifting tones, from sketchy financial legerdemain to satirical jabs, as when Margot Robbie explains sub-prime mortgages while sipping champagne in a bubble bath.

McKay received two Academy Award nominations, for directing and co-writing "The Big Short." The film's editors are also nominated, a rarity for a comedy.

Watch a clip from Adam McKay's "The Big Short":

George Miller, "Mad Max: Fury Road"

The most critically-praised film of the year, Miller's post-apocalyptic adventure is much more than just a extended chase involving an anti-hero fashioned after Alan Ladd's Shane and a plethora of bikers and hot-rodders in a scorching desert.

It's also a study in cinematic alchemy, deftly mixing practical and CGI effects, jaw-dropping designs, inspiring locations and invigorating editing to tell a tale of women subject to violence and servitude in war zones, and -- in Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa -- a rugged example of Girl Power who always has the upper hand, even if one of them is mechanical.

Fifteen years in the making (production was stymied several times), Miller's fourth film featuring the character of Mad Max is the most cinematically audacious.

"I never intended to make a second movie, let alone a fourth," he told Vanity Fair magazine. "But the story seeds in your head. I've become sort of hardwired for the imaginative life. There's nothing else I can do."

Miller was named Best Director by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and several other critics groups, and is up for Best Director and, as producer, for Best Picture. Previously he won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature for "Happy Feet."

Watch a clip from George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road":

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "The Revenant"

A year after winning the Oscar for "Birdman," an experimental tale, seemingly told in one extended shot, of an actor's nightmare as he approaches opening night, Iñárritu is back with an even more technically outrageous film. Set on the early 19th century American frontier, the film tracks the guide of a fur trapping expedition who is attacked by a bear and left for dead, only to fight and claw his way back to seek revenge against the man who killed his son.

Production of the film, shot in grueling conditions ("a living hell," one characterized it) with only natural light over a period of 11 months, employs camera and editing tricks to immerse the viewer as close to the brutal action as possible.

One long extended shot was comprised of 40 different takes (a mix of Steadicam and crane shots) stitched together.

Inarritu seemed to want to avoid filming in the comfort of a studio. "That's exactly what I didn't want," he told the Hollywood Reporter. "If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of s***."

Iñárritu won the Directors Guild Award, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA Award for Best Director.

Watch a scene from Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "The Revenant":

Lenny Abrahamson, "Room"

Abrahamson's tale of a young woman held captive by a sexual deviant, along with the child she has borne in captivity, is the most claustrophobic in terms of setting.

He was drawn to "the challenge of working with a kid that young," he told the Hollywood Reporter. "The challenge of setting half a film in an 11x11 box; the challenge of a movie that's in two halves with the 'exciting bit' in the middle, the bit that would normally be at the end -- all of that."

It was a confining space in which to shoot, with barely enough room for the two main actors, the cameraman and himself. "I often had to hide in the bath to be in the room but not to be in the shot," Abrahamson laughed.

Despite the dark premise, "Room" is unsentimental and even optimistic, which is a particular accomplishment given how much of the film's success rests on the authenticity of young Jacob Tremblay's performance as the little boy who knows nothing of the world outside the backyard shed where he has grown up.

This is the Irish filmmaker's first Academy Award nomination.

Watch a clip from Lenny Abrahamson's "Room":

Tom McCarthy, "Spotlight"

McCarthy's film recounts how the investigative journalists of the Boston Globe used their old-fashioned, shoe leather-style of reporting to work sources and dig through dusty archives to uncover the Catholic Church's cover-up of priests abusing children.

"We really kind of geeked out on the specifics of it, on the details [of] good, solid investigative reporting," McCarthy told "Sunday Morning." "We shot in the Boston Globe library, which looks exactly like that. And going through the old clips, and pulling clips, and paper, paper, paper, paper, paper. Directories published by the Catholic Church. And then devising a way to work backwards from them to locate priests.

"And as they said, it was very tedious and hellish work that they had to do. But it proved incredibly fruitful. Boots-on-the-ground journalism."

McCarthy said the filmmaking process replicating that probe was exciting, and surprising. "And we thought, 'Wow, this little bit of buzz we're feeling right now, this is what reporters feel.'"

In addition to his two nominations for directing and co-writing "Spotlight," McCarthy was previously nominated for co-writing the screenplay for the Pixar film, "Up."

Watch a clip from Tom McCarthy's "Spotlight":

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Winners of this year's Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood. The show will be hosted by Chris Rock.

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  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.