By TIME Staff
January 16, 2015

Each year at the Oscars, there’s a divergence: Some of the Best Picture nominees are left out of the Best Director field, and, for the first time this year, a Best Director nominee fails to crack the Best Picture list. How can one of the year’s best films not be one of the best-directed? (Aside from the fact that there are more nominees for Best Picture than Best Director.) And how can one of the best-directed films of the year fail to be one of the year’s best?

It’s actually fairly straightforward: Directors like to honor veterans, strong stylists, and people who look like themselves. TIME staff writer Daniel D’Addario explains the history of the category and what they’ve honored over time.

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