The Oscar Warrior: DGA Nominations Paint Clearer Picture

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Yesterday, the Directors Guild (DGA) announced their nominations in the feature film category. Suddenly, it’s as if a veil has been removed from over all the secrecy and confusion surrounding the Oscars, mainly because they only pick five directors of five films, and when you put those next to the picks by the previous industry guilds like the actors (SAG), writers (WGA) and producers (PGA), it does make it clear that there are four solid frontrunners and one movie getting more support than previously thought.

In the last ten years, the DGA nominees have been 1 to 1 to the Oscar Best Picture nominees six times and that includes in 2002 through 2005 when there were still only five Best Picture nominees. In the last two years, all five directors whose films were nominated by the DGA had their films included among the ten nominees. This may be why the DGA is taken a lot more seriously than many of the other guilds and groups who have already announced their nominations and awards, because it really cuts down who may be making a speech on Oscar night.

This year’s DGA picks are:

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Alexander Payne for The Descendants and
Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Alexander Payne, Michel Hazanavicius and Martin Scorsese clinch the overwhelming support for their respective films, but the DGA nomination is a very good sign for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which already received a Producers Guild (PGA) nomination and a Writers Guild (WGA) nomination but was snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild and other groups, making many think it was out of the running for Best Picture. Having nods by three of the four primary guilds is a very good precursor for an Oscar nomination for Best Picture especially with the category having been expanded from five nominees a few years ago. That said, the directors’ branch is a much smaller group than the DGA and a relatively small percentage of the Academy, so one has to wonder if 250 members will make “Dragon Tattoo” their #1 movie of the year. The support by three guilds seems to point to the type of backing that could get “Dragon Tattoo” into the Best Picture race, but what does that mean for some of the other movies on the periphery?

For one thing, the lack of a DGA nomination is not good for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and Tate Taylor’s The Help, which really needed this DGA nomination to be taken seriously as Best Picture contenders. Both of them still have a very good chance to get nominated, especially with The Help‘s support from SAG. War Horse didn’t receive any SAG or WGA nominations and only has a nomination from the Producers Guild at this point. There’s still a chance that 5% of Academy members (including technical departments) might enjoy the movie enough to get it into the Best Picture race, but one has to wonder if Spielberg will get another Oscar nomination for his direction.

Support from the DGA means Woody Allen certainly has a good chance at getting his first Oscar nomination as a director since 1995’s Bullets over Broadway–it’s been even longer since he received a DGA nomination–and Midnight in Paris already has strong support from all other groups. Without a DGA nomination, Terrence Malick is less likely to get nominated by the Academy for his work on The Tree of Life, and that was a very important group to get behind the movie in order to improve its chances of a Best Picture nomination

The last eight directors who were honored by winning the DGA’s prestigious award went on to win the Oscar a month later, the only one who didn’t being Chicago director Rob Marshall who lost to the absent Roman Polanski for The Pianist. Nine of the last ten DGA winners were for the movie that went on to win Best Picture on Oscar night, the one hold out being Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, which lost to Crash on Oscar night. That’s a really good sign for the five movies above received DGA support for their directors and it’s going to be even better for whichever director ends up winning.