25 Years Of DGA And This Year’s Oscar Race

Since 1993, do you know off the top of your head which director has been nominated with the Directors Guild of America the most times? That’s right, Martin Scorsese with 6. Then it is 5 for Steven Spielberg. And 4 each for Ang Lee and Christopher Nolan. As a side-note, those four filmmakers have had a very turbulent relationship with both DGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Look it up, but you’ll find the correlation between the two awards groups for these directors to be all over the map.

Spielberg has two DGA plaques to his name in those 25 years. So does Ron Howard. One would match Oscar for the win, the other he was not even nominated by the Academy. Ang Lee has two Oscars, and two DGAs, for 3 different movies. Not one of them won Best Picture at the Oscars. Mind-boggling. And that kind of head-spinning mentality is somewhere we are at now as we approach the business end of this year’s exhilarating awards journey.

DGALee

So I have my own interpretation of the awards season thus far – and where it might well be going. And honestly, I have hardly moved a muscle in regard to my own outlook on certain prizes come Oscar nomination morning. And, indeed, Academy Awards night in March. Let’s, for now, keep my personal perspective out of this (as much as I can). And see if we can discover any insights to Best Picture and Best Director prospects based on the revelation of this year’s five feature film directors nominated at the Directors Guild of America.

Before the announcement on Thursday, those of us in the awards race marathon could identify one hell of an open race. It has been for some time. And following a hefty bout of trying to predict the DGA nominees – who could sneak in, who is getting snubbed – it turns out the shortlisted five represented perhaps the only five that can win the Best Picture Oscar now. I say only, we rarely have a five-horse race. Let’s count our blessings.

I know, I know, much of you think Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is dead in the sand. So, what, the film and director continue to show up in pretty much every awards group, even six months after its release, to just make up the numbers? Have I got that right?

Then we have critical darlings, representing the black and female filmmakers respectively. Jordan Peele took to screenwriting and directing impressively with Get Out. While Greta Gerwig added a further arrow to her filmmaking bow with Lady Bird. You ask around the Oscar predicting world, many are certain one of these two is winning Best Picture.

Oh, and let’s not forget the two movies with what would appear to have the strongest momentum. Right now I mean. That abstract tide will change again. Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) and Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) both just came out of the Golden Globes as the top dogs (with Lady Bird). Because the HFPA still matter as Oscar indicators. Sure.

Let’s get beyond the Globes then. Sure, they used to point very accurately to where the Academy would be heading. The focus has shifted gradually, but significantly in the last 25 years. Over the years the race has been dominated by one film, and that hardly happens now either. But the likes of Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List), James Cameron (Titanic), Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Martin Scorsese (The Departed), managed the remarkable feat of winning Best Director at the Golden Globes, with DGA, and at the Oscars – as well as Best Picture. Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) also joins that illustrious list, but he was a very late-comer. There was a change in Academy voting, but not since Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) in 2008 has this statistic been repeated.

In that same period, since 1993, there were just five examples when directors won those three directing awards (Globe, DGA, Oscar), but their film failed to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Of course resulting in a Picture / Director split. Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) and Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) famously lost Best Picture at the very last hurdle. More recently Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant) steamrolled to victory without taking the Academy’s top prize. And then last year, Damien Chazelle  won all three, but La La Land unforgettably lost Best Picture.

DGA Chazelle

So with the Golden Globe under his belt, Guillermo del Toro is the one to bring this stat back on the map. Can The Shape of Water go on to win Best Picture too? We’ll have to wait, like with any of the big contenders, for the PGA and the results of the DGA. And with a healthy showing at the BAFTAs, del Toro is on the right path.

Let’s forget the Globes, then. How about Martin McDonagh for the DGA? In my opinion, the unlikeliest for this honor. He has not gained much traction in the directing categories  over the season. And a favorite for the SAG Ensemble, though I am not about to entertain that statistic as a Best Picture reflector.

If Greta Gerwig or Jordan Peele win DGA, then it could well and truly be game over. Either film, Lady Bird and Get Out, have the clear support to go on to claim Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars. The directors will, of course make history, so there is that. But also the fact both films dominated the critics Best Picture awards. But try selling that enthusiasm to Sideways and The Social Network. Even in a wide open, shifting race such as this, the DGA award still has game-changer importance.

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