DGA on the way

Posted by · 8:51 am · January 6th, 2010

J.J. Abrams on the set of Star TrekTomorrow the Directors Guild of America will chime in with its list of nominees for the 2009-2010 film awards season.  Long considered to be the best “predictor” of the Oscar game (as in, the DGA winner typically wins the Oscar for Best Director, and Best Director often matches up with Best Picture), this guild’s shenanigans makes for a heavily anticipated harbinger of the season.

Then again, maybe not.  In the last few years, names like Christopher Nolan, Sean Penn, Julian Schnabel and Bill Condon have popped up on the list, almost as if the guild was concerned with predicting the Best Picture race as it had done, five-for-five, for four straight years prior.  Those picks reflected the buzz of the early-year hour in each case, but ultimately, the Academy went a different direction with its Best Picture slate.

That said, “the 10” makes for an entirely different dynamic.  I actually expect (or maybe “hope” is the word) tomorrow’s announcement to inject some intrigue into the proceedings.  I think there will be someone shortlisted who catches a great many off guard.  But who will it be?

Of course, the “safe” line-up, in so many ways, would be the five Best Picture frontrunners.  So:

James Cameron, “Avatar”
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”

But I get the feeling Daniels is in something of a weak spot.  So who slides in?

If you still want to play it safe, I would suggest going with Clint Eastwood and the dubious “Invictus” for that honor.  The film simply caught on despite a thin, flat narrative.  I could easily see him slip in, but maybe DGA voters are smarter than I’m giving them credit for.  After all, few would consider the film top-tier Eastwood, and he’s only managed to make it into the derby when he reached the bar he’s set for himself.

Let’s venture further out.  Frankly, I think Lone Scherfig would be a smart guess.  This is “the year of the woman,” yes, but “An Education” is also a film that managed to chisel a fairly significant place for itself in this race with a PGA nomination this week, which followed a SAG ensemble bid a few weeks back.  This would be one more step toward completing the top guild quartet.  (It will likely be recognized by the writers as well.)

Truth be told, I really want to go with J.J. Abrams here.  The “Star Trek” director has plenty of friends and colleagues in the television ranks (who also vote here, in case you weren’t aware), and so I’d imagine anyone from “Felicity” to “Alias,” “Lost” to “Fringe” would want to chalk a nod up for him.  His work has employed a lot of people over the years.  And if he gets in, that would certainly go a long way toward securing his film a Best Picture nomination.  (Paramount has switched on the afterburners as of late.)

Instead I think I’m going to take a bit of a risk.  The “District 9” nomination from the PGA may have been much more telling than people realize.  Yes, it makes sense from a fiscal standpoint.  The film made money.  And it managed to do a lot with a modest budget.  But it was not a Hollywood production, after all.  It’s inclusion is therefore somewhat surprising.

Two days after I wrote that “The Messenger” looked like it could slide into the Best Picture mix, I find myself thinking that “District 9” will, in fact, be the last film to fill out the slate.  It began with the producers speaking up yesterday and, if I were to hazard a guess, I think it will continue with a DGA nomination for director Neill Blomkamp tomorrow.  Plus, Academy members are and have been talking about the movie.  It’s sticking.

But it could just as easily be Abrams and his film that makes the cut.  What do I know?  Alright, enough stalling.

My predictions:

James Cameron, “Avatar”
Neill Blomkamp, “District 9

Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”

What are your guesses for tomorrow’s DGA announcement?  Have your say in the comments section below!

→ 33 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

33 responses so far

  • 1 1-06-2010 at 8:59 am

    kmoore8435 said...

    I 100% agree with your picks. As I said on another site, Daniels would be the more conventional choice but I don’t think he gets in because the problems with “Precious” that most are having fall on his head.

  • 2 1-06-2010 at 9:04 am

    qwiggles said...

    Schnabel was still nominated though, so it all depends on whether you are reading this as a harbinger for best director or picture.

  • 3 1-06-2010 at 9:04 am

    Bill Melidoneas said...

    Which of the big four director’s would be most in danger of getting snubbed at DGA (or Oscar’s, even)?

  • 4 1-06-2010 at 9:04 am

    qwiggles said...

    Also, the lesson with both Schnabel and Nolan seems to be: never underestimate a British contender, even if the American guilds were “meh” on it.

  • 5 1-06-2010 at 9:05 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Bigelow, Cameron, Reitman, Scherfig and Tarantino.

    I feel so convinced of this I almost don’t believe myself.

  • 6 1-06-2010 at 9:06 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Schnabel isn’t British.

  • 7 1-06-2010 at 9:06 am

    Ali E. said...

    I agree that District 9 may get in here… And it deserves it to.

  • 8 1-06-2010 at 9:06 am

    qwiggles said...

    Weakest of the big four? Probably Reitman or Tarantino. But I don’t see either snub happening.

  • 9 1-06-2010 at 9:07 am

    qwiggles said...

    Guy, my point was that Atonement got in despite little guild support.

  • 10 1-06-2010 at 9:09 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Sorry! I had a bit of a brain fade there.

  • 11 1-06-2010 at 9:12 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    qwiggles: Yes, I was talking about DGA’s relation to Best Pic, which is why I went on about the 5/5 for four straight years thing.

  • 12 1-06-2010 at 9:17 am

    Harmonica said...

    Something tells me it’s either the Coens or Tom Ford who will fill out the last slate. I don’t know, just a wild guess. Hopefully I’m not wrong though, as I loved their movies.

  • 13 1-06-2010 at 9:21 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Would love to see the Coens, obviously, but I don’t think either is going to happen. It’ll be five from Abrams, Bigelow, Blomkamp, Cameron, Daniels, Eastwood, Reitman, Scherfig and Tarantino, methinks.

  • 14 1-06-2010 at 9:28 am

    Loyal said...

    I have

    alt: Blomkamp

    Hopefully Daniels and Eastwood are left out tomorrow. Let’s not celebrate mediocrity.

  • 15 1-06-2010 at 9:29 am

    Adam Smith said...

    Your DGA predix are my DGA predix. As well as my Oscar predix for Best Director. So, yeah, I agree.

  • 16 1-06-2010 at 9:35 am

    Ben M. said...

    I’m going with

    My guess is Tarantino misses here because he famously isn’t a DGA member and has clashed with the guild a couple of times and that might cost him some votes, but he will be on the oscar list instead of Eastwood (who, as mentioned, has only been oscar nominated when his film was backed by huge critical acclaim). Abrams or Bloomkamp wouldn’t surprise me at all, but for now I would list them as alternates.

  • 17 1-06-2010 at 9:40 am

    A.J said...

    That is a very interesting JJ Abrams theory.

  • 18 1-06-2010 at 9:48 am

    Ed said...

    I think this is a place where the Coens HAVE to hit, if not they may be on shaky ground :(

  • 19 1-06-2010 at 9:50 am

    Megan said...

    “Hopefully Daniels and Eastwood are left out tomorrow. Let’s not celebrate mediocrity.”

    I loved Precious, but its light is waning fast. I remember a point in time where some speculators saw it as this big Oprahesque frontrunner. Ah, well.

    As for Eastwood, he’s surely one of the hardest-working gentleman in showbiz, but we can’t give the man these obligatory handouts every year just because he has one project or another out. And that goes for his actors. I’m looking straight at you, Damon.

    I hope Quentin isn’t omitted because he isn’t a DGA member. I’ve always had this sort of reverence and fascination when it comes to him, and I want to see him come as close to an Oscar as he possibly can.

  • 20 1-06-2010 at 9:50 am

    Mike_M said...

    I like you picks Kris. I think Abrams or Blomkamp will be on over Daniels, but I don’t care who the 5th person is as long as it isnt Daniels (hell, I will take Clint).

  • 21 1-06-2010 at 9:51 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Echoing Ben, I was just reading a WGA story over at Steve Pond’s, which mentions that Inglourious Basterds isn’t eligible for the WGA, and sidenotes that Tarantino isn’t a WGA/DGA member and his films aren’t made under their agreements.

    I’d forgotten about that, which does make me wonder whether or not Tarantino is even eligible for the DGA.. I don’t remember them having rules like the WGA that you need to be a member to be nominated though, does anyone know for sure?

  • 22 1-06-2010 at 10:35 am

    Megan said...

    I don’t think you necessarily need to be a member. I guess some people believe it lessens your chances, though.

    Politics, politics, politics.

  • 23 1-06-2010 at 10:57 am

    The Other James D. said...

    Just nitpicking here: Why don’t you alphabetize the directors by surname, rather than by film? Always bugged me :P.

    I like your predictions. This is just the sort of game-changing nomination that a film like District 9 would net. (Whether or not it does though, I still believe it’s headed for a BP nom. The love is apparent.)

    I’m possibly with Guy, et al, that Scherfig will be the fifth slotter. But my gut is cautious, because in almost every year, a biopic is among the 5, and so is its director. So, there’s a precedent for Eastwood beyond “hey, it’s Eastwood”.

    And a little off-topic: It pains me to say this, as it’s either my #1 or #2 of the year, but I have a murky feeling A Serious Man will be snubbed for BP. It’s lack of support elsewhere is daunting, and with both District 9 and The Messenger on the rise, I fear it’s inevitable. As long as it doesn’t get snubbed for screenplay though….

  • 24 1-06-2010 at 11:03 am

    Raffi said...

    JJ Abrams
    Kathryn Bigelow
    James Cameron
    Jason Reitman
    Quentin Tarantino
    Alt. Neill Blomkamp

  • 25 1-06-2010 at 11:13 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    James: That’s the way it’s generally done, and definitely with the Oscars, so I’ve just followed suit.

  • 26 1-06-2010 at 11:20 am

    The Other James D. said...

    Oh, I see. I’ve seen them in Oscar history books listed alphabetically, but by you and IMDb via this method.

    Personally, I go by surname because I like to feel as if I’m acknowledging the person, rather than the film, as opposed to the nomination being one for the work and not the helmer behind the work.

  • 27 1-06-2010 at 11:44 am

    david said...

    I’m thinking Cameron, Reitman, Tarantino, Bigelow, and either Daniels or Scherfig (probably the latter).

  • 28 1-06-2010 at 12:52 pm

    Joel said...

    My two-cents:

    alt.: Reitman

  • 29 1-06-2010 at 12:54 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    James: Watch the Oscar nominations announcement closely. That’s how they do it. I guess it just stuck. The award is for “achievement in directing” and the film is highlighted, then the director, so it usually is listed alphabetically by film in official AMPAS documentation. The Oscar history books must have just simplified it by name or something.

  • 30 1-06-2010 at 1:47 pm

    Maxim said...

    What about Haneke? His film won at Cannes and while his film has been it’s been below the radar and only really considered for Best Foreign film, I can see him as the suprise nominee many are expecting.

  • 31 1-06-2010 at 8:16 pm

    qwiggles said...

    I think the 10 rule could change how best director gets voted on — now they have a pool of twice as many films to choose directors from right on their ballot. Might make them less likely to pluck stray wild card types…

  • 32 1-06-2010 at 8:53 pm

    Todd said...

    Why this backlash against PRECIOUS? Lee Daniels did an amazing job, and deserves to be recognized for his achievement. More so than an unnamed director whose movie was financed and produced by his Hollywood director father.

  • 33 1-07-2010 at 3:10 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    The Other James D: The answer is simple, really — because Best Directing isn’t by definition an individual’s award. When a duo of directors with different surnames can be nominated for their work on one film (as was the case with “West Side Story” and “Heaven Can Wait”), alphabetizing by film is the only solution.