Predict the DGA nominees

Posted by · 9:43 am · January 7th, 2011

Monday the guild circuit continues — at the start of what will be a very busy week — as the Directors Guild of America (DGA) unveils its list of nominees.

The age-old rule of thumb has been that this is perhaps the most consistently foreshadowing precursor, as the five DGA nominees tend to have a good shot at Best Director recognition, and the Best Director nominees tend to line-up with the Best Picture nominees, give or take (though with the 10, I think it might be safe to say that the idea of a “lone director” has been lost to the realities of probability).

Last year the five DGA nominees represented the perceived top five films of the Oscar race: Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino. The year before that, we all thought it did the same, but alas, Christopher Nolan and his film ultimately missed the mark with Oscar.

This year, if we’re to go by what the guilds have told us, the four at the top of the industry heap are “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Social Network.” They are the only films to have received PGA, WGA and SAG ensemble nominations. But there are some things to consider.

For starters, “The King’s Speech” would have no doubt joined that group had its screenplay been eligible for the WGA. And those five films, I think, would be our “top five,” as it were. So a decent set of predictions might be Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, David Fincher, Tom Hooper and David O. Russell.

But Joel and Ethan Coen’s “True Grit” has caught on late in the season (which Anne and I discussed at length this morning). It missed a SAG ensemble nod, which is somewhat vexing, but it’s turning on the heat at just the right moment. Plus, the DGA being a typically populist group, the film is right in their wheelhouse.

(And it should be noted that the SAG ballots were mailed on 11/24 and were due back 12/13, while DGA ballots were mailed 11/20 and aren’t due back until today. Obviously, then, there’s more time for a film to catch its stride within the DGA’s frame than the SAG’s.)

Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” also missed the SAG ensemble, but let’s face it: It’s a one-man show. All other signs point to it being a dominant figure in this year’s Oscar race. And the film is, if nothing else, a directorial showcase.

Then there’s Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which missed with SAG completely (save for a tip of the hat to the stunt ensemble). It has otherwise hit all marks (and will continue to do so as below-the-line guilds speak up). Nolan has twice been nominated by the DGA, both times missing with the Academy.

And those eight, I think, will yield our nominees. So…what to do? Your work is cut out for you. I’m going with these five and calling it a day:

David O. Russell, “The Fighter”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “True Grit”

Yeah, I’m betting against Darren Aronofsky, despite the guild love for his film so far. It might be crazy, but this is a big, diverse organization (over 10,000 members). I’m thinking “Black Swan” might register more in the micro than it does in the macro, but who knows?  I could be totally wrong.

Oh, one more thing.  There is, I think, “The Town” to consider. Granted, it’s probably in the #9 or #10 position for Best Picture right now, if it’s in at all. So if Ben Affleck were to manage a nomination, it would be something of a stunner (despite the fact that the film is right in the DGA’s cup of tea and is actually really well-liked by guild members).  And stunners are a bit of a rarity with the DGA.  Still, add a new log to the fire. That’s nine of my predicted 10 Best Picture contenders that, in my opinion, have a legitimate shot at getting a notice here Monday. Wowsers.

How about you?

[Photo: Paramount Pictures]

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43 responses so far

  • 1 1-07-2011 at 9:52 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    Nolan, Fincher, Aronofsky, Coens, O. Russell

    Or at least that would be the coolest potential lineup.

  • 2 1-07-2011 at 9:52 am

    James C said...

    David Fincher-The Social Network
    Tom Hooper-The King’s Speech
    Christopher Nolan-Inception
    Darren Aronofsky-Black Swan
    David O. Russell-The Fighter

    Can’t blame ya for predicting True Grit. As you said 127 Hours is certainly a director’s flick, but I feel Boyle is missing out. Interesting how the Coens and Boyle who have won the DGA in recent years, are completely missing out for me. I was thinking Russell might slip out, but now that you’ve said, maybe Aronofsky will.

  • 3 1-07-2011 at 9:56 am

    Jake D said...

    I’m thinking:

    Don’t really have a reason to think that the Coens wouldn’t get in, other than I think the other five will get in.

  • 4 1-07-2011 at 9:58 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Those five: Nolan/Hooper/Fincher/Aronofsky/Russell — are probably the safe picks. I just think the extended time in the balloting phase for True Grit to catch its stride will potentially allow it to bubble up.

    But it could really go a few different ways.

  • 5 1-07-2011 at 10:01 am

    JJ1 said...

    David Fincher-The Social Network
    Tom Hooper-The King’s Speech
    Christopher Nolan-Inception
    Darren Aronofsky-Black Swan
    The Coens-True Grit

    alt. David O. Russell-The Fighter

  • 6 1-07-2011 at 10:09 am

    Joseph Giancarlo said...

    1. David Fincher – “The Social Network”
    2. Christopher Nolan – “Inception”
    3. Darren Aronofsky – “Black Swan”
    4. Tom Hooper – “The King’s Speech”
    5.Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – “True Grit”

    The big question is “Will be David Russell over The Cohen Bros?” The other 4 are Locked!!

  • 7 1-07-2011 at 10:19 am

    Maxim said...

    David O. Russell, “The Fighter”
    Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
    Darren Aronosky, “Black Swan”
    David Fincher, “The Social Network”
    Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “True Grit”

  • 8 1-07-2011 at 10:22 am

    Sawyer said...

    I still don’t buy that Hooper will get in. Too many “due” auteurs ahead of him.

    My DGA Predix:

    Oscar will nominate O. Russell instead of Boyle.

  • 9 1-07-2011 at 10:26 am

    Graysmith said...

    Aronofsky, Coen, Fincher, Hooper and Nolan.

    With Russell as the alternate and Boyle as the dark horse.

  • 10 1-07-2011 at 10:30 am

    Joseph Giancarlo said...

    One thing we have to know is that Tom Hooper has to make this list otherwise his chances at Oscar are very dark an could harm the picture posibilities…I think.

  • 11 1-07-2011 at 10:30 am

    Graysmith said...

    I really can’t see Aronofsky missing out in favor of Russell, though. Black Swan is so much more an auteur/director’s vision kind of film than The Fighter. I feel fare more confident that the DGA will nominate Aronofsky than I am about the Academy doing it, though I’m sure he’ll get in with both.

  • 12 1-07-2011 at 10:38 am

    Andrej said...

    Boyle (ngng).
    Coen bros.

    Boyle could get in after getting the PGA nod. And as for Black Swan and The Fighter… their leads are the opposite of each other, despite having so many elements in common in their narrative.

    One of them would be my alternate pick.

  • 13 1-07-2011 at 10:58 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Graysmith: I think the smaller director’s branch of the Academy is more likely to nominate auteurism than the larger DGA. For instance, David Lynch was Oscar-nodded for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. The only time the DGA nominated him? For the much more accessible The Elephant Man. It’s a populist group.

    That said, Black Swan is doing so much better than I expected across the board (capped today by such a showing with BAFTA). So it’s cearly possible. I’m just trying to explain my reasoning.

  • 14 1-07-2011 at 11:13 am

    Maxim said...

    I don’t know if I ‘d use ever use David Lynch as an example of one group being (or not being, for that matter) populist. And was it out of sheer populism that DGA nominated Nolan for Memento when he was snubbed by the Oscars?
    Or when Reitman didn’t get picked up for “Juno”?

    I think the matter isn’t quite that simple and only wish I could offer a better word, but alas I cannot. “Open” doesn’t apply either.

    Subjectively speaking though, I tend to think of DGA has the group that actually has the sharper eyes for quality directorial work. Ron Howard notwithstanding.

  • 15 1-07-2011 at 11:20 am

    Anthony said...

    Agree that Boyle and Russell are the alternates here. Think it will be Aronofsky, Fincher, Coens, Nolan and Hooper. Though I wouldn’t rule out a Nolan shut-out.

  • 16 1-07-2011 at 11:22 am

    Dooby said...

    Frankly, I think Black Swan has been consistently underestimated all along.

    I remember being told by Kris when the film started gaining buzz for its performances that there was no chance of a SAG ensemble nod and look what happened.

    At this point, I know I’m not prepared to start leaving it out of predictions as it obviously has lots of support. Even Mila Kunis, the longshot, is getting across the board recognition!

  • 17 1-07-2011 at 11:51 am

    Marshall said...

    No way I see Cholodenko getting a nom. Not even as a dark horse.

  • 18 1-07-2011 at 11:55 am

    americanrequeim said...

    well if Aronofsky gets in we need to really start watching out for black swan

  • 19 1-07-2011 at 11:57 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Dooby: I freely admit to underestimating it. To Aronofsky’s face, even. My #1 film of those with a shot to be nominated for Best Picture. Go figure.

  • 20 1-07-2011 at 12:29 pm

    DylanS said...

    Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
    David O. Russell- The Fighter
    Christopher Nolan- Inception
    David Fincher- The Social Network
    Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit

  • 21 1-07-2011 at 12:35 pm

    Cameron said...

    Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
    Joel & Ethan Coen – True Grit
    David Fincher – The Social Network
    Christopher Nolan – Inception
    David O. Russell – The Fighter

    Fincher seems to have this in the bag but if anyone could overthrow him Nolan’s the man to do it.
    But Aronofsky deserves it most.

  • 22 1-07-2011 at 1:28 pm

    Lenny said...

    My predictions…

    Darren Aronofsky = Black Swan
    Joel & Ethan Coen = True Grit
    David Fincher = The Social Network
    Tom Hooper = The King’s Speech
    Christopher Nolan = Inception

    I’d be more inclined to agree with Kris’s assessment of Aronofsky were it not for the tremendous amount of guild support Black Swan has already received. I think Fincher, Hooper, and Nolan are safe bets for nominations. I think the Coens would be the ones on thin ice right now given True Grit’s lack of support from the HFPA. But the admiration for that film is growing steadily by the day, with pundits calling it the frontrunner over The Social Network. I think the Coens win out over Russell, but I think a snub is possible given the rising popularity of The Fighter among audiences and the guilds.

  • 23 1-07-2011 at 1:40 pm

    darklayers said...

    I think most of us would agree that David O. Russell’s reputation SHOULD not matter, but personal relationships/likability/reputations can sometimes play a part (e.g. Sandra Bullock, Jeff Bridges) though great work outweighs this stuff many times (Sean Penn, as Guy pointed out). Is russell’s rep less of an issue with the DGA being a much bigger pool.

  • 24 1-07-2011 at 2:19 pm

    eurocheese said...

    I’m fearful of Nolan missing. I can’t decide if the Coens are weaker than Russell, and they might both edge in. People love Aronofsky’s film right now, so I think he’s pretty solid both here and for a Director nod (I hope).

  • 25 1-07-2011 at 2:25 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Russell’s “reputation” is a bit overstated, to be honest. Cat nip for the media. The industry, not so much. If throwing tantrums kept you away from Oscar contention, believe me, no Scott Rudin film would ever come close to the award.

    The nature of the business.

  • 26 1-07-2011 at 2:43 pm

    DylanS said...

    I also look to the fact that they nominated Polanski for “The Pianist”, which tells me that they favor a display of skill over personal reputation. And Russell did quite a job of that with “The Fighter”.

  • 27 1-07-2011 at 3:12 pm

    Dooby said...

    I’m going to be boring and just predict the same as the Golden Globes director line-up, with Danny Boyle as the potential spoiler.

  • 28 1-07-2011 at 3:30 pm

    JackJack said...

    It’s impossible to overstate Russell’s reputation. He’s a vile man and has screwed over too many people. You can’t blame the media–actually, some of his worst stuff has never even gotten out.

    But people love an underdog story and building back up the people they tore down. So who knows?

  • 29 1-07-2011 at 4:05 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    So he put Chris Nolan in a headlock. Big whoop. He pales next to some of the worst, yet most heralded blowhards of the business. Hence: overstated.

  • 30 1-07-2011 at 5:32 pm

    Ben M. said...

    I feel good about four of my predictions

    Then the fifth slot is driving me crazy. I have the Coens as my prediction in the category at the academy, but somehow I think the late surge in momentum the film picked up may be better reflected at the oscar nominations than the DGA and don’t want to predict a 5/5 match anyway.

    Nolan seems to be very possible, but since I’m not predicting him for the Oscar nom it felt strange to predict him for a third DGA nom with no Oscar noms for directing (if that makes any sense). So I’m going with Cholodenko, though I have to admit Affleck is very tempting to pick as a wild card choice.

  • 31 1-07-2011 at 5:34 pm

    Ben M. said...

    Opps, the fourth choice I feel good about is Russell. I know the stories but I feel The Fighter is well-liked enough (I would probably place #3 if I was doing a BP depth chart) that the work itself will get more attention and I’m predicting him for both DGA and Oscar recognition.

  • 32 1-07-2011 at 6:21 pm

    Graysmith said...


    Fair enough. There are certainly a multitude of ways this thing could end up. It could be Aronofsky, Boyle and Russell nominated with the Coens and Hooper missing. I could really see any of them getting in or missing out.. But at least that’s exciting, a bit of unpredictability for once!

    I think the most shocking thing would be if Nolan misses out, after he was DGA-nominated for both Memento and The Dark Knight. Well, maybe if Fincher didn’t make it that’s be more shocking.. But that could never happen in a million years, of course.

  • 33 1-07-2011 at 6:30 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    Kris–tis also worth noting black swan’s strong box office.

  • 34 1-07-2011 at 7:02 pm

    Hans said...

    Coen & Coen

    I think that’s your five. DGA haven’t offered anything in the way of “surprises” in a few years now. I’m really tempted, oddly enough, to replace Hooper with someone else like Boyle, simply because of name recognition.

    I do think it’s great, though, that there doesn’t seem to be an obvious “five” like last year. Like you said, Kris, this category has about 9 different names that could come up. Extraordinary.

    Also, will you be doing Oscar Guide again this year after nods are announced? That was a great feature last year.

  • 35 1-08-2011 at 12:32 am

    JackJack said...

    Kris, I woldn’t be so dismissive of a really horrible human being with deep set emotional issues. He pales to no one. There are horror stories from many people who worked with him that are nauseating. Whether or not it should matter in awards races is one issue. But don’t understate this guy’s damage.

  • 36 1-08-2011 at 8:40 am

    Weliton Vicente said...

    Here is how I think the DGA will go:

    David Fincher, The Social Network
    Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
    Christopher Nolan, Inception
    Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
    Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

  • 37 1-08-2011 at 11:29 am

    Paul Outlaw said...

    Aronofsky, Coens, Fincher, Hooper, Nolan

  • 38 1-08-2011 at 11:50 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I know the stories quite well, Jack. I’m fairly close to the guy’s inner circle. But I won’t argue with the overall point you’re trying to make. Things do get blown out of proportion, though. Whether you want to believe that or not, up to you. But there are certainly worse people in this industry. MUCH worse.

  • 39 1-08-2011 at 5:01 pm

    Collin said...

    I always love this logic. It’s like saying of a rapist, “Well, at least he’s not a MURDERER…”

  • 40 1-08-2011 at 7:39 pm

    DylanS said...

    I think Russell, Hooper and The Coens are the bubble nominees, all for different reasons.

    Also, to way in on the issue of Russell, just because he’s thrown temper tantroms on the sets of his movies doesn’t mean that he’s an asshole in real life, and I hate when people assume such things. Sure, it’s certainly possible that he is one, but we don’t know that. While I don’t agree with his on set method’s, they are exactly that, methods. His on-set personality is something that actors assume whn taking on his projects, and I think it may be the key ingredient to making his films what they are.

  • 41 1-08-2011 at 8:10 pm

    Cordy said...


    I just don’t think Hooper is strong here, as I feel everyone here, among others did better work, and are MUCH MUCH bigger names (although that shouldnt matter).

    Aronofsky I don’t see missing. He is due to be welcomed into all the clubs, and this is clearly the film that will do that. If he doesnt hit for Black Swan, then he will probably finally get recognized in 20 years for a film that is more accessible than the wrestler

  • 42 1-10-2011 at 8:06 am

    Maxim said...

    Let me start over on this. I’ll approach this whole thing from a different angle for a slightly different set on names.

    Common sense dictates that Hooper should make the final five. It just does. If his film is as strong as many believe it is, it should carry him to a nomination. Otherwise, without this and editing, we’ll be looking at a very strange frontrunner indeed. I think that in a case of a movie this (supposedly) strong, not having a *big* name would be a problem.

    So whatever permuation of names we get should include him and Fincher.

    I am more worried about Coens than I am about Aronofsky or Nolan or O’Russell. But then there’s no denying their golden period. So let’s say they make it in, then whom does this leave out. My eyes dart to Nolan, for some reason. Then I am reminded why I picked him in the first place. Nolan stays.

    Cut to the chase here’s my new five:


    It’s going to be interesting to see which of the two picks is closer to being correct.

  • 43 1-10-2011 at 8:37 am

    Jorge Padron said...

    If DGA decides to provide us with a stunner. My all guts most likely no glory (wish) picks.
    Fincher, Nolan, Hooper, Aronofsky, Affleck.