Tom Hooper wins DGA Award

Posted by · 10:43 pm · January 29th, 2011

Even after “The King’s Speech” surprised at the Producers’ Guild Awards and took a dozen Oscar nominations, I held on to the notion that critical favorite “The Social Network,” a film more in line with the Academy’s recent choices, would emerge victorious on Oscar night.

However, Kris called it right. When the former film’s comparatively inexperienced director can beat a heavyweight field of Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan and the Davids Fincher and O. Russell to the Directors’ Guild prize — and for a film that’s widely been deemed, rightly or wrongly, an actors’ showcase more than a director’s one — it’s clear the tide has turned. It pains me to say it, folks, but the stammering-royal drama is your Best Picture winner.

That said, I’m not willing to hand Hooper an accompanying Best Director Oscar just yet. Although the Academy and the Guild have parted ways in this category just six times in 64 years, their last such disagreement strikes me as a pertinent one.

In 2002, freshman director Rob Marshall won at the DGA for runaway Best Picture frontrunner “Chicago,” leaving still-unawarded veterans Martin Scorsese and Roman Polanski on the sidelines. The Academy, however, wasn’t quite so welcoming to the newcomer: his film still emerged triumphant in the big race, but Polanski pipped him to the post.

Will the Academy be similarly reluctant this year to let the Best Picture juggernaut sweep its helmer to the podium ahead of four more seasoned (and three more due) filmmakers? I imagine they might be, but perhaps my vision is just clouded by my own personal bewilderment at the turn the race has taken. I’m no “Social Network” die-hard, but I think it’d be a shame to deny a filmmaker as significant and substantial as Fincher a career-crowning Oscar for such a universally approved vehicle, least of all in favor of a directorial achievement as modest as Hooper’s. But that’s me. Clearly industry folks feel differently.

Is the year’s most acclaimed film really going to wind up with just a writing Oscar to its credit? Even “L.A. Confidential” managed more than that.

In other news, it was no surprise that Charles Ferguson took the Guild’s documentary award for “Inside Job” — though with only a two-film overlap between the DGA’s and the Academy’s nominees in this category, it’s not the most conclusive of Oscar bellwethers. (Fun fact: in 20 years, just two DGA-winning docs have gone on to take the Oscar. Last year’s “The Cove” was one of them.)

Meanwhile, here’s some cold comfort for “Shutter Island” fans: Martin Scorsese just won his second DGA gong… for “Boardwalk Empire.”

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166 responses so far

  • 1 1-30-2011 at 1:03 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “Hooper’s murky looking, off kilter direction on the film was a hindrance, not an inspired choice. ”

    Direction isn’t solely about mise-en-scene. It’s not even accurate to call that “direction.”

  • 2 1-30-2011 at 1:14 pm

    Samuel said...

    “For me, it’s more fun to like what I like and refrain from begrudging the success of a film that is clearly not a dog by disrespecting it in the wake of another film’s failure.”

    Well said, Kris. I liked The King’s Speech, but I’d rank it about 7th in the Oscar ten. But I find myself wanting to defend it. It’s a good film, it moves people, it’s brilliantly acted, the art direction and costumes are great, it’s well scored and Hooper has some directing chops (I watched John Adams a couple of weeks ago, every minute of it’s seven hours is excellent). It wasn’t my favourite, but the Academy is democratic and that’s how it should be.

    Besides, if we’re talking about best director and not ‘film we liked best’ Aronofsky produced the best direction of 2010.

  • 3 1-30-2011 at 1:51 pm

    Andrew M said...

    I hope this doesn’t mean TKS will win ensemble tonight. It probably will, but The Fighter’s cast is just so good. I hope SAG doesn’t follow the other guilds.

  • 4 1-30-2011 at 1:56 pm

    qwiggles said...

    Come on, now: directing isn’t solely mise-en-scene, but it certainly includes mise-en-scene, and is largely defined by it in a performance-driven, 2 guys in a room piece like Hooper’s film. I can’t imagine a lot of people saying, for instance, “Hooper’s film has bad composition and blocking, but it’s the best directed.” Conversely, if you like those elements, you generally like his direction.

    That doesn’t mean managing actors, maintaining consistency in historical details, and tweaking the script and so on aren’t crucial parts of the job; it just means that the nature of voting for these sorts of things, as any of us who have made dream lists of our best director lineup know, is: you tend to put someone down for what you see as their signature qualities.

  • 5 1-30-2011 at 2:18 pm

    Afrika said...

    Andrew W
    I’m hoping for The Kids Are All Right to upset the best ensemble category. I would love to see Annette and the glorious Julianne Moore on stage at the same time, accepting their overdue awards.

  • 6 1-30-2011 at 2:29 pm

    Samuel said...

    The reaction of the Social Network fans on this site and others has increasingly made me want King’s Speech to win.

  • 7 1-30-2011 at 2:31 pm

    Sertan said...

    I really like this site…There is no big drama or drama queen (!), and noone gets hysterical and threatens to quit!!!
    And that is reflected on the level of discussion here!
    In my opinion, is Hooper the best of the bunch? I dont think so. But I also dont think that he doesnt deserve such negative criticism. His work is decent and his colleagues chose to reward him! And, DGA gave a middle finger to all critics and showed that they didnt need to follow critics’ path!

  • 8 1-30-2011 at 2:43 pm

    Sertan said...


    In my previous comment , I meant to say “But I also dont think that he deserves such negative criticism.”

    Since I cant edit my comment, i couldnt correct it there. Sorry for the confusion!

  • 9 1-30-2011 at 3:26 pm

    matsunaga said...

    “but I think it’d be a shame to deny a filmmaker as significant and substantial as Fincher a career-crowning Oscar for such a universally approved vehicle, least of all in favor of a directorial achievement as modest as Hooper’s.”

    I totally agree with this… Even if I love “The King’s Speech”, I really want Fincher to win this if not Aronofsky..

    But I guess it is what it is…. I hope the Academy pulls of a la Polanski this year and give it to either of the two…

  • 10 1-30-2011 at 3:52 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    qwiggles: Of course it includes it, but a number seem to want to relegate direction to JUST these camera choices, and it, again, betrays an ignorance of what it is to direct.

  • 11 1-30-2011 at 4:17 pm

    Alex L. said...

    Is it bad that my expectations for The Kings Speech have gone down considerably, I mean low because of all this talk about how it’s like stand up and cheer movie, but I just came back from seeing it and now I think it is the least film nominated in Best Picture?

  • 12 1-30-2011 at 10:31 pm

    sam said...

    Why don’t directors appreciate what Christopher Nolan brings to the table? I thought the kings speech was a fine film (someone said the english patient was way better — that was one of the most boring films to ever win best picture) but to win best picture? I would choose Inception, the social network, the fighter above the kings speech.

  • 13 1-31-2011 at 7:49 am

    le duff pascal said...

    Why do I have the uncanny feeling that next year, Dennis Dugan will win best director for his annual movie with Adam Sandler rather than Terrence Malick for ” The Tree of Life ” ? It is true that I have not seen that movie, but we can hope it’s pretty good. If THE KING’S SPEECH wins over THE SOCIAL NETWORK, it’s the ” nice ” movie that wins. A feel good movie, that’s basically all it is.

  • 14 1-31-2011 at 9:16 am

    bostonbean said...

    Why does everything from sports to politics to now movies devolve into this kind of vicious rhetoric? I can’t believe that most people really talk like this in real life.The reaction here is leagues ahead of other sites this morning but this site deserves better. We can all live up to the standards Kris and Guy have established by example.

    I haven’t seen all the films this year but from everything I’ve read before this last phase started, we have a very deserving list this year and should be thankful. Oscar prognostication is not some world saving thing, just a bit of fun so keep it fun.

  • 15 2-02-2011 at 10:11 pm

    Akash said...


    Your allusion to the 2002 race is a good one — and one I’ve made elsewhere — for even more reasons than you’ve described here. Allow me to explain.

    Aside from the fact that I think the DGA was voting for the Best Picture (or their favorite picture, which amounts to the same thing) rather than the best achievement in direction (these Guilds clearly vote for Best Picture instead of whatever they’re supposed to be voting for, which explains SAG Ensemble wins for the likes of Return of the King etc) while the Oscars (in which the entire voting body can vote in every category) can select a Best Picture AND Best Director and thus David Fincher could still win…there’s also the matter of the 2002 race.

    Yes, as you pointed out, it’s happened before. In 2002, Chicago swept the Guilds winning PGA, DGA and SAG Ensemble, just like The King’s Speech. This showed across-the-board support which helped it win Best Picture easily, but on Oscar night, it crossed the finish line a hobbled victor rather than a strong one, winning not a single other Top 5 category, and (significantly) losing Best Director to Roman Polanski. That year was supposed to be the make-up year for Scorsese, but Gangs was less than loved so it’s not surprising they snubbed him again, but the DGA could have selected Polanski and they didn’t. They voted for their favorite Picture and thus, Rob Marshall — a film novice from a different medium (the stage) just like Tom Hooper (television) — won over two legends (Polanski & Scorsese) and two well-regarded directors (Jackson & Daldry). However, when it was the Academy ‘s turn to vote, they had a chance to select a Best Picture and a Best Director separately, and they did just that.

    I realize it’s foolish to bet on the split since you’re inherently betting on something that rarely happens. But DGA winners have lost the Oscar before (Ok granted, not many) and we have an almost identical scenario in the 2002 race i.e. a popular film sweeps the Guilds but isn’t helmed by a director the Academy feels compelled to vote for. I think this is the salient point. In the past 10 years, the Academy has gone out of its way to select real auteurs (Soderbergh, Polanski, Eastwood, Lee, Scorsese, Coens, Boyle and Bigelow) or at the very least, directors whose career reputations were held in high esteem by their peers (Howard & Jackson) — they were all figures synonymous with their films (even the ones whose films lost Best Picture) while Rob Marshall and Tom Hooper (and for that matter, John Madden and Paul Haggis) are almost invisible behind their films. They’re not known for directorial prowess, for signature stamps on their films, for a body of work, and THAT is the similarity that resulted in Madden, Marshall and Haggis losing Best Director even as their films won Best Picture. I submit that Tom Hooper is in the same category. And I think that fact coupled with the reality that he will be facing four auteurs in the Oscar race with robust reputations as “real” directors, and we could easily see a split.

    Of course, if this all plays out like 2002, then Fincher would be Scorsese (an overdue veteran) and another respected peer who hadn’t won the Globe or the DGA (like Polanski) would win. I’m hoping for David O Russell in that scenario! :)