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Not all pundits predict 'Slumdog Millionaire' helmer Danny Boyle will win the Directors Guild of America Award

January 30, 2009 | 10:07 am

Over the last 50 years, the Oscars' best-picture winner also bagged the top prize from the Directors Guild of America 40 times. What will claim the DGA trophy when it's bestowed on Saturday night?

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The five films nominated: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (David Fincher), "The Dark Knight" (Christopher Nolan), "Frost/Nixon" (Ron Howard), "Milk" (Gus Van Sant) and "Slumdog Millionaire" (Danny Boyle).

Over at AwardsDaily.com, Sasha Stone sighs, "There probably isn’t much to write about here as Boyle has this one in the bag. He has it so much in the bag, in fact, that I don’t even think I’ll run predictions because what would be the point?"

Well, Gold Derby decided to pursue the point anyway and pooled predix from lots of pundits, who back Boyle by a landslide, that's true. But I found a few brave (crazy?) souls who dare to stray. They include Bob Tourtellotte (Reuters), Kevin Lewin (World Entertainment News Network) and, well, me. All of us believe Fincher will take this. I even think Christopher Nolan (who's not nominated at the Oscars) has a shot. After all, there were a few notable cases of previous Oscar snubees actually claiming the DGA trophy: Ron Howard ("Apollo 13") and Steven Spielberg ("The Color Purple").

There are only 374 members of the directors' branch of the academy, but there are 13,000 members of the DGA and the vast majority do not make their living helming feature films. They do TV shows, commercials and music videos. They're younger and hipper than the academy gang. And here's another key consideration: They are not permitted, according to guild rules, to receive DVD screeners. I think it's safe to say that quite a lot of the DGA members haven't seen "Slumdog Millioniare." Maybe many haven't seen "Benjamin Button" too, but they've probably seen "The Dark Knight" and aren't so quick to shrug it off as a mere popcorn pic.

All three leading nominees have esteemed reputations as directors of art-house fare: Fincher ("Zodiac"), Boyle ("Trainspotting") and Nolan ("Memento"). That's important. Boyle and Nolan are British. Fincher's a Yankee. Is that important? This award is bestowed by the Directors Guild of America, let's recall.

I've decided to jump off a cliff for Fincher because I think the guild members -- even if they haven't seen "Benjamin Button" -- can tell from the trailers and TV commercials that it's an epic work full of impressive visual effects, spellbinding cinematography, sumptuous music and intense performances by A-list stars. The fact that it's based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story gives it literary cred. Furthermore, Fincher has an immensely high Cool Factor within directors' ranks.

However, here are the pundits pooled by Gold Derby who are backing Boyle: Brad Brevet (RopeOfSilicon.com), Edward Douglas (Comingsoon.net), Greg Ellwood (HitFix.com), Scott Feinberg (Feinberg Files, The Envelope), Marshall Fine (Star magazine, HollywoodAndFine.com), Pete Hammond (Notes on a Season, The Envelope), Elena Howe (The Envelope), Peter Howell (Toronto Star), Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly), Michael Musto (Village Voice), Mark Olsen (The Envelope), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), T.L. Stanley (Gold Rush, Hollywood Reporter), Chuck Walton (Fandango.com), Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere.com), Susan Wloszczyna (USA Today).

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Photos credits: Paramount, Fox Searchlight, Warner Bros.

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