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All five DGA nominees should make the expanded best picture race at the Oscars

January 7, 2010 | 11:00 am

It will be a shockeroo if all five of today's Directors Guild of America nominated films don't make it into the expanded best picture Oscars race. All five of them are already among the 10 films in contention with the PGA. The DGA nominees are Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), James Cameron ("Avatar"), Lee Daniels ("Precious"), Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds"). 

There had been speculation that non-DGA member Tarantino might lose out on a nod in favor of Clint Eastwood ("Invictus"). After all, Eastwood won two of his three DGA bids ("Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby") and was feted with the lifetime achievement prize by the guild three years ago. The PGA did nominate "Invictus," and he is contending at the Globes. Relative newcomer Daniels was snubbed by the Globes for his direction of "Precious," a performance-driven picture that lacks the flashy flourishes of other contenders. He is the first African-American to land a DGA nod.

Cameron -- the only past champ in this race -- won the DGA award with his only other bid in 1997 for "Titanic." Bigelow -- the one-time wife of Cameron -- becomes the seventh woman to vie for the DGA prize. The first six: Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties”), Randa Haines (“Children of a Lesser God”); Barbra Streisand (“The Prince of Tides”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) and Valerie Faris (a co-nominee with Jonathan Dayton for “Little Miss Sunshine”). Only Wertmuller, Campion and Coppola went on to contend at the Oscars.

DGA logoThe five films nominated by the Directors Guild of America have tended to be the ones that make the Academy Awards best-picture list. The DGA did not begin handing out awards till 1949, six years after the Oscars best picture race was whittled to five nominees.

However, last year DGA nominee Christopher Nolan was doubly disappointed -- neither he nor "The Dark Knight" earned Oscar nods, replaced by Stephen Daldry and his film "The Reader." Had there been 10 best picture nominees -- as there will be this year -- it is almost certain that "The Dark Knight" would have contended. Two years ago, DGA nominee Julian Schnabel did compete at the Oscars, but his film -- "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly -- did not, while DGA nominee Sean Penn and his film -- Into the Wild -- were both snubbed by the academy. In their places in the best picture race were "Atonement" and "Juno." For the five years previous to that, only one film cited by the DGA did not make it into the top Oscar category -- in 2006, "Dreamgirls" got bumped by "Letters From Iwo Jima."

While the films helmed by the DGA nominees are likely to make it into the expanded best picture race, it is by no means guaranteed that the DGA lineup of five nominated directors will be repeated at the Oscars. There is far more agreement between the films nominated than between the DGA list and Oscar's best-director lineup. For example, helmers of foreign-language art-house flicks like "City of God" (Fernando Meirelles) and "Talk to Her" (Pedro Almodovar) may make it into the Oscar race for best director, but that phenom occurs less frequently at DGA. 

The DGA champ is most likely to repeat at the Oscars. Since the DGA began handing out awards in 1949, the winning helmer has gone on to take home the Oscar with six exceptions:

1968 -- DGA to Anthony Harvey for "The Lion in Winter" and Oscar to Carol Reed for "Oliver!"

1972 -- DGA to Francis Ford Coppola for "The Godfather" and Oscar to Bob Fosse for "Cabaret"

1985 -- DGA to Steven Spielberg for "The Color Purple" and Oscar to Sydney Pollack for "Out of Africa"

1995 -- DGA to Ron Howard for "Apollo 13" and Oscar to Mel Gibson for "Braveheart"

2000 -- DGA to Ang Lee for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and Oscar to Steven Soderbergh for "Traffic"

2002 -- DGA to Rob Marshall for "Chicago" and Oscar to Roman Polanski for "The Pianist"

To predict the DGA remember these factors: The group consists of 13,000 members who primarily work in television, not feature films. About 8,000 live in the Los Angeles area -- the rest are scattered across the U.S. They are not permitted to receive DVDs, so they must view films at industry screenings or their local cineplex. And finally, DGA uses a weighted ballot, not a preferential one.

Photo: DGA logo. Credit: DGA

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The comments to this entry are closed.


Tarantino will win hands down. They will not give it to a female (sorry ladies) and they sure as hell won't give it to Cameron who directed a CGI movie? Yeah... Tarantino will finally get the recognition he deserves

There must be an Academy bylaw that says each rear there has to be at least one nominee of a movie featuring the Jewish holocost. (sp)

Zoe Saldana should at be given an Oscar buzz. These voters need to get with the times. This Avatar fansite is cool.

Precious winning would raise public awareness on the developmental disabilities of children of incest, if academy members were inclined to vote out of a greater sense of civic duty. Although many have mixed feelings about a very obese female on the oscar stage, too arthouse freak show for LA sensitivities.
On the other hand from a social engineering perspective, Up in the air, deserves an award for its portrayal of the dominant corporate male and his pathetic punching bag. He is such a loser to his superiors and so cool to his subordinates. She is an administrative dream come true for an even lower glass ceiling.

The most important point is that intelligent and powerful women should not have a part in the film propaganda machine, because then the jerk male character counterparts will actually have interesting dialogue to play off of, and that would make the whole big-small as lame as it already is. But who knows, there's a change of guard if you haven't noticed.


John Singleton did not receive a DGA nomination in 1992. He was the only Oscar nominated director who did not make the DGA list that year. Guess who was included instead? The noted African American director Barbra Streisand for The Prince of Tides.

1992 Director nominees (for films released in 1991) were:


The Silence of the Lambs - Jonathan Demme
Bugsy - Barry Levinson
JFK - Oliver Stone
Thelma & Louise - Ridley Scott
Boyz n the Hood - John Singleton


The Silence of the Lambs - Jonathan Demme
Bugsy - Barry Levinson
JFK - Oliver Stone
Thelma & Louise - Ridley Scott
The Prince of Tides - Barbra Streisand

Lee Daniels is the first African-American nominated for a DGA Motion Picture award. Singleton, as well as Spike Lee, were never nominated for a DGA.

Um, Matty

John Singleton did NOT get a DGA nod.

Tarantino was nominated by the DGA for Pulp Fiction.

John Singleton Won a DGA Nod/Oscar Nod for "Boyz N'The Hood",as well as writing nods from the Guild and academy back in 1992!
Lee Daniels is not the first African American to get a DGA Nod!.
Sorry your research is faulty!.
Matthew Poynter

I posted in the forums that all five DGA nominees were in for Best Picture before even reading your post. And though the average correlation between DGA & Best Director noms is around 4 of 5 (occasionally 3 of 5), I really can't find any reason to pick anyone else for an Oscar nom; Eastwood already has plenty of Oscars and can't rely on a casting gimmick (Freeman as Mandela) to get him in this time.

IMO the two biggest Oscar variables (Bigelow's gender and Daniels' race) were neutralized by their DGA noms. If the Academy doesn't want to make it 5 of 5, Daniels may be in trouble because he's a producer-turned-director. But I think this year it will be 5 of 5.



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