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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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