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Directors Guild of America (DGA) Preview and Predictions

The Directors Guild of America announced their nominees for Television and Feature Documentary today but tomorrow is their reveal of the nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and First Time Feature Film.

These are always a mixed bag to predict but one thing is true, the group is still a pretty old-school boys’ club. Not that they haven’t nominated women before (Kathryn Bigelow has been double nominated, and won once, here) but that they’re less likely to venture out to new directors or slightly subversive choices as much as their counterparts in the Academy are. Recently, they’ve gone for Oscar winners like Clint Eastwood and Tom Hooper over Bennett Miller and Benh Zeitlin. On the flip side though, last year was all first-time nominees but the Academy dropped Lion‘s Garth Davis (who won the DGA First Time Feature Film award) in favor of Oscar winner Mel Gibson. It’s tough to know which side they’re going to fall on but it helps to look at the contenders as whole.

The prevailing belief this year is that the main contenders are:

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Steven Spielberg – The Post
Sean Baker – The Florida Project
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Dee Rees – Mudbound
Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Joe Wright – Darkest Hour
Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya

Anyone outside of that would be a pretty big shock so I’m sticking with this as my guide. Nolan is a sure shot; the DGA loves him, even if AMPAS doesn’t. del Toro has grabbed the most critics’ awards, he’s in. They would both be a DGA first-timers. Peele is a shoe-in for the First Time Feature Film award. Can he hit both like Garth Davis last year? Gerwig might even get cheated into First Time as well even though she co-directed a film in 2008 that was released for one week only in 2008 and made $5,430. Some critics’ groups cited Lady Bird as a ‘first’ for her, but that might have just been as a result of poor research skills. Like Nolan, Peele and del Toro, Gerwig has won a healthy bounty of critics’ awards for Best Director. The only one who hasn’t? McDonaugh. Although his film has been a guilds beasts, his direction has been the weak link with critics so far.

While that is the consensus Top 5 amongst most prognosticators, I’m wondering if the DGA will look outside of that group for a winning veteran to fill the ranks. The only person that qualifies there is Steven Spielberg, an 11-time nominee and 3-time DGA winner. The only thing is, The Post has had a weak guild run so far, only managing PGA and ACE noms but shut out of WGA and SAG. His reputation might be strong enough to get in anyway but that seems like a risky call. Maybe Ridley Scott’s incredible turnaround of All the Money in the World is enough to get him in here. Or Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049, hot off his nomination for Arrival. But who would they replace?

There is a potential spoiler in the race and that I, Tonya‘s Craig Gillespie. Not only is that film on a guild tear right now but Gillespie is a four-time DGA nominee for commercials. He’s even won. You know who fit that bill last year? Lion‘s Garth Davis.

If Mudbound had been a stronger player this season we’d be talking about Dee Rees being the first black woman nominated for DGA’s Motion Picture award and Oscar’s Best Director.

Here’s the other thing: that consensus of five is, by many estimations, the likely Oscar Top 5. Trouble is, the DGA and Oscar rarely match up. More often that not there’s just one name that doesn’t translate from here to there. 2012 was its own animal, when only two DGA nominees also earned Oscar nominations, and is really an outlier for comparison. The most obvious, and maybe too on the nose, comparison is actually the last time the two matched up 5/5. That was 2009 when James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, Lee Daniels and Jason Reitman were nominated by both groups. It was the only time ever a woman and an black man were nominated in the same year (Bigelow won both) and this year we have…a woman and a black man in the running. Bigelow won both and was nominated by the DGA again in 2012, but Oscar has yet to have another female nominee since her win. There has never been a black winner from either organization.

My predictions:

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Here is the side-by-side of DGA vs Oscar for this decade.

About Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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