What does the DGA announcement mean for Best Director at the Oscars?

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A few short hours ago, the Directors Guild of America announced their nominees, letting us in on the final precursor of the season. All that’s left is Thursday morning’s Academy Award nominations, but the puzzle is almost complete. Today’s announcement from the DGA brought a bit of clarity to some parts of the Best Director race, but the Oscar lineup is far from set, that’s for sure. More so than any other year I can remember, so much is up in the air at the final stretch of this first phase race. It’s exciting, but stressful all the same, at least for this humble prognosticator.

A quick mention about this precursor. Normally, it does transition highly towards what the Academy will do, but there’s an exception this year due to scheduling. Oscar ballots had to be in before this Guild announced, so voters were flying blind. As such, I’d be shocked if there’s 100% matching between DGA and Oscar. The Academy likely will have at least one difference, if not two, but we’ll see in less than 48 hours now, won’t we? Anyway, on to the DGA nominees.

The first nominee from DGA this year is Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson is a first timer and perhaps the director (with maybe one exception) that has the most buzz/heat right now. If there’s a dark horse to be found here, it could be him. The movie is peaking at just the right time, so if members of the guild are in the mood to shake things up, they could look to Anderson. I wouldn’t expect it, but stranger things have happened.

The next nominee was, in a slight surprise, Clint Eastwood for American Sniper. The grizzled veteran of almost any group, he certainly is here, as this is his fourth citation by the guild. Eastwood is a two time winner (Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven, with Mystic River his other nomination), so he’s clearly a favorite of voters here. A few weeks ago, his candidacy seemed like a long shot at best, but he snuck in at the last moment. I highly doubt he can pull off another win, but he’s in the race, so I suppose anything is possible.

The third nominated director was Alejandro González Iñárritu for his work on Birdman. This is Iñárritu’s second citation, as he previously was nominated here for Babel. He seems like the runner up this year in the race, though he’s got the flashiest directing out of the group, which could score him some extra votes. It’d be an upset if he winds up with the award, but it’s something to at least ponder for a little bit. He’s got some ground to cover, but it’s not an impossibility.

Next was frontrunner Richard Linklater for Boyhood. Linklater has his first nomination from the group, which could easily turn into a win as well. Honestly, I would find it pretty surprising if his colleagues didn’t honor the unique achievement on display, but then again…nothing surprises me these days anymore. Still, a Linklater win appears to be in the stars. It’d be a deserving win too, one that will foreshadow a likely Academy Award as well.

Lastly, we had Morten Tyldum nominated for directing The Imitation Game. Another first time nominee, Tyldum had seen his chances fade for a bit, but never discount the power of Harvey Weinstein, as The Weinstein Company powered him in before voting ended. He strikes me as the least likely to win out of this group, but at the same time I wouldn’t be shocked if an upset occurred. It’s not something to bet on though.

So who got snubbed? The big omission of course was Ava DuVernay for Selma, though many were also looking to David Fincher for Gone Girl as well. They were the ones that most thought could easily wind up included. Also snubbed was Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Angelina Jolie for Unbroken, James Marsh for The Theory of Everything, and Christopher Nolan for Interstellar. These names, along with the nominated five, were the top dozen contenders for the prize.

Obviously, it looks like Linklater is headed towards a win, but Iñárritu certainly is in play as well. It’s going to be very interesting to see what the Academy does, especially if they knock out at least one of Anderson, Eastwood, or Tyldum, presumably for DuVernay at the very least. Luckily, it won’t be a long wait now to find out how it all goes down…

Stay tuned to see if this is the Best Director lineup on Oscar nomination morning!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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