Directors Guild nominees: Where’s Spielberg and Malick?

The Directors Guild of America nominees are Woody Allen (“Midnight in Paris”), David Fincher (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”), and Martin Scorsese (“Hugo”).

The biggest snubs are Steven Spielberg (“War Horse”) and Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”). Spielberg won three of his 10 bids (“The Color Purple,” 1985; “Schindler’s List,” 1993; and “Saving Private Ryan,” 1998) and last contended in 2005 for “Munich.” While Malick only vied for this honor once — “The Thin Red Line” (1998) — his new film had been feted by Cannes and critics groups.

Allen was not expected to contend here. While he won this prize (and the Oscar) in 1977 for “Annie Hall,” the last of his four DGA nods came in 1989 for “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Neither was Fincher, who was pipped at the post last year for his helming of “The Social Network” by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”). Fincher also contended in 2008 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” 

All five of the DGA nominees should see their films make it into the Best Picture race. Since the Academy expanded the number of nominees for its top award in 2009, all of the films cited by the DGA have contended. Their films are among the 10 contending for top honors at the Producers Guild of America. This was also the case in both 2009 and 2010. 

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The winner will be announced at the guild’s 64th annual awardsfest on Jan. 29. The kudos shifted to the Hollywood & Highland complex last year due to a labor dispute at their long-time home at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel. TV and commercial nominees will be announced Tuesday and documentary ones on Wednesday.

Historically, the five films nominated by the Directors Guild of America have dominated the top race at the Academy Awards. However, three years ago, 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, it is almost certain that “The Dark Knight” would have contended. Four 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.”

Though 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 more agreement between the films nominated than between the DGA list and Oscar’s lineup for Best Director. In the past decade, 40 of the 50 DGA picks have gone on to be Oscar hopefuls. 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 occurs far less frequently at DGA. .

While all the DGA nominees may not contend at the Academy Awards, whoever wins with the DGA is likely to prevail at the Oscars as well. Since the guild 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”

And in the 63-year history of the DGA prize, the guild choice for Best Director has helmed the academy’s pick for Best Picture 50 times. The 13 exceptions are:

1948 — DGA to “A Letter to Three Wives” and Oscar to “Hamlet”

1951 — DGA to “A Place in the Sun” and Oscar to “An American in Paris”

1952 — DGA to “The Quiet Man” and Oscar  to “The Greatest Show on Earth”

1956 — DGA to “Giant” and Oscar to “Around the World in 80 Days”

1967 — DGA to “The Graduate” and Oscar to “In the Heat of the Night”

1968 — DGA to “The Lion in Winter” and Oscar to “Oliver!”

1981 — DGA to “Reds “and Oscar to “Chariots of Fire”

1985 — DGA to “The Color Purple” and Oscar to “Out of Africa”

1989 — DGA to “Born on the Fourth of July” and Oscar to “Driving Miss Daisy”

1995 — DGA to “Apollo 13” and Oscar to “Braveheart”

1998 — DGA to “Saving Private Ryan” and Oscar to “Shakespeare in Love”

2000 — DGA to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Oscar to “Gladiator”

2005 — DGA to “Brokeback Mountain” and Oscar to “Crash”


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