Before the Oscar nominations were announced, all signs pointed towards a “Boyhood” victory in Best Picture. This was due largely to veteran filmmaker Richard Linklater’s dominance in the Best Director category: after all, how could voters possibly ignore a man who spent 12 years bringing his film to life?
But a new roadblock has risen up in Linklater’s path to victory, helmer Morten Tyldum whose bipoic of WWII codebreaker Alan Turing, “The Imitation Game,” reaped eight Oscar bids, just one behind “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
While “The Imitation Game” had proven to be a formidable contender at the precursor prizes, with multiple bids for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, its Norwegian director was largely ignored. That gave his film a feeling of weakness that many thought would be difficult to overcome. After all, only three films in Oscar history — “Grand Hotel” (1932), “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), and “Argo” (2012) — have taken the top prize without at least a bid for their director.
Yet a funny thing has happened on the way to the Dolby theater: Tyldum earned a Directors Guild of America nomination, alongside Linklater, Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Clint Eastwood (“American Sniper”) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Birdman”).
Most pundits chalked that nomination up to a show of general support for the film, and conventional wisdom stated that if anyone were to be left off the academy’s list, it would be Tyldum, who had been snubbed by the Globes, BAFTA, and BFCA. Rather, it was Eastwood who was bumped by Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher“).
While the DGA is likely leaning toward Linklater, if Tyldum wins there it will change the dynamics of the Oscars race for Best Picture. Remember back in 2010, when another Weinstein Company biopic, “The Kings Speech” (2010), sat in second place behind “The Social Network” all season long. After wins at the Globes, BFCA, and from a slew of critics group under the sun, “Network” helmer David Fincher was all but guaranteed a victory at the DGA. But then “King’s Speech” won PGA and SAG and suddenly its director, Tom Hooper, was the guild’s choice.
If “The Imitation Game” wins at next Saturday’s PGA Awards, all eyes will turn to the DGA: a victory for Tyldum there will be a sure sign of support for the film.
Of course, as we have seen for the last two years running, a win at the DGA does not lead straight to Best Picture at the Oscars. Last year, Alfonso Cuaron won the DGA and Oscar for helming “Gravity” but “12 Years a Slave” took home the big prize (both films had tied at the PGA). The year before, Ang Lee claimed his second Oscar for directing “Life of Pi” after DGA, Globe and BFCA champ Ben Affleck was snubbed for his Best Picture-winning “Argo.”
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