On Thursday (Jan. 11), the Directors Guild of America announced the nominees for the 70th annual edition of its awards with the winner revealed on Feb. 3 (29 days before the Oscars). The five contenders are: Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”). All but McDonagh number among our top five predicted nominees at the Oscars. He sits in sixth and bumped out third-ranked Steven Spielberg (“The Post”).
Since the guild aligned itself with the academy calendar in 1950, all but seven of its winners for Best Director have repeated at the Oscars. This year, two of the nominated helmers — del Toro and Nolan — are locked in a fierce fight for both awards. Of the 27 regional critics groups to weigh in with their picks of the best of the year, Nolan has won over seven of them while del Toro has six such prizes.
While the DGA is aces at forecasting the eventual Oscar winner, it does less well predicting the five Oscar nominees. In its first 15 years, there were anywhere from four to 18 DGA nominees. From 1963 – 1965, it went with five before going to 10 for the rest of the decade. Finally, beginning in 1970 it enshrined the number of nominees as five. And since then, there have only been five years where it previewed the exact lineup of Oscar contenders.
There are usually one or two differences between the slate selected by the 16,000 plus members of the DGA, which includes helmers of TV fares and commercials, and the choices of the 512 members of the directors branch of the academy.
Last year, Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) won both awards. At the DGA he faced off against three of his Oscar rivals — Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), Kenneth Longergan (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) — as well as Garth Davis (“Lion”). The latter was bumped out of the Oscars by Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”).
In 2016, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”) made DGA history by becoming the first back-to-back winner. He prevailed at the guild over Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) and Ridley Scott (“The Martian”). He went on to win the Oscar over McCarthy, McKay, Miller and Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) who bumped out Scott.
In 2015, Inarritu (“Birdman”) had edged out Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Clint Eastwood (“American Sniper”), Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) and Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) for the DGA win. He then prevailed at the Oscars against Anderson, Linklater, Tyldum and Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”).
In 2014, Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) won this award over Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), David O. Russell (“American Hustle”) and Martin Scorsese (“The Wolf of Wall Street”). He repeated at the Oscars against McQueen, Russell, Scorsese and Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”).
Back in 2013, only two of the Directors Guild of America nominees — Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”) — also reaped Oscar bids. The other three DGA nominees — Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”) — were snubbed by the Oscars in favor of Michael Haneke (“Amour”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild). Lee won the Oscar race.
That disconnect between the DGA and Oscars was unprecedented. Affleck won over the DGA voters while his film, “Argo,” became the third to take Best Picture at the Oscars without a corresponding Best Director nomination. The others: “Grand Hotel” (1931/32) and “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989).
Affleck was the seventh DGA champ who did not go on to repeat at the Academy Awards, following in the path of these Oscar also-rans:
1969: DGA to Anthony Harvey (“The Lion in Winter”), Oscar to Carol Reed (“Oliver!”);
1973: DGA to Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), Oscar to Bob Fosse (“Cabaret”);
1986: DGA to Steven Spielberg (“The Color Purple”), Oscar to Sydney Pollack (“Out of Africa”);
1996: DGA to Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”), Oscar to Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”);
2001: DGA to Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), Oscar to Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”); and
2003: DGA to Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), Oscar to Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”)
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.