Damien Chazelle (‘La La Land’): Why a BAFTA win may be even more crucial than DGA for Oscar glory

Everything appears to be going Damien Chazelle’s way with “La La Land” and he could very well make history as the youngest winner of the Best Director Oscar. His film just scored a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations, the most of any film this year, and it won a record-breaking seven Golden Globes including Best Film Comedy/Musical and Best Director.

But before Chazelle sets his sights on Oscar history there are two more crucial precursors he needs to be concerned with: the DGA and BAFTA awards. Though the DGA has a stronger track record predicting the Oscars, the more crucial for Chazelle may be the BAFTA. Of the seven times the DGA and Oscars disagreed on Best Director, three of those involved a musical, and in two of those instances it was BAFTA that ended up matching the academy.

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According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds, Chazelle is the overwhelming favorite to win the DGA with current odds of 2/13. His closest competitor in second place is Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) at 12/1. Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”) is a distant third with odds of 50/1.

But Chazelle should be mindful of what happened in 2002 to the last DGA Award winner for a musical, Rob Marshall (“Chicago”). Marshall claimed the guild award after losing the Golden Globe to  Martin Scorcese (“Gangs of New York”). But at the BAFTAs, the last hurdle on his way to Oscar glory, he lost to Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) who went on to win the Academy Award too.

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If Chazelle should lose this weekend, most likely to Jenkins according to our predictions, he’ll still have the opportunity to recover at the BAFTAs where Jenkins was snubbed. BAFTA was where it went off the rails for “The Godfather” helmer Francis Ford Coppola back in 1972. He was on track to be one of the youngest Oscar Best Director winners ever at age 33 after wining both the Golden Globe and DGA prizes. But at the BAFTAs he lost to an also-ran from those other two precursors, Bob Fosse (“Cabaret”), who then went on to win the Oscar.

Chazelle might still have a path to Oscar victory even if he somehow loses both the DGA Award and BAFTA. That’s what happened to the director of another musical in 1968, Carol Reed (“Oliver!”). He lost the DGA race to Anthony Harvey (“The Lion in Winter”) and the BAFTA to Mike Nichols (“The Graduate”), who had won the Oscar the previous year. But Reed was still the American academy’s choice.

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Be sure to make your DGA predictionsWeigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our DGA odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on Feb 4. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the DGA Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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