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Follow the Yellow Brick Road: The DGA Announces Nominees Tuesday


The Oscars are the Land of Oz, complete with illusionary finery and the jarringly ordinary old man behind the curtain. The Yellow Brick Road gets us there. All of the characters and traumas along the way are all part of this crazy season. Winners and losers, all in the name of the game. The momentum usually builds, with each nomination announcement whipping up the frenzy of expectations, dashed hopes, and ongoing victories all culminating in — at last, the Oscar nominations.

The frenzy has given way to general unease this year as everyone kind of looks around at how different everything looks all of a sudden. Oscar ballots were turned in first — before the PGA, WGA and DGA nominations. Those guideposts have been kicked to the wind and Oscar voters are going rogue. No one knows how this experiment will play out but for us Oscar watchers it’s like we were chasing something that suddenly just isn’t there.

Now, as we wait for the Oscar nominations on Thursday, the DGA announcements on Monday seem almost as an afterthought. Do we really care who gets nominated for the DGA? Does it even matter now? Do any of them matter now? Are we actually, for once, going to have to look at the guild honors as honors unto themselves and not stepping stones that lead to Oscar? I think we just might.

Tuesday, the DGA will neither confirm nor deny what the Oscar voters will do. All they can do is tell us is what the 14,500 DGA voters did and wait and see if those match what the 400 or so Academy voters have already done in the Director category. Typically, the DGA and Oscar and Oscar don’t match up 100%. The DGA is better for predicting Best Picture (when there were only five) than it ever has been for predicting a 5 for 5 match in Best Director.

Clusterfuck be damned, we are still diving right in.

We are pretty sure that the leaders in this category are locked for Best Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck for Argo. Probably Ang Lee for Life of Pi is the fourth.

That leaves one slot open at the DGA, and possibly one slot open at the Academy, though it’s theoretically possible Ang Lee will be popular with one group but not the other. Put it this way, if he isn’t nominated it will be a bit of a shocker since he’s won two DGA awards and one Oscar.

Ang Lee being announced as one of the five DGA nominees would confirm what we suspected about the race but it would also lend legitimacy to Life of Pi more than any other previous announcement thus far.

But more in need of that legitimacy are the three names vying for that fifth slot – and they are David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained and Tom Hooper for Les Miserables.

All of these directors have previously been nominated for DGA awards except Ben Affleck. This will be his first DGA nod for director and probably his first Oscar nod as director. Other actors turned directors got lucky on their first time out. Robert Redford, Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson all won Director and Picture the first time they were nominated in the director category at the Oscars. For Redford and Costner, they won their first and only DGA nomination. Affleck could follow in those footsteps, or he could be like George Clooney, Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood and other more tried and true actors-turned-directors who get nominated, and sometimes win.

Argo is one of those films that’s very hard to hate. It’s not a punishing sit and is the one with the least baggage, and sadly, the Oscar race for Best Picture is often like a political election.  Votes gets divided up between people who vote for what they love and people who vote for what they can tolerate.  Someone who backs Paul Thomas Anderson and has no favorite in the five nominated films might pick Argo because it isn’t Lincoln and it isn’t Zero Dark Thirty and it isn’t Les Miserables.  There are likely going to be many independents, if you will, who will embrace Argo even if it isn’t their number one.  Funny, tense, moves along in a clip — probably what Argo has going for it most is that it’s a movie about a movies — a movie that says movies are the universal language and even Iranians who hate Americans still love our movies.

It says much about Kathryn Bigelow’s work that she is once again in the running for Best Director. This time it certainly doesn’t feel like they’re just going to reward her as a woman, as many accused them of doing during The Hurt Locker days. This proves that, no, she is truly thought of as one of the boys. She has always maintained that she would prefer to be thought of as a filmmaker rather than a “woman filmmaker.” You can’t really make history twice but Bigelow could do just that by become the only woman to win a second DGA award and a second Oscar for director.

There is no getting around the torture controversy.  I’ve never really seen a film ride so high in the race and then get hit so hard with a political controversy quite like Zero Dark Thirty.  What does that mean in the end? It’s hard to say. I like to think that it still comes down to the movie.  And this movie is a dark thriller with no easy answers. It doesn’t soothe its audience — and it doesn’t provide a victorious ending.  It is very well written, directed and acted — and a film that says much about our past, present and future. It is complex and in fact, it has officially become a film that can’t really be talked about without talking about the torture.  If you say you love Zero Dark Thirty and you’re aware of the content you have to then decide how you feel about torture, the capture of Bin Laden, the truth, the CIA and everything else.  It isn’t just a movie anymore.  It also seems kind of trivial to even talk about Oscars up against such a serious topic, which makes wrapping your arms around Zero Dark Thirty complicated.

Ang Lee would be looking at his fourth DGA nomination.  Life of Pi is not a film about “finding God on a boat.” It’s a film about human existence, really, making sense of this mortal coil.  It is at once the Buddhist credo, that life is suffering, as much as it is a glorious celebration of the spectrum of beauty the natural world provides.  Life of Pi takes you under but then brings you back, revives you and sends you back out on the street as though you’ve experienced something deeply profound.  That’s powerful stuff, though not for everyone.   The target demo seems to be having trouble with this one, as they are having trouble with Lincoln. They like movies like The Master and can tolerate Argo.  But they’re a long way from emotions deeply felt.  Thus, Life of Pi is a tricky sell. Those of us who love it, however, love it with unbridled passion.

Tom Hooper would be looking at his second nomination after having won in 2010.  Les Miserables is an even tougher sell than Life of Pi and is one of those movies that you’re either swept up in or you’re not. Another one of those this year was Cloud Atlas.  The difference between the two is that Les Miserables had a built-in, multi-generational audience that has waited years for it to hit the big screen. They’re bringing all of that context with them. It will just depend on how many voters are among the people who loved Les Miserables.  For those who love it they will tell you that it’s a sad movie about struggling, unwashed masses. Other themes people are taking away from it, or projecting onto it, are its positive take on adoption, feminism and as a living memorial to AIDS. I saw none of these things but Les Mis appears to be a template that works on a variety of levels for many people.  It is the most divisive film in the race.

David O. Russell would be looking at his second nomination. Silver Linings Playbook is one of those movies that many people love regardless of their age, sex, economic status or language even. It is the only love story in the bunch and has the most desirable actress in Hollywood starring in it. This is one of those movies, like The Artist, like The King’s Speech, where a man’s ego is on the line.  Everyone in the film, especially the women, eventually helps him prop his ego back up and then he can believe in himself.  This is apparently a very popular motif among Oscar voters. Is it because they all feel like failures and these movies make them feel like winners? Is it because they have to vote for characters they want to see win?   Either way, Silver Linings is the movie I hear people talking about most.  It’s got strong word of mouth and remains every bit the crowd-pleaser it was when it won the audience award in Toronto.

Quentin Tarantino only just joined the DGA but even still has been nominated twice.  This would be his third.  Amid so many gloomy films with deep, heavy themes, Django Unchained offers the opposite: a total release.  The music, the funny moments and the ultimate bloodshed, Django is one of the more unforgettable films in the race, I’d say, though it isn’t easy to sit through, particularly in the last twenty minutes.   Like Lincoln, it brings our history and memory of slavery back to the surface.  It has been caught up in some controversy from the African American community and from people who think it goes too far with its graphic violence. For me, the best thing about the movie is Jamie Foxx. Also, Tarantino can direct the shit out of a movie.

And that brings us to someone who might be dubbed the King of the DGA, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg has been nominated by the DGA 10 times and has won three of those, along with also having received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Spielberg is both the most awarded and most nominated director in the Feature film category in the history of DGA.

Lincoln is the best film of 2012 in its writing, acting and directing (in my humble opinion).  It hasn’t won any major critics awards yet and it may never win a single thing from here on through the Oscars but it really doesn’t change what Lincoln is, what a success it is for Spielberg so late in his impressive, prolific career.  In the bubble Lincoln is not what is sexy to film critics.  Outside the bubble, Americans are quietly coming out of their homes and driving down to their local multiplex and paying to see a film, something many of them do maybe once a year, if that.  To have earned $140 million with a film about the 13th amendment with no special effects, 3-D, or sweeping battle scenes to drive people in. No, this is a movie about people talking. But oh, what they’re talking about!

So yes, in all of the years I’ve been covering the Oscar race I’ve never seen one of these films come along.  I missed Titanic and I missed Schindler’s List so I don’t really know if those films were being underestimated the way Lincoln now is. And I don’t even know if the film will win anything. What I do know is that it is the best film of the year and hats off to Steven Spielberg for having directed it.

My predictions for the DGA as follows:

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Ben Affleck, Argo
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

I will not be surprised if either Tom Hooper for Les Mis or Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained take that fifth spot. The reason I’m sticking with Russell is twofold.

The Weinstein Co, possibly aiming for their third Best Picture win in a row know that they need David O. Russell to be nominated here to win. Without a DGA nom, it is nearly impossible to win.

Silver Linings Playbook is very very likable by both sexes and across all ages. The DGA, unlike the Academy, are not dominated by straight white dudes. I feel the power of Tarantino and I feel the power of Les Miserables — I know both are very strong contenders here — but I can’t help but think the crowd-pleasing Silver Linings will prevail.

As for the Oscars, David O. Russell also has to get in there if Silver Linings has a shot at winning. Ditto Tom Hooper. The only name I could imagine being bumped is Ang Lee for Life of Pi — and even that doesn’t seem likely to me.

Finally, when we’re talking about the directing category for the Oscars it’s a slightly different ballgame. Michael Haneke or Paul Thomas Anderson could show up there instead of Russell, Hooper or Tarantino.


DGA | Oscar

 *film nominated/+ won Best Picture at the Oscars


Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist+
Martin Scorsese, Hugo Martin Scorsese, Hugo*
Alexander Payne, The Descendants Alexander Payne, The Descendants*
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris*
David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Terrence Malick, Tree of Life*


Tom Hooper The King’s Speech Tom Hooper the King’s Speech+
David Fincher, Social Network David Fincher, Social Network*
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan*
David O’Russell, The Fighter David O’Russell, The Fighter*
Christopher Nolan, Inception* The Coens, True Grit*


Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Bigelow, Hurt Locker+
Lee Daniels, Precious Lee Daniels, Precious*
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air Jason Reitman, Up in the Air*
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds*
Jim Cameron, Avatar Jim Cameron, Avatar*


Danny Boyle, Slumdog Danny Boyle, Slumdog+
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon*
Gus Van Sant, Milk Gus Van Sant, Milk*
David Fincher, Benjamin Button David Fincher, Benjamin Button*
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Stephen Daldry, The Reader*


Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country+
Sean Penn, Into the Wild Jason Reitman, Juno*
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton*
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood*


Stephen Frears, The Queen Stephen Frears, The Queen*
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel*
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima*
Faris and Dayton, Little Miss Sunshine* Paul Greengrass, United 93
Martin Scorsese, The Departed Martin Scorsese, The Departed+


Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain *
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck*
Paul Haggis, Crash Paul Haggis, Crash+
Bennett Miller, Capote Bennett Miller, Capote*
Steven Spielberg, Munich Steven Spielberg, Munich *


Alexander Payne for Sideways Alexander Payne for Sideways*
Martin Scorsese for The Aviator Martin Scorsese for The Aviator*
Taylor Hackford for Ray Taylor Hackford for Ray*
Marc Forster for Finding Neverland* Mike Leigh for Vera Drake
Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby+


Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation*
Clint Eastwood, Mystic River Clint Eastwood, Mystic River*
Peter Jackson, ROTK Peter Jackson, ROTK+
Peter Weir, Master and Commander Peter Weir, Master and Commander*
Gary Ross, Seabiscuit* Fernando Merielles, City of God


Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York Martin Scorsese*
Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings* Pedro Almodovar
Roman Polanski, The Pianist Roman Polanski*
Rob Marshall, Chicago Rob Marshall+
Steven Daldry, The Hours Steven Daldry*


Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind+
Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson, LOTR*
Christopher Nolan, Memento Robert Altman, Gosford Park*
Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down
Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge* David Lynch, Mulholland Drive


Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot*
Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon*
Ridley Scott, Gladiator Ridley Scott, Gladiator+
Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich *
Steven Soderbergh, Traffic Steven Soderbergh, Traffic*


Frank Darabont, The Green Mile* Lasse Hallstrom, Cider House Rules*
Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich
Michael Mann, The Insider Michael Mann, The Insider*
Sam Mendes, American Beauty Sam Mendes, American Beauty+
M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense*


Peter Weir, Truman Show Peter Weir, Truman Show
Terrence Malick, Thin Red Line Terrence Malick, Thin Red Line
John Madden, Shakes in Love John Madden, Shakes in Love*
Steven Spielberg, SPR Steven Spielberg, SPR
Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful


James L. Brooks As Good As It Gets* Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty*
Steven Spielberg Amistad Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter
Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting*
James Cameron, Titanic James Cameron, Titanic+
Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential*


Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire* Milos Forman for The People vs. Larry Flynt
Joel Coen, Fargo Joel Coen, Fargo*
Mike Leigh, Secrets & Lies Mike Leigh, Secrets & Lies *
Anthony Minghella, The English Patient Anthony Minghella, The English Patient+
Scott Hicks, Shine Scott Hicks, Shine*


Mike Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas Mike Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas
Mel Gibson for Braveheart Mel Gibson for Braveheart+
Ron Howard for Apollo 13* Chris Noonan for Babe*
Ang Lee for Sense and Sensibility* Tim Robbins for Dead Man Walking
Michael Radford for Il Postino Michael Radford for Il Postino*


Mike Newell for Four Weddings and a Funeral* Woody Allen for Bullets Over Broadway
Frank Darabont for The Shawshank Redemption* Krzysztof Kieslowski for Red
Robert Redford for Quiz Show Robert Redford for Quiz Show*
Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction*
Robert Zemeckis for Forrest Gump Robert Zemeckis for Forrest Gump+


Andrew Davis for The Fugitive* Robert Altman for Short Cuts
Jane Campion for The Piano Jane Campion for The Piano*
James Ivory for The Remains Of the Day James Ivory for The Remains Of the Day*
Martin Scorsese for The Age Of Innocence Jim Sheridan for In the Name Of the Father*
Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List Steven Spielberg for Schindler’s List+


Robert Altman for The Player Robert Altman for The Player
Rob Reiner for A Few Good Men* Martin Brest for Scent Of a Woman*
Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven+
James Ivory for Howards End James Ivory for Howards End*
Neil Jordan for The Crying Game Neil Jordan for The Crying Game*


Barbra Streisand for The Prince Of Tides* John Singleton for Boyz N the Hood
Oliver Stone for JFK Oliver Stone for JFK*
Ridley Scott for Thelma & Louise Ridley Scott for Thelma & Louise
Barry Levinson for Bugsy Barry Levinson for Bugsy*
Jonathan Demme for The Silence Of the Lambs Jonathan Demme for The Silence Of the Lambs+


Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather Part III Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather Part III*
Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves+
Barry Levinson for Avalon Stephen Frears for The Grifters
Martin Scorsese for GoodFellas Martin Scorsese for GoodFellas*
Giuseppe Tornatore for Cinema Paradiso Barbet Schroeder for Reversal Of Fortune

For the win only

+also won Best Picture

(best picture that didn’t match director)

2010 Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech+
2009 Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker+
2008 Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire+
2007 Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country+
2006 Martin Scorsese, The Departed Martin Scorsese, The Departed+
2005 Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain* (Crash+)
2004 Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby Clint Eastwood, MDB+
2003 Peter Jackson, Return of the King Peter Jackson, Return of the King+
2002 Rob Marshall, Chicago Roman Polanski, The Pianist (Chicago)
2001 Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind+
2000 Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger Steven Soderbergh, Traffic (Gladiator)
1999 Sam Mendes, American Beauty Sam Mendes, American Beauty+
1998 Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan Steven Spielberg (Shakespeare in Love)
1997 Jim Cameron, Titanic Jim Cameron, Titanic+
1996 Anthony Minghella, English Patient Anthony Minghella, English Patient+
1995 Ron Howard, Apollo 13 Mel Gibson, Braveheart+
1994 Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump+
1993 Seven Spielberg, Schindler’s List Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List+
1992 Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven+
1991 Jonathan Demme, Silence of the Lambs Jonathan Demme, Silence of the Lambs +
1990 Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves+
1989 Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July (Driving Miss Daisy – director Beresford not nommed for Oscar or DGA)
1988 Barry Levinson, Rain Man Barry Levinson, Rain Man+
1987 Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Emperor Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Emperor+
1986 Oliver Stone, Platoon Oliver Stone, Platoon+
1985 Steven Spielberg, Color Purple Sidney Pollack, Out of Africa+
1984: Milos Forman, Amadeus Milos Forman, Amadeus+
1983: James Brooks, Terms of Endearment James Brooks, Terms of Endearment+
1982: Richard Attenborough, Gandhi Richard Attenborough, Gandhi+
1981: Warren Beatty, Reds Warren Beatty, Reds (Chariots of Fire)
1980: Robert Redford, Ordinary People Robert Redford, Ordinary People+
1979: Robert Benton, Kramer Vs. Kramer Robert Benton, Kramer Vs. Kramer+
1978: Michael Cimino, Deer Hunter Michael Cimino, Deer Hunter+
1977: Woody Allen, Annie Hall Woody Allen, Annie Hall+
1976: John Avildson, Rocky John Avildson, Rocky+
1975: Milos Foreman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Milos Foreman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest+
1974: Frances Coppola, Godfather II Frances Coppola, Godfather II+
1973: George Roy Hill, The Sting George Roy Hill+
1972: Frances Coppola, The Godfather Bob Fosse, Cabaret (Godfather)
1971: William Friedkin, The French Connection William Friedkin, The French Connection+
1970: Franklin J. Schaffner, Patton Franklin J. Schaffner , Patton+
1969: John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy+
1968: Anthony Harvey, Lion in Winter Carol Reed, Oliver+
1967: Mike Nichols, The Graduate Mike Nichols, The Graduate (In Heat of the Night)
1966: Fred Zinneman, A Man for all Seasons Fred Zinneman, A Man for all Seasons+
1965: Robert Wise, The Sound of Music Robert Wise, the Sound of Music+
1964: George Cukor, My Fair Lady George Cukor, My Fair Lady+
1963: Tony Richardson, Tom Jones Tony Richardson, Tom Jones+
1962: David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia+
1961: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, West Side Story Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, West Side Story+
1960: Billy Wilder, The Apartment Billy Wilder, The Apartment+
1959: William Wyler, Ben Hur William Wyler, Ben Hur+
1958: Vincent Minnelli, Gigi Vincent Minnelli, Gigi+
1957: David Lean, Bridge on the River Kwai David Lean, Bridge on the River Kwai+
1956: George Stevens, Giant George Stevens, Giant (Around/World in 80 Days)
1955: Delbert Mann, Marty Delbert Mann, Marty+
1954: Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront+
1953: Fred Zinnemann, From here to Eternity Fred Zinnemann, From here to Eternity+
1952: John Ford, The Quiet Man John Ford, The Quiet Man (Greatest Show on Earth)
1951: George Stevens, A Place in the Sun George Stevens, A Place in the Sun (An American in Paris)
1950: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve+
1949: Robert Rossen, All the King’s Men Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter To Three Wives (All the King’s Men)
1948: Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter To Three Wives John Huston, Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Hamlet)
1947 Elia Kaza for Gentleman’s Agreement
1946 William Wyler for The Best Years of Our Lives
1945 Billy Wilder for The Lost Weekend
1944 Leo McCary for Going My Way
1943 Michael Curtiz for Casablanca
1942 William Wyler for Mrs. Miniver
1941 John Ford for How Green Was My Valley
1940 John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath (Rebecca)
1939 Victor Flemming, Gone with the Wind
1938 Frank Capra, You Can’t Take it With You
1937 Leo McCary, The Awful Truth (The Life of Emile Zola)
1936 Frank Capra, Mr. Deed Goes to Town (The Great Ziegfeld)
1935 John Ford, The Informer (Mutiny on the Bounty)
1934 Frank Capra, It Happened One Night
1933 Frank Lloyd, Calvalcade