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DGA Preview – Directors Matter

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ENTER OUR CONTEST!

For 82 out of 86 Oscar years the directors have controlled the way Best Picture has been handed down. They matter. They are what the Academy was built to do: professionals deciding the best of the year. The entire Academy has looked to them for guidance in almost every year of their existence.  Yet this year, suddenly, they don’t matter. What they think doesn’t matter. They are being passed over.   I have to say, that blows my mind just a little.

14,500 DGA members thought Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hooper should join Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg as the Best Directors of 2012.  But their nominations came out after Oscar ballots had already been turned it. Without the DGA to guide them the directors branch at the Academy did what they wanted to do: they picked the five films they thought were the best of the year: Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Michael Haneke’s Amour.

Why does it matter that the directors decided on five different films to win if the whole Academy gets to decide, you might ask? We might be heading into an era where it no longer matters at all. After all, the Oscar race has morphed into a flea circus and the race itself has begun to resemble a reality show, like Dancing with the Stars or the Amazing Race;  You have to win the moment by having a compelling “Oscar story.” An Oscar story isn’t: Kathleen Kennedy the most nominated producers in the history of the Academy has never won an Oscar, Steven Spielberg bringing a beloved project to the big screen after 13 years, or that movie about ideas earning an unbelievable $170 million.  An Oscar story sure to capture Hollywood’s attention is “Ben Affleck didn’t get nominated for Best Director.”  It is art imitating life because Argo is about Tony Mendez who did a great thing then didn’t get recognition for it. Rewarding Affleck is like rewarding his character and believe me, that is irresistible.

In an ordinary Oscar year, we pundits would simply look at the two who were nominated by both the Academy and the Directors Guild to find our DGA winner.  But one of those snubbed directors was a movie star.  So when he got snubbed it felt to many as if someone they knew had gotten the shaft.  The sting from that was palpable throughout the awards scene — suddenly, Argo was seen as the favorite.  It helped that the other “Middle East movie” had been swift-boated right out of the Oscar race.  That makes this year not an ordinary year and it’s probably why Ben Affleck will win on Saturday.

Whether he wins or not is beyond our control.  Whether he should win or not is not up to us to decide.  That won’t stop us from taking sides and building our case. For my money no one directed a more important, brilliantly made, resonate film as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Right after Lincoln is Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour and then Argo.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love Argo — it just means Lincoln is the greater achievement, whether it set the fanboys’ pants on fire or not, whether it appeals to every person in every country or not.

But I know there’s mostly nothing that can stop momentum like this, not even having the lack of a Best Director nod.  It helps that Argo the movie is full of likability.  Likable characters, likable stories – America, more specifically HOLLYWOOD, as likable heroes.  In Zero Dark Thirty we must deal with our ugly selves and the darker aspect of our history. In Argo no such dilemma exists — America does the right thing. Movies do the right thing. Movies are good for the world. Movies can save the world.

Argo is involving and suspenseful, funny and satisfying. The acting is great, the writing tight and full of wit — it makes audiences feel like Hollywood insiders — we get the jokes about associate producers and the Golden Globes and Argofuckyourself! It’s full of memorable lines like “This is the best bad idea we have,” and its star is Ben Affleck.  Lock and load.

So why then did the directors branch of the AMPAS choose other films?  What about Argo made the directors not want to award it?  Sure, it lacked an “Oscar story” early on but the movie was still the movie.   It could be that they assumed Affleck was a done deal so they’d put their votes elsewhere.  It could be that they genuinely liked Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild more. It could be that some of them really just don’t like Ben Affleck or it could be that for Hollywood insiders Argo isn’t as funny as it is for Hollywood outsiders. Moreover, it does have the line, “you can teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day.”

The heart and soul of the Best Picture race has traditionally been nestled in the Best Director category. Right behind that is usually screenplay and editing. From the looks of it, Argo is about to take all three.

Affleck has another thing going for him.  If you look at the past winners for the DGA you’ll see that they have often picked first-timers to win, going back to 2008:

Boyle – Slumdog
Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Michel Hazinavicious – The Artist

Ben Affleck is the only first timer in the DGA lineup. If you couple that with his likable movie, his Oscar snub and his likable personality you get “most likely to win.”   But you have to kind of feel sorry for him. If his film wins Best Picture he’s always going to be that guy who won without a director nomination. He already has one Oscar at home for screenwriting and he’ll win one again for producing so it won’t be a total wash, but without the support of the directors branch his film and his win will always look less-so.  Until this year, Driving Miss Daisy was looked upon as the most unworthy winner in the past few decades.  It is only this year that it’s being trotted as a good thing, having won without that director nomination.

Moreover, Driving Miss Daisy was criticized for being a softie version of Do the Right Thing, a film that really WAS snubbed by the Academy, most undeservedly.  Driving Miss Daisy was Do the Right Thing lite as Argo is Zero Dark Thirty lite.  Despite how enjoyable and funny Argo is history will not take to it kindly, I don’t think.  I might be wrong about that but time will tell.

It is a lament that Argo, like many of the films up for Best Picture, put women in traditional roles — wives or girlfriends. It’s even worse in Argo because men really do all the “serious” work. Women are to be protected from harm but they don’t seem to think for themselves. One of the great things about Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Beasts of the Southern Wild and even Amour is that the female characters are vital and important. They don’t exist as non-people. It is not Argo’s job to fix sexism in our world. But I can’t help but wish Best Picture of the year didn’t feature such stereotypes.

The only upside to all of this is that there are a few more weeks of this madness and then we can put the dog and pony show back in its cage.

Predicted winner: Ben Affleck, Argo
Might win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Should win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

FEATURE FILM AWARD DGA’S Site

DGA | Oscar

 *film nominated/+ won Best Picture at the Oscars

2012

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Ang Lee, Life of Pi Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Ben Affleck, Argo David O. Russell, Silver Linings
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty Michael Haneke, Amour
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

2011

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*

2010

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*

2009

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*

2008

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*

2007

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*

2006

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+

2005

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 *

2004

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+

2003

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

2002

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*


2001

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

2000

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*

1999

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*

1998

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

1997

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*

1996

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*

1995

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*

1994

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+

1993

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+

1992

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*

1991

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+

1990

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