Update: I made a mistake! DGA nominations are going to be announced January 12, 2016, not January 7th as listed below. That means they will be announced long after the Academy’s ballot deadline.
The Directors Guild announces their nominations on January 7th, one day before Oscar ballots are due, January 8th. The Producers Guild announces on January 5th (preview forthcoming) and the Writers Guild also announces on the 7th (preview also forthcoming). In other words, shit’s about to get really real in a matter of days. Gone goes the hope that some films or some contenders might make it. All of that wide expanse of possibilities narrows and the consensus solidifies and hardens.
The Directors Guild are about 14,500 members made up not just of film directors but television and assistant directors too. The Academy, by contrast, are around 400 and made up entirely of film directors and almost exclusively white and male.
The two things to know about the DGA nominations is that they release their nominations this year long after the Oscar ballot deadline. The second thing to know is that only once since the Academy expanded (six years) have the DGA nominees not gone on to a Best Picture nomination, at the very least. That film was, of course, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Since then, all of the films nominated for Best Director at the DGA went on to a Best Picture nomination. Before 2009, when the Academy expanded, there were only five nominees for Best Picture thus, there were plenty that got DGA nominations that didn’t get Best Picture nominations but still might have gotten in if the Academy had more than five nominees for Best Picture. In fact, Dragon Tattoo would have likely gotten in when the Academy had ten nomination slots and not five (their current system allow members five choices for Best Picture but then keeps the overflow for up to ten).
Having five nominee choices for Best Picture instead of ten requires passionate support, not just admiration. That’s why Foxcatcher – which should have made it in, got a Best Director nomination at the Oscars (not at the DGA) and missed out on a Best Picture nomination. Worth noting: since they expanded, Foxcatcher is the only film nominated for Best Director to miss out on Best Picture.
Because the DGA has five and not ten, they, too, must rely mostly on passion, although at the DGA popularity usually counts for more than passion or auteurism. We’re talking about thousands and thousands voting here, second only to the Screen Actors Guild. What we know about the “consensus” is that it tends to be the same across those thousands of people voting, which means the PGA and DGA and Oscar tend to be mostly uniform, while the Screen Actors Guild can sometimes stray; after all, SAG is the most diverse of all of the voting guilds.
Still, the consensus is the consensus and people who form a mob tend to all think alike, somehow. They tend to hover around the same basic films that they like. The DGA CAN sometimes lead the way but it’s not 100% iron clad since we’re talking about a fluid race based on human perception.
We think we know what the general consensus is right now. I’d say the DGA would then be down to following seven names — it will be your job to figure out which two get dropped. Keep in mind a few knowable facts. One, Steven Spielberg is kind of a god at the DGA and currently holds are records for nominations and wins. His chances of getting in are pretty good, considering. He did just have a nomination in 2012, which might make voters feel like opting for someone new — this is probably going to be more true at the Oscars than the DGA. For instance, Clint Eastwood got in for American Sniper at DGA but not at the Oscars. He’s popular among the DGA and they liked his movie, as did many many people.
Bridge of Spies has done really well both with the box office and has gotten the necessary nominations so far to be strongly considered for a nomination. That’s why there are six, the Spielberg factor. There is also The Revenant, not as widely seen perhaps as some of the others – thus a slam dunk for an Oscar nod but maybe not for the DGA, although it’s suicide to not predict him, I’d say.
Here are the names that seem most likely to be the consensus six:
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
Adam McKay, The Big Short
Todd Haynes, Carol
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
If you look at the films most likely to get a Best Picture nomination (give or take something unexpected like Beasts of No Nation or Son of Saul) you could then add:
Lenny Abrahamson, Room (very very popular film)
F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton (also popular)
Wild card include:
JJ Abrams, the Force Awakens (because you just never know…popular guy, popular movie)
Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs (again, you never know)
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight (popular director)
All of these are expected to earn Best Picture nominations, plus two (or in an exceptional year, three) more. It’s very likely four of them will go on to get an Oscar nomination and also very likely the Oscar voters will pick someone like Lazlo Nemes for Son of Saul or Cary Fukunaga for Beasts of No Nation, or whatever film might pop (or in the case of Foxcatcher, not) up in Best Picture. It’s safer to assume your Best Director predictions in both DGA and at the Oscars (unless you’re comfortable predicting a long shot) will also be Best Picture nominees.
My gut feeling tells me the strongest nominees are:
The Big Short
I feel less certain about:
Bridge of Spies
Completing my Best Picture predictions, I’d also consider:
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton
But I’m going to go with:
The Big Short
The DGA Awards
won DGA | won Oscar
*film nominated/+ won Best Picture at the Oscars
|Richard Linklater, Boyhood||Richard Linklater, Boyhood|
|Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman||Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman|
|Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel||Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel|
|Morten Tyldum, Imitation Game||Morten Tyldum, Imitation Game|
|Clint Eastwood, American Sniper||Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher|
|Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity||Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity|
|Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave||Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave|
|Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips||Alexander Payne, Nebraska|
|David O. Russell, American Hustle||David O. Russell, American Hustle|
|Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street||Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street|
|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|
|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*|
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