Roma did not win the Producers Guild when it was nominated — Green Book did. Ten nominees on a preferential ballot and Green Book beat A Star Is Born, Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther, and BlacKkKlansman. Roma also did not win the Eddies last night; Bohemian Rhapsody did, beating BlacKkKlansman and A Star Is Born. Roma also did not win at the Toronto Film Festival, where Green Book also won, beating out Beale Street in addition to Roma. The pundits, nevertheless, have Roma out front to win both Best Picture and Best Director. Roma has to win the DGA tonight to have a shot at either. The question is, can it?
The last and only time a foreign language film has won the DGA was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which made $100 million at the box office. We know that guild voters are not critics. Critics are aces with Roma, but they were also aces with other frontrunners that did not win the PGA, the DGA, the SAG, and eventually, the Oscar. That’s why tonight’s win is crucial. There are so many questions that have to be asked, but first — let’s look at how the guilds have gone down in a situation like this.
In 2015, a different film won every guild:
PGA — The Big Short
DGA — The Revenant
SAG — Spotlight
Best Picture — Spotlight
Back in 2000, we did not have the preferential ballot in place for Best Picture. Thus, the fight between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Gladiator was even more profound. Who knows how it would have all played out on an expanded ballot, but in this instance, Crouching Tiger won just Best Foreign Language Film. It didn’t win Best Director because Steven Soderbergh did. But how did the guilds go?
PGA — Gladiator
DGA — Crouching Tiger
SAG — Traffic
Oscar director — Traffic
Oscar Picture — Gladiator
These two years illustrate a very divided voting body. Right now, the wins so far tell us that the three most popular movies are Green Book (PGA, Globe), Bohemian Rhapsody (Globe, ACE) and Black Panther (SAG).
But, ironically, none of these films have a Best Director nomination at the Oscars. I can tell you with 100% certainty that this has never happened before. And what that tells me is that it’s possible we’ve reached complete separation between Best Picture and Best Director.
That could signal that Alfonso Cuaron takes the DGA easily, but remember — when was the last time in the era of the expanded ballot that the DGA winner came in with nothing else so far?
2009 — Kathryn Bigelow (Hurt Locker won the PGA, Oscar)
2010 — Tom Hooper (King’s Speech won PGA, Oscar)
2011 — Michel Hazanivious (The Artist won PGA, Oscar)
2012 — Ben Affleck (Argo won PGA, Osar)
2013 — Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity co-won PGA with 12 Years a Slave which won Oscar)
2014 — Alejandro G. Iñarritu (Birdman won PGA, Oscar)
2015 — Alejandro G. Iñarritu (The Revenant had won the Globe for Picture – Spotlight won Picture)
2016 — Damien Chazelle (La La Land had PGA – Moonlight won Picture)
2017 — Guillermo del Toro (Shape of Water won PGA, Oscar)
So you see, what we’re all predicting as a slam dunk win has never happened. A lot of things happening this year have never happened. We’ve never had all of the frontrunners not be driven by their director. We’ve never had so many so-called controversies hit the Best Picture contenders because we’ve never lived through an era of the hive mind digging up the backgrounds of contenders and “vetting” them in retrospect through the strident purity standards of today. We’ve never seen an Oscar voting body with so many new international members. All through their history, you had to be invited or a previous nominee to get in. But the DGA doesn’t have that many international members. You are talking 15,000 people voting — largely Americans, many of whom are also TV people.
All of this to say that I personally have switched my prediction to Alfonso Cuaron on the assumption that we’re living through an era where picture and director do not need one another any longer. However, I remain skeptical that he will win. It’s hard to imagine anyone else winning, but don’t be surprised if someone else does. It does seem at least possible that Peter Farrelly could win this tonight, though it’s a long shot to hope for Spike Lee to make history.
Finally, don’t count on the DGA to predict Best Picture, not this year. Predicting Roma for Best Picture, at least from a stats perspective at the moment, is to predict a long shot win. Just remember that. Not to say you shouldn’t, but it’s a risk without any other major consensus wins, at least right now. Perhaps tonight will change all of that.