The DGA Awards are on Saturday, shockingly. They crept up on us before we were ready. That’s because the Oscar race will be shaped more by what happens toward the end of the month, when the Producers Guild and the SAG-AFTRA announce their winners. A lot can change in a few short weeks. The PGA (producers) used to go “first” right after the Golden Globes. Often, that would mean the consensus either agreed with them or didn’t. The Globes back then were comprised of 90 members that remained more or less unchanged for decades. That’s no longer true. There are 300 members and all different kinds of people from all over the world.
But sometimes, we would see a disconnect just when we thought the race was settled. Birdman overtaking Boyhood and The King’s Speech overtaking The Social Network are good examples. And in some bizarre twists, we saw the SAG ensemble deciding the race at the last possible minute, like with Parasite and Spotlight. In one rare instance, and probably still the biggest shock at the Oscars, Moonlight beat La La Land without winning much of anything except the WGA Award for Original Screenplay (it would be placed in Adapted at the Oscars).
We’ve learned from the losses of La La Land and 1917 that there is no such thing as a sure thing where the ranked-choice ballot is concerned. It would be ironic (and frustrating) if Christopher Nolan’s film, Oppenheimer, loses Best Picture because of the ballot, which was only implemented after another Christopher Nolan movie (The Dark Knight) was shut out. Count me among those with fingers crossed that actors will, for once, pick the right movie to win. They hardly ever do, though — so prepare yourselves.
Saturday morning will be the DGA breakfast with all of the nominees. Then, they will hand out the final prize very late at night. At the moment, I do not believe they will be live-streamed, but if they are, we’ll get the link for you.
Oppenheimer is Christopher Nolan’s fifth DGA nomination:
It is only his second Oscar nomination for Best Director. It’s pretty cool of the DGA way back when to have nominated him for Memento and The Dark Knight. That shows you just how badass they once before before Hollywood sh*t the bed, doesn’t it? The DGA have since added a bunch of members, diluting their membership significantly, so picks like that are kind of rare. I do admire them for nominating David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also fairly badass.
As for Mr. Nolan, his time has come to finally win. Whether they will give him the win or not remains unseen. This is always the most nerve-racking moment in the Oscar race, whether the big guilds will align with the expectations of lowly worms like me. A consensus vote is an unwieldy beast. You never know what will drive people and in what direction. My heart sank when Birdman won the PGA. Ditto The King’s Speech. You have to prepare yourselves for the worst when it comes to thousands of people voting. I dare not get my hopes up lest they fling me into a violent rage on Saturday night. Please no. I don’t need another ocular migraine to take me out of commission.
In case you didn’t get it, Oppenheimer is the kind of movie film awards were invented for. It isn’t just that a movie made on film (IMAX, for chrissakes) about quantum physics and barely known scientists made almost a billion dollars worldwide. It isn’t just that it’s a subjective, exquisite collaborative work of Nolan’s assured hand, with masterful editing by Jennifer Lame and that score from Ludwig Goransson — MY GOD the score.
Oppenheimer is, to my mind, a perfect film by someone who deeply cares about the subject. Nolan’s affection for Oppie is in every frame. It’s in how he didn’t want to miss a single second of this American Prometheus. Anyone who reads the book will understand why. This is a breathtaking, expansive life of a curious mind that saw what other people couldn’t. This is the story of a sensitive man who helped build the most destructive weapon in human history. As a scientist, he couldn’t not do it. As a humanist, he spent much of his life trying to stop a fast-moving train that would ultimately lead to massive bombs — as Rabi says in the film, “weapons of mass genocide.” Like the biggest of them of them all, the Tsar Bomba:
We can only hope the 19,000 or so filmmakers in the DGA can understand the dense and complex Oppenheimer. But when people don’t, I feel like Marlon Brando in The Godfather.
Film awards shouldn’t be handed out based on a moment’s feeling. Ideally, they are given out to “high achievements” in film — the HIGHEST. Does that mean every single person is going to understand every part of it? No. Do you get the gist of it? Yes. Do you understand the genius of it? Of course.
Who could defeat Nolan? There are, I think, two possibilities.
After Greta Gerwig was left off Best Director for the Oscars, it kicked into motion a media narrative that seemed to go viral. Could that drive female directors at the behest of, say, activists in the industry, to “bloc vote” for Gerwig? Possibly. But we’re talking about 19,000 voters here. How many of them are female? Moreover, how many of them love Barbie? I’m not sure.
In any other year, I would be rooting for Gerwig to pull this out. This is only her second DGA nomination, following Lady Bird. I would not be upset if she won in any other year but this one. The main reason is that, quite simply, Christopher Nolan deserves to win. And if it’s just done out of spite, then that would be the wrong reason.
And if you’re talking about a broad consensus, then Oppie & Barbie fit the bill:
Do I think that Greta Gerwig will eventually get here and win? I do. But remember, some of the greatest directors in history never won anything, either a DGA or an Oscar, Alfred Hitchcock and Stan the Man Kubrick among them. So if she doesn’t ever win, she is in good company.
Women who have won the DGA is a teeny tiny list. There are just three: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Chloe Zhao for Nomadland, and Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. How many women have even been nominated? More than for the Oscar, that’s for sure.
1976 — Lina Wertmüller, Seven Beauties
1986 — Randa Haines, Kiss of the Spider Woman
1991 — Barbra Streisand, The Prince of Tides
1993 — Jane Campion, The Piano
2003 — Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
2009 — Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
2012 — Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
2017 — Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
2020 — Chloe Zhao, Nomadland; Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
2021 — Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
2023 — Greta Gerwig, Barbie
Gerwig’s in great company as the third woman in history to earn two DGA nominations. When people throw a fuss about not enough women in the race, the suggestion is that they should be given some kind of special consideration, but this is at the same time as the Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards went “gender neutral.” Either gender makes a difference or it doesn’t.
Do I think Gerwig should win because she’s a woman? No. Should she win because she directed the highest-grossing film of the year? Maybe.
Some of the greatest directors of all time never won, even while being white males.
The Enfant Terrible
There is a scenario I could imagine where Yorgos Lanthimos pulls out a shock win. They went for Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman so anything is possible. We’re not expecting it, but it would be the kind of win that might run the tables on the whole season, sending me spiraling into an ocular migraine. For the love of God, people, don’t do that. Give it to Barbenheimer, either/or. Save yourselves. Save your industry. Don’t be dancing on the edge of a volcano. Might they? Yes, they might. Be ready.
Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’ first DGA nomination. How’s the film stacking up in terms of RT’s ratings? Just a wee bit divisive.
But then again, Birdman was divisive too and it still ran the tables. So you never know.
Just Happy to Be There
Worth noting, the King, the Master, the Professor, Martin Scorsese is now on his 11th DGA nomination for Feature Film, with only one win for The Departed. It seems like such a prolific director might win another. Will this be his year? Probably not, but you never know.
Alexander Payne for The Holdovers has three nominations at the DGA, with no wins. He still has a career ahead of him, but there is a scenario where a consensus might build around The Holdovers as the film most people can agree on that they love. It does meet the definition of the tried and true Oscar winner: a film you can sit anyone down in front of and they will get it, if not love it. Though that rule was tossed last year with Everything, Everywhere All at Once. It’s a whole new world.
Most of us are going for the two frontrunners in Feature Film and First-Time Feature Film.
Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer — Sasha Stone, Ryan Adams, Clarence Moye, Mark Johnson, Marshall Flores
First Time Feature
Celine Song, Past Lives — Stone, Adams, Moye, Johnson
Cord Jefferson, American Fiction — Flores
Then, for Documentary we have:
Bobi Wine: The People’s President
20 Days in Mariupol — Johnson, Flores, Moye
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie — Stone
Here you go, you have to nail all of the categories here to win and two of them are slightly unpredictable. Thanks to Marshall for putting together the form.