Director’s Split – Is Cuarón DGA Win the Sign for ‘Gravity’ in Best Picture?

Cuaron_AffleckThe Directors Guild of America weighed in last night choosing their favorite directors in film and television.  To no one’s real surprise, Alfonso Cuarón won Best Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film.  Cuarón, who won Best Director at the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards, continues to be the hands on favorite to win his first Oscar for his technical marvel Gravity.

What has many buzzing around is many pundits, and Oscar-fans alike, are predicting for the second year in a row, a split between the winners of Best Picture and Best Director.  While it’s certainly happening more often than in years prior, it’s always very risky to “predict” the split between the two top categories.  I think it may be time to really start looking to Gravity as our eventual Best Picture winner over heavy favorites 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle.

Gravity is on track to win the most awards at the Academy Awards, without even factoring in Best Picture or Director.  Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Original Score, and Film Editing are looking like prime candidates for the taking.  There’s also the possibility for Production Design to carry through if a voter is checking Gravity off in so many categories.  If Best Director is a natural choice for AMPAS to make for Alfonso Cuarón, why wouldn’t it be their Best Picture of the year?  Also, on a preferential ballot, Gravity will likely score many #2, #3, and #4 votes, something that has carried in winners like Argo last year.  There are always those enthusiasts that will cite some notable omissions for Gravity.  The film is without an Original Screenplay nomination, a huge miss on the Oscar BP tracker.  The last film to win the big prize without a Screenplay nomination was James Cameron’s Titanic, a film that is similar in scale.   Another hiccup is Cuarón’s film didn’t score a nomination for Best Cast Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  Fortunately for it, it’s something that many predicted it wouldn’t receive nor does it lend itself to that type of citation.  At the end of the day, I think the SAG Ensemble omission may not be a factor like in year’s past.

At the Producers Guild of America awards just over a week ago, Gravity tied with 12 Years a Slave as the Best Picture of the year, the first time in PGA history.  By my tally, tie or not, that puts Gravity in the lead at the moment.  The only other award show to shift the race in any which way will be BAFTA, which takes place on February 16.  Oscar ballots are due February 25.  With all three main competitors nominated at BAFTA, we could get a sense of where our British voting bloc is putting their support.  A renowned international auteur, who is a two-time BAFTA winner for Best Film Not in the English Language (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Best Feature Film-Children’s (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban), Cuarón has shown his worth to them.  Perhaps its time for them to reward him in a major way?

Steve McQueen - Lupita NyongoGoing in Steve McQueen‘s favor, director of 12 Years a Slave, he is one of their own.  A British filmmaker, who won the Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer for Hunger, is sitting comfortable as the director of what is arguably, the most important film of the year.  Surely that holds a lot with all voters.  As much as they “enjoy” Gravity or American Hustle, an obligation must come over some to cite a film so darkly inventive and powerful.

I’ve said this on past podcasts but one thing that is worth noting is that there is an opportunity to have Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuarón, and David O. Russell all go home with Oscars in major ways.  The most agreed upon scenario is McQueen wins in Picture, Cuarón wins in Director, and Russell wins in Original Screenplay.  McQueen is enjoying his first two nominations this year.  There’s no “overdue” aura surrounding his campaign as of yet, especially after only directing his third feature.  Russell is on his fifth, third as a Director and second as a screenwriter.  Sony Pictures is about to unleash a huge campaign that will be highlighting the power of Russell and his film this year.  Guns will be blazing in that respect and tied with the most nominations and a SAG winner for Ensemble, they will be pleading their case.

Cuarón is up to six career Oscar nominations, three this year as a Producer, Director, and co-Film Editor on Gravity.  Some will say, “hey, he can get his Oscar in Film Editing.”  And while you’re correct, how many AMPAS voters KNOW that Alfonso Cuarón co-edited Gravity this year?  Those are the same bunch that don’t know that Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Bruno Delbonnel are all vying for an Academy Award this year, all overdue and arguably three of the finest DP’s that have ever stepped behind the camera.

This is going to be an interesting four weeks.  Phase II campaigns are kicking into high gear while voters are getting around to those films they missed or “heard about.”  We’ve got a long way to go.

Share your thoughts in the comments.