Oscars 2015: Directors Guild of America Set to Offer More Questions to a Wide Open Race

Alejandro_González_Iñárritu_with_a_camera_in_production We are in the beginning moments of the final stretch of the Oscar season.  The final voting process begins on Friday at 8:00 am PT.  As soon as voting opens, the Directors Guild of America will bestow their trophy on the winners Friday evening.  Then, on Sunday evening, BAFTA becomes the last televised stop while ballots are in hands.

When it comes to the DGA, all five nominees (Clint Eastwood for “American Sniper,” Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” Richard Linklater for “Boyhood,” Wes Anderson for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game“) have their films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.  “Birdman” already surprised the bulk of the internet when it bested “Boyhood” at the Producers Guild of America, then it quickly followed up with the Ensemble award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  The film has been picking up serious momentum for weeks, and Fox Searchlight Pictures putting the pedal to the medal insuring the film is out there as much as it can.  A recent Blu-Ray and DVD announcement release of February 17 sure helps.  One year after Alfonso Cuaron won virtually every Director’s prize, including DGA and Oscar, will Iñárritu become the second Mexican director in a row to get the prize?  The case is certainly there for him to take it.

richardlinklaterThe case for Richard Linklater is certainly prevalent.  The now five-time Oscar-nominated writer/director has plenty of people in his corner. The precursors have been beautifully kind including the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, NYFCC, and LAFCA awards.  With the “Before” series, Linklater gained a barrage of followers and admirers, many within the Academy.  An Academy member told me during the Christmas break, how happy he was for Linklater and his sudden “frontrunner” status.  Linklater is probably our sure-fire director winner if the Academy decides on a third split year in a row.

The dark horse in all of this is Morten Tyldum, a man backed with the power of Harvey Weinstein, a man who can do the impossible as we’ve seen.  He convinced the Academy that “The King’s Speech” was the best choice that they could make, and that “The Reader” was more than just Kate Winslet.  He can muscle his way into the DVD players of an Oscar-voter and convince them that what they’re seeing is THE best thing.  Tyldum’s “The Imitation Game” has been trying desperately to remain relevant in this race.  Pulling off a goose egg at the Golden Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice Movie Awards doesn’t suggest that there’s hope but don’t ever count Harvey out.  

People will constantly cite other director races from Oscar’s past, trying to lay the groundwork for a compelling argument that is in favor or against one of the director nominees.  Truth of the matter is, one word I keep going back to is the “alternative.”  The Academy is and has never been afraid to let anyone go home or leave us without an Oscar in tow.  Think back to how long it took Martin Scorsese to finally get a statue.  More so, look back at some of the filmmakers that were “sure-fire frontrunners” that lost out: David Fincher losing to Tom Hooper, Ridley Scott losing to Steven Soderbergh, and Robert Altman losing to Ron Howard.  These three men were crowned very early on in their respective seasons by pundits, audiences, and more.  However, the “alternative” to them winning was much more enticing to the Oscar voter.  As Nathaniel Rogers of Film Experience often puts, it’s important for us to have major losses in Oscar’s history.  “If you’re well-regarded enough to win nearly two handfuls of nominations as “best of the year” you’re already a winner, even if you “lose”.”  That’s very well put considering our list of “overdue” directors doesn’t seem as large as it once was, at least by living directors standards.  

For the better part of the 2000’s the mission was Marty Scorsese.  The internet accepted the mission and we prevailed (thank God).  If you’re looking for the “overdue” directors that people will cry foul for today, you’ll likely hear Terrence Malick, David Lynch, and Peter Weir.  A younger movie-lover will throw out Stephen Daldry, David Fincher, perhaps even Alexander Payne and Ridley Scott.  I’d throw out Gus Van Sant, with Bennett Miller making a compelling case at this point in his career.  Despite having screenplay wins, film-fanatics will also say Quentin Tarantino is in need of a director’s trophy.  The point is, there a strong “alternative” to either director that you consider the frontrunner this year.  AMPAS doesn’t feel “obligated” to vote for one or the other.  In the end, it will come down to personal preference, and not the usual popularity contest as we so often witness.

This is where I make the official prediction and honestly, it’s a tough call.  Whoever wins, save for Eastwood or Anderson, nothing will really be cleared up.  A Linklater win shows “Boyhood” is still in the race, an Iñárritu win shows that “Birdman” is prepared to go the distance, and a Tyldum win would just prove everything I said earlier.  In the end, I’m sticking with Richard Linklater.  I think the 12 years story will resonate with plenty of the MEN of the guild, while some will thoroughly appreciate everything he brought to the table.  Trust me, this prediction is not confident in the slightest.

BAFTA preview and predictions will follow before the weekend.

PREDICTION: Richard Linklater for “Boyhood”
ALTERNATE: Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
SPOILER: Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game”  

As always, you can check out the current Oscar Predictions for Best Director, as well as other categories.

Who do you think is winning DGA on Friday?

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