Oscars: Looking to the DGA for Clarity on a Very Foggy Season

DGAAfter the weirdness of the Golden Globes on Sunday night, we move into the week where we finally learn who and what is going to be nominated for an Academy Award.  We celebrate all this with a special edition of the Awards Circuit Power Hour podcast that will be up tomorrow morning, where we discuss our final Oscar Predictions.  This will coincide with the official predictions that will go up on the site with the final Oscar Circuit.  Also landing tomorrow, the Directors Guild of America will announce their nominees.  While we look to this to indicate some strong support for or against a particular film, as they are being announced AFTER ballots have been turned in, it could be nothing more than just a blip on the radar.  

We saw a few years ago when Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), and Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”) all scored DGA nominations and came up short at the Oscars, although all their films went on to nominations.  This year, we look for some odd ball choices or a strong consensus listing.  It’s interesting to say, but there are no locks in the Director field at this present.  You can certainly make the case for Tom McCarthy (though he missed BAFTA), Steven Spielberg (missed Globe), and George Miller (not normally their cup of tea in terms of a film), but what we have is a race for nine men in five slots (perhaps even ten).  

In a major guild that is littered with television directors, you have to consider Jay Roach (“Trumbo”) is receiving a nice share of votes.  Alejandro G. Inarritu is fresh off his win at the DGA last year, sprinkled with a nice showing at the Golden Globes this past Sunday.  My money would be for him to make an entry.

Veterans are often favorites among the guild as Ridley Scott (“The Martian”) and Steven Spielberg (“Bridge of Spies”) have all been cited in the past on multiple occasions.  “Bridge of Spies” struggled to find a strong footing earlier in the season but as the big guilds have announced, it’s landed just about everywhere it’s needed to.  In the case of “The Martian,” its biggest omission that had pundits scratching their heads was SAG Ensemble.  While the film benefits immensely from a preferential ballot system, I wonder how many will really go to bat for it at the top of their lists?  

Todd Haynes has only found love on the television for HBO’s “Mildred Pierce” and with “Carol” getting a second life, save for a PGA nomination, it looks positioned well for attention.  I will say, the film looks like it can land anywhere from leading the tally on Oscar morning, or scrapping by with a single mention for Cate Blanchett.  I think it’s somewhere in the middle.  

Not sure what to make of the case for Adam McKay.  “The Big Short” seems to be emulating the same trajectory as “The Wolf of Wall Street.”  I strongly feel that the film will get just about the same amount first place votes, as it does last place votes when final ballots are cast.  What will a 300 plus boys club do with a mostly comic director in their faces for the taking?  Can McKay really muscle out someone like Tom McCarthy?

tommcarthyspotlight3Speaking of McCarthy, the BAFTA miss and donut showing with the Globes have many worried that the film is headed for a bad Thursday morning.  Not sure if it’s that simple.  We could have McCarthy going the way of Affleck but “Spotlight” is a film that also, benefits from a preferential ballot system.  I learned this first hand as the entire membership of New York Film Critics Online read out their choices for Best Picture in this year’s voting.  “Spotlight” didn’t seem to dominate the #1 slots but I heard the film mentioned by nearly every person in the #2 or #3.  That’s power.  And I would think it would continue even without a McCarthy director nod or an Editing mention for Tom McArdle.

And then we have F. Gary Gray, the director of “Straight Outta Compton” that scored nods from PGA, WGA, and SAG.  Universal Pictures’ mounting campaign has been impressive, getting the writers involved on the beat, and letting voters rediscover its magic from the late summer.  With a dynamite year at the box office, Universal is bound to capture some love from the Academy.  It’s either “Compton” or the once thought dead, “Steve Jobs.”  

We look around suspiciously for our Benh Zeitlin’s (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) or Bennett Miller’s (“Foxcatcher”).  I’m looking at you Denis Villenueve.  A film that has risen in the ranks significantly has been “Sicario” and has potential to have a best day tally of about eight nominations (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Score).  That’s insane considering the difficulty Lionsgate has had getting Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt on the circuit, considering their demanding filming schedules.  In the end, this could all be farce à la “Nightcrawler” last year, which only was able to get one nomination out of a stellar showing in the late Phase 1 season.  Perhaps this is moving down that route.

I wouldn’t count out a John Crowley jaw-dropper for “Brooklyn” or even a Cary Joji Fukunaga shocker à la the SAG Ensemble nomination for “Beasts of No Nation.”

Without further ado, here are the DGA predictions for tomorrow.  Include your own in the comments below:

  1. Alejandro G. Inarritu for “The Revenant”
  2. Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight”
  3. Steven Spielberg for “Bridge of Spies”
  4. George Miller for “Mad Max: Fury Road”
  5. Ridley Scott for “The Martian”

ALTERNATE: Adam McKay for “The Big Short”