DGA Preview: It’s Anyone’s Game with a Winner Not Clearing Up a Thing

Alejandro-G-Iñarritu-The-Revenant-1024x682The Directors Guild of America will take place this Saturday (can’t believe it) and we will get, hopefully, a clearer picture of what the Oscars can look like on February 28th.  With the way the season has played out, I don’t expect a “conventional” or “expected” pick for the prestigious award.  Thus far, we’ve had “The Revenant” and Alejandro González Iñárritu win the Golden Globe, “Spotlight” and George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) win the Critics Choice, Adam McKay‘s “The Big Short” win the Producers Guild of America, and “Spotlight” win the SAG Ensemble prize.

Going on record recently, this race reminds me so much of the 2004 and 2006 Oscar seasons.  The Academy Awards have never been one to really put a whole lot of thought into “how the race is shaping up.”  An Oscar voter will do what they want to do, no matter how much we write about it.  Sometimes, and not very often, they may do things because they’re “supposed” to.  You can look at voters stating that they voted for “12 Years a Slave” without seeing it for an example.  The DGA can typically be a different animal.

Last year, they went with Iñárritu for “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” cementing its feet in a race that had pundits championing the likes of “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”  No one has ever won back-to-back DGA prizes but the way “The Revenant” has played out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it unexpectedly go the way of Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” a winner that no one really saw until nominations were announced.  20th Century Fox is mounting a very precise and expansive Phase 2 campaign.  The studio hasn’t won a Best Picture statue since 1971’s “The French Connection” and they are aching for the top prize.  They’ve come close over the years with “Life of Pi” and “Avatar,” ultimately just coming up short.  They have a real shot this year.

george-millerWhen it comes to George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I’m a bit surprised that so many pundits have opted to predict Miller for not only the DGA but the Oscar too.  I’ll always thank the Gods of Film (whoever they are) that we were alive to see the film rack up 10 Oscar nominations, the second most of any film from the year.  Speaking to a couple of voters pre-nominations, I heard a couple of them describe the film as either “overblown” or “overrated.”  Those same individuals surely saw the technical achievements on-screen but not much else.  It’s hard for me to reconcile that Miller would win Best Director and the film itself, at highest in the Best Picture race, feels like a fourth place finisher.  On the other hand, I spoke with an Academy member just yesterday, who stated to me “Mad Max for the win!”  I’m completely open to being proven wrong.  Warner Bros. last win was for “Argo” and before that was “The Departed.”

When it comes to Tom McCarthy and “Spotlight,” there’s not a whole lot of confidence from the directorial standpoint.  Because it’s been deemed “not showy” or just “competent,” it’s incredibly easy to overlook the achievement in Open Road’s film.  If the Director choices were a preferential ballot, I’d be way more confident for a McCarthy upset.  With one choice, winner take all balloting system, it’s hard to see the directorial efforts igniting enough passion.  What hurts “Spotlight” significantly is that if it loses DGA, then its road to the Dolby Theatre doesn’t offer up any more opportunities since McCarthy is NOT nominated at BAFTA.

Then we have Adam McKay, in the presumed “current” frontrunner for “The Big Short.”  Comedies don’t fare well at the Oscars, and that’s no secret.  Sure some will say “Birdman was a comedy,” but they are not remotely the same type.  Some will say  “The Artist was a comedy,” and maybe I can buy that SLIGHTLY more but again, that had technical love behind it to embrace like production, costumes, etc., plus it was a silent film, something that had people buzzing.  I don’t think people really “laughed” at “The Artist” in that way (at least not intentionally).  Technically, we have to go back to “Chicago” to find a comedy Best Picture winner, but honestly, I’d say its more like “Shakespeare in Love.”  What helps McKay and “The Big Short,” we haven’t had a “winner” like this before.  It would be a new animal for Oscar to embrace.  Whether you like “The Big Short” or not, you either love it or hate it by its direction.  If you’re a fan, you’ll likely attribute that to McKay’s interpretation of the material and how he decided to tell the story.  Paramount Pictureshas danced with Oscar plenty of times but the last was “Titanic” in 1997 and before that they went back-to-back with “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart” in 94′ and 95′.

Ridley Scott is likely sitting this one out for “The Martian” but with the year we’ve had, and the time in which we live in (what time you ask?  It’s the time where Oscar stats have flown out the window.  “Birdman” wins without an Editing nomination, “12 Years a Slave” wins the Best Picture Oscar, “Argo” wins without a Director nomination, and so forth), do not be shocked to hear Ridley Scott’s name called and become the new Ron Howard, when he won the DGA for “Apollo 13” with no Oscar nomination for Director.

So where am I leaning?  If you asked me mid-week, I would have said Tom McCarthy to go along with my “Spotlight” prediction to win both awards on Oscar night.  If you asked me a month ago, I would have drank the Kool-Aid for George Miller.  I’m going with Iñárritu.

PREDICTED WINNER: Alejandro González Iñárritu (“The Revenant”)
ALTERNATE: Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”)

Official predictions for the Oscars will be updated this weekend.  For now, I’ll include my predicted winners down below:

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(Open Road)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“The Revenant”
Leonardo DiCaprio
“The Revenant”
Brie Larson
Sylvester Stallone
Alicia Vikander
“The Danish Girl”
“The Big Short”
“Inside Out”
“Son of Saul”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“The Danish Girl”
“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
“The Revenant”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
Carter Burwell
“Til it Happens to You”
“The Hunting Ground”
“Last Day of Freedom”
“World of Tomorrow”