Thursday, January 07, 2010

DGA: Bigelow, Cameron, Daniels, Reitman, Tarantino

The Directors Guild of America used to be the Oscar precursor with the most famously accurate prediction record... not for guessing the Best Director lineup, exactly, but for predicting the eventual Best Picture lineup itself.


So *if* were were still only getting five Best Picture nominees (instead of ten) they would be:
  • Avatar (James Cameron)
  • The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
  • Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
  • Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (Lee Daniels)
  • Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
"Tell us something we don't know," you scream in unison. "cuz those are obviously the top contenduhs!"

Okay okay... something you don't know. Let's see... Did you know that Clint Eastwood is arguably a microscopic bit more popular with the AMPAS directorial branch than he is with the DGA: The DGA didn't nominate his Letters From Iwo Jima; Oscar did. (You probably know this, too). But he could still show on Oscar's shortlist for pointing cameras at Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman in Invictus. Still, this list as is from the DGA is actually quite nicely representative of the film year: a little sci-fi, a little war, a lotta drama... films from the summer, fall and winter! It's also worth noting that, WW II reimagining aside, this is a truly contemporary field. Precious is set in the 80s but that's not really "period" now is it? (Shut Up! Don't make me feel old)

Another batch o' trivia: The DGA, which has a much larger membership than the Academy's director's branch, is also slightly more inclusive: Oscar has only given one Asian the Director's trophy (Ang Lee) but DGA did that twice (it was Ang Lee both times, but still... he deserved it! Sorry Traffic lovers but Crouching Tiger owned that particular shortlist); Oscar has only nominated three women for Best Director but Bigelow is the seventh so honored by the DGA; The DGA has also given an out gay man their top prize (Rob Marshall, Chicago) while Oscar hasn't... at least not "out" in the traditional modern sense of the word. But, that said, Lee Daniels is the first black man to be nominated by the DGA (at least in the movie category) and Oscar got there nearly two decades ago with John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) although that's the only time they've done so. Sadly, neither the DGA nor Oscar ever nominated Spike Lee even when he was making critical smashes (Do The Right Thing) or epic biopics (Malcolm X) and you know how frequently Oscar goes for both of those things...

Do you think Lee Daniels can hang on to become the second black director nominated by Oscar? Or do you think this is the last hurrah after which he'll be replaced by ____________
*

40 comments:

Robert said...

The director's branch is supposed to be the daring one who we can thank for the occasional David Lynch nod etc.

I suppose that supports the thought that they'll snub the golden Clint Eastwood in order to pat themselves on the bat a little for a diverse lineup.

Besides, when was someone ever shunned for overdirecting something?

adam k. said...

I'll be so pissed if Clint Eastwood boots out Lee Daniels.

Inevitable Campion absence aside, this lineup is perfect as is. Appropriately diverse (sex, race, sexual orientation, genre, season AND age), and every one of them is eminently worthy of top 5 status.

Robert Hamer said...

"Sorry Traffic lovers but Crouching Tiger owned that particular shortlist"

NO! I doth protest! Traffic is way underrated among the movie blogosphere, and I go against the grain from Nick, Guy and you by declaring that Soderbergh DESERVED the Oscar for that film!

And Erin Brockovich is overrated!

Now that that little rant is out of the way, since Lee Daniel's direction killed Precious for me, I'm hoping he loses out the slot. Problem is, his most likely upsetter is the painfully mediocre direction of Eastwood on Invictus. I was not a big fan of Avatar, but Cameron set several technical precedents and I wouldn't mind his presence on the Best Director shortlist. I didn't like Inglorious Basterds, and I actually think there's more members of the Academy who agree with me than the punditry lets on. I just don't see overwhelming Academy support for an irreverent dark comedy about WWII; especially when its competitors are an industry-changing epic, an intense war drama, a dramedey dealing with our economic climate, and a socially conscious melodrama. I know M*A*S*H made it in 1970, but that was almost forty years ago, and Inglourious Basterds ain't no M*A*S*H.

I'd like to think that someone more deserving like Wes Anderson or the Coen Brothers or even Neill Blomkamp will steal a spot, but I'm not holding my breath.

Not that any of this really matters since MY GIRL is going to win! WHOO-HOO!

Kev said...

Let's hope that Neil Blomkamp replaces Lee Daniels for slot #5, b/c my God, his direction in "Precious" was bloody awful. I'd even take Clint over Lee Daniels.

This is seriously the first time a black director has EVER been nominated in the DGA film category? Is that possible? No Spike Lee or John Singleton? Kasi Lemmons? (Strike that -- can't be black and have a vag here). That's really sad.

SO this'll be the first female to ever win the DGA's for Kathryn Bigelow, right? Now that's exciting news!

Cal said...

I was expecting Blonkamp to oust Daniels in this one, but it didn't happen. Precious must have the support after all.

I have to agree that I thought Daniels direction was poor at best, but the thought of Clint Eastwood getting nominated again is a painful one. Can we hope for a surprise? Spike Jonze? Michael Haneke? Doesn't seem like it but these are better options.

Will say though, this is a much better lineup than last year.

NATHANIEL R said...

Robert Hamer -- i know. so happy for Bigelow this season and I hope she can chase this all the way to an Oscar. Still... that's a LONG WAY away, despite all the "lock" talk bandied about for numerous contenders.

Kev -- i'll take over-direction of a potent film over utterly medicore direction of a mediocre film any day.

But that said, I do think Blomkamp did a bang up job on District 9 and if he really is the dark horse waiting in the wings (who can say?) than I'd be happy to see him there. I just don't want it to be a throwaway nomination. Go daring/newbie or go newbie/diverse but just don't go defaulzzzzz

Robert -- good point actually "when was someone ever shunned for overdirecting something?" the same applies to overacting something. They love it. Chew those curtains!

Ángel Ramos said...

Lee Daniels is black and gay, so I guess he doesn't.

Kev said...

Your "over-direction" is my "piss-poor direction". Lee Daniels shouldn't be anywhere near a "best directing" citation. As for "Invictus," no, Clint's direction wasn't earth-shattering or anything, but he got the job done effectively. I know I'd have Clint over Lee Daniels easily. Neil Blomkamp on the other hand, should be above everyone except Kathryn Bigelow. And yes, that means James Cameron too.

Amir said...

nathaniel, is "fish tank" eligible for awards this season?

NATHANIEL R said...

Amir ... it is not. No US qualifying release.

NATHANIEL R said...

Kev -- "piss poor" really? I can't fathom thinking he did a terrible job in the face of the uniformly strong performances (even Mariah Carey!). I mean he wouldn't be in my top 5 but i think he did a good job.

The Know Nothing Know It All said...

I will be so sad if Eastwood gets in over Daniels, but sadly it's likely to happen.

It sounds kind of simple and reductive, but I think that all of the Academy members who are constantly responsible for Clint Eastwood getting nominated for best director time and time again should employ a simple test. Ask themselves "Hmm...if Clint Eastwood hadn't directed this film, would we be nominating him?"
"Invictus" is a perfect example. They should just ask "Would I nominate any other director for this film? Would I nominated Edward Zwick?"
I say Edward Zwick because he's a director they've never nominated, but he and Eastwood are kind of lock step in the kind of films they make, especially of late. Well-intentioned, well-meaning and gorgeously shot as often as they are uninteresting and blah, n'est pas? Not that Clint Eastwood hasn't made good films, but come on...It'd be one thing if "Invictus" was a movie that everyone else loved and I hated, but does anyone even like this movie? Defenders?

NATHANIEL R said...

the answer is No :) They wouldn't nominate it if Edward Zwick made it. They would however maybe nominate it if Ron Howard made it.

it's a cultural hiearchy thing. Eastwood is an icon so he doesn't have to do much for the accolades. Howard is very famous but not always respected so it's hit or miss. Zwick is not that famous so it's a no go.

although i do believe that Zwick will be nominated (and win) at some point. His movies are way too much in their pleasure realm for it to never happen.

Moose said...

Eastwood's only gotten one nomination for his last four films, so I don't know why people are so cynical about the Academy default-noming him. And that one was for Letters from Iwo Jima, which for me is his best since Unforgiven.

Support for Invictus seems pretty tepid to me all told, so I don't know really that he's that likely to make it.

cal roth said...

Take my word: you will see no Eastwood Oscar nomination morning. He only gets nominations when his work is acclaimed. He is far from this default nominee status. They didn't nominate him for Changeling or Blood Work or True Crime.

I expect something bolder, like a Mike Leigh or a Fernando Meirelles. I think it's time for Michael Haneke.

cal roth said...

I mean, even a BP nomination for Invictus is shaky.

MrJeffery said...

i like this lineup (save for cameron)

i'd like to see haneke enter the mix.

Kev said...

Yeah. Piss-poor. Some of Daniels' choices were so bad, I almost couldn't believe that they made it onto the screen. Inexplicably bad.

Karl said...

I'm stunned by the pile-up on Lee Daniels. Do people think the performances in "Precious", from unknowns, comedians and singers, just rose up naturally, without a guiding hand? Daniels *directed* Mo'Nique and Gabby and Mariah. "Precious" stands out not because of some liberal idea of 'diversity' but because it is one of the truly unforgettable films of the year -- one that could have gone wrong in so many ways but instead managed to present absolutely grim subject matter with humor and visual style and even, yes, restraint.

Michael C, said...

Funny that Academy went to ten this year largely to include more populist hits when its clear their top 5 would have included a big hit like Basterds and a megahit like Avatar.

Oh well, if it means flicks like Education, Up, and Serious Man get to tag along in the top category I'll take the lazy-ass Invictus nod and still call it a net positive.

By the way. When it comes to the traditional lone director nod people seldom mention that it comes hand in hand with the surprise director snub. Who would that be in this line up? Everyone says it Daniels but might it be Tarantino or (God forbid) Bigelow? Oscar does have a history of ousting directors who seemed like sure things. Howard for Apollo 13, Jackson for Two Towers, Lee for Sense and Sensibility, Nolan for Dark Knight. I'm not convinced everyone is as secure as the conventional wisdom suggests.

Joe Reid said...

Examples, Kev. Specifics.

Kev said...

Examples? I'll take you seriously and give you some and hope you're not just being an ass about things like usual.

The fantasy sequences mainly were the worst parts of the film (and don't tell me that I didn't "get" them -- I read the book, and Daniels just did a bad job of incorporating them well into the film). The "Two Women" sequence was the laughable worst, but anytime that Precious went into one of her dreams, it disrupted the overall flow of the narrative. The rape/eggs sequence is another overly literal directorial cue that could have been done better. It really was as bad as Eric Bana's O-face intercutting scene in "Munich." Not to mention mistake after mistake in the film that either a more skilled director or more observant script supervisor should have picked up on and avoided. I'll give credit where credit is due in the cast and the performances Daniels got out of them (Sidibe and Mo'Nique are the duo of the year in my book), but that doesn't change this amateur hour film that Daniels made, and I'm not sweeping that under the rug just b/c the film is socially relevant or an Oscar favorite.

Paul Outlaw said...

Two thumbs up for the Daniels nomination. Precious: fresh vision, skillful adaptation, outstanding performances. YES!

Jim T said...

Nathaniel I'll say it again! I love your writing!

My problem with Precious was that I felt I had already seen it since I knew so much about it! :(

I think Oscar will nominate the same people as DGA did. No surprise there.

Jilda said...

Well, most people thought Tony Gilroy would be out and Sean Penn would be in. Of course, everyone was wrong and Sean Penn was out for a film that seemed even more unlikely for a director nomination than Michael Clayton, Juno.

My point is that Lee Daniels is not weaker just because people on the web criticize him the most. Honestly, most critics didn't have a problem with his direction. So, I think he's in. People only started to doubt him when he missed the Globe nod and he really isn't the type to get nominated there.

Plus, he's criticized for overdirecting it not underdirecting it. Most nominees are overdirected. I don't think Invictus feels like a lone-director film. So if it's not a top 5 film I don't think he will get in.

Bryan said...

I agree that of the five DGA choices, Daniels is the most likely to be snubbed. I personally think that Bigelow is the safest bet (yay!), and the closest to being deemed a "lock"-- hers is truly the little movie that could. Though, Reitman and Cameron are pretty much locks, too...

I loved Precious, and Daniels certainly had something to do with the performances, but there were other things, like the above-mentioned sex/eggs clip that didn't quite work for me. I guess I'm taking the middle ground: he did a good job, but he shouldn't be on the top 5 list.

Kyle said...

I'll take Lee Daniels over Jason Reitman's uber-pedestrian direction anyday, though I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a Tarantino upset...it's time to reward him for a career of pretty gosh-darn visionary work.

cal roth said...

Am I the only person in the world who thinks the orgasm scene in Munich was actually very wise?

OtherRobert said...

I really think if anyone's getting bumped from that line-up it's Tarantino, but that might be a side effect of bumping my noggin pretty hard today and rewatching Inglourious Basterds. I watched and started going "wait, why is that cut in there? What's going on with this music cue? Who told him/her to go that way with their character in that scene?" Basically, I had the same kind of nitpicky reaction a lot of the more vocal critics had with Precious for strange directorial choices and a really heavy hand.

In my ideal world based on realism, assuming District 9, Coraline, and Where the Wild Things Are are getting nowhere near Director and Picture, Precious would be sweeping all the majors it's eligible for: Picture, Director, Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay. Shoot, I'd give it a nod for costumes as the costuming was perfect for the characters (especially Mo'Nique - can we talk about that onesie she wore to death in the film?). I'm not even joking: if Lenny Kravitz had more screen time, I'd be hoping for a Supporting Actor nom. I'm head over heels in love with Precious and want them to treat this film right.

Flosh said...

Daniels did a great job with the actors and a lousy job with pretty much everything else. i don't think the film or his direction of it warrant awards, but the strength of the film lies in its performances and he clearly deserves a ton of credit for that, if little else.

i'm way more annoyed by the seemingly locked in status of Jason Reitman, whose film smugly exploits the suffering of actual people to gin up sympathy for poor George Clooney.

Funny People dealt with the same basic storyline - a loner who realizes he may have wasted his life and reaches out to a younger generation - with a lot more humor, honesty, and, I don't know, generosity of spirit (though, I hasten to add, Funny People has plenty of problems of its own!).

I'd trade both of them for Jane Campion, Haneke, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson (but not Clint Eastwood - not this time) in a second.

Cameron, Bigelow and Tarantino are great choices. I hope it's one of those three in the end. Ok, I'll stop now.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Non-related question: Will you ever return to the Actress Psychic Contest Nathaniel? We should have an interesting contest this year, with 8 of our top-10 Collective Prediction nominees out of the running for the Oscar...

Jorge Rodrigues said...

About the topic...


Since the DGA normally alligns 4/5 with the actual Oscar nominees (like last year, where The Reader and Stephen Daldry took Nolan and The Dark Knight's places) I'd say it would be a great sign if Eastwood was nominated here, which would mean, if we were to believe in previous year's results, he wouldn't be nominated on Oscar nominations day...


I still believe Quentin Tarantino is in jeopardy since he himself is very divisive and not for all tastes and the film itself is not an epic WWII drama but a dark dramedy about WWII... For me the only sure things are Bigelow, Cameron and Reitman.


And I say Bigelow gets the Globe and the DGA and Cameron gets the Oscar. I'd love to see a woman finally winning - and this woman in particular - but I'm more inclined to say the Oscar will go to Cameron's shelf.

Douglas Racso said...

sadly i think he will be replaced by Clint Eastwood.

But I want to be shocked and awed by the academy by choosing Either Campion or Haneke

Alfred Soto said...

It's entirely possible to direct actors to good performances and still direct a terrible film, people.

Danny King said...

Daniels really deserves it, and I think he will pull it off.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, could you write, please, who were the six women nominated for the DGA award previously? I don't know where to find this information.

Michael Parsons said...

So happy for Daniels, and trying to ignore all the hate. As mama said "Those who can't do criticise"

NATHANIEL R said...

anon the previous female DGA nominees were (those that were also Oscar nominated with asterisks).

* Lina Wertmuller -Seven Beauties
Randa Haines -Children of a Lesser God
Barbra Streisand -The Prince of Tides
*Jane Campion -The Piano
*Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation
Valerie Faris -Little Miss Sunshine

Anonymous said...

I may not be able to direct a film (and neither can just about anyone here), but I know a poorly directed one when I see it. Sorry "Precious" nuts.

adri said...

I'd still love to see Bigelow, Campion, and Scherfig nominated, plus 2 others (although one of the two probably wouldn't be Daniels). Not a prediction, just a daydream.