All right. This is the last big guild we get. (Might be the last guild to announce period, I’m not sure.) In 12 days, the Academy announces their nominees, and after that it’s just a matter of waiting.
So let’s see what the directors have for us…
- Damien Chazelle, La La Land
- Garth Davis, Lion
- Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
- Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By the Sea
- Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
I think we’re all a little surprised by Davis being here. Personally, I figured they’d go for Tom Ford. But more about him in a moment.
A quick analysis of the nominees:
- I’m seeing Chazelle’s film again in a couple of hours, after which I’ll officially rank it for all of my categories. But going off my previous viewing, he does a good job with the musical numbers, but only an okay job with the rest of the film. I personally thought he did a better job with Whiplash.
- Davis, though seemingly the odd man out, is actually a decent pick. The first half of the film is legitimately quite well directed, as young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) tries to survive on the streets of Calcutta. The second half is more conventional, but honestly, I’d take him over at least one of the other nominees.
- Jenkins does a good job. It’s not, for my money, an unequivocally brilliant piece of direction, but he handles the material with sympathy and sensitivity. I’d say more of my qualms with the film come from the writing than the directing, and I won’t mind at all if and when the Academy nominates Jenkins.
- Lonergan’s direction is fine, but it’s not as if he does anything that special. He does a good job with the actors, he doesn’t get too pretentious (aside from the use of music, which is a touch overbearing at times), and he tells the story well. But when we’re talking about awarding the best direction of the year, I don’t think he rates more than a “good job”.
- I personally wish the awards groups had seen fit to lavish some of this praise on Villeneuve in 2013, when he gave us the excellent Prisoners (which I nominated for Best Picture, though Villeneuve got nudged out of Best Director), but his work on Arrival is certainly of a high standard, and I’ll be glad if the Academy agrees.
In the past 25 years, the DGA and Oscars have matched 5/5 only 3 times; in 1998, 2005, and 2009. (Oddly enough, in none of those years did the Globes or BAFTA match them 5/5. And they didn’t this year, either.) So will they this year?
I’m thinking not. Usually they miss one, and I think it’s probably going to be Davis. He certainly has a shot at getting on (he has Harvey behind him), but he’s a first-timer directing a film which will get nominations but probably won’t win anything.
Chazelle, Jenkins (the BAFTA snub notwithstanding), and Lonergan are locks. As for Villeneuve, I have a hard time believing they’ll snub him…but at the same time, he’s directing a science-fiction film, and I don’t know if the Academy has fully shaken their anti-genre-film bias. Last year, it seemed like Ridley Scott was a dead lock for The Martian, and then they nominated Lenny Abrahamson instead.
But they also gave Mad Max 10 nominations, so who knows.
So if Davis isn’t likely to happen, who is?
- Tom Ford seems to be one of the two likeliest to get on over Davis. His film has a sneakily solid level of support, he has Globe and BAFTA nominations, and the direction is slick and stylish enough to warrant attention. If anything, he could pull a Foxcatcher and get nominated for Director without a Best Picture nomination to match.
- Mel Gibson can’t be ruled out, either. Hacksaw Ridge has had a lot of support from the guilds (and he got a Globe nomination) and seems a reasonable bet for Best Picture. I still say his personal history will count against him, and I wouldn’t even be all that shocked if the film didn’t get more than a few token technical nods, but he’s certainly in the mix.
- Don’t count out the perennials, either: Martin Scorsese has to be considered a threat any time he’s in the conversation, and the same is true, though to a lesser degree, of Clint Eastwood.
- Pablo Larraín did a brilliant job with Jackie and it’ll be a damn shame if he gets nothing for it. I don’t think it’ll happen, but it ought to, and maybe Fox Searchlight is pushing it hard enough to make it a possibility.
- David Mackenzie for Hell or High Water isn’t out of the question, especially if it gets into the Best Picture race.
- Likewise, there’s always a chance Denzel Washington will get on for Fences. It’s a slim chance, but it’s there.
In any case, we’ve got 12 days (of Christmas) to meditate on what will happen, before history takes its course. Happy guessing.
Before I forget, the DGA also announced their nominees for first-time directors:
- Garth Davis, Lion
- Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen
- Tim Miller, Deadpool
- Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation
- Dan Trachtenberg, 10 Cloverfield Lane
Davis is almost certainly winning this.
Craig did a solid job, though that film was more about the writing.
Miller did a decent job, though ultimately fairly standard for the genre.
Parker did an okay job (the writing was really the problem there).
Trachtenberg did a good job, particularly with the first 85% of the film.
And that’s that. The next big awards piece I do will be my Oscar nominee predictions on the 23rd.