Today the Directors Guild Of America released its nominations for their Best Director award, which will be granted at a dinner on the 2nd of February. The DGA awards are much scrutinized as they tend to be a pretty strong indicator of which way the Academy Award will ultimately go, with the two being out of sync only six times in the past 65 years.
So who got the nods today?
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper, Les Misérables
Ang Lee, Life Of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Most conspicuously absent are Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained and David O. Russel for Silver Linings Playbook. There were also no dark horse appearance by any of the more long-shot potential names like Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Haneke, Bob Zemeckis, Chris Nolan, Wes Anderson, or Beneh Zeitlin.
As an aside: While Tarantino has always been an inconsistent member of the DGA, he was nominated in 2009 for Inglourious Basterds. So while some of us, myself included, may feel that his absence is an oversight, it’s not likely a political/grudge-based decision.
Beyond that, Hooper’s inclusion is the most controversial, though I find myself very strongly among the supportive, so I don’t find it controversial at all. Maybe one day some of the most vociferous nay-sayers will rewatch the film and realize the camera doesn’t cant nearly as often as they think it does, but that’s just a little hope of mine.
The words I’m seeing most frequently dropped about this group are “underwhelming” and “bland” which is such a baffling heap of bullshit that I can’t even fathom from where it comes. Sure, there aren’t any flashy surprise choice, with the DGA instead choosing to honor four films with top-shelf, solid direction and one film that made bold, definitive choices. Lincoln and Life of Pi for example, are two films directed with subtle sophistication, the effortlessness of decades of experience. Two masters making it look easy. Bigelow is working on a more contemporary level, but her control of the impressionistic, sweeping canvas that is Zero Dark Thirty is a stunning thing to behold. “Journalistic” is the haphazardly flung around descriptor, but it’s completely accurate, and to a degree that is not common in films of any kind. Affleck is somewhere in the middle, mixing a contemporarily impressionistic style with a confident, mature vision that stands alongside the work of directors with much more experience. The script may take a few too many liberties with history, but the work behind the camera is unimpeachable. Finally we come to Hooper which, again, is the hot-button choice. I’m not likely to convince anyone who hates the film that they’re wrong here, but the fact is that the guy took his blank check and did something that’s very much not the bland, seen-it-a-million-times prestige pic.
From where I sit it’s a huge shame that aggressive narrow-mindedness has plagued the reaction to so many films of last year in which directors went big and daring. The fact that the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer aren’t even a part of this conversation is perhaps most indicative that boldness is not often rewarded right away. They’ve struggled with the DGA’s rules so much I don’t even know where all of that stands, but ultimately it’s representative of the fact that these awards are always going to be constrained too much to do the whole landscape of filmmaking justice.
Your thoughts on the choices?