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The DGA Nominations! Fincher In, Spielberg Out

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, as it turns out, I was 100% correct on David Fincher making it in, here. I pat myself on the back for that. What I was wrong about was who he would replace. It looks as though Steven Spielberg’s reign of dominance among his peers in the Directors Guild has finally come to an end. In a weird way, it’s almost like a changing of the guard, with David Fincher taking over that mantel.

As I figured, Hazanavicius, Scorsese and Payne had all secured their spots a while ago. However, I stand fully corrected in regards to my comments about Woody Allen. Looks like his comeback work on “Midnight in Paris” was enough to pull him through after all. Personally, I don’t think Allen or Spielberg deserve a mention this year, and a lot of fantastic young talent in the form of Bennett Miller, Nicholas Wending Refn and Steve McQueen got the shaft.

Well, not much else to say. I still believe that this race is securely a two-horse one between Hazanavicius and Scorsese. We’ll see what turns up.

Here are the nominees:

Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
David Fincher – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Michael Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”

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DGA Predictions 2012

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I really didn’t even feel like doing this. In fact, I’ve always had an aversion to predicting the DGA. Trying to correctly predict these five nominees feels a bit like shooting fish in a barrel with an unloaded gun. Sure, there’s the chance that they’ll be exactly what people are expecting, but…no…they never are. there’s always that fifth slot that never does what you want it to do.

The one nice thing about the DGA is that it makes things infinitely clearer in the actual Oscar race. I can recall only twice in the last ten years that the DGA hasn’t lined up with the Academy’s five Best Director nods with at least 4 out of 5 slots, and twice in those ten years, it’s been a perfect match. Ever since the Academy altered the number of Best Picture nominees, using the DGA as a predictive tool has changed a bit, as well. Instead of using it as a guide for the five nominees, the lucky directors now point to which films are absolute locks. Ironically, during the age of five nominees, the DGA was actually a better predictor for Best Picture then for its own category.

All right, well, here’s how I see the cookie crumbling. I would say that the two locks are Michael Hazavanicius and Martin Scorsese. Of the major contenders, they’ve divvied up nearly all of the critics awards and just seem to have the most clout, right now. Next on that list would be Alexander Payne. While his direction isn’t the strong point of the movie, the film is just too strong of a contender, thus far, for him to simply be left out.

The last two spots get kind of tricky. Despite the difficult time “War Horse” is having with the guilds, Spielberg shouldn’t have much trouble making his way in here. The same was happening with “Munich” in ’05 (a much superior film to “War Horse,” I might add) and he still handled the DGA. This seemed to single-handedly resurrect it back into the Oscar race. To be honest, the DGA has always drooled over Spielberg. Ten career nominations, three wins and a lifetime achievement award. When he has a film in contention, it’s simply more likely to see him nominated than not.

So for the final spot, I am going to make my “out on a limb” choice by saying that Woody Allen will miss. This will be the decision that I’ll likely be kicking myself for tomorrow, but as you are about to read, I have my reasons. At this point in Allen’s career, even if this is somewhat of a comeback film, I feel that the industry will be satisfied with just recognizing his writing. As it has been since the early nineties, nominating the film’s screenplay should suffice, making his directorial efforts easy to overlook.

As for who’s taking his spot, there’s plenty of choices. It’s quite possible Terrence Malick’s clout might carry over into the guild of his peers, yet I get the feeling that “The Tree of Life”‘s support will likely remain among the critics. Until this past week, near-rookie Tate Taylor seemed like a long shot, but the overwhelming love for “The Help” in the guilds has made said nomination more and more of a possibility. If wishing made it so, I would enjoy seeing Bennett Miller show up here in recognition for his steady and assured crafting of “Moneyball.” After all, not many saw his previous nomination coming for “Capote.” Yet, the young artist’s failure to bring in even a single nomination this season has left that option unlikely. One choice that would certainly throw a wrench in the mix would be the stellar Nicholas Wending Refn, who’s work on “Drive” earned him this award at Cannes. But, lack of a PGA mention for the film makes his chances less promising.

That leaves me with the one and only David Fincher. While his re-adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” isn’t turning quite as many heads as the studio had hoped, the film’s director has something going for him which puts him a step ahead of his competition. That factor is the enormous amount of residual respect leftover from last year’s awards season. After both the DGA and the Oscars incomprehensibly snubbed the master of his much-deserved awards for “The Social Network,” I imagined that there had to be a fair amount of guilt churning around the industry. And while “TGWTDT” isn’t quite as extraordinary as the former, it’s certainly good enough for his peers to throw him an apologetic bone. I’ve had this aching feeling all year long, and with the film nabbing unexpected nominations from the PGA, ADG and WGA, said scenario seems now more likely than ever before.

My Predix:
1. Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”
2. Michael Hazavanicius – “The Artist”
3. Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
4. Steven Spielberg – “War Horse”
5. David Fincher – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Alts:
6. Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
7. Tate Taylor – “The Help”
8. Bennett Miller – “Moneyball”
9. Terrence Malick – “The Tree of Life”
10. Nicholas Wending Refn – “Drive”

Well, there you have it. Check back tomorrow afternoon to see which choice (or choices) I’ll be crying over.

The DGA and the SAG: Now It’s Time to Vent…

February 1, 2011 1 comment

Well folks, Tom Hooper has just won the DGA and the cast he directed took home Best Ensemble at the SAG. Coupled with the PGA win last week, “The King’s Speech” has now emerged as not only the frontrunner, but pretty much the inevitable winner of the Best Picture award at the Oscars. As this film has picked up speed in the last few weeks, I’ve tried to keep an open mind. I’ve tried to tell myself that this kind of healthy competition will make for a better Oscars and would make “The Social Network”‘s eventual victory all the more sweet. However, now that the race has shifted from a neck and neck dogfight to a potential sweep for “The King’s Speech,” it has become impossible to suppress my rage.

This situation is, more or less, a travesty for American cinema. For the last half of the previous decade, the AMPAS showed that they had the potential to change with the times. By awarding films like “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy has proven that they have the ability to not only award phenomenal films, but ones that represent a shift in the balance of power. These are films that show a new Hollywood, emerging from the ashes, making art for a new generation and ultimately changing movies for the better. With “The Social Network,” the AMPAS were given an opportunity to crystalize this new reputation by awarding not only the best movie of the year, but one that is an absolute game-changer in the world of filmmaking. Instead, they are willing to flush it all down the drain.

“The King’s Speech” is not a bad film. It is simply a good film. It has good acting, good writing, good direction, good production quality and good music. In case you haven’t noticed, “good” is the key word, here. I don’t think there is a single aspect of this film that achieves a level of “greatness.” It is an iconic example of middle-of-the-road filmmaking, directed straight at a block of people yearning for that warm and fuzzy feeling in their stomachs. It’s “triumph of the human spirit” pornography. More than anything else, however, it is straight-up Oscar fodder, and they are eating it up, hook, line and sinker. They’re all too willing to vote their souls away for a chance to award this heart-warming work of mediocrity.

“The Social Network” is the best film of the year. Even if people’s opinions cannot agree with or grasp this concept, the title still pretty much remains the same. Never in history has a film garnered so much recognition and awards. Never has the population of this nation’s film critics solidified so strong and unanimous an opinion about a single film. However, it’s more than just a critical tally or mantlepiece full of statues. This is a film that resonates so strongly with this societal climate, much in the same way did “Network” in 1976, “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1939. When looking down the road, it is a film that will be remembered, not only for it’s cultural impact, but for the flawless nature of its filmmaking prowess. And since I am one such person who can actually make this statement from a position of age and experience (I started college only a year after “The Facebook” was created, back when it was just a college thing), this is, in fact, the movie that defines my generation.

The Academy Award is called that for one reason: it is awarded upon the voted decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s their award and they can technically do whatever they want with it. However, I really have to ask just what the hell is wrong with these people? Are they really that much an organization of pure saps? Are they really that cynical that they would deliberately snub the frontrunner for an inferior underdog just because their sick of the unanimous praise? Have they really not gotten tired of having Harvey Weinstein’s lips wrapped around their you-know-whats?Can they really not look beyond four weeks from now and consider what history will judge as the more educated and lasting decision? Most importantly, has the Academy really gone back to its old ways? God, let us hope not.

So is the race over? The answer is no. Even when things get to their bleakest point of flat-out certainty, the race is never over until the last envelope is opened. However, it’s really not looking good for David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece. With the combined weight of the SAG, PGA, and DGA, anyone who has spent any time in the industry of awards prognostication would be a fool to not call it for “The King’s Speech.” After all, the actors and producers, put together, make up nearly half of the Academy’s voting block. Hope is not lost, completely, but I would now peg “The Social Network”‘s chances at around twenty to twenty-five percent.

At points like these, one can only find comfort by constantly reminding themselves of the most important lesson the awards season has ever taught us: as many fantastic films have won the Oscar for Best Picture, there are exponentially more amazing films that have lost it. “The Social Network” may soon join the ranks of films like “Fargo” and “Saving Private Ryan,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull” and “Apocalypse Now,” “Taxi Driver” and “All the President’s Men,” “Chinatown,” and “Jaws,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” and “The Graduate,” “Vertigo” and “Rear Window,” “Double Indemnity,” and, yes, “Citizen Kane.” Coupled with the movies I mentioned previously in this article, this is not exactly bad company to be kept with. However, if you listen very closely, you can clearly hear Orson Welles rolling over in his grave, that after seventy years of history, lessons have yet to be learned.

Directors Guild Announces Nominees

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Finally, the big daddy of the guilds has announced its nominees. This is one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry. Some directors actually see it as a better form of recognition than the Oscar. It is also a very accurate predictor of who will win the eventual Best Director Oscar. The DGA and the Oscar have lined up in this category 54 of the last 62 years since the award’s beginning. It’s also worth noting that all of these films are pretty much guaranteed a Best Picture nomination. Back when there were five nominees, the DGA used to match Best Picture better than they matched the Best Director contenders.

Here is the list of nominees:

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film
Darren Aronofsky – “Black Swan”
David O. Russell – “The Fighter”
Christopher Nolan – “Inception”
Tom Hooper – “The King’s Speech”
David Fincher – “The Social Network”

It’s worth noting that even though I did not publish them, these were my exact predictions. Fincher, Aronofsky and Nolan were all pretty much locks for this nomination. Some expected Tom Hooper to miss here based on his lack of experience and the film being not so much a director’s piece, but rather a writing and acting showcase. But when a film chugs along as well as “The King’s Speech,” there was no reason to believe that he would be absent.

The individual most profiting from this nomination is definitely David O’Russell. Once considered a loose cannon, or even a lunatic in some circles, O’Russell is now DGA nominee and his film locked for a Best Picture nomination, perhaps even a contender for the win. Who did O’Russell oust? The answer is the Coen Brothers, who many were expected to come away with their third nomination (or at least Joel’s third and Ethan’s second, though anyone who’s anyone knows that these two have always been a team even both their names aren’t on the credit).

So will this be the Best Director line-up at the Oscars? It’s hard to say, but I would say: yes. The Coens may continue to gain traction. Their film was released near the end of the DGA balloting so it’s possible some voters did not see it. It’s also very possible that the Academy might try and continue last year’s legacy and nominate one of this year’s talented female directors like Lisa Cholodenko of “The Kids Are All Right” or Debra Granik of “Winter’s Bone” (Granik being the much more deserving).

Perhaps the most hurt by these nominations is Danny Boyle. Like the Coen Brothers, Boyle just won an Oscar within the last 3 years and isn’t considered as due as others. However, “127 Hours” is hanging onto its Best Picture nomination by a thread. and many are already starting to bump it for movies like “The Town,” “Winter’s Bone” or both. Boyle still has a long shot chance of a Best Director nomination, but his chances are becoming quite slim.

Oh, and David Fincher has this award IN THE BAG. He’s had it in the bag for a long time now and he really couldn’t be more deserving. A coronation is more accurate than an awarding.

The winners will be announced on January 29th. Stay tuned.