HAMMOND: DGA Surprises – Fincher In, Spielberg Out; What Does It Mean For Oscar Race?

DGA Awards Nominations Announced

With another major guild nomination following PGA and WGA recognition, this morning’s very significant DGA Awards nom for David Fincher’s direction of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was the only mild surprise on a list that included expected nominees Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris, Alexander Payne for The Descendants, Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist and Martin Scorsese for Hugo. The only December release of the five, Dragon Tattoo has had a slow build during awards season (just as it has had at the box office) and now appears to be reaching a crescendo. At one point things looked so bleak for serious awards prospects that Sony reportedly even began pulling back on some previously planned Oscar ad buys in various publications and sites. That has all changed now and the film has become a serious contender, earning Fincher his third DGA nom in four years following The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and last year’s The Social Network.

The biggest snub on today’s list has to be Steven Spielberg, who was overlooked for DreamWorks’  War Horse, an expected Oscar power player that may be slipping back in the pack a bit during the crucial stretch run. After all, Spielberg is a DGA favorite with 10 previous nominations (most recently in 2005 for Munich) and three competition wins — including The Color Purple, which didn’t even earn him a nomination for an Oscar. A large part of the voting block at the DGA are TV directors,  and Spielberg with his long list of television projects keeps many of them employed. A past DGA winner as well for lifetime achievement, Spielberg’s omission is a crushing blow for any Oscar prospects from the much smaller directors branch.

No director not at least nominated for a DGA Award has gone on to win the Best Director Oscar, and only a handful of past DGA winners have failed to go on and grab the Oscar. The last time there was a discrepancy came in 2002, when Chicago’s Rob Marshall won the DGA Award but lost to The Pianist’s Roman Polanski at the Oscars.

Of course, the DGA doesn’t always match up 5 for 5 with Oscar, so there still could be hope for him or others bypassed today like Moneyball’s Bennett Miller, The Help’s Tate Taylor, The Tree Of Life’s Terrence Malick and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close’s Stephen Daldry. The latter two films have been completely overlooked now in each major guild contest — SAG, PGA, WGA and now DGA — so their Oscar chances in major categories have dimmed considerably. It should be noted that despite a DGA nomination for Malick’s 1998 war film The Thin Red Line, the same snub occurred from the other three guilds and the Golden Globes; but on Oscar nomination day, it went on to surprise everyone by earning seven nods including Best Picture and director. This year, there isn’t even a DGA nomination for him. Daldry, who has been Oscar nominated for every one of the three previous films he has made, actually only has one previous DGA nomination (for The Hours). But right now he’s looking like a real long shot to make it 4 for 4 this year, and Extremely Loud — which, like War Horse, was expected to be a major player — just can’t seem to ignite so far with industry voters.

Other than first-time nominee Hazanavicius, the rest of the pack are DGA veterans including Scorsese, who has been nominated almost as much as Spielberg with nine feature nods, and Allen, who has five now. Both are the only previous winners on the list, with Scorcese scoring in 2006 for The Departed and Allen in 1977 for Annie Hall. Payne was previously nominated for his last film, Sideways, in 2004. Fincher is the long shot among this bunch, but in a topsy turvy year like this there is no slam-dunk winner — though first timer Hazanavicius might be the prohibitive frontrunner at this point since The Artist seems to have the most momentum.

The nostalgia wave that has been so prevalent among top contenders this season (see HAMMOND: Tough Economic Times Make Nostalgic Films Hottest Bets For Oscar) continues with the DGA and its love for lighter period pieces like The Artist, Hugo and Midnight In Paris. But it is only the latter film, along with the more contemporary Descendants, that have earned all-important key nominations from the four big guilds (The Artist missed out on that distinction by being ineligible for a WGA Award). What direct impact, if any, the DGA’s nominations have on the Oscar race remains to be seen. But Academy ballots are still out and not due back until Friday at 5 PM. There is still time, brother.


    1. No it should definitely STAY OUT of the conversation. If I have ever seen an overrated film/script this is the one. Come on, story problems plot problems. Let’s not get easily distracted by fancy schmancy camera’ moves.

  1. I keep wondering why Soderbergh’s “Contagion” doesn’t come up on ANY of these lists? It was solid on so many fronts, a real grown up and intelligent film, well-crafted, well-acted and special. Is it just that everyone involved isnt out there campaigning for it?

    1. Good call, think it just came out too early and has been forgotten. It was a solid piece of work and deserves more recognition.

    2. I think he runs into the same kind of issue that affected Stanley Kubrick in that his very clean style can sometimes feel cold and unemotional. Personally, I love this and I’m not saying that it’s all he is, but even his insouciant films like the Oceans films and The Informant had this emotional distance to them. That said, I love his films and I think he is one of the best currently working.

      1. I absolutely agree with everything you stated here. Yet, like Kubrick, Soderbergh’s films will have a long, long shelf life. Every Soderbergh film may not gain awards prominence or even do over $100M at the b.o.; but every one of his films will be rented, streamed, and watched on cable simply because they are well made, well executed stories that work in every decade.

        And like Kubrick films, when a Soderbergh flick comes on it’s almost impossible to turn it off.

    3. To Curiousity … as a huge Soderbergh fan I hear you.

      But for me “Contagion” just didn’t quite get there. I loved the concept, but the execution was just incomplete. I think he tried to cover too many characters, & just didn’t do too many all justice.

      I thought Damon’s final scene (with the camera) was brilliant though.

  2. War Horse is simply overrated. Fincher is far more deserving of the DGA nom for Girl rather than Spielberg.

    The fascination with Scorsese and Hugo over Mailick, Daldry and others is the most puzzling…at least for me.

    1. I agree that Fincher is deserving of the DGA nomination, but I take exception with the idea that “War Horse” is overrated. “War Horse” is a glorious film with Spielberg at the top of his game. It ranks among his best work.

      “Overrated” more aptly fits “The Artist.” The silent movie gimmick wore off really quick for me. I’m surprised people are heaping such praise on what ends up being a novelty movie with little nuance or depth. Spielberg, Malick or Daldry would have been better choices than “The Artist.”

      1. War Horse is just awful. The worst kind of manipulative, sentimental nonsense. Thankfully not everyone is falling for it.

  3. Steven Spielberg is among the top 3 or 4 most influential filmmakers of all time.

    That being said… War Horse is laughable. No lie, people in my showing were laughing. It’s extremely out of touch. It’s horribly directed. The performances are over the top.

    Someone said it’s “Lassie” meets “Private Ryan.” I’d go a step further and suggest it’s the aforementioned minus the amazing casting and performances.

    What’s so upsetting about War Horse, is not so much the terrible film itself, it’s that amidst the mountain of material Spielberg has access to, he chose this.

    Don’t mean to pontificate, I love Spielberg.. but he’s out of touch.

  4. The Oscar’s going to frenchy, c’mon we all know it. Even though the Artist is ridiculiously over-rated, Hollywood thinks of itself as a European island.

    So yeah, frenchy by a landslide.

  5. I guess this is the DGA’s admission that the blew it when they gave the award to Hooper for his very pedestrian work on King’s Speech over Fincher’s clearly deserving work on Social Network. I’ll never understand why these people can’t see what’s what until a year later.

    1. Deal with it, Maxie, taste varies. Lots of us thought and still think that Hooper deserved to win over Fincher. Well-made does not equal pedestrian and flashy does not equal Oscar-worthy.

  6. Perhaps I’m missing something — perhaps I read the article too quickly, or maybe I’m not sufficiently up-to-speed on eligibility rules — but shouldn’t Terrence Malick be here somewhere? For Tree of Life?

    Just curious.

    I’m an admirer of David Fincher but, realistically, after what Daniel Alfredsson did with the original (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish-language version) the Fncher homage seems more reactive to me than anything else. A really fine, polished film, to be sure, but derivative just the same.

    Oh, well. Somehow, I suspect Malick never will get the Academy Award attention he deserves. Then again, Malick is in good company, considering how Stanley Kubrick never won the Oscar (either).

  7. I’m really hoping that extremely loud and incredibly close will be completely shut out at the oscars. It’s one of those desperate films that almost grabs you be shoulders and screams “GIVE ME AN OSCAR!!!” That and Stephen Daldry needs to be taken down a few pegs. Aside from Billy Elliot, all his films have that same desperation.

  8. HUGO over WAR HORSE and DRIVE?!? Spielberg being snubbed by the Guild always happens, except when he does a SCHINDLER or RYAN and they are forced to acjnowledge his greatness–But lame Oscar bait like HUGO?
    Kids won’t watch HUGO at gunpoint. WARHORSE stunned me–you choke up, the horse at war befriending the other horse after the machine guns kill theor brethren is tremendously affecting. DRIVE is also amazing.

  9. uh, what?

    I think Fincher is a good director, but there was nothing “special” about “Tattoo”. It was an unnecessary remake of the successful two year old Swedish film. Fincher did an ok job with it, but award worthy?


  10. Thank GOD! BORE HORSE was SNORE HORSE! Cinematic Ambien that had half my screening falling asleep. Spielberg has lost his magic so long ago, His films are overrated and boring.

Comments are closed.