This morning’s list of DGA film nominees is the final piece of the Guild puzzle before we hit Oscar nominations just two days from now. What they offered up with Boyhood’s Richard Linklater, Birdman’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, American Sniper’s Clint Eastwood, The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Wes Anderson and The Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum is not surprising in the scheme of the way the all-important industry award nominations have been going.
Although Norwegian-born Tyldum has failed to get directing kudos so far, much to the frustration of The Weinstein Company, his film has run the board with significant nominations from BAFTA, SAG, PGA, WGA and nearly every other below-the-line guild. The DGA members are essentially offering up their Best Picture sentiments here and the shamefully previously overlooked Tyldum benefitted big-time. This nomination shows the true awards strength of the film and without it, statistically, it would have made Weinstein’s job all that much more difficult to pull off going forward, especially against the critical powerhouse Boyhood which has been cleaning up with critics awards and Golden Globes. Linklater’s DGA nomination was simply a foregone conclusion, as was Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman nod. Both those films have great awards-season pedigrees so far.
But in this wide-open year add to that list the fast late-charging American Sniper. Although it doesn’t open wide until Friday, it has done huge business in just a limited four-screen run since Christmas Day and that has powered its awards surge as well since getting snubbed in the Globe and Critics Choice Movie Award nominations. Although star Bradley Cooper missed out with SAG, Sniper has gotten significant attention with PGA, WGA and now DGA –representing previous two-time and Life Achievement DGA winner Eastwood’s fourth overall nomination from his guild. And should he repeat Thursday morning at the Oscars, Eastwood, at 84, would break the record for oldest nominee by 5 years and could be on his way to breaking his own record as the oldest winner in the category ever, a feat he set 10 years when he won both the Oscar and DGA honors at age 74 for Million Dollar Baby. American Sniper is a name that repeatedly comes up lately from Academy voters in talking about where their votes are headed. It just needed to be seen in time, and Warner Bros has made sure of that.
Fox Searchlight’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has been on a roll with big SAG, PGA, WGA and BAFTA nominations. It just was the surprise winner of the Best Picture Comedy/Musical Golden Globe on Sunday night and has 11 Critics Choice nominations. Anderson’s first-ever DGA nomination is no surprise at this point. His film is also in just about every other guild contest, too. It’s March 7 release date has proved to be no hindrance, and may even have helped in getting the film widely seen. Searchlight’s co-president Nancy Utley recently told me their release plan could be a game-changer as far as award campaigns go. The usual fall strategy is thrown out the window with the success so far of Budapest.
As for those who didn’t make the cut, Paramount’s Selma may be the most disappointed — particularly since its helmer Ava DuVernay was looking to make history here as the first black woman to gain this nomination. So far the film has been blanked by PGA, WGA (where it wasn’t eligible), SAG, BAFTA and now DGA. It won the Best Song Golden Globe on Sunday for Glory but lost its Best Picture bid to Boyhood. The Oscar nominations are obviously its last hope and Academy members did get screeners, unlike many other groups (the Broadcast Critics got theirs Friday and started voting Sunday). Also missing out from DGA was the year’s other prominent female director, Angelina Jolie for Unbroken; James Marsh for The Theory Of Everything; Damien Chazelle for Whiplash; three-time DGA nominee Christopher Nolan for Interstellar; David Fincher for Gone Girl, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler; Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher; and past winner Rob Marshall for the hit Disney musical Into The Woods.
Although DGA nominees often match up with the Oscar Best Director nominees (delivered by the much smaller — and quirkier — directors branch) there usually is at least one, sometimes even two differences, so hope can still be held out for those who didn’t make today’s cut. Thursday is another day.