DGA Serves Up Strong List Of Nominees, But Where's Steven Spielberg?

With such strong Oscar Best Picture contenders as The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian dominating the DGA’s list of five directing nominees this morning, there really was no surprise at all with the inclusions on this lineup. Although in my view there was a real Pete Hammond badgeeye opener with one who wasn’t there: Steven Spielberg (more on that later).

Reigning DGA champ Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) continues the momentum of The Revenant’s outstanding box office and Golden Globe win Sunday with a shot at becoming the first director in DGA history to win this twice in a row. I recently pointed out the last director to pull off that feat at the Oscars was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949 for A Letter To Three Wives and 1950 for All About Eve. (He won the same two awards from the DGA as well, but oddlyDGA Logo 2 they were separated by a win for 1950’s All The King’s Men since Wives had become the winner of the guild’s first-ever award presented in May of 1950 before the contest was moved to February. Technically then, Iñárritu would be the DGA’ first-ever back to back winner.)

To pull off that feat though, Gonzalez Iñárritu has got to face down his 20th Century Fox stablemate Ridley Scott, who earned his fourth DGA nomination (after previous noms for Thelma And Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down). The 78-year-old Scott is riding a wave of sentiment as well as admiration for The Martian and may likely be the early favorite here — though this year is anything but predictable.

Joining those two big-scale epics on the list is another: George Miller earning his first DGA nod (he’s an Oscar winner though for Animated Feature with Happy Feet) for his brilliant reboot of Mad Max: Fury Road for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow, easily the earliest 2015 release on the roster having opened May 15. Another first-time DGA nominee Adam McKay is really not a shocker here as Paramount’s The Big Short has really FURY ROAD George Miller Charlize Theronbeen surging lately, and he won a BAFTA nomination just last week as well as a WGA nomination — the only nominee to do that here other than writer-director and fellow first-time DGA’er Tom McCarthy, whose Spotlight from Open Road represents the sole indie film on this year’s list. This one is a big deal, and a relief, for Spotlight as the once-presumed front-runner was unexpectedly shut out Sunday at the Globes, and McCarthy missed out on a Best Director nom from BAFTA (although the movie and script were nominated there). Both Mc’s — McKay and McCarthy — have directed real-life stories and classically entertaining movies with a message (both end with sobering reminders of reality on their end crawls) and will compete against large-scale, big-budget studio movies. It should be interesting.

Overall, this is a very solid lineup dominated by major studio releases. But the biggest shocker by far for Ridley Scott - The Martianme was the exclusion of guild favorite Spielberg, working at the top of his game in Bridge Of Spies. Ironically, that film comes from DreamWorks (and distributed by Disney), which actually had Spotlight at one time but put it in turnaround. Spielberg is an 11-time nominee, three-time winner and recipient of the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award. He was last nominated in 2012 for Lincoln, and I expected he would be again this year — the 40th anniversary of his first DGA nom, for Jaws — but it wasn’t to be. It’s surprising as well since, until DGA stopped it in its tracks, Bridge Of Spies has virtually run the table for nominations with other guilds, even including the Visual Effects Society and Cinema Audio Society earlier today. It led Spotlight - Mark Ruffalo - Michael Keaton - Tom McCarthyBAFTA with nine nominations (tied with Carol which was also ignored by DGA), and he received a directing nom there, and it could be nominated for the Oscar on Thursday, but we’ll see.

The DGA has a strong track record with Oscar parity though. Only seven times have the two orgs differed on the ultimate directing winner (one time, ironically, was when Spielberg took the DGA Award and wasn’t even Oscar-nominated for The Color Purple). Usually there is one DGA nominee who doesn’t make the Oscar list. Perhaps the reason is the DGA is a vastly larger voting block, mostly from TV and other areas, while the Academy’s directors branch is small and insular. For the DGA, these nominations really represent their Best Picture vote for which Oscars’ directors, all from film, also get a separate Best Picture vote and can be a little more adventurous in their choices.  That should give hope not only toAdam McKay Spielberg but also to other overlooked contenders here, with most likely beneficiaries of a DGA/Oscar disagreement being Todd Haynes (Carol)Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton), Denis Villeneuve (Sicario), or perhaps even someone like first-timer Laszlo Nemes for Hungary’s short-listed Foreign Language entry Son Of Saul. 

Nemes is, by the way, a DGA nominee this year in a brand new category designed to recognize emerging talent called Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director, Son of Sauland where foreign films can  compete at the DGA. Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Fernando Coimbra (A Wolf At The Door), Alex Garland (Ex-Machina) and Marielle Heller (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl) compete with him for the inaugural award that Spielberg announced during last year’s DGA ceremony.

Winners of the 68th annual DGA Awards will be announced February 6 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. Jane Lynch returns as host. Let me make one certain prediction: The Directors Guild will definitely break with tradition in having the previous year’s winner present the Outstanding Directorial Achievement In Feature Film Award this year, unless Iñárritu gets to potentially give it to himself.

  1. I don’t understand all the love for The Big Short. The camera work was horrendous. It gave me a headache. Almost had to leave the theater. Instead, why don’t these “exclusive” guilds actually reward some of the younger promising talent? Ryan Coogler deserves to be up there.

  2. “Where’s Steven Spielberg?” Not on the list. I hate these kind of questions, the point of only having 5 nominees is that people will be left off. This isn’t Los Feliz Daycare.

  3. If the writer thinks Spielberg deserved a nomination, he should also say whose place he should have taken.

    1. The r rated movies need awards to get anyone to watch them.
      Name one r movie that ever won an award AND was a top profit maker and top box office. NONE.

  4. Please! Bridge of Spies was an absolute bore. Spielberg hasn’t made a good film in at least 20 years. Everything he does is as subtle, smart and interesting as getting hit in the face with a shovel. Stop being such a sniveling little sycophant Pete and let’s point the the old gray bull out to pasture where he belongs.

    1. Thank you! Bridge of Spies was an absolute snoozefest! How is that considered Spielberg at the “Top of his game”? It’s like if “Jaws” had been 2 hours set entirely in that city council meeting, or if the entirety of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was just Dr. Jones in the classroom teaching that college course. “E.T”, “Close Encounters”, “Jurassic Park”, “Saving Pvt. Ryan”, “Schindler’s List”… those are top of his game. “Bridge of Spies” is the film equivalent of “eat your vegetables”, supposedly good for you, but no fun at all.

  5. Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s accomplishment was greater than the above indicates, since he also won back-to-back Oscars for WRITING those films.

    NO ONE had ever won a double-double like that before, and no one has since.

    It’s not impossible that that will never be accomplished again, of course, though it’s highly unlikely, if for no other reason than that the dearth of films being made overall, longer post-production schedules and the end of big-studio filmmaking, in which directors simply turned over that post production to their studio’s editing and sound and special effects departments while they went on to their next picture, make it less and less common that any director has films released in two consecutive calendar years.

  6. Pete, you’re the only person who liked Bridge of Spies. It was a complete waste of effort and time. Tom Hanks has lost his ability to choose good scripts.

  7. Why not Spielberg? Because it displays no distinctive directorial stamp. Though a good film with an interesting story, it’s conventionally filmed. Yeoman work for someone like Spielberg. He can probably do it in his sleep. “Carol” displays the same characteristic, but with far worse results. The story is so mundanely told it’s a snore. Replacing “Mad Max” with “Carol” would be like trading an Espresso Macchiato for warm milk. I would replace George Miller or Ridley Scott with Paolo Sorrentino, the writer director of “Youth,” a subtly idiosyncratic film with a whimsical attitude burnishing its sensitive intelligent story.

    1. ““Carol” displays the same characteristic, but with far worse results. The story is so mundanely told ”
      Lmao. You’re utterly clueless and myopic.

      1. John, can you honestly think that CAROL is a far more distinctive work than, say, Haynes’s own FAR FROM HEAVEN? BC was correct – CAROL is something of a turgid snore.

        1. Easily and he didn’t even write it. So do many critics and audience members (who’ve seen his prior work) btw. Carol considered by many to be his best or in his top 3. Cute that you live in a bubble.

  8. Spielberg? Yawn… he wasn’t that good this time. BTW, what’s with his cinematography? Half the sets had so much smoke/haze in them that it looked like the sets were on fire. Steven – this style is GONE – come live in the present.

  9. Coogler, Nemes, Fukunaga and Abrahamson all are deserving of recognition before Spielberg this year. Each of their movies were triumphs of ingenuity and/or courage. Bridge of Spies was glossy and by the numbers, far from Spielberg’s best work. It’s been an impressive year for director’s work. Too bad these four did not make the cut.

    1. agreed and well said. Those were all films to get excited about — and filmmakers to get excited about. I’m interested in what they are going to do next. In addition, they got possibly once-in-a-lifetime performances from some of their actors. One can’t say that about Spielberg or Bridge of Spies.

  10. Thought Ron Howard’s film, In The Heart Of The Sea was great too. So much detail, and the thing made so much sense, both on a practical and emotional level—and the actors were great. I’m pulling for Ridley though. Loved The Martian, (seems he did great budget wise–128 Mil for production & made 595 Mil worldwide) love him, and want more films where women play a key role in important jobs where they have the ultimate responsibilities, have brains to do top notch science, and the men depend on them in a team—and there’s plenty of humor in The Martian, though I wouldn’t call it a comedy. Also, I can’t recall seeing Matt Damon being any better, and that surely has something to do with the director as well…

  11. Let’s be honest, Bridge of Spies has been luke warm at the box office – and although reviews are good, they are respectful. No one is jumping up and down over the movie. It is very old fashioned. The other nominees, on the other hand, really have people talking and feel as though they push the envelope in one way or another.

  12. I’m voting for Miller. But I wouldn’t be upset with Ridley Scott or Iñárritu getting it. The others are lucky to be there. It’s about directing and vision, not about being topical or socially relevant.

    1. I found Carol very disappointing and Bridge of Spies was solid work but not great. Spotlight was the best movie I saw last year, and The Big Short was a close second.

    2. Bridge of Spies as Spielberg’s best film in years, and showed a complete mastery of the medium. He deserved to be nominated. He got great performances from his cast, including Hanks and especially Rylance. And this time. the film ended perfectly unl;ike some of his other efforts which go on too long (A.I, Munich) or just plain have awful final scenes (War of the Worlds),

      1. Laurie Mann, that’s great that you liked Spotlight and The Big Short. I liked them too. But they certainly were not directorial achievements. I wouldn’t even place them in a top 10.

  13. Clearly The Revenant stands out in this crowd. Brilliant and visceral and alive. The rest? Overrated. The Big Short was childishly self-referential (while studiously avoiding blaming Congress for their major part in demanding subprime mortgages). Spotlight was so quiet and dour and scared to be expressive it was like All the President’s Men in a coma. Miller was just recycling (badly) his earlier, better Max movies. The Martian was entertaining, but doesn’t stay with you. As for Bridge of Lies: more revisionist tripe from Spielberg (Lincoln was atrocious). Hanks is such a sanctimonious bore now (he was a more honest actor, seriously, in Bachelor Party than the fatuous “Hollywood’s Elder Statesman” bit he does now).

  14. The Spielberg bashing is always hilarious. I mean, what more can be said? After all, the collective talent of the comments section is truly a staggering force to be reckoned with.

  15. Love Spielberg but “Spies” wasn’t a top film… he doesn’t always bat a 1000 folks, sorry to say…

  16. JJ Abrams got hosed big-time. The tribe has spoken, and TFA is going to get screwjobbed tomorrow. It’s jealousy. TFA droned The Martian and MMFR at the boxoffice. Nuked ’em. Just once, I wish the Saturns and MTVMA’s augmented an honorable Oscar lineup, not having to clean up after it.

    1. In theory, the Oscars are for Best not for Most popular. I enjoyed the latest Star Wars very much and it’ll probably be nominated for a slew of tech awards. Best picture? Well…if it’s a list of 10 nominees, sure. Best director? I’m really on the fence about that. Abrams got great performances from two very new people, reigned in a really huge production.

      1. Dga awards should be based on budgets as well as box office. How can a movie nobody wants to watch win an award. How is that a measure of success. Or achievement in film.

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