Well, that’s two DGA wins in two years for Alejandro González Iñárritu, and the Oscar plot thickens. A couple of weeks ago, the Academy Awards race seemed somewhat preordained. “The Big Short” had won the Producers Guild Award (the winner goes on to win Best Picture 69.2% of the time), the SAG awards had pretty much tipped who was going to win in the Oscar acting races, and it all seemed to be fairly locked in for the top categories. And while the odds still favor “The Big Short,” last night’s DGAs point to the race still being open and furthermore, shaping up to be another year where the wealth is shared and top prizes are not dominated by one picture.
Somewhat unexpectedly, “Spotlight” received a momentum boost by winning the Best Ensemble award at SAG (some had assumed “The Big Short” narrative would carry over). So this has given some life and hope for “Spotlight” winning Best Picture (though Best Ensemble SAG winner has only gone on to win Best Picture only 48% of the time). Had director Tom McCarthy won the Directors Guild Awards (DGA) prize, that definitely would have tipped the scales toward “Spotlight.” But last night, the DGAs gave their top prize to Alejandro González Iñárritu for his uphill helming of “The Revenant” and that changes the narrative once again. Iñárritu won the DGA award last year for “Birdman,” he went on to win Best Director and his film won Best Picture too.
But the race for Best Picture still seems unpredictable as the three top augurs, the PGA, DGA and SAG ensemble, are scattered among three contenders. While “Birdman” did win the most Oscars last year, it was only four, and that number was also tied with “Grand Budapest Hotel.”
In years past, the Best Picture winner dominated the entire night; “The Hurt Locker” taking Best Picture, Best Director and six awards total in 2010; “Slumdog Millionaire” winning the same top two prizes and scoring eight awards total. Even in a year when the top winner only wins four prizes (“The Departed,” “No Country For Old Men,” “The King’s Speech”), that film nearly always wins Best Picture and Best Director. In, fact before 2013, the last time there was a split between Best Picture and Best Director was in 2005 when Ang Lee took Best Director (“Brokeback Mountain“) and “Crash” took picture. Before that it was 2001 when Steven Soderbergh won for Best Director (“Traffic”) and “Gladiator” won Best Picture, but it’s certainly not a regular occurrence.
But the frequency of this pattern has been growing of late. In 2013, Ang Lee won Best Director for “Life Of Pi,” and “Argo” won Best Picture (filmmaker Ben Affleck controversially was not nominated for Best Director despite winning the DGA prize). The atypical split followed, uncharacteristically, the next year with “12 Years A Slave” winning Best Picture, but Alfonso Cuaron winning Best Director for “Gravity.” Things went back to “normal” last year with “Birdman,” but what we’re potentially looking at is another year where Best Picture and Best Director go to two separate films and Iñárritu winning the DGA prize certainly points in this direction. Additionally, the Iñárritu win certainly knocks the wind out of the sails of “Mad Max: Fury Road” director George Miller. Many last minute predictions pegged him to win the DGA prize and upset the race, but it was not to pass.
But the question is, does Iñárritu win Best Director two years in a row and “The Big Short” go on to win Best Picture? Does Iñárritu win Best Director and “Spotlight” come from behind to best “The Big Short” for the top prize? Or the outlier scenario, since Leonardo DiCaprio is a lock for Best Actor and Tom Hardy was a surprising Best Supporting nomination that demonstrated extra support for “The Revenant,” Iñárritu wins Best Director and his feature goes on to win Best Picture. The third scenario seems unlikely, but option one and two gives us a split either way. Lots to consider as you draft your Oscar pools.
In other awards, things are looking pretty sweet for the already-nominated “Cartel Land” to win Best Documentary (it was The Playlist’s #1 for Best Doc of 2015), and Alex Garland gets a nice boost for his first time out to bat for “Ex Machina.” Here’s the complete list of winners:
ALEJANDRO G. IÑÁRRITU
(20th Century Fox)
Unit Production Managers: Drew Locke, James W. Skotchdopole, Doug Jones
First Assistant Director: Scott Robertson
Second Assistant Directors: Megan M. Shank, Matthew Haggerty, Jeremy Marks
Unit Production Manager: Gabriela Vazquez (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
First Assistant Director: Adam Somner (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
Second Assistant Directors: Trevor R. Tavares, Jasmine Marie Alhambra (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
Second Second Assistant Directors: Brett Robinson, Kasia Trojak (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director
Unit Production Manager: Sara Desmond
First Assistant Director: Nick Heckstall‑Smith
Second Assistant Director: Ray Kenny
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series
Game of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy” (HBO)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series
Veep, “Election Night” (HBO)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Miniseries
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
The Orchard; A&E Indie Films, Our Time Projects, The Documentary Group, Whitewater Films
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials
DON ROY KING
Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special (NBC)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “Episode #325” (NBC)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs
Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, “Gods of War” (CMT)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials
Emily’s Oz, Comcast – Goodby, Silverstein & Partners NY
Time Upon A Once, General Electric – BBDO
Dad Song, Old Spice – Wieden + Kennedy
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs
Descendants (Disney Channel)