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What DGA Awards and Latest Winners Mean for the Oscar Race

It's "1917" v "Parasite" as we head for WGA Awards and actual Oscar voting.

Sam Mendes poses with his award after a win for '1917' at the 72nd Annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles, California, USA, 25 January 2020.72nd Annual DGA Awards in Los Angeles, USA - 25 Jan 2020

Sam Mendes

DAVID SWANSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Because you love movies” is the tagline for Sony’s latest For Your Consideration ads for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” showing Leonardo DiCaprio floating in his pool with beer stein and tape recorder, quietly studying his dialogue. The ad invites Academy members to feel affection for DiCaprio, as well as to identify with him as a working artist.

In the home stretch, Sony is putting Quentin Tarantino’s elegiac valentine to Hollywood  — a summer hit — back in the minds of 8,500 voters who will start to fill out their ballots this Thursday. With 10 nominations, the auteur’s Critics’ Choice Best Picture winner, a loving recreation of Los Angeles in 1969, still has a shot at the Oscar, but may have to settle for a surefire Brad Pitt win for Supporting Actor and Globe and Critics’ Choice winner Tarantino for his third Original Screenplay win, along with some tech nods.

Those script prizes came without any boost from the Writers Guild of America, which Tarantino has never joined (he likes the “Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino” credit forbidden by the WGA). This weekend, real-life partners Noah Baumbach (Original for “Marriage Story”) and Greta Gerwig (Adapted for “Little Women”) could both win WGA awards — up against Bong Joon Ho (Original for “Parasite”) and Taika Waititi (Adapted for “Jojo Rabbit”). Gerwig has already collected two predictive awards, the Critics Choice and USC Scripters, for Adapted Screenplay.

Building a winners’ momentum is crucial in during the final voting period. Leading the Oscar fray for Best Picture is the late-surging “1917,” also with 10 nods, which is not only killing it at the box office — Universal played out a best-case scenario to capitalize on nominations, which is really paying off — but is winning influential awards, from Golden Globe Drama to the often predictive PGA and DGA. This weekend’s BAFTAs — on Mendes’ home turf — will be the coup de grace.

At the DGA Symposium on Saturday, clearly meticulous attention to detail — flying in the face of danger — were why Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Bong’s “Parasite” (which won the SAG Ensemble prize), Mendes’ “1917,” Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” earned their DGA nods. But the two filmmakers who came up with more new ways to make their stories compelling were Bong and Mendes. While Mendes won the top DGA Award on Saturday night, he’s still competing with Bong for the Oscar.

Bong Joon-Ho, Quentin Tarantino and Song Kang HoThe New York Film Critics Awards Gala - Inside, USA - 07 Jan 2020

Bong Joon-Ho, Quentin Tarantino and Song Kang Ho

Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/Shutterstock

That’s because Bong is running up against the old Academy convention that the winner of what is now called the Best International Feature Film Oscar does not also get to win Best Picture. Such rules are made to be broken, but there is still resistance from voters to giving one film both awards. That’s why Bong could still win Best Director — which usually goes to the filmmaker who has delivered the most technologically innovative film, from Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and A.G. Iñárritu (“Birdman,” “The Revenant”) to last year’s winner Alfonso Cuarón, whose “Roma” also took home Best Foreign Language Film. By that logic Mendes would win. But he’s likely taking home Best Picture.

And on the craft side, after the ASC win for Roger Deakins, the cinematographer should easily win his second Oscar for “1917.” And despite the Annies win for Netflix’s “Klaus,” Pixar’s PGA and Critics’ Choice winner “Toy Story 4” should still win the Oscar. In case you were wondering about those pesky Sound categories, after winning the top CAS sound mixing award, “Ford v Ferrari” is a safe bet.

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