The Directors Guild of America have spoken and raised the Eastwood flag yet again. The 84 year old director cruised to a nomination for his conservative military drama American Sniper. It's his fourth nomination with the DGA. He has won twice before at the DGA and also received a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Academy has nominated him even more often for directing as American Sniper will be his fifth Best Director nomination should it come to pass. Eastwood has a habit of crashing the party late. He did it in 2004 with Million Dollar Baby when everyone was preparing for an Aviator sweep. He did it in 2006 with the tiny grossing nearly black and white foreign language film Letters from Iwo Jima and he looks like he'll do it again on Thursday for American Sniper.
Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel
Clint Eastwood American Sniper
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
I promised you back when the Globe nominations were first announced that the Academy would never come up with a list that good for Best Director. While we won't know the truth of my prediction until Thursday morning, the DGA choices don't bode well for a happy Thursday morning for many of us. Congratulations to the nominees but, all due respect, Eastwood & Tyldum replacing Duvernay and Fincher is trading down if we're judging by the directing jobs in question and not by legendary reputations and best picture heat respectively.
But here's something to give you hope if you're already grousing about these nominations: In Ye Olden Times (i.e. 1970 through 2008) the DGA was considered the single most predictive precursor. This was not because the DGA lineup was always Oscar's lineup for Best Director. In fact, it rarely matches 5/5 but it was called that because it was the single most predictive of the Best Picture race (not Best Director). That is no longer the case -- or if it is it's lost all meaning since there can be up to 10 nominees for Best Picture now so it's easy to call five of them. But in Ye Olden Times, i.e. up until seven years ago, today's announcement would mean that American Sniper was probably going to edge out another movie we thought was more strongly in the mix like The Theory of Everything or Selma.
Here are some recent history switcheroos from DGA to Oscar
2013 DGA (4/5) Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips. Oscar replaced with Alexander Payne for Nebraska.
2012 DGA (2/5) Hooper, Affleck, Bigelow. Oscar replaced with Haneke, Zeitiln, and Russell
2011 DGA (4/5) Fincher, Dragon Tattoo. Oscar replaced with Malick for Tree of Life
2010 DGA (4/5) Nolan, Inception. Oscar replaced with the Coen Bros for True Grit
2009 DGA (5/5)
2008 DGA (4/5) Nolan, Dark Knight. Oscar replaced with Stephen Daldry for The Reader
2007 DGA (4/5) Sean Penn, Into the Wild. Oscar replaced with Jason Reitman for Juno
2006 DGA (3/5) Dayton/Faris and Condon. Oscar replaced with Greengrass and Eastwood
2005 DGA (5/5)
There's not much of a pattern though both of the recent years with perfect matches were very much consensus years where it was the same five titles all the time. 2014 is not that kind of year. When Oscar makes a change they trade both up and down... the only throughline, and it has exceptions, is that Oscar's directing branch tends to be a little more artistically inclined than DGA's more populist tastes. So the people who didn't make it today are still in it: James Marsh has a BAFTA nod to recommend him, Ava Duvernay has a critically acclaimed resonant film, Damien Chazelle is a new boy wonder (and they love those since its the old boys club) and David Fincher is, well, David Fincher with a huge hit. One of them could surely still knock one of the DGA contenders out. But who and which?
Final predictions soon. Need some time to think on it. Thoughts?