The Directors Guild of America announced the nominees for its 62nd Annual Awards today, honoring outstanding directorial achievement in feature films. Along with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Producers Guild (PGA) and the Writers Guild (WGA), the Director’s Guild awards are one of the key components to the Oscar race. All of its members are also members of the Academy.

Their 2009 nominees are a diverse group of directors, all of whom are expected to be in the race:

  • James Cameron for Avatar
  • Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
  • Lee Daniels for Precious
  • Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
  • Jason Reitman for Up in the Air

Noticeably absent are perennial contenders such as Clint Eastwood (Invictus) and upstart newcomers such as Tom Ford (A Single Man) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9). James Cameron’s name on this list may surprise some of you, but it doesn’t surprise me. Cameron has a drawing power both inside and outside the industry, as seen in both the success of his film at the box office and his constant awards recognition. Facts are facts. People within industry like Avatar, just as they liked Titanic after being told not to. It puts James Cameron and his film in a position to not only be present on Oscar night, but to also take the stage.

Don’t rule out the underdogs though. I’m referring of course to Lee Daniels and Kathryn Bigelow, to directors who are seeing this level of recognition for the first time. They’ve each delivered the two most memorable films of the year in Precious and The Hurt Locker, two films that will stick in the minds of Academy voters. As of this moment, the race for the Best Director statue is wide open — and its becoming interesting.

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