DGA Awards Nominations Lead the Way to the Oscars

Nominations feature some surprises, and a lot of high quality work.

Earlier today, the Directors Guild of America announced the nominees for their 69th annual awards ceremony. Every year, the DGA honors directors for their outstanding work in both film and television, and include fiction films, television comedies and dramas, documentaries, commercials, kids’ programs, and variety/talk shows. The DGA is one of the oldest organizations in Hollywood, and was founded in 1936. The guild continually highlights the incredible work being done by Hollywood directors, and shines a spotlight on new and upcoming talent.

This year’s nominees are an eclectic group, representing a wide range of genres and styles. The feature film nominees include: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Garth Davis (Lion), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival). It has become increasingly clear that La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight are the front-runners this awards season, scoring nominations and awards at every awards ceremony so far. It is exciting to see that French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is nominated for his beautiful science fiction film, Arrival – it is unlikely that he will win, but it’s great to see that the DGA takes sci-fi seriously.

The DGA also honors new directors for their first feature films. This year’s nominees are: Garth Davis (Lion – his second nomination!), Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen), Tim Miller (Deadpool), Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation), and Dan Tratchenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane). Fremon Craig is the only woman nominated in the feature film category, and is incredibly deserving for her delightfully smart teenage comedy, The Edge of Seventeen. Parker’s nomination is surprising, as he has largely been ignored this awards season. Details of a rape case involving Parker from 1999 resurfaced earlier in 2016, and while he maintains that he was falsely accused, the accusations have been taken seriously and he has since publicly stated that he had previously been insensitive to his victim’s experience. However, this doesn’t seem to matter to the DGA, as they have nominated him for The Birth of a Nation, which he also starred in.

It is well-known that the DGA Awards are an important precursor to the Academy Awards. Most of the time, the directors and films nominated for DGA Awards are also nominated for Oscars, and winners frequently repeat themselves across the different ceremonies. It is extremely likely that Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins, and Kenneth Lonergan will be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, the nominations for which will be revealed towards the end of the month. Garth Davis could also likely be nominated, although the Academy Awards could always go a different route and choose different directors than the DGA – other potential candidates include Martin Scorsese (Silence), Paul Verhoeven (Elle), Pablo Larraín (Jackie), and Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals).

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Documentaries are also honored at the DGA, and this year the nominees are: Otto Bell (The Eagle Huntress), Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made in America), Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg (Weiner), Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro), and Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated). These are some very original and thought-provoking works, and may very well find themselves nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Conspicuously missing, however, is Ava DuVernay’s 13th – easily one of the most powerful documentaries of the decade.

The DGA Awards are exciting because they honor directors working in all different genres and formats, indicating that all moving image works are valuable and worthy of celebration. While the nominees are overwhelmingly white and male, a wide variety of stories have been spotlighted by the DGA this year. From the heart-wrenching tale of an Indian family in Lion, to the adventurous young Mongolian girl in The Eagle Huntress, to the gorgeous story of a gay Black man’s life in Moonlight, lots of unique stories are being honored at this year’s DGA Awards – and hopefully this will also be the case for the Academy Awards.

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