A win at the DGA awards this Saturday solidified Guillermo del Toro’s fishy period piece as the likeliest winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.
This weekend saw the beginning of the end of the Oscar season. On Saturday, the Directors Guild of America gave out their prizes, one of the final preliminary indicators of an unpredictable awards season’s crystallizing narratives. Industry favorite Guillermo del Toro took the Best Director trophy for The Shape of Water. While Christopher Nolan’s clockwork precision on Dunkirk had held a tight grip on the category earlier in the year, del Toro has built up a surge of momentum that should carry him all the way to the Academy Awards in March.
Although his Cold War interspecies romance has proven to be somewhat divisive as its presence has lingered, del Toro himself is anything but a polarizing figure. A win for the Mexican director would be repayment for nearly two decades of consistently solid studio work, culminating in his departure from The Hobbit films and a return to purely personal works of art. That is not to say that del Toro’s work on movies like Hellboy II was lacking his distinct voice; if anything, those films benefitted from a filmmaker confident enough to come in under budget without compromising his own bizarre vision. The Shape of Water is the artistic culmination of a career-long dismissed and overlooked.
In its 80-year history, the DGA awards have diverged from the Oscars only eight times. Three of those instances came when the DGA gave its award to a director not nominated for the Oscar, and another came as a result of a scheduling mix-up. Del Toro’s close friends Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro Iñárritu have both won the Best Director Oscar in recent years; he seems poised to join them.
The race for Best Picture is slightly more complicated. Although the combined magnitude of The Shape of Water‘s PGA and DGA awards makes it the comfortable frontrunner in that category, there’s still a chance that another film could sneak in. Last year, La La Land won both awards, only to lose the Oscar to Moonlight. The Academy’s growing membership remains a wild card in this race; could del Toro win the Best Director Oscar, only to lose Best Picture to Lady Bird or Get Out? In recent cycles, the Oscars have grown more and more comfortable with separating those awards, frequently giving Best Director to a resounding technical achievement like The Shape of Water. Gravity, Life of Pi, and The Revenant have all followed this pattern, and it’s not inconceivable that the same could happen this year.
Next week’s Writers Guild awards may confirm The Shape of Water‘s impending victory. No film other than Brokeback Mountain has won all three preliminary guild awards and gone on to lose the Oscar. Last year, Moonlight’s victory with the WGA went on to foretell its Oscar success. It’s possible a dark horse candidate will do the same this year.
On a smaller note, the Annie Awards for Animation, also held this weekend, made clear what we all already knew: Pixar’s sublime Coco will take the Best Animated Feature Oscar. It’s been a truly dire year for big studio animation, and the Academy will be happy to reward the only truly worthwhile piece of mainstream animation of the year. It’s too bad that they’re still just a little too old-fashioned to consider that maybe Coco was one of this year’s best films, period.
DGA Award Winners
First-Time Feature Film Director: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Feature Film: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Documentary: Matthew Heineman, City of Ghosts
Drama Series: Reed Morano, The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred”
Comedy Series: Beth McCarthy-Miller, Veep, “Chicklet”
Movies for Television and Miniseries: Jean-Marc Vallée, Big Little Lies
Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials: Glenn Weiss, The 89th Annual Academy Awards
Variety/Talk/News/Sports– Regularly Scheduled Programming: Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live, “Host: Jimmy Fallon”
Reality Programs: Brian Smith, MasterChef, “Vegas Deluxe & Oyster Shucks”
Children’s Programs: Niki Caro, Anne with an E, “Your Will Shall Decide Your Destiny”
Commercials: Martin de Thurah, Festival, StubHub; Machines, StubHub; Mad World, WealthSimple
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Animated Feature – Independent: The Breadwinner
Best Animated Special Production: Revolting Rhymes
Best Animated Short Subject: Dear Basketball
Best Animated Television/Broadcast Commercial: “June”
Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Children: We Bare Bears – Episode: Panda’s Art
Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production: Rick and Morty – Episode 303: “Pickle Rick”
Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production: Coco
Character Animation in a Live Action Production: War for the Planet of the Apes
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production: Coco
Voice Acting in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production: Tom Kenny as SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob SquarePants
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production: Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel, Coco
Writing in an Animated Feature Production: Coco
Editorial in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production: Samurai Jack – Episode: XCIII, XCIV, XCIX