Oscar Derby Update: Directors Guild Awards

In which I make not a single Domhnall Gleeson joke.

The 68th Directors’ Guild Awards were held on Saturday, February 6th and it was Alejandro Iñárritu who ended the night with a win for The Revenant. 

This is the second year in a row Iñárritu has won the DGA (last year he won for Birdman) and he makes history by being the first director to do so. A win here also essentially makes him a lock for the Best Director Oscar. Fun fact for your Oscar party: Since the DGAs started in 1948, they have correctly predicted Best Director all but 7 times! (The most recent break being in 2013 when Ben Affleck won the DGA for Argo, but was not even nominated for the Academy Award.)

Another fun fact? Should Iñárritu go on to win the Best Director Oscar, it would make him the first director in over 60 years to win the award back-to-back. The most recent director to do so? Why that would be Joseph L. Mankiewicz who won in 1949 and 1950 for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve, respectively. (The only other director to do it before him was John Ford who won in 1940 and 1941 for Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley).

And if The Revenant also wins Best Picture this year, Iñárritu will be the first director ever to have his film win Best Director and Best Picture two years in a row.

inarritu dga
Iñárritu makes history by winning the DGA for BIRDMAN (left) last year and THE REVENANT (right) this year.


All that crazy history aside, a win for Iñárritu here is a major blow to George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road (which is a pity and a shame). In the past 20 years no film has won Best Picture without the support of at least one major guild.

And as a reminder of where the guilds are sitting thus far…

The Producers Guild awarded The Big Short. Now while the PGA has been a savvy predictor of Best Picture in the past, seeing The Big Short carry through to a Best Picture Oscar seems odd / unlikely, especially since it is otherwise nominated for comparatively little and given that the guilds are so split this year.

The Screen Actors gave their top prize to the cast of Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. Although it won most of the critics’ awards, its momentum seemed to be slowing. A SAG win was integral for keeping Spotlight in the running (as I’ve mentioned, the actors are a significant voting body), but other than “Best Picture” and maybe Original Screenplay, it’s not a favorite for any other award.

Considering all of the technical awards The Revenant is nominated/favored for (and now Iñárritu’s DGA triumph) The Revenant is looking like it could be a significant threat for Best Picture.

Speaking at the moment I would venture that we’re looking at mostly a showdown between The Revenant and Spotlight which — despite all of these bizarre twists and turns and The Big Short random wins aside — seems exactly what I would have guessed months ago.








The other motion picture wins: 

Alex Garland! For Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director with Ex Machina. This was a brand new award this year at the DGAs. To be eligible, a director must have released his/her first feature-length film theatrically in LA or New York in 2015. Will this give Ex Machina a boost in the Academy Awards’ Original Screenplay category? Answer: remains to be seen. It would be great if it did, though.

Matthew Heineman for Directorial Achievement in Documentary with Cartel Land. Cartel Land, by the way, is nominated for Best Documentary this year at the Academy Awards, contending with PGA winner Amy.

You can see a full list of all winners here.


Our next guild award is the WGAs. That’s right, folks: the writers! Now depending on how you feel about writers, you may or may not be surprised to hear that the writers guild has a far weaker track record of correctly predicting Original Screenplay winners. A film’s win at the WGAs does not lock it in for the Oscar in the same way it can with the actors and directors. 

The Original Screenplay nominees for the WGA are Bridge of Spies, Sicario, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton, and Trainwreck (remembering that Sicario and Trainwreck don’t translate to Oscar nominees here). And for Adapted Screenplay the WGA pack consists of The Big Short, Carol, The Martian, Steve Jobs, and Trumbo (with Steve Jobs and Trumbo being the two films that do not cross over).

The Revenant, you may have noticed, does not have a WGA nomination. 

The WGAs are Saturday the 13th so I will see you again Monday the 15th (when we will also discuss the BAFTAs!) Keep watching movies!