By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 10, 2011 at 5:13AM
If there was any doubt as to which films were the front-runners in the Oscar race, they were quelled by the Directors Guild announcement of their nominees. The DGA tends to match Oscar nominations four for five. A movie almost never wins best picture without a DGA nomination, and the DGA winner has been the Oscar winner all but six times since 1948. As expected, first-time nominees Darren Aronofsky and Tom Hooper and vets David Fincher and Chris Nolan are in the running for the DGA's top prize. If the industry still harbors any grudges against David O. Russell for his past on-set behavior, the directors, at least, recognized him with his first DGA nomination for The Fighter.
The Directors Guild favors well-produced movies with scale over smaller intimate fare, and live-action over animation. Left off the DGA list are several directors whose films are vying for the remaining five slots in the Oscar top ten: the Coen brothers (True Grit), Ben Affleck (The Town) and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3), women filmmakers with small budgets, Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) and Debra Granik (Winter's Bone), and smaller-scale films from Brits Danny Boyle (127 Hours) and Mike Leigh (Another Year).
The DGA tends to nominate women more often than the Academy director's branch, which is an elite group of about 300 filmmakers, mostly male. The fact that Cholodenko did not score a nom does not bode well for her Oscar chances, although the film is popular, and will likely score wins with the Golden Globes this weekend as a comedy. In the past, nominated women writer-directors such as Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola wound up winning Oscars for writing rather than directing. Granik may join Cholodenko as an Oscar-nominated writer rather than director.
Late-surging holiday hit True Grit likely broke too late to register with many DGA voters and has more momentum in the Oscar race. Similarly, Leigh's Another Year has picked up steam late in the day. 127 Hours and Winter's Bone don't have the advantage of late momentum and are struggling to remain in contention for nominations and a best picture slot. Unfortunately for Unkrich, the industry tends to regard Pixar as a gifted team of collaborators.
The Town and Inception got boosts from their recent DVD releases. The DGA nom reveals the strength of big-scale Inception, which looks to score many technical nominations but lacks support from the actors' branch. Writer-producer-director Nolan is the only filmmaker in the award season to grab all three DGA, WGA and PGA noms. The film led this weekend's Visual Effects Society nominations; Nolan will receive the VES Visionary Award at their awards ceremony on February 1.
The DGA Awards will take place The DGA January 29 at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland.
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Mr. Aronofsky’s Directorial Team:
· Unit Production Manager: Jennifer Roth
· First Assistant Director: Joseph Reidy
· Second Assistant Director: Amy Lauritsen
· Second Second Assistant Director: Travis Rehwaldt
· Location Manager: Ronnie Kupferwasser
This is Mr. Aronofsky’s first DGA Feature Film Award Nomination.
The Social Network
Mr. Fincher’s Directorial Team:
· Unit Production Manager: JoAnn Perritano
· First Assistant Director: Bob Wagner
· Second Assistant Director: Allen Kupetsky
· Second Second Assistant Director: Maileen Williams
This is Mr. Fincher’s second DGA Feature Film Award nomination. He was previously nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008. He previously won the DGA Commercial Award for Speed Chain (Nike), Gamebreakers (Nikegridiron.com), and Beauty for Sale (Xelibri Phones) in 2003 and was nominated in that category again in 2008.
The King’s Speech
(The Weinstein Co.)
Mr. Hooper’s Directorial Team:
· Production Manager: Erica Bensly
· First Assistant Director: Martin Harrison
· Second Assistant Director: Chris Stoaling
This is Mr. Hooper’s first DGA Feature Film Award Nomination. He was previously nominated for the DGA Award for Movies for Television/Miniseries for John Adams in 2008.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
Mr. Nolan’s Directorial Team:
· Unit Production Manager: Jan Foster
· First Assistant Director: Nilo Otero
· Second Assistant Director: Brandon Lambdin
· Second Second Assistant Director: Greg Pawlik
· Additional Second Assistant Director: Lauren Pasternack
This is Mr. Nolan’s third DGA Feature Film Award nomination. He was previously nominated for The Dark Knight in 2008 and for Memento in 2001.
DAVID O. RUSSELL
(Paramount Pictures and The Weinstein Co.)
Mr. Russell’s Directorial Team:
· Unit Production Manager: Mark Kamine
· First Assistant Director: Michele Ziegler
· Second Assistant Director: Xanthus Valan
· Second Second Assistant Director: Timothy Blockburger
This is Mr. Russell’s first DGA Feature Film Award nomination.