Every award show has a purpose: advancing the contenders toward their ultimate goal— Oscar wins.
Thus the prolonged DGA Awards Saturday night advanced the cause of all five film director contenders, who were each presented their "medallion" with a lengthy introduction—a carefully calibrated pitch for their movie—and had the chance to accept, adding more fuel to the fire. Oscar nominees Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Rachel McAdams were among the presenters trying to add the right touch of gravitas to their Best Picture contenders.
The DGA feature winner for the second year running (the first in the guild's 80-year-history), a teary-eyed Alejandro G. Iñárritu, reminded the 1600 guests at the Hyatt Regency ballroom that he was making many Mexicans happy. In other words, he's an all-too rare Oscar candidate representing diversity. Could that tip the balance toward the spectacular "The Revenant," whose Oscar frontrunners Leonardo DiCaprio and Emmanuel Lubezki were at Iñárritu's side? It did not win the Producers Guild, which went to "The Big Short." And "Spotlight" won the Screen Actors Guild Ensemble. Next week's two Writers Guild awards are expected to go to "Spotlight" and "The Big Short." So we have a wide-open Oscar race.
Also not winning the DGA were "The Martian" and "Mad Max: Fury Road," which while stunningly mounted, lack the gravitas of their rivals. Ridley Scott (who is not nominated for the Oscar) revealed his allegiance to the commercial side, in more ways than one, thanking his late brother Tony and DGA Life Achievement Award-winner Joe Pytka. (Scott's next film is "Alien: Covenant.")
Will Oscar voters also go for Iñárritu two years running? It's more likely for Director than Best Picture. "There is not a good film that is not the result of risk-taking," said Iñárritu, describing making the film as climbing "a mountain that was very cold and very high," backed by New Regency's maverick owner Arnon Milchan amid a "corporate culture of risk aversion."
Steven Spielberg presented the guild's new First-Time Director award to British screenwriter-turned-director Alex Garland for "Ex Machina," who is nominated for the Original Screenplay Oscar; he cited Steven Soderbergh, who was DGA nominated for "The Knick," for being his "inspiration and lighthouse."
In an upset, the Documentary DGA Award went to Mathew Heinemann for his daring embedded Mexican adventure "Cartel Land," which beat out music doc "Amy."
The belle of the ball during intermittent networking breaks was presenter Nate Parker, who could well be accepting a medallion at next year's DGA festivities for Sundance breakout and prize-winer "The Birth of a Nation." Fox chief Stacey Snider, who was cheering two horses at the DGA, "The Martian" and "The Revenant," told Parker she had nabbed a hard-to-get screening of the movie (after all, Searchlight is releasing it).
Meanwhile, embattled AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, sitting with DGA head Paris Barclay, fielded inquiries about the new Oscar voting rules; she told me each of the individual Academy branches will vet their constituents' ongoing voting status.
In accepting the award for Best TV Movie for "Bessie," Dee Rees thanked a list of encouraging mentors, including Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, Cary Fukunaga, Lee Daniels, Paris Barclay and Ryan Coogler.
The winners of the 2015 DGA Awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement are:
OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN FEATURE FILM
Second Second Assistant Directors: Brett Robinson, Kasia Trojak (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
This is Mr. Iñárritu’s third DGA Award win and fourth nomination. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film in 2014 for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). He was also nominated in this category for Babel in 2006. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials for “Best Job” (Procter & Gamble) in 2012.
This is Ms. Rees’s first DGA Award win.
This is Mr. Garland's first DGA Award win.
This is Mr. Nutter’s first DGA Award win and sixth nomination. He was previously nominated in this category in 2013 for the Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castamere” and in 2006 for The Sopranos episode “Join the Club.” He was also nominated in the Comedy Series category for Entourage episodes “The Resurrection” (2007) and “Lose Yourself” (2010); and in the Movies for Television and Mini-Series category for The Pacific “Basilone” in 2010.
￼￼￼￼￼￼OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY SERIES
CHRIS ADDISON Veep, “Election Night” (HBO)
This is Mr. Addison’s first DGA Award win.
This is Mr. Diomedi’s second DGA Award win and his third nomination. He previously won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming in 2014 for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “Episode #1.” He was also nominated in this same category in 2013 for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, “#799.”
This is Mr. King’s second DGA Award and tenth nomination. He previously won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming in 2013 for Saturday Night Live “Host: Justin Timberlake” and was previously nominated for Saturday Night Live episodes in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. He was also nominated in the Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming category this year for Saturday Night Live, “Host: Tracy Morgan/Musical Guest: Demi Lovato.”
￼￼￼￼￼￼OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN REALITY PROGRAMS
This is Mr. Vetri’s first DGA Award win and second nomination. He was previously nominated in this category in 2014 for Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, “Welcome to the Gun Show.”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS
This is Mr. Ortega’s second DGA Award win and third nomination. He previously won in this category in 2006 for High School Musical, and was nominated in this category in 2007 for High School Musical 2.
ANDREAS NILSSON (Biscuit Filmworks)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DOCUMENTARY
Commercial director Joe Pytka was honored with the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction in honor of his groundbreaking career.
Given to an Assistant Director or Unit Production Manager in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the Directors Guild of America.