The Directors Guild of America are handing out their awards tomorrow night over dinner. Here are the nominees followed by my rationale and my picks for who should win and who will win Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures:

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo

I love the fact that, since winning a DGA Lifetime Achievement Award 16 years ago, Woody Allen has gone on to make 16 more films. Even so, he’s only got four nominations in this category producing one win for Annie Hall (1978) and his last nomination was for Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). I would love to see him take home the prize this year for one of my favorite movies of the year, but it seems pretty unlikely.

David Fincher was a bit of a surprise nominee this year because at the time the lucky five were announced, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seemed like an awards also-ran. It turned out it pretty much was, but this nomination for a time certainly made it seem like it wasn’t. In retrospect, I think this was more of an “oops, we accidentally gave this award to Tom Hooper last year so have another crack at it” nomination than anything else. As little as I thought of the film, I can’t deny Fincher directed the hell out of it. Though the material was beneath him, I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if he won.

And then there is Alexander Payne who at this point must be coasting on the reputation he built up with Election and Sideways (the latter of which also earned Payne a DGA nomination) because The Descendants is saved only by a wonderful George Clooney performance. The material was far too sentimental and middle of the road for Payne’s harder-edged sensibilities and the emotions in which the film trafficked never felt honest for sustained periods of time. The film had its moments and it could’ve been a nice tear-jerker, but unfortunately it was mostly a disappointing mess.

There was much head scratching when Martin Scorsese announced he was going to make a family film based on a children’s picture book and worry deepened when the first trailer came out. This is the guy who made Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas? Turns out Hugo wasn’t really a family film at all. It fit snuggly into Scorsese’s sizable wheelhouse and also gave him a chance to speechify a little bit on the importance of one of his passions: film preservation. That wouldn’t be enough to make it a great film however. That it’s one of his most openly emotional pictures and one of the most moving of the year for me is what elevates it. About the only thing going against Marty this year is that he already has a DGA win for The Departed from seven nominations, not to mention a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

While Hugo definitely seems to have the best shot at playing the spoiler, it’s inconceivable at this point in the awards race that the nearly universally (and somewhat head-scratchingly) beloved The Artist is going to lose anything at all. This weekend could change those perceptions, but I don’t think it will.

Should Win: Woody Allen though I’ll honestly be equally thrilled if it’s Martin Scorsese. I wouldn’t even mind Fincher.
Will Win: New kid on the block Michel Hazanavicius is going to pull another Tom Hooper and steal the award from more deserving directors and films. Don’t forget that the man behind The Artist’s awards campaign is the same guy behind that of The King’s Speech last year: Mr. Harvey Weinstein, aka The Oscar Whisperer.

17 Responses to “The 2012 DGA Awards: Who should win and who will”

  1. Go Woody! :)
    Seriously, he did a great job on Midnight in Paris and a win would be so well deserved. After all these years behind camera, it seems that Mr. Allen has developed such a great sense of what is working and when that very few directors can match it.

  2. He makes it look so easy I don’t think he gets enough credit actually. Sure, he doesn’t hit a Manhattan or an Annie Hall every time out, but how many other directors are consistently making a movie a year over such a long stretch of time?

  3. I’m hoping the standing O that Scorsese got at the Golden Globes translates beyond those Oscar voters to the DGA, because Scorsese deserves this more than Hazanavicius. But I fear you’re right, and the DGA is going to go with the crowd-pleasing but artistically weak choice once again.

    I would not complain if Woody pulls an upset and wins this one either.

  4. I haven’t seen THE ARTIST but i have seen(and really loved) MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. I have to say one thing: If MIP had the Harvey Machine behind it , it would have won EASILY. The DGA is crucial for one thing: If Hazanavicius wins, then It’s the King’s Speech no. 2. If Scorsese wins, then he will follow the Stone-Spielberg path (BP+BD and after a few years BD). There is a veeeeery remote chance that the DGA will pull a Ron Howard: awarding Fincher even though he is not EVEN nominated for an Oscar.

  5. Of this bunch, Payne is the least deserving. Both Woody and Marty, masters of their game, have created vital, exquisite films — someone that rarely happens for an artist at this point in their careers. Their considerable expertise makes their movies flow freely.

    Hazanavicius did good — it’s not an easy task to recreate an old genre. But the end result can’t compare to what Woody & Marty have done.

  6. I feel Hazanavicius deserves this award over the other four.

    Scorsese would be my #2 choice.

  7. “If MIP had the Harvey Machine behind it , it would have won EASILY” agreed, Minas. As to your second scenario, part of me actually hopes Fincher DOES pull a Ron Howard just to poke stuff Oscar in the nose. Plus, like I said, I do think he did an excellent job just with material that wasn’t all that great to begin with.

    Pierre, I’m roughly translating your comment into a ranking and I have to say We totally agree. You didn’t mention Fincher though, but if memory serves you weren’t a fan of his film.

    Joel, we’re reversed in our top two, but mainly I’m just picking which movie I personally liked better. I’ll be jazzed if either guy surprises and wins.

    Sam, you’ll have to accept my apologies in advance. I know you’ve really come around on The Artist since you first saw it, but I’ve had the opposite reaction and I’m in full take down mode until Oscar night. To the extent I talk about the awards, I plan on badmouthing it every chance I get. lol. When it’s all over and The Artist has won anyway, I’ll be fine about it. It’s a nice, likable film and easily on par with Oscar picks past except for those once a decade selections where they actually pick the best film of the year.

    I know you didn’t think much of MiP, so I guess we’re even :)

  8. I haven’t seen “The Descendants” or “Hugo” but feel that Hazanavicius should absolutely win this thing and that he earned it. I thoroughly enjoyed “Midnight in Paris” and consider it one of Allen’s best but feel like Hazanavicius did something very special, brave and unique (even if it feels oddly familiar). So yeah, I’m with Sam on this one.

  9. Yeah, I’m just not seeing it Dorothy. As charming as it was, I didn’t even think The Artist was all that convincing of a silent movie replica. Perhaps that’s not the point, but unless there are deeper layers to it that I’m just not getting, I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to take from it.

    Alas, my opinion will not stop this freight train. Hazanavicius wins tonight and he wins in February come Oscar time as well as his movie.

  10. Craig, that’s exactly how I felt about Benjamin Button, so I understand where you’re coming from. I wish I could articulate better my admiration for “The Artist” but it sort of defies explanation. I don’t think that it was particularly meant to be a silent movie replica, it was way too tongue-in-cheek for that, but it succeeds at every turn because of its earnestness and simplicity. It also evokes so many fantastic moments in film history, and not just from the silent era. I don’t know, trite as it sounds, I found it magical.

  11. I’m totally half way there Dorothy. Looking back at my own review I’m very very fond of it, I just can’t make that final leap into the realm of greatness, especially not this year when there were so many movies I do think are great.

    At the same time, I don’t want to pee on anyone’s camp fire. As I said, I’m going to be honest about my feelings leading up to the show as I root for everyone else, but when it’s over, it’s over and in the end it’s a fine pick for Oscar.

  12. Personal preferences:

    #1. HAZANAVICIUS – I’m guessing I’m in the minority here, but I absolutely LOVED “The Artist.” I was engaged from frame 1, and I felt the ending was appropriate. Plus, I’m glad someone made a homage to silent films in the present day.

    #2. SCORSESE – Truthfully, outside of Hazanavicius, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I really enjoyed the second half of “Hugo,” but the first part bored me.

    #3. ALLEN – I will say that I enjoyed “Midnight in Paris” quite a lot, though most of that was based on the script and not the direction. At least I could stand this one, unlike Allen’s previous two.

    #4. FINCHER – Love the guy, but, like Scorsese’s entry, his took me a while to get into. I do think it’s laughable he lost to Tom Hooper last year, so if they decided to do something crazy with it tonight (they won’t), I won’t complain.

    #5. PAYNE – This is the only guy I feel absolutely does NOT deserve to win. I found “The Descendants” to be incredibly overrated, outside of the wrongfully snubbed Shailene Woodley (I’d put her performance over Clooney’s, personally). I’d really love for Alexander to make another film with the same wit, pacing and general fun of “Election.”

  13. You’re in good company Free. I’d say on balance most people are totally on board Team Artist.

    We totally agree on Payne though. I’m a big fan of Election and Sideways. I thought About Schmidt was unbearably mean-spirited and smug. The Descendants was one of the most disappointing films of 2011 surpassed only by The Muppets. Though I’m rooting for Allen (I think his direction accounted for some terrific performances, particularly Owen Wilson) and Scorsese is my #2 (I also struggled with the first half, but the second half was sooo good). Fincher would be fine (though I agree with you on the movie) and I’ll be cool with Hazanavicius.

  14. Just for the record, Craig, I did like Dragon Tattoo but not as much as I’d hoped.

  15. Yes me too.

  16. Craig thanks for that explanation and qualification on THE ARTIST. I fully understand your position and respect it.

  17. “I fully understand your position and respect it…’

    …but take these future Oscars and suck on ’em!

    Right? hahaha.

    Yeah. I know. I promise I’ll shut up about it in another month.

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