In this tricky year at the Oscars, there has been one certainty, at least on the surface, since the industry awards started nearly a month ago: Alfonso Cuaron is the one to beat as this year’s Best Director. Now this Saturday is the ultimate test for him: the Directors Guild of America Award. The winner here has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Director nine out of the last ten years, and since its inaugural ceremony, it has correctly predicted 63 Oscar winning directorial achievements out of 69 years. That stat speaks volumes for how important this award is for the Oscar race.
So is Alfonso Cuaron a shoo-in to win this Saturday? I think so. Roma has been top of mind for Oscar voters arguably since the first trailer back in August, and especially after premiering at the Venice Film Festival. From there, despite be a long, black-and-white, foreign Netflix film, it hasn’t looked back. It won 2 Golden Globes, 4 Critics Choice Awards, and is up for seven BAFTAs and ten Oscars. And right now, it seems like the film that is the frontrunner for Best Picture.
The guilds, however, have so far been the only stopping point for the film, and there is a stress on so far. Cuaron also shot the movie, and he’s also a practical certainty to win the Cinematographers Guild, and the film could easily win the Drama award at ACE Eddie for its Editing. However, it is worth noting that Roma did not receive any nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, and lost the Producers Guild Award to Green Book, arguably one of the more controversial films out this year. So while Cuaron has been the one constant in Best Director this year, his luck may change entirely if he loses on Saturday.
So if not Cuaron, them whom? Well, there seems to have been an uptick lately for Spike Lee to win for BlacKkKlansman. I personally have thought since September that Lee was going to win Best Director this year, not just for his work on the acclaimed film, but also because it would mark a major milestone: he’d be the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Director.
I’m not betting on that, though, for two reasons. First, BlacKkKlansman has been consistently nominated most everywhere, but it hasn’t won anything at any of the precursors so far. I don’t expect DGA to be the place where it starts. Second, I do believe that when it comes to handing out these awards, you first think of the work, then think of the politics and the historics. Sure, Spike Lee directed one of the best films of the year, but for me, and countless others, there’s an argument that no director this decade has done as well on their film as Cuaron did on Roma. I wasn’t as hot on the film as everyone else was, but I think the direction of the film is a vast achievement. So in that argument, Cuaron is the one I’d give it to, but this is Hollywood, and politics can play just as heavily as deserving.
Or perhaps there’s one other nominee to look out for: Peter Farrelly. Before I’m laughed off-stage, think of it in these terms: his film won the PGA, it won the Globe for Comedy/Musical, and while he didn’t land an Oscar nomination, the one time in the last ten years DGA did not line up with Oscar is when Ben Affleck was snubbed by the Academy for Argo, which went on to win Best Picture, something that Green Book can still do. I’m not saying Farrelly’s lack of a nomination is on that level, but Argo also won the Globe and PGA before DGA was handed out.
You could make this same argument for Bradley Cooper, who was also left off the director’s list for A Star is Born, but his film has tanked so hard at these precursors that it’s chances are down to slim and none, and slim has left the building, if you catch my drift.
On a closing note, I do believe it’s Cuaron who will be announced the winner on Saturday night, and I think from there he’s got a clear road to the Oscar stage on February 24th. But if it’s not him, and someone else is handed the trophy, hang on tight, because this crazy year is about to get even crazier.
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