Each year, the Director's Guild of America selects one of its own to receive an award for his or her Outstanding Directorial Achievement. Like the Golden Globes, the five nominated individuals often serve as a barometer for what to expect in the top categories at the Academy Awards. And while the expanded playing field in the Best Picture category -- up from five nominations to 10 -- means that we're bound to see a few wildcards, the latest round of nominations for the year still serves as a pretty good indicator of who might be in the running for the biggest Oscars of the year.
Well the DGA's nominations for this year's Outstanding Directorial Achievement category were announced today and there's not a surprise among them. James Cameron is in there of course, for "Avatar," as is Lee Daniels for "Precious." Also up for the award are Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds"), Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") and Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air"). Like I said, no surprises.
In the past 10 years, eight of the DGA's Outstanding Directorial Achievement winners went on to take the Best Picture prize at the Academy Awards as well: "Slumdog Millionaire," "No Country for Old Men," "The Departed," "Million Dollar Baby," "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," "Chicago," "A Beautiful Mind" and "American Beauty." The number is the same for the Best Director Oscar: Roman Polanski beat out DGA winner Rob Marshall in 2002 for "The Pianist" and Steven Soderbergh beat out DGA winner Ang Lee in 2000 for "Traffic." Which means that whoever takes the DGA prize on January 30, when the winner is announced, has great odds of performing well at the Academy Awards.
Personally, my money is on Cameron. "Avatar" isn't the best movie of the year, but it's the most entertaining theatrical experience by far. It also happens to be a solid piece of event filmmaking, at least as strong as Peter Jackson's "Return of the King," and it's record-breaking box office performance cannot be undervalued. Every director on the DGA list deserves to be there, but Cameron's achievement this year is unparalleled. I think it's no contest.
In a statement issued alongside the nominations, DGA president Taylor Hackford had this to say:
"The DGA Award is especially meaningful to directors because it is decided solely by their peers - the men and women who have been in the same trenches and know exactly what goes into the crafting of a unique motion picture," said Hackford. "The five nominees for this year have each expressed an indelible vision that transported audiences to vivid vistas of cinematic art. My heartiest congratulations to all of the nominees."
Who gets your vote for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in 2009? If not Cameron, why do you think your pick is more deserving?