Road to the Oscars: The Directors Guild Has Their Say

By January 12, 2016

We are less than 48 hours away from this years Academy Awards nominees announcement, but to tide you over, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced their top five contenders for Outstanding Direction of a 2015 feature film.

And the nominees are:

Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant

Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Adam McKay – The Big Short

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Ridley Scott – The Martian

Unlike a number of other awards, the DGA’s list of nominees has a very good track record of predicting Oscar winners, both in the Best Director and Best Picture categories. Twelve of the last thirteen directors who won the DGA Award also won the Oscar for Best Director (the one that missed: Ben Affleck for 2012’s Argo…and he wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars…), and eight of the last nine films directed by the DGA Award winner went on to win the Best Picture (the odd one out: Alfonso Cuarón won for 2014’s Gravity, while 12 Years a Slave went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars).

As far as this year’s nominees, the thing that stands out the most is the inclusion of Adam McKay for The Big Short.  Though it actually shouldn’t be a huge surprise, as the film has been gaining serious awards momentum (not to mention staying strong at the box office) for awhile now – so much so, that some believe it to be Spotlight‘s biggest competition (though a recent surge by The Revenant and the overall love for Mad Max: Fury Road are also keeping it from being a runaway year).  George Miller and Ridley Scott both scored nods for  their “comebacks” and, at least in Miller’s case, delivering their strongest work to date. Even many that aren’t huge fans of The Revenant have expressed admiration for what Alejandro G. Iñárritu accomplished during an intense and difficult shoot, and Tom McCarthy’s nomination speaks to how powerful subtle directing can be.

But who was left out? That is the question for a year with a number of other incredible directing feats. That list includes Todd Haynes for Carol, Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight, Denis Villeneuve for Sicario, Lenny Abrahamson for Room, Danny Boyle for Jobs and Ryan Coogler for Creed. 

I would add Alex Garland for Ex Machina to that list as well, but it turns out he did get a DGA nomination as the guild added a new category this year: Best First-Time Feature Film Director.

And the nominees are:

Fernando Coimbra — A Wolf at the Door

Joel Edgerton — The Gift

Alex Garland — Ex Machina

Marielle Heller — The Diary of a Teenage Girl

László Nemes — Son of Saul

If you compare the lists of DGA nominees and Oscar nominees over the years, they are most often off by one slot…so who will it be this year (if any?).  Check back on Thursday, when the Oscar nominees will be announced, to find out!

The DGA Awards are set to take place on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA.

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Rachel Cushing
Rachel is a television editor by day and either a Jedi knight, vampire slayer, or elvish warrior by night. In between she makes time for movies, movies, and more movies (plus a few books, television shows, and then…more movies). When she’s supposed to be sleeping, she writes about movies as well, both here on and on her own blog. Tweet her @RachelJCushing