The Directors Guild of America announced its feature film nominees today and the list is full of fairly safe bets: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave and David O. Russell for American Hustle.
The other two contenders selected by the DGA were Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street and Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips.
The question is whether the Oscar nominations will follow suit this time, or veer into surprise territory like last year.
Scorsese and Greengrass each have a strong shot at landing an Academy Award mention, but last year the director’s branch shocked film fans by breaking from the choices made by the guild — which for many years was a reliable indicator of how Oscar voters are thinking.
Most of the 377 voting members of the directors branch are also members of the DGA, but the guild includes 15,000 people overall so its tastes tend to skew more mainstream while that smaller Academy branch has shown a penchant for underdogs and more offbeat selections.
Last year, these were the guild nominations:
• Ben Affleck, Argo
• Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
• Hooper, Les Miserables
• Ang Lee, Life of Pi
• Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
But in terms of being an Oscar gauge, the guild was only 2/5.
Only Lee (the eventual Oscar winner) and Spielberg were included in the Academy’s shortlist, which dropped Affleck, Bigelow, and Hooper, and instead included David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Michael Haneke for Amour, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Oscar nomination voting closes tomorrow, and when the contenders are announced on Jan. 16 we could easily see Spike Jonze for Her or Alexander Payne for Nebraska bumping someone from the DGA field.
Scorsese made the cut despite widespread argument over The Wolf of Wall Street and whether it revels too much in the crimes and debauchery of its characters. This pat on the back from the DGA shows that at least one body of Hollywood voters wasn’t turned off by the film, or steered away by the controversy.
The Academy’s directing branch is a much more unpredictable bunch. In a group that small, niche films can gain a foothold, naysayers are amplified, and strong passions either way can sway the outcome much more easily than in a body of 15,000.
For more on the DGA Awards and the Oscar race, tune into the “Inside Movies” show today at 6 p.m. Eastern, 3 p.m. Pacific, on Entertainment Weekly Radio, Sirius XM 105.