Alejandro González Iñárritu walked away with the best director prize Saturday night at the Directors Guild Awards, giving his inventive Birdman the sweep in the top guild award shows and setting it up for a big win come Oscar night.
Fresh in from Calgary where he is shooting his new movie Revenant, the bleak revenge tale starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Iñárritu appeared genuinely surprised to have nabbed the top prize. “I never expected to be here,” he said, before adding in front of his mortified teenage son, “When you go to bed with your wife to make love you don’t think ‘let’s go make the perfect kids’. If this is considered a great film it has nothing to do with me. It’s a miracle”.
Now with only one week of voting left, Academy members must decide whether to go the way of the major guilds, who have clearly shown Birdman as their favorite, or choose their own path. Boyhood had been the perceived frontrunner, with the critics groups bestowing the film with all the early honors. But that changed once the guilds started handing out their own awards–a phenomenon similar to what happened in 2011 with The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Boyhood still has a large contingency of staunch supporters, but for it to nab the best picture after losing all three major guild awards would be an outcome not seen since Braveheart did it back in 1995, when Mel Gibson also claimed the best director prize.
The BAFTAs tonight will be the final indicator since its results are often accurate predictors of how the Academy votes.
A possible but increasing unlikely scenario is the one that we’ve seen from the Academy during the last couple of years: splitting its top two prizes among the top two films. Last year it honored a visionary filmmaker, Alfonso Cuarón, with the best director prize for his Gravity achievement while 12 Years a Slave nabbed the picture award. Same goes for 2013 when Argo won best picture while Ang Lee walked away with the director’s trophy for Life of Pi. (You’ll recall that Affleck was famously snubbed for his directorial effort.) Yet those Best Picture winners all had guild wins going for them. Boyhood doesn’t have any. If you’re marking your ballots tonight, the safe bet is Birdman–but with all the suspense almost completely stripped away from this year’s Oscars, wouldn’t it be fun to see a surprise?