Tuesday morning was a tale of two lists of nominations: those for the 74th British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, which were completely unpredictable, and those for the 73rd Directors Guild of America Awards, which went pretty much as expected.
The noms for the top DGA Award, best direction of a feature, went — as predicted by yours truly and others — to Nomadland‘s Chloe Zhao, the clear frontrunner; The Trial of the Chicago 7‘s Aaron Sorkin, who is still best known as a writer, but earned the respect of directors with Molly’s Game (for which he received a best first feature DGA nom) and now this populist film; Mank‘s David Fincher, a directors’ director if ever there was one (you knew they loved him when he was DGA-nominated for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, on top of two other features, a TV series and two commercials); and the little-known helmers of two of the year’s breakout hits, Promising Young Woman‘s Emerald Fennell and Minari‘s Lee Isaac Chung.
Missing here is not helpful, but also not shocking, for big-name options like Da 5 Bloods‘ Spike Lee, News of the World‘s Paul Greengrass and Tenet‘s Christopher Nolan.
Oddly, Fennell was not also nominated for best first feature, a more recently introduced juried prize for which she was also eligible. (Lion‘s Garth Davis, Get Out‘s Jordan Peele and A Star Is Born‘s Bradley Cooper landed noms for both DGA prizes.) Instead, that category was filled out by One Night in Miami‘s Regina King, Sound of Metal‘s Darius Marder and The Father‘s Florian Zeller — all of whom probably came very close to cracking the top category — plus The 40-Year Old Version‘s Radha Blank and, most out of the blue, Fernando Frías de la Parra for the Mexican Oscar-submitted film I’m No Longer Here. (Palm Springs‘ Max Barbakow and Miss Juneteenth‘s Channing Godfrey Peoples had struck me as likelier bets.)
What does this mean for the Oscar nominations, voting for which began last Friday and runs through Wednesday, with the announcement coming next Monday?
Not a hell of a lot. The DGA comprises “more than 18,000 directors and members of the directorial team.” Only 564 of the 9,300 active voting members of the Academy, though, are members of its directors branch who get to weigh in on determining the Oscar noms. Most of them presumably are members of the DGA. But that’s still not the strongest correlation, which explains why most years the DGA nominees and best director Oscar nominees overlap on four of five names. Indeed, you have to go back 11 years to find the last time that they agreed on all five.
So, the DGA announcement certainly represents encouraging news for someone like Blank, on the heels of a best actress BAFTA Award nom earlier in the day, and de la Parra, who wasn’t even on most people’s radar before this. But for everyone else, it was essentially a hold — meaning, what was expected, or the opposite of a snub.