The DGA Nominations Narrow Down the Oscar Frontrunners

Just two days before the Oscar nominations are announced, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced their own nominees. Wither goest the DGA, so too usually goes the Oscars: in the last 55 years, only seven DGA winners haven’t gone own to win the Academy Award for Best Director. And since the Best Director Oscar usually goes hand-in-hand with Best Picture, that means that any films that didn’t make the cut at the DGA Awards are probably out of luck with the Academy.

This year, the DGA saw fit to snub several acclaimed films that once seemed like frontrunners, including F. Gary Gray for Straight Outta Compton and Todd Haynes for Carol. I maintain that Carol was probably always too subtle a motion picture to win the big and fluffy hearts of the Academy, but the absence of Straight Outta Compton is fairly surprising. Although it is in many ways a conventional biopic – and to give credit where credit is due, most of the DGA nominees are anything but conventional – it also hits a lot of the key bullet points that appeal to voters: based on a true story, topical, ensemble cast, weepy death scenes. I don’t think it’s out of the running entirely – let’s wait and see who the Academy actually nominates on Thursday – but this isn’t a good sign.

Related: Did The Producers Guild Just Predict The Coolest Oscars Ever?

The nominees who actually made the DGA’s cut include Alejandro G. Innaritu, fresh off of his Golden Globes win for The Revenant, who also benefits from the well publicized environmental hardships that befell his production. Tom McCarthy’s comparatively reserved Spotlight also earned a nomination, but the former frontrunner now seems a little unremarkable compared to the other major contenders. Ridley Scott gets a nomination for The Martian, an inspiring and surprisingly funny sci-fi tale that could hit the same contingent that loved Gravity. Adam McKay is nominated for his black comedy about the economic collapse, The Big Short, and George Miller – whose nomination seemed all but unthinkable earlier this year – gets a thoroughly justified nod for his explosive post-apocalyptic thriller Mad Max: Fury Road.

The DGA also added a surprise new category this year, honoring the best first-time filmmakers of the year. It is here that several critically acclaimed films earned their honors, even though they seem like unlikely Oscar contenders. Alex Garland earned a nomination for his acclaimed sci-fi drama Ex Machina. Joel Edgerton has been nominated for his unsettling stalker thriller The Gift. Marielle Heller is nominated for his critical darling Diary of a Teenage Girl. Laszlo Nemes gets a nomination for his Holocaust drama Son of Saul. And the relatively unknown kidnapping thriller A Wolf at the Door rounds out the nominees with director Fernando Coimbra.

The complete list of nominated directors is below. The winners will be announced on February 6, 2016.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in 2015:

The Revenant
(20th Century Fox)
Mr. Iñárritu’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Managers: Drew Locke, James W. Skotchdopole, Doug Jones
First Assistant Director: Scott Robertson
Second Assistant Directors: Megan M. Shank, Matthew Haggerty, Jeremy Marks
Unit Production Manager: Gabriela Vazquez (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
First Assistant Director: Adam Somner (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
Second Assistant Directors: Trevor R. Tavares, Jasmine Marie Alhambra (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
Second Second Assistant Directors: Brett Robinson, Kasia Trojak (Argentina, California, and Montana Unit)
This is Mr. Iñárritu’s fourth DGA Award nomination. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film in 2014 for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). He was also nominated in this category for Babel in 2006. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials for “Best Job” (Procter & Gamble) in 2012.

(Open Road Films)
Mr. McCarthy’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Managers: D.J. Carson, Michael Bederman
First Assistant Director: Walter Gasparovic
Second Assistant Director: Penny Charter
Assistant Unit Production Manager: Danielle Blumstein (Boston Unit)
First Assistant Director: Christo Morse (Boston Unit)
Second Assistant Directors: Conte Matal, Kristina Mariko Peterson, Annie Tan, Andrea O’Connor (Boston Unit)
Second Second Assistant Directors: Phil Robinson, Mark Romanelli (Boston Unit)
Additional Second Assistant Director: Scooter Perrotta (Boston Unit)
This is Mr. McCarthy’s first DGA Feature Film Award nomination.

The Big Short
(Paramount Pictures)
Mr. McKay’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Louise Rosner
First Assistant Director: Matt Rebenkoff
Second Assistant Director: Amy Lauritsen
Second Second Assistant Director: Cali Pomés
Second Second Assistant Director: Josh Muzaffer (New York Unit)
Location Manager: Michael Kriaris
This is Mr. McKay’s first DGA Feature Film Award nomination.

Mad Max: Fury Road
(Warner Bros.)
Mr. Miller’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Dean Hood
First Assistant Director: PJ Voeten
Second Assistant Directors: Samantha Smith, Wendy Croad, Chris O’Hara
Second Assistant Directors: Eddie Thorne (Syndey Unit), Emma Jamvold (Syndey Unit)
Second Second Assistant Directors: Danielle Blake (Syndey Unit), Joshua Watkins (Syndey Unit)
This is Mr. Miller’s first DGA Feature Film Award nomination.

The Martian
(20th Century Fox)
Mr. Scott’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Managers: Francesca Cingolani, Miklós Tóth
First Assistant Director: Raymond Kirk
Second Assistant Directors: Sarah Hood, Bogi Móricz
Second Second Assistant Director: Nick Thomas
This is Mr. Scott’s fourth DGA Award nomination. He was nominated in this category in 1991 for Thelma and Louise, in 2000 for Gladiator, and in 2001 for Black Hawk Down.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director:


A Wolf at the Door
(Outsider Pictures)
Mr. Coimbra’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Clara Machado
First Assistant Director: Suzy Milstein
Second Assistant Director: Raquel Toledo
This is Mr. Coimbra’s first DGA Award nomination.

The Gift
(STX Entertainment)
Mr. Edgerton’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Luc Etienne
First Assistant Director: Michael J. Moore
Second Assistant Director: Matt Haggerty
Second Second Assistant Director: Dillon Neaman
This is Mr. Edgerton’s first DGA Award nomination.

Ex Machina
Mr. Garland’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Sara Desmond
First Assistant Director: Nick Heckstall-Smith
Second Assistant Director: Ray Kenny
This is Mr. Garland’s first DGA Award nomination.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Ms. Heller’s Directorial Team:
Unit Production Manager: Molly Salz
First Assistant Director: Brian Benson
Second Assistant Director: Jerremy Stewart
Second Second Assistant Director: Alex Gilbert
This is Ms. Heller’s first DGA Award nomination.

Son of Saul
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Mr. Nemes’s Directorial Team: 
Unit Production Manager: Gábor Szántó
First Assistant Director: István Kolos
Second Assistant Directors: Zoltán Gyovai, Edina Galgócz
This is Mr. Nemes’s first DGA Award nomination.

Eligible directors for this award must have released his or her first feature-length film theatrically in Los Angeles or New York in 2015. Foreign films are eligible and the director does not need to be a DGA member. Winners will be announced at the 68th Annual DGA Awards on Saturday evening, February 6, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. The DGA Awards will be hosted by actor Jane Lynch.

DGA nominations for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television, Commercials, and Documentaries will be announced on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Top Photo: 20th Century Fox

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.