Directors Guild Anoints 1917’s Sam Mendes As Oscar Frontrunner (AWARDS 2019)

The last major Awards Season card has been played, and it’s predicting that 1917 is the movie to beat come Oscar night.

After taken home Picture and Directing honors at the Golden Globes, then the top prize at the Producers Guild of America (a Best Picture equivalent), the Directors Guild of America named Sam Mendes the year’s best feature film director for his work on the technically ambitious World War I movie.

If you’re a stats person, here’s how the DGA win shakes out. For the past six years, the winner of the DGA has gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Director. The two awards have also matched up in 15 of the past 16 years, and 16 of 19 since the year 2000. At this point, it would be shocking if Mendes did not go on to win the Directing Oscar.

The DGA prize as a Best Picture predictor, however, looks much different. Those two awards have only gone 2 for 6 in matching each other over the past six years, 6 for 10 over the past decade, and 13 of 19 since 2000. But it’s that most recent trend — 2 for 6 — that is keeping the Oscar race competitive for the year’s most coveted prize.

Even so, the momentum is clearly in 1917‘s favor, given those Globe and Producer victories. It also won (predictably) the American Cinematographer’s prize yesterday for Roger Deakins assembled lengthy takes that affected the look of two single takes over the course of the whole movie.

While there’s still room for a Best Picture upset, it’s difficult to see where it would come from, especially given that the likely alternative is Parasite, the South Korean thriller. It did win the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Cast, but that honor is a poor Best Picture predictor; also, that movie has not Oscar acting nominations and, most importantly, a foreign-language film has never won the top prize in Academy history.

Yes, the Writers Guild has yet to announce its winners, but of the top three guilds its the weakest Best Picture indicator. However, if 1917 ends up winning that, too, for Original Screenplay, then the race is essentially game, set, and match.

For all of those reasons, it really feels like 1917 has this in the bag, and Oscar night 2020 should end up being rather light on suspense and fairly drama-free, especially with the acting categories also being very predictable, likely lining up with the four SAG winners.

If all goes according to the Awards Season script, then Mendes will win the Picture and Director Oscars for the second time in his career, and exactly 20 years after he won his first for both for his suburban dramedy satire American Beauty. That would mark the longest gap between winning both awards in Oscar history.

Here are the winners and nominees (in the three film categories) for the 72st Annual DGA Awards. Winners were announced at a gala dinner on Saturday January 25, 2020, roughly two week before the Oscars on Sunday February 9.

Directors Guild of America
2019 Winners (and Nominees)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film
Sam Mendes, 1917

Outstanding Directorial Achievement for a First-Time Feature Film Director
Alma Har’el, Honey Boy

  • Mati Diop, Atlantics
  • Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim
  • Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon
  • Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert, American Factory

  • Feras Fayyad, The Cave
  • Alex Holmes, Maiden
  • Ljubomir Stefanov & Tamara Kotevska, Honeyland
  • Nanfu Want & Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation

Click on links below for other Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2019 / 20 season:

Screen Actors Guild Award Winners
Producers Guild of America Winners
Critics’ Choice Awards Winners
Writers Guild of America Nominations
Golden Globe Winners
National Society of Film Critics
Dallas/Fort-Worth Film Critics Association
Boston Society of Film Critics
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
AFI American Film Institute Awards
New York Film Critics Circle
National Board of Review
Atlanta Film Critics Circle

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