Projection: Oscar - DGA and ASC Weekend Preview


la la land still

La La Land won PGA.

SAG spread the love around but Hidden Figures won the big one.

Once the DGA announces on Saturday, the trifecta will be complete.

If Damien Chazelle wins, as expected, the breezy stroll to a dominant La La Land Oscar Night on February 26th proceeds unabated. If there’s an upset, then we will have a deeper conversation in next week’s column.

Let’s review this year’s DGA nominees:

Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Garth Davis, Lion

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Remember that the DGA is one of the most accurate Oscar prognosticators in terms of the Best Director category…not necessarily Best Picture. So if something were to occur such as Barry Jenkins or Denis Villeneuve winning tomorrow night (which, to me, seem like the only even remotely possible upset choices), it will impact the Best Director race, but may not shake up Best Picture.

In recent years, as we’ve seen more and more Picture-Director splits at the Oscars, it’s become sort of en vogue for pundits to automatically presume such a scenario will happen every successive year. I still find that “logic” to be specious at best. Look at the instances where the splits occurred. In 2013, Argo was a juggernaut that had to sacrifice a Best Director win by virtue of the fact that its director failed to land a nomination. That was the first year of online voting, lest we forget, which was a clusterf**k in general but resulted in particular oddity across the Best Director category. Had Ben Affleck been nominated for Best Director, there wouldn’t have been a split. The next year, you had an undeniable visual experience, Gravity, which was always going to win Best Director. It was Best Picture that was the toss-up, and the preferential ballot delivered that for 12 Years a Slave. In 2015, Birdman matched Best Picture and Best Director with no drama. Last year was another split, but again, The Revenant was viewed as uniquely directorially innovative, while the consensus Best Picture choice, Spotlight, was visually inert (by design, mind you – nothing wrong with Tom McCarthy’s work on that great film). What we’ve witnessed these past few years is not necessarily a “new normal,” but a handful of unique scenarios all bunched together. There is no such divide this year – it’s not like Moonlight runs circles around La La Land as a visual experience. To the contrary, actually – Moonlight is more naturalistic whereas La La is quite visually expressive. If we end up with a Picture-Director split this year, then the 7,000 Academy voters would have to collectively determine they are spreading the wealth on purpose…and in general, “groupthink” is a myth.

Bottom line: Damien Chazelle is very likely to win the DGA tomorrow night, and therefore almost a lock to follow that up with an Oscar win on February 26th.

Tomorrow night actually features a double-booking of potential La La Land dominance, as the American Society of Cinematographers also holds its annual awards ceremony. The Theatrical Release nominees are:

Greig Fraser, Lion

James Laxton, Moonlight

Rodrigo Prieto, Silence

Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Bradford Young, Arrival

Unlike the DGA slate, the ASC nominees match Oscar five-for-five. In terms of historical stats, the ASC winner has matched the Oscar winner each of the last three years – Emmanuel Lubezki was the winner in all three cases, after he broke his Oscar seal in 2013. Pushing out further, ASC and Oscar have matched four of the last six years, though only six of the last 10. Lubezki was sort of undeniable these past three years, plus his name became kinda undeniable once he broke that aforementioned seal. This year there isn’t an undeniable name, but there is an undeniable film, and you don’t need three guesses to figure out what film I’m talking about.

Prediction: Linus Sandgren wins ASC and goes on to win the Oscar – not necessarily because the work towers above his competitors (this category is brilliant across the board), but because La La Land is a sweepy kind of film.

Neither the DGA nor the ASC ceremonies are televised, so you needn’t feverishly search for a channel or streaming link on Saturday, you only need to feverishly stalk social media late Saturday night.

I’ll be there right along with you to hash it all out as it happens.


About Author

I married into the cult of cinema at a very young age - I wasn't of legal marriage age, but I didn't care. It has taken advantage of me and abused me many times. Yet I stay in this marriage because I'm obsessed and consumed. Don't try to save me -- I'm too far gone.