This year we're going to cover some of the awards hoopla in our own inimitable style, so I thought we'd get the ball rolling with the latest set of kudo announcements: the Director's Guild of America. I had high hopes for the DGA this year, but they've been dashed.
A bit of history:
Quentin Tarantino joined the DGA in 2012, finally making him eligible for their award (they only give awards to people who are members of their group, so some of the folks 'snubbed' this year, especially foreign filmmakers, wouldn't have been qualified anyway) I have no idea what I'm talking about. He also made an incredible movie in 2012, Django Unchained, making him doubly eligible. And yet he wasn't nominated. In his place we have Tom Hooper, director of Les Miserables.
Full disclosure: I have only seen half of Les Mis. My screening was cut short by a fire in the popcorn machine at the Arclight Theater, but I saw enough to make some basic judgments on the film (especially as every single living human has told me I already saw the best part of the movie). My main judgment: Tom Hooper did not direct it well. At all.
This almost feels like an objective truth. Hooper's decision to bring his camera in close all the time is distracting, and worse it undercuts his own movie. By the time Anne Hathaway belts out I Dreamed A Dream, his in-tight, shakily held aesthetic robs that scene's choice of all power. He shoots it all in one take, Hathaway sort of off to the side, but it's something we've been subjected to already. We've seen it, and often with Javert rumbling about some nonsense.
Even if you're not a fan of Django Unchained (and how can you not be?), you have to admit that the film is directed with more skill than Les Mis. Hooper's choices are all failures, and fairly epic ones at that. Everything Tarantino does with Django works, and the film's only real problems come in the editing (problems that fade away on a second viewing, by the way). Oscar watchers claim that Django didn't make the cut because screeners didn't go out, but that's just a sign of the general depravity of awards season, I guess.
Ang Lee somehow got onto the list as well, although that feels less like a shocker than Tom Hooper. Life of Pi isn't very good, but Lee isn't sabotaging his own film with every set-up.
Here's the full list:
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Worth noting: David O Russell got left out for Silver Linings Playbook, the movie the Weinstein Company is pushing hard for the Oscar. I suspect that directors just don't warm to the film, which is fluffy and light and a quirkest aimed at people in the midwest who want to feel like they watch indie movies but need Bradley Cooper to star in them. The actors, however, love the movie, so expect it to do better at the Oscars.