Directors Guild Of America Nominations For Outstanding Directorial Achievement In 2009

The last big bellwether for Oscar nominations is the nomination set for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America. The DGA nominations are the best indicator of what films and directors will be on the shortlist for the Best Director Oscar. Before the Best Picture Oscar field was widened to ten, the DGA noms were also a reasonable indicator of what films would be in contention for Best Picture, too.

The DGA announced the five nominated directors today, and the list generally conforms to expectations created by other recent awards and nominations.

The five nominees this year are: James Cameron for Avatar, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Lee Daniels for Precious, Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds and Jason Reitman for Up in the Air.

DGA president Taylor Hackford said in a statement:

The DGA award is especially meaningful to directors because it is decided solely by their peers – the men and women who have been in the same trenches and know exactly what goes into the crafting of a unique motion picture. The five nominees for this year have each expressed an indelible vision that transported audiences to vivid vistas of cinematic art.  My heartiest congratulations to all of the nominees.

For the past five years the DGA and Oscar winners have lined up directly, though the nomination sets have not been identical. Last year, for example, the DGA nominated Christopher Nolan, while the Academy gave the same slot to Stephen Daldry, for The Reader. Since 1990, the DGA and Academy have awarded best director to different people only three times.

Of the five nominations this year, the only real surprise is Lee Daniels, because while Precious has received accolades for the performances of Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'nique and Mariah Carey, the rather intrusive style of Daniels' direction is often cited as a weak spot in the film. He's the name I'd expect to see not make the Oscar shortlist for Best Director.

Cameron, Bigelow and Reitman had to be considered locks for a nomination, and seeing Quentin Tarantino on the list makes sense, too. Place your bets now — good money says it comes down to Cameron and Bigelow for both the DGA and Oscar.