Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
Over a month after these six men were announced to be the nominees for the Directors Guild of America’s Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, one (or two 👀) will finally be crowned as the winners this Saturday. And surprisingly, the race can still play out several different ways. Usually, at this point in the season, a clear frontrunner has been defined – last year, The Power of the Dog‘s Jane Campion swept every Best Director prize under the sun, as did Nomadland‘s Chloé Zhao the year prior. However, while many have started gravitating towards Daniels in their predictions as of late (especially after Everything Everywhere All at Once led the Oscar nominations with 11 total and the pair won the Critics Choice Award in this category), they don’t have this sewn up just quite yet.
Interestingly enough, they would be only the third duo in DGA history to win this award (after West Side Story‘s Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins in 1961 and No Country for Old Men‘s Joel Coen and Ethan Coen in 2007). However, one can argue that Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s obvious strength in Best Picture can offset this obstacle. But it’s far from the only one in their way, as they’re up against “The King of the DGA,” Steven Spielberg. Not only does Spielberg hold the record for the most DGA nominations (13), but he’s also the only director to have won the award three times as well (for 1985’s The Color Purple, 1993’s Schindler’s List, and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan, though he was not even Oscar nominated for the former).
But, it’s also clear by this point that The Fabelmans is not the Oscar juggernaut many once assumed it would be, missing easy nominations with precursors (only mustering one at the BAFTAs, in Best Original Screenplay) and the guilds (a shocking ACE snub even though that’s a group that separates their awards between dramas and comedies, which should’ve made things even easier for the film). Sure, Spielberg got a solid start to his awards season with a NBR win and a Golden Globe Award, but since then? It’s been rough waters, as he wasn’t even longlisted for Best Director at the aforementioned BAFTAs – in a longlist of 16 potential nominees – and after that NBR win, he failed to win any other critics award. The directors who led the critics awards? Daniels.
However, while this may make it seem like the race for Best Director is solidly between Daniels and Spielberg, let’s not forget the dark horse that is TÁR‘s Todd Field. Not only was he counted out by some to even earn a nomination here, but he and TÁR have simply outperformed all expectations all season long, in sharp contrast to The Fabelmans‘ shocking underperformance. TÁR not only received the four Oscar nods that were widely predicted for it – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay – but also, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing (and these are two categories that can historically assist a director in getting a leg up in his or her own race as well). And who was the runner-up to Daniels this year in the Best Director critics awards? Field.
Ultimately, I’m gonna stick with the Daniels, since I do still believe they have the Oscar momentum at the moment, and I think that – along with their audacious and wildly original artistic vision in EEAAO – could get them over the finish line. I’m wary of betting against the man previously designated as “The King of the DGA,” Mr. Steven Spielberg, but I’m not sure DGA is going to be the place to resurrect The Fabelmans, as I think it’s fair to assume that ship might have sailed at this point. And while I see the path and potential for a Todd Field upset, I think Daniels may end up being strong enough to keep him – and all others – at bay.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that the DGA winner doesn’t always go on to win the Oscar, with that exact instance occurring four times this century alone (with the fourth occurring just three years ago, when Parasite‘s Bong Joon-ho bested DGA winner Sam Mendes at the Oscars). In the 75 years that the DGA has existed (beginning in 1948), the DGA winner has won the Oscar all but eight times, so this trophy will certainly put whoever it’s bestowed upon in a pretty good position for the upcoming Academy Awards, but unless they start sweeping, there’s always room for a last minute “surprise.” (I can see a world where Spielberg wins here, but Daniels go on to win at the BAFTAs, where he isn’t nominated, and that puts them ahead for the Oscar, for instance).
2023 Directors Guild of America’s Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Could Win: Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
Dark Horse: Todd Field – TÁR