We had our doubts about the whole Ten-Nominees-For-Best-Picture thing the Academy rolled out for this year's Oscar race, but now with the announcement of the Directors Guild of America's five nominees, we realized some truly great work was missing.
Four nominees were already foregone conclusions and each got the nod: Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker," our pick for the best film of the year), James Cameron ("Avatar"), Jason Reitman ("Up In The Air") and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds").
But the fifth slot was a photo-finish.
Would it be Clint Eastwood, a presumed shoo-in thanks to his membership in the Ol' Boys Club after over five decades in Hollywood? Could Lone Scherfig get the nod for "An Education," creating a contest that was 40% female, when the DGA comprises only 7% women? Would Pixar be seen as an entity, or might Pete Docter and Bob Peterson get a joint nomination for "Up"?
In the end, it was Lee Daniels ("Precious") who clinched the fifth berth. The caliber of performances Daniels wrought and what he was able to do with dream sequences -- breaking the unending misery that "Precious" might have been without such a deft hand in the director's chair -- deserves tremendous praise. But we couldn’t help but feel there was so much great, forgotten work.
Perhaps what's needed is a Best Newcomer category, similar to The Independent Spirit Awards, which could acknowledge Daniels as well as the other first-time directors responsible for some of the best films in 2009.
Consider the delight Mark Webb cultivated in "(500) Days of Summer," the startling blend of gut-wrenching humanity and science-fiction in Neill Blomkamp's "District 9," the grief-stricken style of Tom Ford's "A Single Man," or Duncan Jones' hauntingly lonely and brilliantly performed "Moon." Another award won't change Cameron or Tarantino's reputation a bit. If the DGA wants to have an effect, it should aim bring new names into the conversation.