It was another sunny day Thursday for Damien Chazelle’s Los Angeles musical “La La Land” and Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age tale “Moonlight” on the long journey to the Oscars along with Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea.”
The trio of expected Oscar nominees found themselves joined on the nominations list by a pair of relative surprises: Lion director Garth Davis and Arrival filmmaker Denis Villeneuve.
After winning the top film awards at the Golden Globes, Chazelle and Jenkins both scored their first nomination for a Directors Guild Award, further enhancing the likelihood of an Oscar nod.
The guild’s nominees for outstanding directorial achievement for a feature film also included “Manchester by the Sea” director Kenneth Lonergan, “Lion” director Garth Davis and Denis Villeneuve of “Arrival.”
Davis is also nominated for best first feature along with Nate Parker for “Birth of a Nation.” Publicity about a 17-year-old rape allegation against Parker had seemed to sink his chances for awards. Parker was acquitted.
“I do think it’s tragic, so much of what’s happened. And the fact that the family’s had to endure with respect to this woman not being here,” Parker said in an interview with 60 Minutes last year. “But, I also think that — and I don’t want to harp on this, and I don’t want to be disrespectful of them at all — but at some point, I have to say it. I was falsely accused. You know, I went to court. And I sat in a trial. You know, I was vindicated. I was proven innocent. And I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. I feel terrible that her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is, no.”
Other first feature nominees include Dan Trachtenberg for “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Tim Miller for “Deadpool” and Kelly Fremon Craig for “The Edge of Seventeen.”
While the DGA nominees for feature film achievement rarely match up exactly with nods for the Academy Award, the guild choices can be a formidable predictor of the eventual Oscar winner.
With nearly 16,000 members, including television and commercial directors, the guild often selects a more populist lineup when compared with the selections of the nearly 400 members of the directors’ branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Last year, Alejandro G. Inarritu picked up the feature film award for “The Revenant” before going on to win best director at the Oscars.
Voting for Oscar nominations closes Friday, and nominees will be announced on Jan. 24.
With nominations from the Producers Guild this week, “La La Land,” ”Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” appear to be the front-runners.
Notably absent from the guild nominations were Martin Scorsese for “Silence,” Denzel Washington for “Fences” and Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge,” a film that left the Golden Globes empty-handed.
Winners of the 69th annual Directors Guild awards will be announced at a dinner in Los Angeles on Feb. 4.