The Oscar race for best director came into sharper focus Thursday when the Directors Guild of America announced its nominations.
The guild’s award for outstanding director is a near-perfect predictor of the Academy Award for best director. Since 1948, the winner of the DGA award has missed out on the Oscar only seven times.
As expected, the DGA nominations included front-runner Damien Chazelle, of the musical “La La Land,” and Barry Jenkins, of the art-house hit “Moonlight.” Also nominated were Kenneth Lonergan, whose working-class drama “Manchester by the Sea” has been steadily racking up awards, and Denis Villeneuve, whose science-fiction film “Arrival” was both a critical and commercial success.
Among the surprises was the absence of Martin Scorsese, who was not nominated for “Silence,” his ambitious saga about Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan. Scorsese’s slot seems to have been taken by Garth Davis for the true-life drama “Lion,” starring Dev Patel as an adopted man searching for his biological family.
In the category of first-time directors, the DGA gave an unexpected nod to Nate Parker for the slave-rebellion drama “The Birth of a Nation.” It’s the first major award nomination for Parker since reports of a years-old rape charge resurfaced and ended his award-season momentum. “Deadpool,” the R-rated Marvel movie starring Ryan Reynolds as a foul-mouthed superhero, followed its recent Golden Globe nominations with a DGA nod for Tim Miller, while Kelly Fremon Craig was nominated for her well-reviewed comedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”
Also in the running as first-time directors are Dan Trachtenberg for the oddball thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane” and Davis for “Lion.”
The winners will be announced on Feb. 4.