The elongated awards season continued its march toward the Oscars on Saturday with the 2021 DGA Awards. The ceremony was held virtually, with presenters appearing at the empty Directors Guild Theater on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and the nominees at home, once more, in front of their computers or iPads.
Chloé Zhao won the big prize of Outstanding Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film for Nomadland. This makes her only the second woman to win this award after Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. She beat out Lee Isaac Chung, Emerald Fennell, David Fincher, and Aaron Sorkin, all of whom Zhao honored at length in her acceptance speech. It seems increasingly a lock that she will win the best director Academy Award on April 25.
The DGAs also include a category for “first films,” which makes sense for a guild working to mold and encourage its members. Darius Marder won the prize for Sound of Metal, which has six Oscar nominations including a shared best original screenplay for Marder, as well as best picture. Marder beat out Florian Zeller, an established playwright making his first foray into film with another multi-Oscar nominee The Father, and Regina King, the actress-turned-director behind One Night In Miami…. Also nominated first-timers included Radha Blank for The Forty-Year-Old Version (who won the New York Film Critics Circle’s version of this prize way back in mid-December) and Fernando Frías de la Parra, who directed I’m No Longer Here.
In the world of television Scott Frank won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Limited Series award for The Queen’s Gambit, checkmating Susanne Bier (The Undoing), Thomas Kail (Hamilton), Matt Shakman (WandaVision), and the late Lynn Shelton for Little Fires Everywhere.
Susanna Fogel won Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series for The Flight Attendant, beating Zac Braff (Ted Lasso), M.J. Delaney (also for Ted Lasso), and two directors of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Erin O’Malley and Jeff Schaffer. For dramatic series Lesli Linka Glatter took the top prize for Homeland, besting Jason Bateman (Ozark), Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian), Vince Gilligan (Better Call Saul), and Julie Ann Robinson for Bridgerton.
The DGAs also include awards for reality television, sports, and, in a nod to what actually keeps so many film workers employed, commercials. Melina Matsouakas won a prize for this remarkable two minute short film about racial injustice that is also an ad for headphones.
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