Directors Guild announces nominees for director category

This year’s award season has gone something like a game of dominos, tipping in favor of David Fincher’s The Social Network at the pace of Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue via the lips of Jesse Eisenberg. The steely commentary on Mark Zuckerberg’s social media machine has won top prizes from the leading film critic circles, including Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C. and the National Board of Review, with a slight bump in an otherwise flawless path in New York (there, the film picked up Picture and Director, but yielded a screenplay win to The Kids Are All Right).  
As we head into the major league of shiny statue presentations with the Sunday, Jan. 16 broadcast of the Golden Globes, one question remains for filmgoers and critics alike: Will the deconstruction of Mark Zuckerberg’s social media machine continue its pummeling winning streak or fall short of the stage of the Kodak Theater?
While much of the American public will be tuning in on Sunday to catch their favorite A-list celebrities with a bit too much to drink, the real determinant for the Best Picture race is not the Golden Globes, which has had its esteem in question for years now, but the Directors Guild of America Awards.
Monday’s announcement of the DGA nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film brought little surprises to this season’s Oscar race — what’s shaping up to be a flashy, testosterone-laden match-up. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Christopher Nolan (Inception) and David O. Russell (The Fighter) are the five directors up for the prestigious honor.  
For the last three years, the winner of the DGA award has also won the Academy Award for Best Director, with the director’s film following suit and capturing Best Picture. Last year, the five directors nominated for a DGA award aligned perfectly with the Oscar nominations — with Kathryn Bigelow repeating her DGA win on the Kodak stage. A win for Fincher at 2011 DGAs could easily solidify not only his position as the Best Director front-runner, but also The Social Network for Best Picture.
The Academy, however, is known to be a fickle bunch.
Nolan is perhaps the darkest horse in the race. Although a DGA favorite — he was previously nominated for Momento and The Dark Knight — Nolan seems to be a polarizing force with Academy members, failing to capture an Oscar nominations for directing despite the box office and, oftentimes, critical success of his films. If the unusually high concept of Inception does not bode well with Academy voters, Nolan might be switched out for Danny Boyle (127 Hours), whose drama about an adventurer’s unfortunate plight was better received by critics and has been garnering attention for its lead actor, James Franco.
The lack of a DGA nomination, however, does diminish Boyle’s chance for a second Oscar nomination, and also sets the Coen Brothers further back from the Kodak Theater. The Coen Brothers’ conventional western True Grit has endured a bumpy road this award season, snubbed entirely by the Golden Globes yet receiving 11 nominations from the Critics Choice Awards. The large box office numbers ($110 million as of this week), stellar acting team and devoted following of the Coen Brothers are currently keeping True Grit afloat in the Oscars race.  
When looking at the stats, however, the DGA award is Fincher’s to lose, with Aronofsky and Russell on his heels. If Zuckerberg was the face of social media in 2010, then Fincher was certainly the face of filmmaking.
The Directors Guild of America Awards will be announced in a ceremonial dinner on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles.