Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu made history at the 2016 Directors Guild of America awards, winning the guild’s top prize for The Revenant. That’s Iñárritu’s second straight win after last year’s Birdman — and the first back-to-back win in the feature film category in the DGA’s 80-year history.
Iñárritu himself seemed taken aback by his victory. “Tough men don’t cry,” he said. “That’s what Ridley Scott said today.” Still, there were tears in his eyes as he accepted his reward. Every DGA acceptance speech is rambling – the arguable benefit of not being televised is that nobody ever gets played off the stage. But while Iñárritu’s speech wandered between topics, he was uniquely emotional, whether discussing his late father or making a wry-yet-passionate reference to his countrymen. “There was more than 120 Mexicans in the kitchen that served you hot food,” he said. “That’s not the people Donald Trump has described at all… they contribute a lot to this country.”
Iñárritu’s big win at the DGAs throws yet another curveball into one of the wildest Oscar races in recent memory. Coming off of The Big Short winning at the Producers Guild Awards and Spotlight taking top honors from the Screen Actors Guild, The Revenant and Iñárritu grabbing a trophy at the DGAs marks the first time since 2005 that the major unions gave their top prizes to three separate films.
The winner of the DGA’s feature-film prize has gone on to win the Best Director Oscar in nine of the last 10 years. (The exception was Ben Affleck, who won the DGA Award for Argo but wasn’t even nominated by the Academy Awards – although Affleck did accept a best picture Oscar for Argo as its producer, and is Batman now.) You could argue that Iñárritu’s Revenant win bodes well, both for Iñárritu Oscar’s chances and for his film’s shot at best picture. Then again, you could also argue that this will all make Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller winning the best director award seem even more impressive.
In a season full of controversy focusing on the issues of representation in Hollywood, the DGAs were mostly devoid of controversy. In his opening remarks, DGA President Paris Barclay noted the Guild had a mission statement to continue “the hard fight to convince the industry that ‘equal opportunity’ means just that…a chance for all of us to shine, no matter what we look like, what gender we are, and who we love.” Introducing her Spotlight director Tom McCarthy, Rachel McAdams declared, “In a season that’s inspired good conversation about who’s represented on screen, and who’s not, I’m proud to be part of a movie giving voice to the voiceless.” And in what we will retroactively declare the moment that launched the 2017 Oscar race, Birth of a Nation director Nate Parker came onstage fresh from his rapturous reception at Sundance.
But despite the occasional reference to the controversies of this awards season, the DGAs were fundamentally a genial affair. McCarthy recalled his initial meeting with McAdams to talk to her about Spotlight. “We met for cheeseburgers and martinis,” he said. Ridley Scott declared that Matt Damon “can drink me under the table.” Miller thanked his wife, film editor and fellow Oscar nominee Margaret Sixel, for all her efforts: “She not only cuts my films. For 20 years, she’s also cut my hair.” Big Short director Adam McKay tried to explain the grand ideas underlying the year’s nominated feature films – how The Revenant is about Manifest Destiny, how Spotlight is about the importance of journalism, how The Martian is about the vital necessity of scientific concepts – before pointing at Miller and admitting, “You just f—ing rock.”
On the TV side, HBO received the prizes for Directorial Achievement in a Drama, a Comedy, and for a TV movie/Miniseries, for the season finale of Game of Thrones, the season finale of Veep, and the biopic Bessie, respectively. Below is the complete list of winners from the 2016 DGA awards:
Feature Film: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series: David Nutter, Game of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy”
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series: Chris Addison, Veep, “Election Night”
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Miniseries: Dee Rees, Bessie
Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director: Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary: Matthew Heineman, Cartel Land
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs: Adam Vetri, Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, “Gods of War”
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs: Kenny Ortega, Descendants
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials: Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming: Dave Diomedi, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “Episode #325”
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials: Andreas Nilsson, Emily’s Oz for Comcast, Time Upon A Once for General Electric, Dad Song for Old Spice