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David Poland

By David Poland


I am regretting writing this as I write it… I have enormous respect and admiration for Tom Hooper. I like the guy. And unlike other directors in the race, he has been generous with his time and thoughts.

It also SUCKS to begrudge someone who has won an award their pleasure from that moment.



The inherent ambition of at least 3 of the other 4 nominees is simply on another level.

I have no problem when people vote for a movie they like or love, but this is directors voting for achievement in direction. Hooper did excellent work and is responsible for a movie people love. But the list of people who could deliver with that cast and script vs the singular visions of the other films…

My feeling this season has been that the guilds have become even more enslaved by the idea of being seen to influence Oscar by trying to match the Best Picture winner… more noms a product of timing than ever before…

Making the movie “they” most like is no mean feat. When I see Mr Hooper this week, I will pat him on the back and honestly say, Good on ya.”

But for Fincher and Aronofsky and Nolan and Russell, they have to feel a little brutalized, but should realize that it’s not about pushing for new levels, but a movie popularity contest amongst a narrow base of movie lovers.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not The Answer most of the time. It’s A answer.

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49 Responses to “DGA”

  1. leahnz says:

    a few things strike me upon reading this opinion piece on the DGA that make me kind of uncomfortable (and i’m not on ‘the king’s speech’ or hooper bandwagon, tho i liked the movie)


    “I have no problem when people vote for a movie they like or love, but this is directors voting for achievement in direction. Hooper did excellent work and is responsible for a movie people love. But the list of people who could deliver with that cast and script vs the singular visions of the other films…

    first, this is a spurious arguement and one you seem unduly fond of, DP. you have no idea how this movie would have played out in someone else’s hands with the same script and cast, and thinking that you do is odd to say the least.

    the entire design, tone, sensibility, and performances of the cast on which the movie hinges could be very different under a different directorial regime/production team, the weird alchemy of each production being so utterly unique and dependant on so many mitigating/unexpected factors, circumstances, and just good old fashioned serendipity. to say, “this movie is good but not a singular vision and could have been directed by a whole list of people and turned out pretty much the same” is a cavalier, naive attitude and assumption based on a lack of insight into the complexities and delicacies of film-making, bringing a vision to life in a singular way. discounting hooper’s unique stamp and vision as short of ‘singular’ and anything less than utterly intrinsic to the end product of ‘king’s speech’ is highly suspect.

    there is a directorial art to creating a film that genuinely moves and uplifts people, the ability to elicit nuanced performances, bring out the unique chemistry of a cast and tell a rousing story in a compelling way, which is the goal of ‘king’s speech’. it’s a skill that should never be trivialised or underestimated as ‘run of the mill’ or as just a blunt instrument of manipulation that ‘any good director’ can achieve on the day. probably the majority of decent directors simply can not do it.

    and really, one could also argue that ‘the social network’, ‘the fighter’, and ‘black swan’ with the same screenplays and casts could also be directed by one of several fine directors suited to the material and result in similar strong, unique films/visions, but the idea is, of course, an unknowable argument based on nothing but thin air. untenable. just as it is for ‘speech’.

    (the only film to which this argument could possibly apply is ‘inception’, because nolan as screenwriter was in a unique position to take his own personal vision as formed in his imagination thru to fruition on screen. nolan’s ‘inception’ arc is unique among the nominees in this respect)

    “But for Fincher and Aronofsky and Nolan and Russell, they …. should realize that it’s not about pushing for new levels, but a movie popularity contest amongst a narrow base of movie lovers.”

    well, that any of these directors were ‘pushing for new levels’ or succeeded in doing so – and futher that hooper was not – is a subjective call at best.

    exactly what ‘new levels’ in film did russell push in ‘the fighter’? what boundaries did fincher extend in ‘social network’? what new levels of achievement did aronofsky aim for in ‘swan’? i can’t say i saw much pushing of the boundaries in ANY of the nominated films, including ‘king’s speech’. they are all fairly conventional within their genres, really.

    yes, the DGA is directors voting for achievement in direction, and yet you seem to be insinuating DP that the guild directors have forgotten what they’re meant to be doing and treated the award as an emotional popularity contest, at heart trying to predict oscar while conveniently ignoring the factors involved in achievement in direction (presumably because you don’t personally see hooper’s achievement as worthy of the ‘win’ amongst the nominees).

    but this is a rather insulting assumption that you’re just pulling out of your ass, isn’t it? i would think most of the members of the DGA have a fairly good grasp and professional/functional appreciation for what goes into effectively directing a film and the elements required to achieve top shelf storytelling; simply because their choice doesn’t jive with yours doesn’t mean they’ve made an error by way of voting for someone they don’t actually think achieved a level of direction deserving of the award simply because they ‘liked’ hooper’s movie. pretty insulting stuff.

  2. sloanish says:

    I was with you until: “i can’t say i saw much pushing of the boundaries in ANY of the nominated films, including ‘king’s speech’. they are all fairly conventional within their genres, really.”

    Really? The Fighter is just like other sports movies? You can’t see any difference between Wahlberg’s Invincible and The Fighter? The comedy? The realism? Black Swan is just like other ballet thrillers? It isn’t creepier and more compelling and clever than… I don’t know what genre you’re putting it in. And Social Network was just another biopic about silicon valley? It’s just as boring as any other talking head movie about code and betrayal? And Fincher didn’t stage Sorkin in a completely new (and I would say better) way?

    King’s Speech was very good. And if it was made in 1998, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  3. IOv3 says:

    I would love to go with David pulling this entire post out of his ass but the dude has seemingly either figured out the award season at the moment. It’s not like he does not make missteps but does this not seem like the DGA trying to get in line with what will win the Oscar?

    This whole thing leaves me a bit torn, because Tom Hooper has a style. He has a way that he shoots things. There’s a flow to it that few directors have at the moment. It’s the reason why John Adams and the Damned United work like they do. Denying him a STYLE and stating those four guys were brutalized by him winning, is way out there.

    Still, it’s shocking that even the directors can’t give Nolan praise or even Fincher. Aronofsky and Russell deserve praise for making the best Hitchcok and boxing films not involving Hitchcock and Sly Stallone/Scorcese.

    Again, I am just shocked that the award season is over. Is there any way TKS doesn’t win at the SAG and PGA? If that happens, we know right away, whose going to win at the Oscars but at least some folks will believe TSN has a chance.

  4. yan says:

    I think Nolan deserved it, inception was all about the direction, that film was a director’s achievement. I doubt any other could pull of inception, while the other except black swan could have been directed by anyone.

  5. leahnz says:

    hmm, sloanish, perhaps i didn’t make my point very well. i’ll try before i pass out, i’m going doolally.

    i didn’t mean to suggest that the directors in question had made middling rather than top shelf films for their genre, but rather that none of the film-making of said directors actually pushed the boundaries of conventional film-making in terms of theme or design or execution or ‘vision’, as DP would seem to suggest for all except ‘speech’.

    for example, ‘the fighter’ is indeed a rousing boxing movie and effective film-making, but russell didn’t push the boundaries of boxing movie convention to a new level, rather he made a very good boxing movie which will likely stand stand shoulder to shoulder with other good boxing movies in the annals of beloved boxing movies, but ‘the fighter’ broke no new ground. quality, not innovation.

    i don’t see any of the directors of the five films in question having broken new ground or pushed the envelope of film-making conceptually, or in any other way, really. yes, ‘black swan’ is weird and off-kilter and creepy for a ballet film, but as a ‘descending into madness hysterical paranoia thriller’ film it’s not particularly original in form or execution, fairly conventional within the genres it operates within.

    same with ‘social network’, fincher arguably stages sorkin lightyears better than tv sorkin, but the film-making in ‘social network’ is extremely conventional, meticulously realised but not boundary-pushing or level-breaking in terms of film-making.

    so that was meant to be my point, quality film-making but nothing boundary-pushing or particularly innovative in any of the five nom’d films. high quality convention within the genres in which they operate.

    i hope that makes sense because i’ve almost forgotten my point now.

  6. anghus says:

    “King’s Speech was very good. And if it was made in 1998, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

    sloanish, you nailed it.

    this is the same kind of british flick we’ve seen for years and years and years. it’s very good, but what about the king’s speech shouts BEST DIRECTOR.

    BEST ACTOR? Sure.
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR? I could see it.
    BEST COSTUME DESIGN: It was pretty.
    BEST DIRECTOR: No way.
    BEST PICTURE: Conceivable.

    The award nominees this year are like the menu at a Chillis. Nothing is particularly great. There are some interesting choices, nothing really stands out, and you end up going with something safe because you know exactly what you’re going to get.

    The King’s Speech is the Cheeseburger.

  7. Daniella Isaacs says:

    This year seems to be shaping up like 1985, where you have Sydney Pollack winning an Oscar over Kurosawa, John Huston, Peter Weir, Hector Babenco… All these real auteurs offering tours de force, and the gold goes to: “the solid craftsman.” Oh well.

  8. They are correct. says:

    We can’t watch inherent ambition; we watch movies. Innovation is wonderful, but it must serve art.

    Black Swan is ridiculous.
    Social Network is slight.
    Inception’s third act is a mess.

  9. IOv3 says:

    Daniella, your very post is headache inducing because that happened. HOW IN THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?

  10. Sam says:

    I don’t think you can say the guilds are trying to predict/influence Oscar when they were the first ones to single out The King’s Speech. Before the PGA/DGA, the drumbeat for The Social Network was relentless.

    I do have to give you credit, though, David, for hesitating on The Social Network’s Oscar chances well before that point. You called it out as a journalist-specific favorite, and now it seems you might be right about that.

    But you were in the extreme minority. If the PGA/DGA voters really wanted to be seen as predicting the Oscars, why would they take such a risk by breaking with the Globes, BAFTA, etc?

    More likely: the guilds, being composed of generally the same sort of people in the Academy — same professions, same basic demographic — are going to *naturally* align with Oscar more closely than other groups do. Media groups, people’s choice groups, etc, are all made up of less similar demographics and will therefore come up with different choices more often.

  11. cadavra says:

    To paraphrase the old saying: epic is easy, intimate is hard. I think the shorter version of Leah’s point is that Hooper’s achievement is all the more remarkable because he took what is essentially “Masterpiece Theatre” material and elevated it far above what it would normally be, whereas the other pictures did not rise above their intended ambitions. Is that about right?

  12. Telemachos says:

    He elevated it far above Masterpiece Theater? Really? I don’t think so at all. It’s a nice movie — I liked it — but there’s almost a complete lack of any tension, drama, or suspense. It’s about as slight a movie as I can remember.

    I’m not anti-Hooper: I really liked THE DAMNED UNITED. But he seems a particularly weak choice this time: I would’ve put Danny Boyle and the Coens ahead of him too.

  13. movielocke says:

    worse for Dave, Kris, Sasha etc; the DGA means ads for the remainder of the season will be cut way back because the season is over in the major eight categories except supporting actress. And the studios don’t really spend for the below the line wins.

    Director and Picture were still reasonably competitive until last night, now the season is over. The DGA winner has always been the best predictor of Best Picture winner, statistically (it’s a better bellweather of BP than it is of BD, ironically).

  14. Sam says:

    “The DGA winner has always been the best predictor of Best Picture winner, statistically (it’s a better bellweather of BP than it is of BD, ironically).”

    The DGA winner is a better predictor of Oscar’s Best Director winner.

    The DGA nominations are better predictors of Oscar’s Best Picture line-up.

  15. movielocke says:

    whoops, you’re right sam.

  16. christian says:

    Just as I wearying of all this trivial oscar outrage considering what’s happening in Egypt, I see this on HE:

    “Hollywood should be rioting like Egypt right now.”


  17. lazarus says:

    It ain’t over yet, esp. in Best Director.

    I’d like to think the Academy, as lame as they’ve been in the past, has better taste than a guild which has very high percentage of television directors with no artistic sensibility. These are the same kind of saps in any other large group that would gobble up awards fodder like TKS.

    And the Academy is still an “exclusive” club, despite its size. You have to have done SOMETHING of arguable merit to get in. The DGA? You just pay your dues and punch the clock.

    And I don’t think anyone here is arguing that Tom Hooper sucks or has no talent. But the rest of the nominees have carved out a pretty distinct niche for themselves and are all mavericks to a degree, and it’s unfortunate that such an exciting line-up resulted in such a safe choice.

  18. lazarus says:

    (and I’m the one that made that Egypt remark. ha!)

  19. David Poland says:

    Leah… as my endless apologizing in the piece noted, I don’t disagree with you in principle. I am not attacking Tom Hooper here. Yes, he raised the level directorially and did some sophisticated things with the camera that would not have been there with some other directors.

    On the other hand, bullshit.

    Given that cast and that script, you and I can both name more than a dozen directors off the top of our heads who could have delivered a film as good as The King’s Speech.

    And I don’t think you can say that about the other four candidates. Social Network is Fincher bowing to Sorkin’s script with all of his technical skills and very little of a need to impose on the story with virtuosity. Inception is, obviously, Nolan’s vision. Black Swan is pure Aronofsky and his collaboration with Matty Labatique is irreplaceable, even more so than Barbet Schroeder raising the bar on Reversal of Fortune. And The Fighter, which is my least favorite of the DGA nominated films, is what it is based on Russell’s vision, for better or worse… it’s a project that evolved from director to director and the voice of that film is clearly crafted from Russell’s intent.

    Is it unfair that Tom Hooper doesn’t get enough credit for what people love about The King’s Speech? Yeah… I get that. He suffers from the kind of disrespect that Ron Howard has eaten over the years. It doesn’t look hard enough so the work is discounted. Yes. And I won’t be upset if he wins the Oscar. I don’t think it’s a tragedy. Making the film that people love deserves awarding.

    And Leah… everything is a subjective call. Duh.

    As for what I am pulling out of my ass, I will elaborate on the texture of the season in depth soon. Perhaps you are comfortable with coincidence of awards matching the noise in any given voting period. Me… no buying it. But when I make my full argument, you can make yours about how wrong I am.

    PS. Movielocke… I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t expect DGA or any other award’s givers to make $1 of change to our ad sales.

  20. NickF says:

    This is certainly a disappointing turn of events.

  21. Great Scott says:

    I guess the AMPAS simply does not care about their reputation or their credibility. They probably still think Ordinary People is better than Raging Bull. They had four years in a row where they did not make an unwise choice for Best Picture. (I’m obviously assuming that King’s Speech wins.) Now with Harvey “Oscars Puppetmaster” Weinstein back in the game after being relegated to the sidelines the past few years, it’s business as usual.

  22. lazarus says:

    A group that large isn’t discussing their reputation or credibility. They’re a bunch of people all sitting at home making their own decisions. It’s not the NYFCC or LAFCA.

    And to say that they “still think Ordinary People is better…” doesn’t make any sense considering the membership has changed over 30 years. Many of the senior members now were working during the New Hollywood days and shouldn’t be so safe in their thinking. One imagined this is why we’ve had outside-the-box winners the last four years.

    This year seems like we’re turning the clock back, but it’s not over yet. Perhaps there are a lot of Academy members who are watching this turn of events and will try to stop it from coming to fruition.

  23. samguy says:

    Aw,wish it had gone to Nolan. Not just for his vision but more important, to throw a real wrench into the Oscar predictions! Here’s hoping that Hilary Swank wins tonight at the SAG awards!

  24. IOv3 says:

    Fuck Nolan. I hope that guy gets snubbed the rest of his career. If Fincher would have won, that would have really changed things, but Hooper wins and there goes any mystery to the Oscars.

  25. christian says:

    “Fuck Nolan. I hope that guy gets snubbed the rest of his career.”

    Binary Man strikes again!

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    IO: So does this mean that you’ve retroactively changed your mind about The Dark Knight?

  27. IOv3 says:

    You don’t put that logo on a Brit and expect me to take it kindly.

    Joe: It means that once Sucker Punch and TDK-R are out and I see them. Fuck Snyder and Fuck Nolan. Seriously, you don’t retroactive something that has nothing to do with something else. What kind of fucking asshole do you think I am? Jesus fucking Christ Houston Santa.

  28. David Poland says:

    You know, this idea that AMPAS is thinking about legacy that way is just wrong.

    They LOVE The King’s Speech. I have been reporting this for month after month. They don’t love Inception or The Social Network, though they seem to respect the work in both.

    Harvey is not a puppetmaster here. He has been one in the past. He just happens to have The Movie. I still believe that Paramount had The Movie, but fumbled it, and didn’t ride it as hard as they should have, in part because Scott Rudin bet on Social Network to win. (They also needed a date no later than Thanksgiving.)

    And there still could be one more turn in this drama…

  29. Joe Leydon says:

    David: I think you’re right. But, then again, if you recall, I was one of the first people posting here who suggested that Crash might win because it spoke directly to the concerns of Academy members in L.A. much more compellingly than Brokeback Mountain.

    BTW: I am sure this will cue many postings from people who’ll claim this Best Picture winner or that Best Picture winner from years past doesn’t hold up, is badly dated, etc. I will politely suggest that those of you who want to dis In the Heat of the Night go back and view it again before you trash it. I recently screened it for my college students, who responded enthusiastically — more enthusiastically, I should note, than they responded to Bonnie and Clyde. It does hold up.

  30. Joe Leydon says:

    IO: “What kind of fucking asshole do you think I am?”

    You should never feed anyone a straight line like that.

  31. movielocke says:

    I just rewatched In the Heat of the Night. It is better than Bonnie and Clyde, both are terrific movies.

    King’s Speech is excellent filmmaking across the board, and it is “the” movie that audiences respond to this year.

    And even if it weren’t “the” movie it would still have the Hurt Locker advantage of being a movie no one in the academy likes least, meaning in a preferential ballot, such ‘overall-pleasing’ movies rarely get ranked lower than five and have extremely good odds of being ranked above the remaining competition as the ballots are counted and redistributed.

    No one hates on the King’s Speech enough to make it lose. pretty much everyone, even its detractors, will probably slot it above Toy Story, Winter’s Bone and Kids are All right, and those King’s Speech detractors probably have a couple of nominees they like less (or outlike dislike, ranking them 10th or 9th) than King’s Speech: Inception, 127 Hours, Black Swan. So I have a hard time seeing few if any academy winners ranking King’s speech below 7th, and probably not below 5th.

    It doesn’t need to be the best on every ballot. It just needs to be the movie that, on average, is above the other competitor in the redistributed ballots–which is what Hurt Locker was, and what a winner in a preferential ballot will always be.

  32. IOv3 says:

    Joe, not when it’s in honesty because this casting really pisses me off. The fact that these fucks think they can have a Brit can even dare be this… , demonstrates a real inability to understand the character of Superman. The fact that people are defending a dude who basically showed his ass on a stupid ass Showtime series, pretty much let’s you know how fucking shallow some people are. This casting is a joke and if he doesn’t get snake bit again, the film he stars in will be a joke, and Superman deserves better than these assholes.

  33. Telemachos says:

    I confess, I really don’t get the outrage over some British actor as Supes. If he does a great job, then great! If he doesn’t, then cue the nerd rage. It’s not like plenty of other iconic roles haven’t been played by actors with a different nationality than the actual person.

  34. christian says:

    “I just rewatched In the Heat of the Night. It is better than Bonnie and Clyde”

    That is a highly subjective POV.

  35. IOv3 says:

    Tele M, THIS ISN’T ANY OTHER CHARACTER! IT’S SUPERMAN, A CHARACTER DRENCHED IN THE RED, THE WHITE, AND THE BLUE PLAYED BY A BRIT! Come on. Look at that pic and realize that Warners and DC basically sold that out, sold out what Supes means, for better fucking international box office. It’s fucking disgusting.

  36. Joe Leydon says:

    Christian: “That is a highly subjective POV.”

    And what else do you expect on a movie blog? Objective analysis? Reasoned discourse? LOL.

  37. Telemachos says:

    IO, I care nothing about an actor’s nationality, all I care about is whether they can deliver what a film needs.

  38. Um, unless I’m mistaken, Clark Kent isn’t a natural-born American citizen, right? I’m pretty sure he immigrated from a place called Krypton. While I too am concerned about the rising perception that only British/Australian actors are worth a damn in franchises and what-not, Kal-El need not be played by an American any more than he should be played by a native Kryptonian.

  39. Joe Leydon says:


    Raymond Massey (Canadian) — Abe Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

    Anthony Hopkins (Welsh) — Richard Nixon in Nixon, John Quincy Adams in Amisatd.

  40. PastePotPete says:

    There’s no white on Superman’s costume.

  41. Hallick says:

    IO, the star of one of your favorite and most fought for movies in the last few years is a Welshman playing an American icon, but Christian Bale playing Batman doesn’t raise patriotic hackles?

    If he could deliver the goods, I wouldn’t care if Irfan-freaking-Khan was playing the Man of Steel (now, on a separate note, tell me they put Khan in the villain’s role and I’m gonna buy a ticket right this second).

    Most of the white people in this country are probably descendents of the old monarchy anyway, so what’s the big dif?

  42. Hallick says:

    “There’s no white on Superman’s costume.”

    Really? Check the inside of his tights…

  43. IOv3 says:

    Triple P: It’s still Red and Blue! Again, this…

    Scott: BULLSHIT. HE’S AN AMERICAN! The fact that so many liberals are getting all wissy washy about this, is annoying. This has nothing to do with internationalism. It has everything to do with a character… this character…, whose as part of this country as the flag itself, and they cast a BRIT IN THE ROLE! A FREAKING BIT!

    Seriously, his origins are draped in Americana. Ignoring this right off the bat with the fucking casting, guarantees a Superman movie that’s about action and not about what the character has always represented… the best of his adopted country. He chose us and seeing as few Brits have ever chose us over the GBR, I doubt Cavill is going to be able to sell the pathos of someone who believes so much in this country. Again, George Miller goes with Armie Hammer… Australians rule.

    Tele M, he’s a fucking soap opera actor whose going to be cast aside as soon as Nolan and Snyder get their filthy hands off of the property. I root for this film to fail, hard.

    ETA: Hallick, Batman is not an American icon the same way as Supes. There is a reason why BATMAN has gone GLOBAL now because what he does, is not what Superman is and has written to be. There is a difference.

    Seriously, why people act like Bale excuses this, sort of pisses me off. Also, really, Christian Bale is CHRISTIAN FUCKING BALE! Henry Cavill is a pretty boy who showed his ass on a shitty fucking Showtime show. Comparing him to CHRISTIAN BALE is an insult to CHRISTIAN BALE!

  44. shm says:

    My perspective. Have a group of friends that have been meeting weekly to discuss film for the last 9 years and a couple of weeks ago we went through our individual Top 10 lists for the previous year.

    I’m no expert on this – but I would guess that, as a group, our taste in film is probably pretty close to an average Oscar voter. Not mainstream, necessarily, but not terribly edgy either. High middlebrow is probably the best description.

    Between all 6 lists, ‘Social Network’ only made one appearance in any top 10 and that was the #1 on one of the lists. The rest of the top spots were spread amongst ‘Inception’, ‘Black Swan’, and ‘Winter’s Bone’. ‘King’s Speech’ didn’t make the top of any list, but it did appear (pretty highly) on all of them.

    My take is that the ‘favorite’ spot is spread thinly across a handful of films while ‘King Speech’ stands strong as the secondary favorite and that’s where it’s getting it’s strength.

    Personally – I decided to give ‘Social Network’ another try this week to see if I just was in a bad mood when I saw it or if there was some other outside reason at the time that turned me against it (I’m an ‘Inception’ guy). Nope – it hit me exactly the same way. That film just does not work for me at all.

  45. Hallick says:

    Couldn’t the DGA just split this award into “Best Direction in Film” and “Our Favorite Film’s Director”?

  46. anghus says:

    i love the SAGs. Enjoyable award show. Steve Buscemi won for Boardwalk Empire, a show i find myself defending frequnently.

  47. IOv3 says:

    Who in the blue hell is knocking Nucky Thompson? Any show that hires Kelly MacDonald is alright by me. Also, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, and so many more! Seriously, hating on Broadwalk Empire is just hokey.

  48. storymark says:

    I love the irony of IO calling others shallow for NOT judging an actor based on his nationality and having been on Showtime…

  49. IOv3 says:

    Story, it’s a joke, he’s a joke, and the people involved in this film are a joke. Excuse one of us on this blog for getting pissed off about it.

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