Kathryn Bigelow had already made history with her DGA nomination for “The Hurt Locker.” Bigelow’s win has shattered that glass ceiling, but there just plain aren’t a lot of women who get to do what she does. Sadly, the DGA has always been a mostly all-white boys’ club, a No Girls Allowed treehouse for grownups; the newsworthiness of Bigelow’s win and Lee Daniels’ inclusion this year more than prove the point. In six decades, only three other women and one other black man have previously been included on this shockingly racist-sexist-what-year-is-this-anyway? short list: Lina Wertmuller ("Seven Beauties"), Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation") and John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood").
With her historic win, the narrative going into the Academy Awards gets a little trickier and a lot more fun. As everyone knows who cares, “Avatar” director James Cameron and Ms. Bigelow were once married. It's like the perfect set-up for a Nancy Meyer rom-com. The other likely Oscar nominees — Jason Reitman, Lee Daniels, and Quentin Tarantino — go into the race as also-rans and bridesmaids, unburdened with the compelling domestic drama — Divorcee Twelve Million Grossing David Potentially Clobbers Her Ex-Box Office Goliath. No one’s betting on a big upset. After all, only six DGA winners have failed to repeat their wins on Oscar night. Forty-seven of the films that won the DGA prize went on to win best picture at the Academy Awards, and so the “Inglorious Basterds” momentum that seemed to be building at the SAG awards screeched to a sudden halt. "Avatar" has splintered every box office record in its path, but Cameron’s Golden Globes acceptance speech wasn’t terribly humble or eloquent; Bigelow’s at the Broadcast Film Critics was. These early awards season speeches are dry runs, virtual auditions. The industry tunes in and decides which player they want to represent them on the Big Night. Reitman’s consistently adorable and convincingly humble; they’ll surely give him a screenplay award. Tarantino is something of a loose cannon; if he dressed a little better, he’d probably have more of a chance. Hollywood is a giant high school, and the directors are running for class president. (The movie stars vie for prom king and queen.)
Here's a list of the DGA winners over the previous 25 years. Note that DGA picks Steven Spielberg ("The Color Purple") and Ron Howard ("Apollo 13") were not even Academy Award nominees. So, given the history, one could reasonably place a bet on “The Hurt Locker” and Bigelow to bring home the gold. It might get a little more complex though; directors could decide that cracking the DGA might be enough of a gesture. It’s a rare opportunity to vote and show how misognyistic they are not. After all, voting for Bigelow is so much easier than actually hiring more women and paying them equally.
* = DGA winner, lost Oscars
1984 – Milos Forman, "Amadeus"
1985 – Steven Spielberg, "The Color Purple" *
1986 – Oliver Stone, "Platoon"
1987 – Bernardo Bertolucci, "The Last Emperor"
1988 – Barry Levinson, "Rain Man"
1989 – Oliver Stone, "Born on the Fourth of July"
1990 – Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves"
1991 – Jonathan Demme, "The Silence of the Lambs"
1992 – Clint Eastwood, "Unforgiven"
1993 – Steven Spielberg, "Schindler's List"
1994 – Robert Zemeckis, "Forrest Gump"
1995 – Ron Howard, "Apollo 13" *
1996 – Anthony Minghella, "The English Patient"
1997 – James Cameron, "Titanic"
1998 – Steven Spielberg, "Saving Private Ryan"
1999 – Sam Mendes, "American Beauty"
2000 – Ang Lee, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" *
2001 – Ron Howard, "A Beautiful Mind"
2002 – Rob Marshall, "Chicago" *
2003 – Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
2004 – Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby"
2005 – Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
2006 – Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
2007 – Ethan and Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
2008 – Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"