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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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So Alfonso Cuarón Wins DGA's Top Director, James Cameron Agrees, But Does AMPAS?


by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent


When Alfonso Cuarón directed and co-wrote the critically acclaimed Y Tu Mamá También in 2001, it was obvious the Mexican-born director had a few tricks up his sleeve. Last night he paid off those expectations with a huge victory in a tough field as Best Director at the DGA Awards.

Cuarón was up against the heavies: Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), and Paul Greengrass (Bourne Identity) for Captain Phillips.

Historically the DGA has recognized technical difficulty as a major factor in their choices. For example in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker topped James Cameron's AVATAR for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. Hurt Locker required hands-on, in country wrangling of people and machinery; AVATAR, while stunning in its conception and execution, was in many hands besides the director's, in character generation and post-production especially.

This year, the field was loaded with 12 Years a Slave's Steve McQueen as a potential frontrunner, underscored by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender's nods for 12 Years A Slave, as well as Best Director and Best Picture noms. Fassbender worked with McQueen on Shame in 2011, but this year he apparently did not even need to "campaign" (read: show up) on press junkets for the film for his nomination.

Gravity is a marvel in its complex technical aspects. In fact, the Wizard of CGI himself, James Cameron told Variety back in October the film had his vote. "I was stunned, absolutely floored," Cameron gushed. "I think it is the best space film ever done."

"Alfonso and Sandra work "together to create an absolutely seamless portrayal of a woman fighting for her life in zero gravity."

Cuarón's win is probably not a bellwether for the Oscars, however. 

The Oscar nominated director list includes some duplication, McQueen, Cuarón, David O. Russell, Scorsese. But Alexander Payne (The Descendants) is also in the mix for Nebraska. 

While David O. Russell is seen as an odds-on Best Director Oscar favorite, absent from the official line-up are notable misses Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, and Montreal-born Jean-Marc Vallée for the remarkable Matthew McConaughey Oscar-favored star turn in Dallas Buyers Club.

Unlike the DGA, AMPAS is not looking specifically at the technical aspects, but also at talent performance, production design, to put it simply, the whole picture.

No matter what the unit of measurement, Alfonso Cuarón has achieved something eye-watering fresh and stunning for Sandra Bullock as well as Gravity, in the film and at the box office. 

How much more do you need when James Cameron admits that your film has "the best space photography ever done"?


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