La La Land is on track to clean up at the Academy Awards on Feb. 26 as it continues to rack up the hardware. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), in particular, elevated himself to the upper echelon of Hollywood directors with his latest effort, and it’s paying off big-time in awards season. Game of Thrones, meanwhile, appeared poised to continue to rule TV awards season like it has for several years with its nomination at the Directors Guild of America Awards.
As Chazelle looked to put himself on the map with a DGA win for La La Land, Game of Thrones sought a second straight victory for its acclaimed sixth season. With director Miguel Sapochnik nominated for “The Battle of the Bastards,” there was little doubt that Game of Thrones could win again. Both Chazelle and Sapochnik can now call themselves DGA winners after they each took home their respective prizes.
As reported by Deadline, Chazelle took top honors at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday. He won the award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for La La Land, beating out Denis Villeneuve for Arrival, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, and Garth Davis for Lion. Davis was the only DGA nominee who isn’t also nominated for Best Director at the Oscars; that spot went to Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge. Sapochnik won for “The Battle of the Bastards” in his first career nomination and the second straight win for Game of Thrones; David Nutter won last year for the season five episode “Mother’s Mercy.”
Chazelle was already a massive favorite to win Best Director at the Oscars, but his DGA win is a strong indication that he will take the top directing prize. The DGA winner in the feature film category has historically gone on to win the Best Director Academy Award; it’s happened in 12 of the last 13 years. Ten of the last 13 winners’ movies have also gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
It all adds up to what’s likely going to be a huge triumph for La La Land when the Academy Awards roll around. Boasting 14 nominations, Chazelle’s movie is one of the most decorated in Oscars history. It’s bound to win its share of technical awards and a loss for Chazelle in Best Director would be considered a colossal upset at this point. Chazelle has already won the top directing prize at the Golden Globes and has won over 20 directing awards from various critics groups across the country, so his win at the Oscars feels inevitable.
La La Land and its relatively young director (Chazelle turned 32 years old on Jan. 19) has been on a remarkable run to this point and the movie appears destined to be showered with gold at the Academy Awards. But its overwhelming success could also spark an inevitable backlash. As a musical about aspiring celebrities, it may be compared to past big winners at the Oscars like Chicago and The Artist as movies that didn’t necessarily resonate with a broader audience or stand the proverbial test of time. But Chazelle’s visual and technical wizardry in La La Land is no doubt impressive and, regardless of the movie’s legacy, his work will inevitably stand as one of his biggest career achievements.