BEVERLY HILLS, Calif, Feb 4, (Agencies): The fantasy romance “The Shape of Water” added another key prize in its awards season run with Guillermo del Toro’s win at the Directors Guild Awards Saturday.
“The Shape of Water,” about a mute woman who falls in love with an underwater creature, has emerged as the awards season front runner with a Producers Guild Award and a leading 13 Academy Award nominations.
Del Toro said his movie is one that is, “Full of many reasons why it shouldn’t work and they are the reasons that it works.” He dedicated the honor to his mother and father, who has been ill.
He won out over fellow directors Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), although Peele did win the prize for first-time feature film for his blockbuster horror film.
“This whole thing is a very surreal, conflicting experience. This has been the best year of my life hand’s down,” Peele said. “At the same time I’ve had to balance that with the knowledge that this is not a good year for this country. This is not a good year for many of us.”
Other winners Saturday included Matthew Heineman for the documentary “City of Ghosts,” Jean-Marc Valle for “Big Little Lies,” Reed Morano for “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Glenn Weiss for directing the 89th Academy Awards.
Morano thanked her producers and Hulu for being, “the rare people who were seeking the opportunity to work with women instead of fearing it.”
Representation and the ongoing cultural shift happening in Hollywood and across the country regarding sexual misconduct was at least an undertone of many of the speeches of the evening, as the topics have been throughout awards season.
DGA President Thomas Schlamme kicked off the evening addressing the moment head on. He stressed a drive toward respectful and inclusive workplaces and said that “we must keep our foot firmly on the pedal and not let up” in their “decades long fight” to ensure the participation of women and people of color in the director’s chair.
“This is not just a fight by women for women,” Schlamme said. “They didn’t create this problem.”
The DGA, which represents more than 17,000 entertainment industry professionals, sent its members a set of guidelines detailing procedures for handling sexual harassment on Thursday. The guild also joined the Anita Hill-chaired Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
Heineman, who won for “City of Ghosts,” about a group of citizen journalists who banded together after ISIS took over their land, took his moment on stage to spotlight those in his documentary.
“In the era of fake news where facts seem to be malleable and journalism is under fire, I think it is important to celebrate groups like RBSS (Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently) that are courageously speaking truth to power,” Heineman said.
The Directors Guild also honors directing live-action and scripted programming and even commercials.
Niki Caro, who directing the live-action “Mulan,” won her first DGA for directing an episode of “Anne with an E” in the children’s programs category. Comedy series directing went to “Veep’s” Beth McCarthy-Miller, who was up against Aziz Ansari in the category. Don Roy King also won a DGA for “Saturday Night Live,” Brian Smith won for MasterChef and Martin de Thurah was recognized for his commercial work.
All directors nominated in the feature category are given “nomination medallions” throughout the ceremony, which includes presentations from their cast or collaborators and speeches before the final award is announced. From Gerwig to Peele, all the nominated directors spoke of their pride of being able to call themselves directors and to be in the guild.
The Directors Guild Awards serve as a reliable predictor for who will eventually win the best director prize at the Academy Awards. Last year, “La La Land” helmer Damien Chazelle won both prizes. This year, all but McDonagh are nominated in the category (Paul Thomas Anderson took the fifth Oscars spot for directing “Phantom Thread”).
Del Toro, like Gerwig, Peele and McDonagh, was a first time DGA nominee Saturday.
“This means the world to me, this coming from my peers,” del Toro said.
The 53-year-old has already scooped a Golden Globe for directing the movie, starring Sally Hawkins as a janitor in a top secret government laboratory who falls in love with a mysterious merman-like sea creature.
“This movie particularly took me to do things I was very afraid of,” Del Toro told fellow filmmakers at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.
“It was a movie that was full of many reasons why it shouldn’t work, and those are the reasons why it works.”
A feature of speeches during the awards season has been defiant rejection of the culture of sexual harassment and gender inequality, and the DGAs were no different.
Dozens of Hollywood women — including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale and Salma Hayek — have accused Weinstein and numerous other powerful men of acts ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
Del Toro, who lives in Los Angeles, has alternated between big-budget Hollywood popcorn fare such as “Blade II” and more personal Spanish-language projects such as “Love Lies” (1989) and “Cronos” (1993).
Monsters and the supernatural have been a recurring theme of his movies, which include “Mimic” (1997), both “Hellboy” films and his 2006 masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
“The Shape of Water” was nominated for seven Golden Globes in January, eventually taking home two, and was awarded best picture by the Producers Guild. It is up for 13 Oscars.
Alexandre Desplat, the movie’s Oscar-winning composer, told AFP on the red carpet of his “amazing relationship” with Del Toro, describing the director as “so generous, passionate, and inspiring.”
Del Toro edged out Christopher Nolan, nominated for World War II thriller “Dunkirk” — another film seen as a top contender for Oscar glory on March 4.
The DGA Awards are seen as a reliable bellwether of Academy Awards success — particularly the best director prize, as 13 of the last 14 winners went on to win the Oscar for best director.
Presenters at Saturday’s star-studded event for 1,600 guests included Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Kevin Bacon, Allison Janney and Damien Chazelle, who won the top prize at the last ceremony.
On a night of expressions of solidarity for women, Reed Morano was a popular winner in the dramatic series category for directing “Offred,” an episode of Hulu’s dystopian sci-fi series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” about the subjugation of women in a totalitarian near future.
“They were trying to get this show made for a long time, like way before we knew what the political climate was going to be,” she told AFP.
“It is just a very odd moment. In this business things don’t get going right when you want them to, they get going when everything aligns.”
LOS ANGELES: Just three hours after female talent was amply awarded at Sweden’s Goteborg Festival, Scandinavia’s biggest film event, Isabel Coixet’s “The Bookshop” topped the 32nd Goya Awards Saturday night, winning best picture, director and adapted screenplay.
Healthily sold abroad by Celsius, and a sturdy box office performer in Spain, where it has earned $2.9 million, “The Bookshop” is produced by Spain’s A Contracorriente Films and Diagonal TV and Zephyr Films. A big-screen makeover of Penelope Fitzgerald’s quietly subversive 1978 novel, about a widow opening up a bookshop in a sleepy coastal town, “The Bookshop’s” triumph represents only the second time an English-language movie has won a best picture Goya. The first was Coixet’s “The Secret Life of Words” in 2006.
A coming-of-ager – and ode to diversity – hailed by Variety as a “delicate sleeper,” Carla Simon’s debut “Summer 1993” took first feature at the Goyas, as well breakthrough actress (Bruna Cursi) and supporting actor (David Verdaguer). It is one of the flagships of the newest generation of Catalan filmmakers, many of whom are women.
Women did not, however, exactly sweep the board at the 32nd Goya Awards. A flagship for the modern Basque cinema, Jon Garano’ and Aitor Arregi’s “Giant” produced by Irusoin and Kowalski Films swept most plaudits. Set in 1836 in a backward rural Basque Country, “Giant,” about two brothers’ deep affective bonds surviving grinding poverty, romantic rivalry, war and wrenching modernization, swept original screenplay, breakthrough actor (Eneko Sagardoy), and eight technical awards.
Javier Gutierrez’s scooped best actor for Manuel Martin Cuenca’s “The Motive” where he plays a talentless wannabe novelist, who manipulates the lives of his neighbors to inspire his prose.
Nathalie Poza took actress for her performance in dramedy “Can’t Say Goodbye,” beating out Emily Mortimer (“The Bookshop”) and Penelope Cruz (“Loving Pablo), just as Bill Nighy and Javier Bardem lost out in the best actor race. Beyond Bardem’s win for “Biutiful,” there is little tradition of the Goyas awarding foreign or Hollywood-based actors.