There’s the Monkey Wrench!

For months we waited around to see if Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” would be a major awards player. After landing with a resounding thud with both critics and the guilds, that looks like a big ol’ no.

But the late-season game changer might not have been what we thought (shocker). Instead of Daldry’s sentimental 9/11 drama, David Fincher’s crime thriller adaptation “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” suddenly looks primed to make an impact. After the Producers Guild found a slot in its 10 nominees for “Dragon Tattoo,” the Directors Guild has thrown everyone into a tizzy today by including Fincher among its 5 nominees for best director of the year. The directors have been the clearest harbinger of Oscar success in the past – does that mean that “Dragon Tattoo” could beat the considerable odds and earn a Best Picture nod? The producers and directors together are a powerful bloc. But SAG showed little support for the film, with not even Rooney Mara getting in there, and the writers weren’t thrilled about Steven Zaillian’s adapted screenplay. Could a film make it into Best Picture without any other above-the-line nods with this new voting system? We don’t know.

And then there’s what the DGA DIDN’T nominate in favor of Fincher: namely, Steven Spielberg for “War Horse.” After missing with SAG and the WGA (and the Art Directors Guild too, by the way), this vintage-Spielberg piece isn’t looking great. If there was ever any sign that the industry’s tastes have changed since the Oscars heyday in the 80’s and 90’s, that’s it. “War Horse” seemed like a sure bet the whole way and even after I saw the film myself, I couldn’t see the Academy being able to resist such an epic, heartfelt piece. Perhaps they still won’t. This is an exceedingly strange year.

Pretty much all we know is that “The Artist,” “The Descendants” and “Hugo” are primed for a three-way fight to the top. I’m going to finally put my money down now and say “The Artist” will take it all; it just seems like the one film that everyone can get behind – actors, directors, editors, art directors, publicists, whoever – for one reason or another. “Midnight in Paris,” “The Help” and “Moneyball” look safe for Best Picture nominations. Anything beyond that and you’re heading into complete guesswork.

For my own two bits, I would just like to remind Oscar voters that “Drive,” “Moneyball” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” were all awesome. Please?

Directors Guild of America Award nominations:

  • Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
  • Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
  • David Fincher, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
  • Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
  • Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”

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