The 49th annual Directors Guild of America nominations were as notable for their omissions as for those who made the cut.
The five nominees announced Tuesday were Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient"), Joel Coen ("Fargo"), Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), Mike Leigh ("Secrets & Lies") and Scott Hicks ("Shine").
Left out of the field were Milos Forman, who won the Golden Globe best director award on Sunday night, and Alan Parker, whose "Evita" was selected best comedy or musical.
This is the first DGA nomination for all five directors. Continuing the trend of year-end 10-best lists and critical awards, four of the films honored were independent offerings.
"The anomaly and paradox of Los Angeles is that it is the juxtaposition of gross philistinism and the height of good taste," said Leigh, winner of the best director prize given out by the L.A. Film Critics. "It has the most cultured people in world . . . but they make Hollywood movies. I hope that they're increasingly aware of what independents are doing. They can all distinguish gems from paste."
Minghella said that his peers particularly understood what was involved in bringing "The English Patient" to the screen.
"Every day on the film I felt like I had a different dance card," he said. "One day we had explosions and plane crashes, the next a love scene in the desert, the next a tiny room with a man marooned in a bed. A thousand people told me the book was unadaptable. I'm especially thrilled that the movie has found a large audience. I always believed people would respond to its scale and intensity of emotion. Thinking and feeling isn't the province of a particular group."
Hicks, for whom "Shine" has been a 10-year dream, noted that the award came a year to the day after the film was first shown to an audience at the Sundance Film Festival.
"The arc of this year has been beyond belief," he said. "I thought the climax was Sunday night [at the Golden Globes] when Geoffrey Rush won best actor. . . . As a complete outsider making a film such a long way away, something like this was never part of my cosmos."
The nominations, on which 11,000 members of the guild were eligible to vote, are considered the most accurate barometer of Oscar success. In all but four cases since the awards began in 1949, the DGA winner has been selected best director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Last year, Ron Howard ("Apollo 13") won the DGA prize but failed to land an Oscar nomination.
DGA television nominees will be announced in early February. The awards will be handed out March 8 at a dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and at the Sheraton in New York.