While annual attendees warning newcomers to strap in for a long night ahead is a tradition at the Directors Guild of America Awards, the 2024 show seemed to move pretty steadily without a hitch.
Taking place on Saturday, February 11 at The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, the golden medallions mostly went to expected winners like Theatrical Feature Film going to “Oppenheimer” director Christopher Nolan, Michael Apted First-Time Theatrical Feature Film going to “Past Lives” director Celine Song, and Comedy Series going to “The Bear” showrunner/director Christopher Storer for the cameo-packed Season 2 episode “The Fishes.”
However, before those awards were given out, director Lesli Linka Glatter used her President’s Welcome to address an elephant in the room. “This year, members need that connection over our shared craft even more now. Because the last year was so fucking challenging,” she said, with unscripted emphasis. Though the Directors Guild did not strike against the studios like the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild did, Glatter commended them on achieving “strong deals on behalf of members,” and said “We are thankful that we are back doing the work we love with exceptional new creative economic protections for DGA members in so many areas.” But most of all, “Now it is time to support IATSE and the Teamsters in their upcoming battle. We won’t be satisfied until we all have fair contracts that reward all of us for our work, creating a vibrant, sustainable industry that fairly values everyone’s contributions,” said the current DGA President.
Even though Glatter started the night off expressing solidarity with fellow guilds, that did not stop host Judd Apatow from getting his jokes in about the DGA’s controversially brief negotiations with the AMPTP last year. “This is my fifth time hosting. My agent said that I should hold out for more money, but in the spirit of the DGA, I accepted their first offer,” joked the “Knocked Up” director, receiving one of the biggest laughs of the night. His other best joke would arguably be that one of the big takeaways from the SAG-AFTRA strike was “We learned that Fran Drescher is the voice of reason. And unfortunately, that’s what reason sounds like.”
Another one-liner that worked well was “The Last of Us” director Peter Hoar winning the Drama Series award for his episode “Long, Long Time,” which spotlighted a gay couple played by Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett, and saying “Thank you very much for the 2024 ‘Succession’ Award for Directing.” Not only did he win over four directors who were all nominated for their work on the final season of the HBO corporate drama, he actually won over Mark Mylod, who had won the Emmy for Drama Series directing over him earlier in the year.
Though they did not receive Best Director nominations for the 2024 Oscars, Greta Gerwig and Alexander Payne were still able to give acceptance speeches at the DGA Awards, where each Theatrical Feature Film nominee receives a medallion presented to them by one of their peers.
Best Supporting Actor nominee Ryan Gosling said that his “Barbie” director “broke all these records in a year that AI had become so advanced that it forced our whole industry to shut down. Unions rallied together to find ways to protect artists from becoming obsolete… She was kind of like a DGA card carrying Sarah Connor fighting back the rise of the machines by creating something no computer, no algorithm could make.”
Not every joke worked though, with several digs at Bradley Cooper’s prosthetics falling flat. Jonah Hill, a surprise guest brought in to present Martin Scorsese his 13th DGA medallion, probably elicited the most groans with his opener: “Before we begin, it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge the recent tragedies. Of course, I’m referring to the fact that ‘Barbie’ only got eight Academy Award nominations.”
Some of the most moving moments included the tribute awards to DGA members Gary Natoli, Janet G. Knutsen, and Lifetime Achievement Award in Television winner David Nutter, who got two standing ovations getting through his acceptance speech, where he noted that his Parkinson’s Disease has made him a better director.
Not only indicative of how the Best Documentary Feature Oscar race could go, but a genuinely pivotal speech was “20 Days in Mariupol” director Mstyslav Chernov accepting the Documentary award. “I want to thank the DGA for this recognition, although unfortunately we can’t stop a bullet with it or protect a child from shrapnel. And today my hometown was bombed. Seven people got killed. Three of whom were children. So it is a sad day,” he said. However, echoing the spirit of the night, the Ukrainian director still could feel the power of cinema, and the work DGA members do, which “helps us all to cope with a sometimes unbearable, unfair world.”