LOS ANGELES - An unclear cinematic season got a little foggier on Saturday with Alejandro Inarritu's Directors Guild win for his harrowing frontier epic "The Revenant." With only weeks to go before the Academy Awards on Feb. 28, the race is still as wide open as ever.
Even the guilds are divided in their top awards. "Spotlight," the drama detailing the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sex abuses in the Catholic Church, won the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble, while the financial crisis dramedy "The Big Short" picked up the Producers Guild Award.
The DGA win for "The Revenant" is not insignificant. Inarritu won last year for the showbiz sendup "Birdman," which went on to win the best picture and best director Oscar. In fact, only seven times in the history of the DGAs has a director who won the guild's top award not gone on to win the Academy Award.
The Mexican-born Inarritu was teary-eyed as he accepted the Directors Guild prize, which he characterized as "a hug from my peers."
"This hug, this embrace you are giving me today goes to a small country, to a whole Latin American community in this country," he said. "Your embrace makes me feel proud."
Both "Spotlight" director Tom McCarthy and "The Big Short" director Adam McKay were nominated for the DGA prize and will be competing for the best director Oscar too. Others in competition included George Miller for "Mad Max: Fury Road" and Ridley Scott for "The Martian." Scott is the only one of the bunch without a directing Oscar nomination.
Saturday's ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel also offered a telling look at who's working behind the camera in Hollywood amid the industry's ongoing discussion about diversity. The guild dispenses awards to directors in TV and movie categories, and this year many eyes were on the representation of both women and directors of color.
While more women were nominated this year than ever before -- 14 of the 47 nominees -- only one took home an award. Dee Rees accepted the DGA prize in the television movie or miniseries category for HBO's "Bessie."
"There's a million reasons why I shouldn't be in this room, and there are a million more reasons why I shouldn't be on this stage," Rees said in her acceptance speech. "It all comes down to 10 or 15 people (who are) the reason why I am in this room and the reason why I am on this stage."
Eleven awards were presented to recognize outstanding directing in various formats, from commercials and live TV shows to drama series and feature films. Nine were claimed by white men.
Filmmaker Marielle Heller, who was nominated for achievement by a first-time feature filmmaker for "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," noted that she was the only woman among the guild's feature-film nominees.
"That feels like a lot of responsibility," she said. "I'm hoping that next year we'll be at least half of that list, and then by the next year, there shouldn't be any men on that list, right?"
Heller lost to "Ex Machina" director Alex Garland.
Jane Lynch hosted the four-hour, untelevised dinner program, where stars such as Lily Tomlin, Bryan Cranston, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Regina King, James Corden, Nate Parker and Kathy Griffin served as presenters.
Other winners Saturday included Kenny Ortega for Disney's "Descendants," Don Roy King for the "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special," David Nutter for "Game of Thrones" and Matthew Heineman for his documentary "Cartel Land."
While the dearth female winners was glaring, especially amid the all-male nominees for the top prize, Adam McKay was able to find some relevant poetry in the batch of top competitors this awards season.
"Our movie is about white men wrecking Wall Street. And 'Spotlight' is about a Catholic church that is dominated by certain types of people. They're both movies that kind of call out lack of diversity," McKay said.
But beyond even that, McKay noted "The Big Short" will be screening for Congress soon and "Spotlight" will be shown at the Vatican.
"People, when they know the truth, they do the right thing," McKay said.