LOS ANGELES - The long takes of Alejandro Inarritu's "Birdman" won out over the long production of Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" at the Directors Guild Awards Saturday.
Both formally ambitious in very different ways, "Boyhood" and "Birdman" have been neck-in-neck throughout the awards race. But after dominating the acting and producing guild awards, Inarritu's tale about a washed-up actor looking for some authenticity on the New York stage appears to have the edge in the lead up to the Oscars.
There are no sure things when it comes to Hollywood awards, but a DGA win at least makes Inarritu's ascent to Oscar dominance nearly inevitable. The guild dispenses awards to directors in TV and movie categories, and only seven times in the history of the DGAs has a director not gone on to win the Academy Award.
"If this is considered a great film, it has nothing to do with me," Inarritu said. "It is a miracle."
In addition to Linklater, Inarritu beat out feature film nominees Wes Anderson ("The Grand Budapest Hotel"), Morten Tyldum ("The Imitation Game") and Clint Eastwood ("American Sniper") to win the film directing trophy. They'll face off again Feb. 22 for the best director Oscar, with the exception of Eastwood, who was not nominated. Instead, "Foxcatcher" filmmaker Bennett Miller is up for that honor at the Academy Awards.
While the feature film category was undeniably male-dominated, women took the top prize in four of the evening's 10 categories. Winners included Jill Soloway for the TV comedy "Transparent," Lisa Cholodenko for the TV movie/miniseries "Olive Kitteridge," Laura Poitras for the documentary "Citizenfour" and Lesli Linka Glatter for the TV drama "Homeland."
"It's been a good night for gals," said Linka Glatter backstage. "I think when you see women get up to bat, they do pretty well."
Other winners were Anthony B. Sacco for the reality series "The Chair," Jonathan Judge for the children's program "100 Things to Do Before High School," Glenn Weiss for the 68th annual Tony Awards, Dave Diomedi for "The Tonight Show" and Nicolai Fuglsig for a Guinness commercial.
In a special segment, Steven Spielberg also announced that starting in 2016, the DGA will award a prize for first-time feature film directors.
"If we were to travel back in our legacy, we might have honored Orson Welles for his masterpiece 'Citizen Kane' or Sidney Lumet for '12 Angry Men,'" said Spielberg. "Our hope is this new award will shine a light on up-and-coming voices."
The solid predictive track record of the DGAs might suggest that there was a cutthroat air to the proceedings, and yet even among the feature film nominees the spirit of the evening was celebratory and retrospective. Prior to his win, Inarritu spoke of his fascination with Linklater and Anderson's choices in their films and the privilege of getting to know his fellow nominees.
Linklater took the peer reverence even further.
"I love the traditions and the history of the DGA," said Linklater in his nominees speech. He told the audience that he was advised when he received his DGA card to get his heroes to sign it, not just three friends. Linklater proudly said that the signatures on his card are Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Altman.
Public nods to creative idols didn't stop with Linklater, though. Backstage Inarritu told reporters that he was wearing Billy Wilder's tie and Raymond Carver's shirt, a partial nod to the prominence of Carver's short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" in "Birdman."
"I'm just a humble guy wearing those masters," he said.