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Directors Guild of America award for The Artist director

TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK

MICHEL Hazanavicius was hailed as outstanding director of the year for The Artist at the 64th annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards, which were held on Saturday night at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

The win makes The Artist, the silent movie that is storming its way through awards season, the prohibitive favourite to win the big prizes come Oscar night since there have only been six instances in the history of the DGA Awards when the guild’s feature film winner has not gone on to win the Academy Award for best director.

Tom Hooper, last year’s DGA winner, opened the envelop that revealed Hazanavicius’ name, and Hooper went on last year to win the directing Oscar while The King’s Speech was crowned best picture.

“This is very moving and touching for me,” Hazanavicius’ said as he accepted the honour which follows victories for the Weinstein Co release at the Producers Guild of America and the Golden Globes.

The other nominees for the feature directing award were Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Alexander Payne for The Descendants and Martin Scorsese for Hugo.

Among the ceremony’s television winners, Patty Jenkins earned the drama series award for directing the pilot of AMC’s The Killing; Robert B Weide took the comedy prize for the Palestinian Chicken episode of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm; and John Cassar claimed movie-of-theweek/ mini-series honours for Reelz Channel’s The Kennedys. While Jenkins and Weide were first time recipients, Cassar received the dramatic TV series award in 2006 for an episode of 24.

As part of the evening, hosted by Kelsey Grammer, the DGA also honoured several of its own: Ed Sherin received the 2012 Honourary Life Member Award; Katy Garretson was presented with the 2012 Frank Capra Achievement Award; and Dennis Mazzocco was recognised with the 2012 Franklin J Schaffner Achievement Award.

DGA president Taylor Hackford kicked off the proceedings by asking everyone to stand and offer a toast to Gil Cates, the director and producer who died in October. Cates had served by as the guild’s negotiations chairman during four rounds of contract talks and also as a DGA secretary/treasurer, and said Hackford, “there was no greater champion of our creative and economic rights.” Hackford also used the occasion to reiterate the guild’s determination to fight Internet theft, despite the recent setback the industry experienced when two anti-piracy bills were tabled by Congress. He blamed “outright lies spread by Google and other technology companies whose business models are made all the more profitable if the work of the people in this room is stolen, made available on the Internet for free.” He vowed that “we remain undeterred by last week’s events, not only for those of you here tonight but also for future filmmakers who we hope will be winning DGA Awards in the years to come. Stay tuned.” Shifting to a lighter note, Grammer, who was chosen to host since he is a director as well as an actor and a producer, took over the role that Carl Reiner had played at 23 previously guild dinners.

He immediately scored several jokes off last year’s ceremony, a celebration of the DGA’s 75th anniversary that ran long because of a programme of short films celebrating the DGA’s history. “Even James Cameron said it was too long,” he cracked.

Rather than just show clips of its best feature nominees, the DGA first calls each nominee to the stage individually to accept a medallion.

Kathy Bates, who plays Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris, offered a tribute to Allen. The movie is the second of his films in which she has appeared — she was also in 1991’s Shadows and Fog. While she admitted Allen struck her as “a little neurotic” the first time she worked with him, this time around she found him “to be warm and personable and friendly — for Woody.” While Allen wasn’t present, but he did appear by videotape and had the room erupting in laughter as he explained he chose not to attend because he was afraid if he was forced to mingle, he wouldn’t be able to hold up his end of a conversation. “I’m the only guy who is short, wears tweed clothing with horn-rimmed glasses, who is Jewish, but is not smart,” he protested.

The Artist co-stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo also charmed the crowd as they worked their way through a bit of a comic routine in which Bejo recounted the first time she auditioned for Hazanavicius, who would eventually become her husband, while Dujardin pretended to be her agent. They did air one complaint about the director, saying that after the tenth take of the movie’s tap dance routine, Hazanavicius simply told them, “Pretty good, but could you smile more.” George Clooney was on hand to introduce Payne and The Descendants. He also chose to take a comic route, offering up mock oratory, in which he hailed “the greatest of all the Greek Gods — Alexander Uranus Payne!” That allowed him to set up the punchline: “On a night when only one God can reign supreme, this is my final plea: Pick Uranus!” Accepting his medallion, Payne offered a touching remembrance of the Czech director Jiri Weiss, who had befriended him when he, at age 23, was just launching his career. Describing how relationships can took root between older and younger directors, Payne explained, “One envies his counterpart’s wisdom, while the other his counterpart’s youth. From opposite sides of their careers, both are haunted by the films they’ll never make.” Ben Kingsley, who plays the director George Melies in Hugo, did the honours when it was time to celebrate Scorsese’s nomination. And as he made his way to the stage, Scorsese was given a standing ovation. Scorsese, in turn, described how Kingsley brought Melies so convincingly to life that when Melies’ grand-daughter visited the set, although she had never known her grandfather, she looked at the actor and the two “embraced in tears.”

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