People who were looking to the Directors Guild of America to help sort out the confused Academy Awards picture merely saw the image grow fuzzier Monday when the DGA announced its five 1987 best director nominees.
The list was as shocking for the names that weren't there as it was for the names that were.
On the list: Adrian Lyne, who directed the fall box-office smash "Fatal Attraction."
Not on: John Boorman, whose "Hope and Glory" has been the most celebrated film among critics groups.
On: Lasse Hallstrom, who directed the Swedish film "My Life as a Dog."
Not on: The late John Huston, whose last film, "The Dead," struck many critics as being his best.
The other three nominees were expected.
--Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" earned the Italian director his first DGA nomination since "Last Tango in Paris" in 1973.
--James L. Brooks received his second nomination for "Broadcast News." Brooks won the coveted DGA award four years ago for his first feature, "Terms of Endearment," and went on to win the Oscar, as well.
--Steven Spielberg became a six-time nominee with "Empire of the Sun." Spielberg won the award two years ago for "The Color Purple."
The DGA nominations usually provide the first solid clue as to which films will dominate the Academy Award nominations (due to be announced Feb. 17). The DGA is the first industry group to assess the year's work and only three times in the 40 years since these awards have been given has the winner not gone on to receive the Oscar for best direction, as well.
Only once since 1948--with Spielberg and "The Color Purple"--has a DGA winner failed to get a nomination.
In 1972, Francis Coppola won the guild award for "The Godfather," but Bob Fosse won the Academy Award for "Cabaret." In 1968, the DGA picked Anthony Harvey for "The Lion in Winter," while the academy went for Carol Reed for "Oliver!"
This year, it is hard to assess how the DGA nominations may affect the Oscar ballots. The 1987 Academy Award race is as wide open as any in years, and the DGA nominees merely add a couple of additional elements.
Lasse Hallstrom's "My Life as a Dog" has been as popular with moviegoers as it has been with critics. But talk about an underdog! The movie, made three years ago in Sweden and just brought to the United States by tiny Skouras Pictures last year, was not even selected as the official foreign-language Oscar entry from its own country.
Hallstrom has made two movies since finishing "My Life as a Dog" in 1985.
Nominees for the foreign-language category are chosen by motion picture academy members who see the full slate of films submitted for consideration by their respective countries. But Oscar rules allow those foreign-language films
that are not submitted for best foreign-language picture to be eligible for all other categories. So, the DGA's endorsement of Hallstrom elevates both the director and "My Life as a Dog" into realistic contenders for Academy Award nominations.
Adrian Lyne's DGA nomination was the most jolting. "Fatal Attraction" has been a huge hit for Paramount Pictures, grossing about $140 million since its release five months ago, but the suspense thriller is not the kind of film that usually generates major awards.
The selection of Lyne over such directors as Boorman, Huston, Norman Jewison ("Moonstruck"), Hector Babenco ("Ironweed") and Woody Allen ("Radio Days")--seems more a reflection of the DGA's diverse membership than a judgment by peers.
There are approximately 8,500 national members of the DGA, but only a few hundred of them are primarily film directors. The membership includes directors of dramatic material for television, directors of TV sports and news programs, assistant directors and unit production managers working on feature films, and associate directors, stage managers and production associations working in television.
All of the members are eligible to vote in both the nominations and the final balloting.
You have to wonder how many of those who voted for Adrian Lyne had seen "Hope and Glory," "The Dead," "Ironweed" and some of the other films that were released late in December and held to limited or exclusive runs.
One thing the DGA voters cannot be accused of is parochialism. James L. Brooks and Spielberg are the only Americans among the nominees. Bertolucci is Italian, Hallstrom, Swedish and Lyne, a former director of television commercials, is British. Nor can the DGA members be accused of protectionism. Only "Fatal Attraction" and "Broadcast News" were shot in the United States.
The DGA best feature film director award will be presented during simultaneous bicoastal ceremonies in New York and Beverly Hills on March 12, along with awards to winners in various categories of television direction. Names of the TV nominees have not been released.
Also announced by the DGA Monday:
Robert Wise, a two-time Oscar and DGA best director winner (for both "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music"), will receive the guild's D. W. Griffith Award for "outstanding achievement and lifetime contribution to film." Wise, whose early credits as a film editor included the classic "Citizen Kane," received the motion picture academy's Irving G. Thalberg award, an honor also accorded to film makers for their bodies of work.
Sheldon Leonard, an actor and producer, will receive the Robert B. Aldrich Award for his service to the guild. Leonard has been the guild's treasurer for 30 years.
Michael Franklin, former DGA national executive director, will receive an honorary life membership.