Directors and producers guilds show ‘Jojo Rabbit’ love, leaving the Oscar race even more wide open

Roman Griffin Davis and writer-director Taika Waititi on the set of "Jojo Rabbit."
Roman Griffin Davis and writer-director Taika Waititi on the set of “Jojo Rabbit.” The film earned nods from the producers and directors guilds.
(Kimberly French / 20th Century Fox )

In an awards season version of Super Tuesday, the Producers Guild further confirmed the legitimacy of “1917" and provided fuel to a resurgent “Little Women,” while Directors Guild voters nominated the usual suspects and, surprisingly, Taika Waititi, offering more good news to devoted fans of the quirky Hitler comedy “Jojo Rabbit.”

The producers’ and directors’ nominations came hours after the British Film Academy announced its slate and a day after the Writers Guild weighed in with its picks. It’s a sign of the unusually accelerated awards season in which Oscar voting closes today, nominations are announced Monday and the show is set for Feb. 9.

With the precursor dust now settled, three movies — “Parasite,” “The Irishman” and “Jojo Rabbit” — managed to secure nominations from the four primary guilds: producers, directors, actors and writers.

“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” likely would have pulled off the sweep as well, but the film was ineligible for the Writers Guild because Quentin Tarantino is not a member.


Waititi’s inclusion alongside Tarantino, Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”), Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”) and Sam Mendes (“1917") in the DGA nominations ranked as the day’s biggest surprise. After winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Jojo Rabbit,” a sentimental satire about a Hitler Youth member finding his humanity in the horrors of the Holocaust, did middling business in theaters.

But the movie — and Waititi — have a passionate, devoted following, including, it would seem, a great many awards season voters. That Waititi directed the lauded finale of “The Madalorian,” the Disney+ “Star Wars"-universe TV series, could have only helped his cause. The DGA does have a high percentage of television directors among its membership, but maybe Baby Yoda did the magic hand thing to put Waititi over the top.

“Joker” director Todd Phillips landed nominations alongside Tarantino, Scorsese, Mendes and Bong at both the Globes and the BAFTAs but was the one to miss out at the DGA. Mendes won the Globe on Sunday.

With Waititi’s “Jojo” sitting at a 57 score on review aggregator Metacritc, there were certainly more deserving choices available to voters, including Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”). DGA voters have nominated women in its feature category just nine times in its history.

Taika Waititi’s follow-up to “Thor: Ragnarok” is the wild comedy “Jojo Rabbit,” which follows a 10-year-old boy who conjures a Hitler that is like “the Fonz of 1945.”

In contrast, three women were nominated for the guild’s first-time-filmmaker prize: Mati Diop (“Atlantics”), Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy”) and Melina Matsoukas (“Queen & Slim”), alongside Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz (“The Peanut Butter Falcon”) and Joe Talbot (“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”). But the 5-year-old award has no direct correlation with the Oscars.

The Producers Guild nominees — “1917,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker,” “Knives Out,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” and “Parasite” — mixed critical and commercial favorites, rewarding movies that have been cited throughout this awards season.

With 10 nomination slots, the PGA Awards have some wiggle room in lining up with an Oscar best picture slate, which has included either eight or nine movies since the motion picture academy’s 2011 move to its current, complicated, voting system that allows for a variable roster of five to 10 best picture nominees.

Last year, all eight Oscar best picture nominees showed up on the PGA list. In 2018, when there were nine nominees, academy voters replaced PGA nominees “I, Tonya,” “Molly’s Game” and “Wonder Woman” with the PGA-overlooked “Phantom Thread” and “Darkest Hour.”

The box office and awards success of “Parasite” runs counter to Hollywood’s typical disinterest in international cinema.

As the academy has never nominated 10 movies in its current system, at least one of the PGA-feted pictures will have to go. And, unless Oscar voters grant “Bombshell,” “The Farewell” or “The Two Popes” an unexpected reprieve, we won’t see any swap-outs this year. “Knives Out” is the most likely movie to drop off the academy’s list, with “Ford v Ferrari” being a possibility too.

But as both films were commercial as well as critical hits, grossing more than $100 million in the States, their inclusion would provide the telecast with a couple of familiar titles alongside other popular best picture contenders like “Joker,” “Once Upon a Time” and the surging “Little Women.”

The PGA film award has often been a strong precursor to an Oscar best picture win. After both the academy and the PGA expanded their best picture slates and adopted a preferential ballot to determine the victor, the two groups matched six years running. (That includes the strange 2014 PGA ceremony that somehow produced a tie between “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity.”)

There have been blips: The academy favored “Spotlight” over the PGA winner, “The Big Short,” and “Moonlight” prevailed over “La La Land,” the PGA’s choice. But order has been restored the last two years, with “The Shape of Water” and “Green Book” winning both honors.

With the best picture race remaining unsettled, there will be notable attention paid to the outcome of this year’s PGA prize.

Could that winner be Mendes’ late-arriving war film “1917"? The movie won the Golden Globe for best drama on Sunday (“Once Upon a Time” took comedy/musical), and picked up a key nomination from the Writers Guild.

‘1917' and ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ were the big winners at the 2020 Golden Globes, further shaking up an already unpredictable awards season

The movie, which opens wide in theaters Friday, will likely sweep through the academy’s crafts categories when Oscar nominations are announced Monday. Nods for cinematography, production design, score, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects are likely along with picture and director.

But for the movie to win, it will likely need a nomination for original screenplay or acting, along with film editing. And the intimate, often wordless drama, constructed to appear as if it’s one unbroken take, faces significant challenges on each of those fronts, even with the WGA nod.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts continued its longstanding tradition of being the voting group least interested in movies other than those starring and directed by white people. (And in the latter category, specifically white males.) “Joker” led the way with 11 nominations, followed by 10 each for “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time” and nine for “1917.” “Jojo Rabbit” also had a decent showing with six nominations but missed out in major categories including picture and director.

The group was roasted on social media after revealing that all 20 of its acting nominations had gone to white actors in English-language films. Among the performers shut out were Antonio Banderas for “Pain and Glory,” Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet,” Jamie Foxx for “Just Mercy,” Awkwafina for “The Farewell” and Lupita Nyong’o for “Us,” at least a couple of whom should turn up at the Oscars.

But then, BAFTA is a voting body that has somehow never recognized eight-time Oscar nominee Denzel Washington. Does anything more need to be said?

Because there’s a small overlap between BAFTA and Oscar voters, pundits strain to parse meaning from its choices. There isn’t much. And until the group makes some kind of meaningful change in diversifying its membership and stops passing the buck (or pound sterling), it can go on being ignored as nothing more than a dull dog-and-pony show for the tea-and-crumpet crowd.