Alejandro Inarritu Wins Directors Guild Award for ‘Birdman’

Alejandro G. Inarritu has been named 2014’s best director by the Directors Guild of America, giving his film “Birdman” an impressive trifecta of major guild awards and making it the clear frontrunner in this year’s Oscar race for Best Picture.

Coming on the heels of a win at the Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 24 and an ensemble-cast honor at the next day’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, the victory means that Inarritu’s daring black comedy has now won the top award from three of the four major Hollywood guilds, with the Writers Guild of America Awards coming next Saturday.

The last film to win PGA, DGA and SAG Ensemble and not win the top Oscar was 1995’s “Apollo 13,” which lost to “Braveheart” after nearly sweeping the guild awards. Since then, the only films to win all three have been “American Beauty,” “Chicago,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech” and “Argo,” all of which won Best Picture.

While “Birdman,” which is shot to resemble one continuous take, was thought by many Oscar-watchers to be too offbeat for the Academy, it has now shown enough strength with the guilds to more than counteract the many critics’ awards won by its chief rival, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.”

And with all but seven of the 66 DGA winners going on to win the Oscar for Best Director, it gives Inarritu a significant edge in his race with Linklater for that award.

The Mexican-born director came to the ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel wearing a shirt that belonged to author Raymond Carver and a tie once owned by director Billy Wilder, two of his heroes. The shirt was given to him after the first L.A. screening of “Birdman” by Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, who had given Inarritu permission to use Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” in “Birdman.”

All five nominated feature-film directors — Inarritu, Linklater, Wes Anderson for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Clint Eastwood for “American Sniper” and Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game” — gave acceptance speeches after receiving nomination plaques, with Eastwood drawing by far the biggest applause.

The documentary feature award went to Laura Poitras for “Citizenfour,” the film that has won most of the major doc awards this season.

In the television categories, two female directors who came from independent features, Jill Soloway and Lisa Cholodenko, won for directing an episode of the comedy series “Transparent” and the miniseries “Olive Kitteridge,” respectively.

Lesli Linka Glatter made it three-for-three for women directors in the top TV categories when she won the drama-TV award for directing an episode of “Homeland.”

Other television awards went to “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” the 68th annual Tony Awards and the reality series “The Chair.”

At the awards, Steven Spielberg announced that beginning next year, the DGA will give an annual award to the best first-time feature director.

The show was hosted by Jane Lynch, with presenters including Spielberg, Bradley Cooper, Julie Delpy, Bill Murray, Chadwick Boseman, Jodie Foster and Barbra Streisand.

Special awards went to James Burrows and Robert Butler (Lifetime Achievement in Television Direction Awards), Phillip M. Goldfarb (Frank Capra Achievement Award) and Julie Gelfand (“Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award).

The winners:
– Feature Film: Alejandro G. Inarritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
– Documentary: Laura Poitras, “Citizenfour”
– Dramatic Series: Lesli Linka Glatter: “Homeland: From A to B and Back Again”
– Comedy Series: Jill Soloway: “Transparent: Best New Girl”
– Movies for Television and Mini-Series: Lisa Cholodenko, “Olive Kitteridge”
– Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming: Dave Diomedi, “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” Episode #1
– Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials: Glenn Weiss, “The 68th Annual Tony Awards”
– Reality Programs: Anthony B. Sacco, “The Chair: The Test”
– Children’s Programs: Jonathan Judge, “100 Things To Do Before High School,” Pilot
– Commercials: Nicolai Fuglsig, “Sapeurs,” Guinness; “Waiting,” FEMA