The Oscar hopes of United 93 declined when the film's director, Paul Greengrass, did not recieve a Director's Guild nomination this week.
The movie has been considered to be a longshot for best picture honors, because while it has strong performances, it is not really an actors' showcase, and actors form the largest branch of the Academy. However, there has been a belief that Paul Greengrass would be in the running for a best director Oscar, for his achievement in making what many thought to be an unmakeable film. It's still possible, but the chances seem dimmer now.
Stuart Levine of Variety made the case for United 93 getting nominated in an e-mail to me.
All good movies should entertain us, transport us to a place that we've never been before. They may make us laugh or cry, but it's really the journey that matters.
United 93 took us to a place where everyone knew the ugly, terrifying final destination, yet the journey was mesmerizing. Director Paul Greengrass' genius is that from scene one he never let on that this day, this unforgettable Sept. 11, was going to be different.
Unlike World Trade Center, where Oliver Stone made deliberate attempts early on to tell you this day was unlike any other, Greengrass took us to a crowded Newark Airport, where people were fighting traffic and rushing to their flights. Or the aviation command control centers, where flight controllers were just doing their daily jobs until all hell broke loose. Ordinary stuff.
Knowing what we know now, no one would've wanted to be a passenger on that doomed flight, but Greengrass' glimpse into that living hell makes United 93 the most memorable film of the year and a viable contender for best picture.
Among DGA nominees, I would endorse Greengrass, Todd Field of Little Children and Kevin McDonald of The Last King of Scotland over Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whose broad Babel shone in places but went out of control in others, the admirable Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of lovable Little Miss Sunshine, and yes, Martin Scorsese of The Departed. I don't see a need to take Bill Condon of Dreamgirls off the list, but he wouldn't make it before those choices that I mentioned - and I might make room for Clint Eastwood's work on Letters from Iwo Jima as well.