Directors Guild of America Awards regular Martin Scorsese and first-timer Michel Hazanavicius are the favorites as Hollywood's top filmmaker group prepares to hand out prizes.
Past winner Scorsese is nominated again for the guild's feature-film honor for his Paris adventure "Hugo," while Hazanavicius scored his first nomination for his silent-movie "The Artist."
Also in the running are Woody Allen for his romantic fantasy "Midnight in Paris"; David Fincher for his thriller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"; and Alexander Payne for his family drama "The Descendants."
The Directors Guild Awards are one of Hollywood's most accurate forecasts for who will win at the industry's top honors, the Academy Awards, which will be handed out Feb. 26. Only six times in the 63-year history of the guild awards has the winner failed to take home the Oscar for best director, and more often than not, the film winning the best director Oscar is voted best picture.
Fincher had been the favorite going into the Directors Guild ceremony last year for "The Social Network," but Tom Hooper came away the winner for "The King's Speech." Hooper went on to win the Oscar, too, and his film also earned best picture.
This time, Fincher's the odd man out at the Directors Guild show. The other four guild nominees made the best-director cut at Tuesday's Oscar nominations, but Fincher missed out. The fifth Oscar slot went to Terrence Malick for the family chronicle "The Tree of Life."
French filmmaker Hazanavicius, whose credits include the spy spoofs "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" and "OSS 117: Lost in Rio," had been a virtual unknown in Hollywood until "The Artist," his black-and-white throwback to early cinema that has been a favorite at earlier film honors.
"The Artist" won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy and is considered a best-picture front-runner for the Oscars.
But Scorsese won the Globes' singular directing prize over Hazanavicius.
Unlike Hazanavicius, the other nominees all have competed for Directors Guild honors before. Scorsese earned his ninth and 10th guild nominations this season; besides feature-film, he's nominated for documentary directing for "George Harrison: Living in the Material World."
Scorsese is a past feature-film winner for 2006's "The Departed," as well as a TV drama winner a year ago for an episode of "Boardwalk Empire." The family film "Hugo" was a departure for Scorsese, known for dark crime tales, and the movie also was his first shot in 3-D.
Allen has been nominated five times and won for 1977's "Annie Hall." He had not been nominated since his 1989 "Crimes and Misdemeanors" but has been on a critical and commercial resurgence for "Midnight in Paris," his biggest hit in decades.
This was the third nomination for Fincher. Payne was nominated one time previously, for 2004's "Sideways."
Kelsey Grammer is the host for the guild ceremony, which is not televised. Awards presenters include Oscar nominees George Clooney ("The Descendants"), Michelle Williams ("My Week with Marilyn"), Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo ("The Artist"), and Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain ("The Help").