Directors show presence of ‘Mind’

Howard tops film; Pierson, Ball, Holland take TV nods

Oscar prospects for “A Beautiful Mind” brightened Saturday night as Ron Howard received the Directors Guild of America’s award for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film.

The DGA nod was expected to provide clarity to this year’s Oscar race, having matched the Oscar winner in 48 of the 53 years. The last two occasions when Oscar voting diverged from the DGA winner came when Howard was not nominated for “Apollo 13” (Mel Gibson won for “Braveheart”) and last year, when Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) was bested by Steven Soderbergh for “Traffic.”

Prior to the announcement, presenter Lee evoked considerable laughter first by reminding the nominees not to get overly confident about the Oscar and then by saying, “I’m going to speak as long as possible. I was born in Taiwan…”

With his exploration of genius and madness, Howard topped Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”), Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”), Christopher Nolan (“Memento”) and Ridley Scott (“Black Hawk Down”). It was Howard’s second DGA trophy, six years after winning for “Apollo 13.”

Upon receiving the kudos, Howard praised his rivals and told the audience of 1,600 at the Century Plaza Hotel, “I didn’t expect to win. It was very tough watching.”

The victory for U/Imagine’s “A Beautiful Mind,” which has topped $144 million in domestic gross, was not a surprise, but none of the nominees had been viewed as a favorite, given the wide-open nature of this year’s awards season. Besides Howard, Jackson and Scott, the other nominees for the best director Oscar are Robert Altman (“Gosford Park”) and David Lynch (“Mulholland Drive”).

Crowe’s work cited

When presented earlier in the show with a nominee plaque, Howard praised his crew and cast before singling out best actor nominee Russell Crowe by saying, “The effectiveness of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ cannot be separated from the power of Russell Crowe’s performance.” He also thanked Aaron Rubin for buying him his first movie camera when he was 8 and working on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

The other three instances of the DGA and Oscar winners not matching came in 1968, when Anthony Harvey won the DGA Award for “The Lion in Winter” and Carol Reed won the Oscar for “Oliver”; 1972, when Francis Ford Coppola received the DGA nod for “The Godfather” and the Oscar went to Bob Fosse for “Cabaret”; and 1985, when Steven Spielberg received the DGA gong for “The Color Purple” and the Oscar went Sydney Pollack for “Out of Africa.”

HBO tops TV

In TV voting, HBO was the big winner with a trio of trophies — Frank Pierson for “Conspiracy” in the TV movie category, Alan Ball for the pilot for “Six Feet Under” (drama series) and Amy Schatz for “Twas the Night” (children’s program).

Todd Holland took the comedy series nod for the “Bowling” episode of Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” topping three episodes of “Sex and the City” and a single seg of NBC’s “Will & Grace,” which won the category last year.

Bob Kerstetter took the commercials award for “Tool of America” and the team of Joel Gallen & Beth McCarthy-Miller won the musical variety category for “America: A Tribute to Heroes.” William Ludel was the winner in daytimes serials for ABC’s “General Hospital,” while Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim topped the docu category for “Startup.com.”

Along with Howard, Ludel, McCarthy-Miller and Shatz are also second-time DGA winners while the others are first-timers.

Carl Reiner, in his 16th year as host, provided comic relief and told the crowd he would retire from the job “unless I do really great.” Previously announced awards included Ed Sherin for the Robert Aldrich Award; Delbert Mann, honorary life member; Burt Bluestein, the Frank Capra Award; and Anita Cooper-Avrick, the Franklin J. Schaffner Award. Cooper-Avrick received her trophy from Will Smith, who thanked her for the many times she got him out of his dressing room and onto the set of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Results were based on voting by the DGA’s 12,400 members.

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