'Country' helmers pick up best feature award

Joel and Ethan Coen won the top DGA prize for “No Country for Old Men” on Saturday in a kudofest marked by high spirits over the guild’s speedy contract resolution with the AMPTP one week earlier.

It’s the first DGA win for the directing siblings, who beat out Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”), Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), Sean Penn (“Into the Wild”) and Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) for top honors at the 60th annual Directors Guild of America kudofest in Century City.

Kudo is considered a reliable Oscar indicator because most years it aligns with the Academy Award’s helming honors. Fifty-three of the past 59 DGA winners have gone on to win the Oscar that season, including “The Departed” last year.

“Ethan and I have a bookshelf in our office where we keep various plaques and such that we’ve gotten over the years that we call our ego corner,” Joel Coen said. “Whenever Ethan has a really bad day, he gets a bottle of Windex and and a big can of silver polish and goes over and spit shines those medals for an hour or two. It makes him feel better. This is a really big one — in every respect. It’s going to keep him busy.”

Miramax-Paramount Vantage production “No Country” is one of the leading Oscar contenders overall, tying “There Will Be Blood” with eight nominations.

Other big winners during the evening included Yves Simoneau for HBO’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” in the TV movie category; “Mad Men” helmer Alan Taylor, visibly shocked to top multiple director nominees from “The Sopranos” and “Lost” in the TV drama category; and Barry Sonnenfeld, who delighted the aud with a ribald acceptance speech upon winning for “Pushing Daisies” in the TV comedy category.

The guild’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers contract resolution was frequently touted during the evening, providing a running theme from start to finish.

“Speaking of celebrating,” DGA prexy Michael Apted said, near the outset of his opening remarks, “I am sure last week’s deal between the DGA and the AMPTP is on everyone’s mind.”

To cheers of the crowd, he exulted over the gains in the areas of jurisdiction and Internet delivery. “After a lot of hard work and a lot of prep work, we made a lot of important gains,” he said.

He thanked all members of the negotiating committee, saluting chief negotiators Gil Cates and Jay Roth in particular. Later in the evening, he piled hosannas on Roth again when bestowing an honorary lifetime membership upon him.

“I doubt anyone can exceed last week’s successful negotiation,” Apted said, lauding Roth’s two-year campaign. “I don’t think there was a single misstep — ever.”

The crowd showed its appreciation by giving Roth a standing ovation. Martin Scorsese picked up the theme again before presenting the evening’s last kudo; he urged the aud to lift their glasses in a toast to “preserving our legacies for future generations.”

Carl Reiner again hosted the kudofest, making comic relief of his advancing years. Noting that he’s now too old to direct another movie, he told the crowd, “What I’ve been doing is redirecting” the work of others, yelling out his suggestions to the screen at home. “To all you older directors out there, I say, ‘Don’t forgo the possibility of redirecting other people’s movies.’ “

Evening’s celebratory mood was briefly marred toward the end, when thesp Sean Young heckled Schnabel during his remarks after he was presented with his nomination medallion for “The Diving and the Butterfly.” “Have another cocktail,” he advised. Young was escorted out of the event.

Visibly annoyed, Schnabel cut his remarks short before the crowd urged him to continue.

However, that didn’t dampen the mood for long. Thesps such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Josh Brolin, Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard presented many of the evening’s kudos, with Brolin giving his “No Country for Old Men” directing duo an especially amusing intro. Riffing on their sometimes elusive directing style, he said, “I had the pleasure of working with these socially challenged men for three months.”

“I’m not going to thank Josh for that,” Joel Coen said after his brother did precisely that.

Other winners at the kudofest: Tony Award helmer Glenn P. Weiss, who thanked Leslie Moonves for continuing to support the ratings-challenged kudocast in his acceptance for the musical variety award; “The Amazing Race” helmer Bertram Van Munster in the reality category; “One Life to Live” helmer Larry Carpenter for daytime serials; Paul Hoen, helmer of the Disney Channel’s “Jump In,” won for children’s programs; Nicolai Fuglsig of MJZ UK in the commercial category; and “Ghosts of Cite Soliel” helmer Asger Leth in the docu arena.

The guild also honored Barbara Roche with the Franklin J. Schaffner award, a kudo presented to an associate director or stage manager, and Liz Ryan with the Frank Capra achievement kudo, given to an assistant director or unit production manager for their work in the industry and in service to the guild.

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