The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced this year's slate of nominees for excellence in directing, and chalk another guild citation up for David Fincher, who somehow got in for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Also nominated was Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris," while Steven Spielberg and Tate Taylor were snubbed for Best Picture contenders "War Horse" and "The Help," respectively (both of which I had expected to get in). So was respected auteur Terrence Malick for "The Tree of Life."

This announcement is largely considered the most important harbinger of Oscar, as the 14,000-member organization often taps directors of films that go on to receive Best Picture nominations from the Academy. With the expanded Best Picture field, first to 10 and this year to anywhere between five and 10, the odds get even better, of course, but this is a good way of whittling the field down to the pulpy center of industry favorites.

The real story here is the strong showing of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" with the major guilds, having now added this feather to the PGA nomination it received last week.

I'm a little confused as to why this is happening. It feels like either lazy, knee-jerk voting based on residual respect from his stellar run last year (that ended with no Oscar to show for it) or...what? I don't know. And no, the answer can't just be "maybe the movie is just that good." Because...it's not. But with this and PGA, I think we have to consider it a likely Best Picture nominee. Ay, ay, ay.

Alright, I won't be annoying any further on that score. Steven Spielberg getting snubbed by a guild that tends to be slavish when it comes to him is significant, and added with a lack of industry goodwill so far (ADG, SAG and WGA snubs), could be indicative of a sinking ship. Then again, "Munich" didn't exactly light up the guild circuit either.

Woody Allen asserts the dominance of "Midnight in Paris" this season with a key nomination today. The film now has PGA, SAG ensemble and WGA nods in its cap. Meanwhile, "The Descendants" becomes the only film to show a perfect record with the guilds thus far as Alexander Payne was naturally chalked up for a notice.

Tomorrow the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) speaks up. A week from today, the American Cinema Editors (ACE) announcement drops (another key precursor guild), while the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) reveals its list of nominees on Thursday, January 19. The first guild awards ceremony of the year will be the PGA Awards, held on Saturday, January 21.

The 2011 DGA nominees are:

Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"

Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"

David Fincher, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"

Be sure to keep track of the ups and downs of the 2011-2012 film awards season via The Circuit.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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