The Directors Guild of America has announced their five nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for 2011, and like all industry guilds, the group has a strong history of aligning closely with the eventual Oscar choices. They also managed to toss in one hell of a surprise, nominating David Fincher for his work on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in the process leaving out Steven Spielberg for War Horse, Tate Taylor for The Help, and Bennett Miller for Moneyball-- all of them expected to be Best Picture Oscar contenders, while The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was perceived as an also-ran.

Joining Fincher among the nominees were Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), and Alexander Payne (The Descendants)-- all four movies are also expected as Best Picture nominees. Allen's nomination is another small surprise, given that the Directors Guild has nominated Spielberg for their prize 10 times in the past, and Allen seemed likely to be left out in favor of Spielberg. You can read more about those predictions in this week's Oscar Eye. It's easy to read too much into these nominations, and worth remembering that the likes of Christopher Nolan have been nominated in the past without getting a corresponding Oscar nod. So for now let's look at the DGA nominees for what they are-- a selection of 5 directors who did stand-up work in the past year, getting the top recognition from their peers. No matter how the Oscars turn out, that's something to celebrate.

For nostalgia's sake, you can revisit last year's lineup, which had one of the most fun assemblies ever of interesting directors doing their best work-- Fincher, Tom Hooper, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell and Christopher Nolan. All but Nolan eventually went on to be Oscar nominated-- the Academy swapped in Joel and Ethan Coen, also a great choice-- and Tom Hooper, of course, won.

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