After sweeping many Critic's Awards, and winning the Golden Globe, Boyhood started Oscar season as the clear Best Picture favorite. But Birdman won Best Picture from the Producer's Guild, and Best Ensemble from the Screen Actors Guild Awards (which is generally viewed as the actor's branch Best Picture), and now the tide appears to be bending to the theater film.
Even after those victories, however, Richard Linklater, director of Boyhood, appeared to be a safe bet in Best Director for his 12-years-in-the-making film about the ebbs and flows of a Texas family. Saturday night, Alejandro González Iñárritu won the Directors Guild Award for Best Direction of a feature film for Birdman, however. After winning all the major guilds, Birdman is now officially the front-runner to win Best Picture at the Oscars on February 22. Perhaps Best Director, as well. With fellow Mexican New Wave director Alfonso Cuaron winning last year for Gravity, this makes two years in a row that a Mexican filmmaker has won the prestigious award.
It was a big night for Birdman, but it was an even bigger night for female directors. Only 5% of all feature films are directed by women, and only 18% of episodic television is directed by women. But women directors won all of the biggest television awards (Lisa Cholodenko won Best Direction of a TV Mini-Series for Olive Kitteridge; Jill Solloway won Best Direction of an Episodic Comedy for Transparent; and Leslie Linker Glatter won Best Direction of an Episodic Drama for Homeland). Laura Poitras also won Best Direction of a Documentary Feature for CitizenFour (the Edward Snowden documentary).
Between all the female victors, and Iñárritu's victory, this was a very big day for directors outside of the major Hollywood system. It's doubtful that voters set out to have a flagship night of promoting diversity in their ranks, but indeed that is what they did Saturday night—while rewarding extremely accomplished works.