LOS ANGELES (Reuters) ? "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius was named the year's best feature film director by the Directors Guild of America on Saturday, further positioning the silent movie-era romance as a frontrunner for Oscars.
The movie about a fading star whose career is eclipsed by the woman he loves just as talkies are putting an end to silent pictures has been a critical darling throughout the Hollywood's current awards season.
"This is really touching and moving for me," said French director Hazanavicius upon accepting his award at the Grand Ballroom adjacent to the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars, the film industry's highest honors, will be given out on February 26.
"It's maybe the highest recognition I could hope for," he said.
The DGA Awards are a key indicator of who may win Academy Awards next month because only six times since the DGA began handing out annual honors in 1948 has the its winner failed to also be named best director by Oscar voters.
More important, there is a long history among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Oscars, to give their Academy Award for best film to the movie made by the winner of best director.
The next stop in the race for Oscars is Sunday's Screen Actors Guild awards in Los Angeles where "The Artist" will look to extend its streak of victories, including a Golden Globe for best film musical or comedy and honors from critics groups.
The DGA also gives out other awards, including one for best film documentary, which went to James Marsh for "Project Nim."
Among TV award winners, Patty Jenkins was given the DGA trophy for best drama series for the pilot episode of "The Killing" and Robert B. Weide took home the DGA award for best comedy series for an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
(Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Bill Trott)