Heat of the 'Knight'

Nolan among five nominees for DGA Award

Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" continues to gain awards-season cred as the DGA on Thursday included the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman sequel among five feature film nominations. The other nominees are Danny Boyle for Fox Searchlight's drama "Slumdog Millionaire," David Fincher for the Paramount/Warner Bros. literary adaptation "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Ron Howard for Universal's political drama "Frost/Nixon" and Gus Van Sant for Focus Features' Harvey Milk biopic "Milk."

Industry consensus may be building on possible Oscar best-pic noms: The PGA on Monday nominated the same five films in the producers' feature category.

However, two years ago, when both the directors and producers included "Dreamgirls" among their feature-film nominations, Oscar excluded the musical from best-pic nominees.

At the least, the DGA and PGA noms should help position "Knight" as a prestige title Academy voters should take seriously.

"Really, it's just delightful to have your work recognized and have people praising it," said Nolan, who along with Fincher is a first-time DGA nominee. "I didn't really take on the 'The Dark Knight' thinking it was on obvious awards-garnering movie, so it's really unexpected and a delight."

Although released through Fox's specialty division, "Slumdog" has established quick traction as a kudo-season favorite following early praise from critics groups.

"I am personally flattered to be amongst such prestigious company," Boyle said. "I'm also grateful to all the cast and crew in Mumbai, whose mighty talents and patience I relied on constantly."

Nominated for the fourth time by the DGA, Howard said he was anxious in advance of the announcement.

"For me, this might be the first instance that the film (of mine) being acknowledged really depends on this kind of support, to remind audiences that it's out there," Howard said.

Film and other winners will be announced at the DGA's annual awards gala, set for Jan. 31. (partialdiff)