Hollywood's Oscar race narrowed further on Monday when a key directors' group picked their top five movies and filmmakers, including David Fincher with his Facebook film "The Social Network."
The Directors Guild of America, which represents men and women who make movies, also put the makers of "Black Swan," "The King's Speech," "The Fighter" and "Inception" on its list of nominees for best directing efforts of 2010.
"Their inspired films radiate the passion and unique vision of each of these filmmakers, who are about to become part of our Guild's rich history. My sincerest congratulations to all five nominees," DGA president Taylor Hackford said in a statement, noting 2011 marks the group's 75th anniversary.
The DGA honor is important because it is one of the most prestigious honors in the US film industry, and because there is a strong correlation between DGA nominees and directors who will vie for Oscars, the world's top movie honors.
In all but six years since the DGA began giving out awards in 1948, its winner of best director has won the Academy Award, and traditionally the winner of best director has often seen his or her film go on to take best movie from Oscar organizers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Last year's DGA winner, Kathryn Bigelow with "The Hurt Locker," for instance, also claimed the best director Oscar and her Iraq war film took home best motion picture.
"The Social Network," a fast-paced movie that tells of the founding of website Facebook, already has been named best movie by numerous U.S. critics groups and on Saturday, the National Society of Film Critics also named it the No. 1 film.
Numerous other groups have made their choices, and still others like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with its Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild will name their winners later this month. Taken together, the critics and industry groups help narrow pundits' picks for Oscars.
Fincher and his movie face strong competition from drama "Black Swan," directed by Darren Aronofsky and telling of a woman on a journey of self-discovery through her dancing.
Director Tom Hooper's "The King Speech," a period drama detailing how Britain's King George VI worked to overcome his stammering, has strong support among Oscar pundits.
Boxing film "The Fighter," from David O. Russell, also figures prominently in the awards sweepstakes, and the DGA's fifth nominee, Christopher Nolan and thriller "Inception," has a loyal fan base owing to his mega-hit Batman movies.
The DGA gives out its awards on January 29. Oscar nominees are named on January 25, and their ceremony takes place on February 27.