- Associated Press - Sunday, January 29, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - James Marsh won the documentary prize Saturday at the Directors Guild of America Awards for “Project Nim,” his chronicle of the triumphs and trials of a chimpanzee that was raised like a human child.

It was the latest major Hollywood prize for Marsh, who earned the documentary Academy Award for 2008’s “Man on Wire.” Among those Marsh beat out for the guild award was Martin Scorsese, who had been up for the documentary honor for “George Harrison: Living in the Material World” and also was nominated for the evening’s highest honor, for feature-film directing.

The film favorites were guild awards regular Scorsese for his Paris adventure “Hugo” and first-time nominee Michel Hazanavicius for his silent movie “The Artist.”

Also in the running were Woody Allen for his romantic fantasy “Midnight in Paris”; David Fincher for his thriller “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”; and Alexander Payne for his family drama “The Descendants.”

At the start of the ceremony, Guild President Taylor Hackford led the crowd in a toast to one of his predecessors, Gil Cates, the veteran producer of the Academy Awards broadcast who died last year.

Robert B. Weide won the comedy directing award for an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Other early television winners at the guild ceremony were:

_ Reality programming: Neil P. DeGroot, “The Biggest Loser.”

_ Musical variety: Glenn Weiss, “The 65th Annual Tony Awards.”

_ Daytime serials: William Ludel, “General Hospital.”

_ Children’s programs: Amy Schatz, “A Child’s Garden of Poetry.”

_ Commercials: Noam Murro.

The Directors Guild Awards are one of Hollywood’s most accurate forecasts for who will win at the industry’s top honors, the Oscars, which will be handed out Feb. 26. Only six times in the 63-year history of the guild awards has the winner failed to take home the Oscar for best director, and more often than not, the film winning the best director Oscar is voted best picture.

Fincher had been the favorite going into the Directors Guild ceremony last year for “The Social Network,” but Tom Hooper came away the winner for “The King’s Speech.” Hooper went on to win the Oscar, too, and his film also earned best picture.

This time, Fincher’s the odd man out at the Directors Guild show. The other four guild nominees made the best-director cut at Tuesday’s Oscar nominations, but Fincher missed out. The fifth Oscar slot went to Terrence Malick for the family chronicle “The Tree of Life.”

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