The Oscar race for best director came into sharper focus Thursday when the Directors Guild of America announced its nominations.

The guild’s award for outstanding director is a near-perfect predictor of the Academy Award for best director. Since 1948, the winner of the DGA award has missed out on the Oscar only seven times.

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As expected, the DGA nominations included front-runner Damien Chazelle, of the musical “La La Land,” and Barry Jenkins, of the art-house hit “Moonlight.” Also nominated were Kenneth Lonergan, whose working-class drama “Manchester by the Sea” has been steadily racking up awards, and Denis Villeneuve, whose science-fiction film “Arrival” was both a critical and commercial success.

Among the surprises was the absence of Martin Scorsese, who was not nominated for “Silence,” his ambitious saga about Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan. Scorsese’s slot seems to have been taken by Garth Davis for the true-life drama “Lion,” starring Dev Patel as an adopted man searching for his biological family.

In the category of first-time directors, the DGA gave an unexpected nod to Nate Parker for the slave-rebellion drama “The Birth of a Nation.” It’s the first major award nomination for Parker since reports of a years-old rape charge resurfaced and ended his award-season momentum. “Deadpool,” the R-rated Marvel movie starring Ryan Reynolds as a foul-mouthed superhero, followed its recent Golden Globe nominations with a DGA nod for Tim Miller, while Kelly Fremon Craig was nominated for her well-reviewed comedy “The Edge of Seventeen.”

Also in the running as first-time directors are Dan Trachtenberg for the oddball thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane” and Davis for “Lion.”

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The winners will be announced on Feb. 4.