The Producers Guild Presents a Possible Oscar Preview

3 Jan
PGA

In its current incarnation, the Producers Guild Award dates back to the 1989/90 awards season when the the guild’s pick for Best Picture, Driving Miss Daisy, matched the Academy’s top Oscar. At that time, the award was called the “Laurel,” which was also the name of an older award once presented by  Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine.The PGA award doesn’t always foreshadow the Academy’s Best Picture winner; however, the last time there was a difference of opinion was during the 2006/07 campaign when the Oscar went to The Departed while the guild opted for Little Miss Sunshine. The year before that, Crash snagged the Oscar while Brokeback Mountain took the PGA prize.

Good morning! Well, believe it or not, the Oscar nominations are set to be announced exactly one week from today. I’ll be eagerly watching CNN and checking the web, of course. Oh by the way: no, you’re not crazy. This will be the earliest the Oscar nominations have been announced in the past several decades. When I first became interested in the Oscars, way back in the early 1970s, the nominations were announced sometime around Valentine’s Day in mid-February (or thereabouts) with the actual ceremony scheduled for the end of March–usually the last Monday of the month–sometimes early April, depending on how Easter might have fallen in a given year.  For the past decade or so, there has been a lot of tinkering with the timeline for various reasons, including a not entirely successful plan to minimize the amount of active campaigning by the studios, which can go way overboard, and a concerted effort to keep the Oscar in the forefront of a televised awards season blitz that also includes the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards, etc. Once upon a time, the Oscar nominations weren’t announced until after the presentation of the GGs, and everybody seemed okay with that, but now the powers that be at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and no doubt the brass at ABC TV, the official Oscar network, worry that their show seems like an afterthought rather than the main attraction, so the plan is to start generating excitement and awareness of the Oscars by announcing their nominees much earlier than usual.

Really, this is all about the Academy desperately trying to maintain in an era in which awards shows are no longer the guaranteed ratings draw they once were. I think it’s unbecoming for the Academy to continually try to re-invent itself in order to attract the attention of a demographic–mostly teenage boys and anyone else who prefers gaming over watching movies and/or TV in the first place–that is simply not interested. My concern has always been that by making so many changes, all the Academy is doing is alienating older viewers while not successfully expanding its audience, but I digress.

At any rate, we now have a possible clue about how the race for Best Picture could look. Yesterday, the Producers Guild of America announced its nominees for Best Picture. This year, the guild has selected 10 films to compete for its top award. There’s no telling how many movies will feature in the Academy’s race.  Again, for most of the Academy’s history, the final slate consisted of 5 nominees. In 2009, the race was expanded to include 10 entries (again, in the hopes of including more top grossing “popcorn” style extravaganzas), but that was a gamble that didn’t produce a huge spike in ratings–besides generating talk that 10 nominees made the awards less prestigious and  actually less competitive.  As a result, the rules were once again reconfigured so that,  as of last year, the final roster may include as many as 10 films and no less than 5.  A lot of this depends on how many movies receive a certain percent of votes on the first round ballot. Believe me, it’s complicated.

Anyway, here is the list of the PGA nominees.  I don’t think there are too many surprises with the possible exception of Skyfall being included, but I’m good with that; after all, not only is the latest 007 entry a spectacular box office success, it has impeccable credentials, what with such behind the scenes talent as Oscar winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, 1999) and highly regarded cinematographer Richard Deakins, whose many credits include Oscar nominated work for 2010’s True Grit remake as well as O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000. Skyfall also boasts a couple of acclaimed performances by past Oscar winners Judi Dench (Best Supporting Actress for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love) and Javier Bardem (Best Supporting Actor for 2007’s No Country for Old Men). Oh yes, and there’s also that booming title track by singing powerhouse Adele.  Of course, being nominated is one thing; winning is quite another. I see this race as a three way contest between Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty though it is clear that the other movies have their champions.  Also, it is important to know that voting for the Producers Guild award is limited to people who actually, well, produce movies for a living while the Academy’s top prize is voted on by members in all of the Academy’s various branches: actors, writers, directors, costume designers, composers, etc. so the dynamic will always be slightly different.

That noted, I guess some people might have expected to see The Hobbit among the finalists, but my guess is after all the accolades earned by Peter Jackson for his work on the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, his latest effort, a worldwide hit, might seem a little old hat–and, certainly, there’s nothing old hat about, say, Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of the year’s most startlingly imaginative flicks–and a relative box office hit. I would not have been surprised if The Hunger Games or The Perks of Being a Wallflower had been on the list though I also don’t see the omission of either as particularly surprising.

Okay, of the ten movies on the following list,  I have actually seen seven. Of the three remaining titles, well, Zero Dark Thirty hasn’t even opened in Dallas yet, but I have every intention of seeing it just as soon as possible.  I can’t work up much enthusiasm over either Life of Pi or Django Unchained.  Sorry ’bout it, but it’s my time and my money, and choices have to be made. On the other hand, I’m quite pleased to know that Moonrise Kingdom, released oh so many months ago, is being honored.

If you want to see the lists of nominees in other categories, Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary, etc., please refer to the official Producers Guild website.

  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Skyfall
  • Zero Dark Thirty

The PGA winners will be announced on January 26th, but I’ll be back next week with the latest Oscar news.

Thanks for your consideration…

The Producers Guild of America website: http://www.producersguild.org/

PGA at the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/event/ev0000531/2012

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*PS apologies to all who read this when I had mistakenly written 2009 instead of 201o as the year of the True Grit remake.

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