The Producers (Guild, That Is)

2 Jan

Congratulations to Megan Ellison, credited as one of the producers on two of this year’s PGA award contenders, American Hustle and Her. Last year, Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures released Oscar contenders Zero Dark Thirty, which earned a Best Picture nod, and The Master, which reaped three acting nominations (including one for Joaquin Phoenix who also stars in Ellison’s Her). Just a few short years ago, Ellison served as an executive producer of the acclaimed remake of True Grit from Joel and Ethan Coen. Yes, Ellison is the daughter of billionaire businessman Larry Ellison, so she likely had a few advantages getting started in her field, but she’s only 27, and her record speaks for itself.

Well, the Producers Guild of America has announced its nominees for the annual Darryl F. Zanuck award for Best Picture, and most of the biggies are represented: American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave–and, okay, The Wolf of Wall Street–for starters. I see one glaring omission, and that is Lee Daniels’ The Butler though I feel confident the Academy’s final roster will look a bit different as is typical. It could be argued, as well, that Fruitvale Station should be another top contender though as noted elsewhere in this article, it is being honored with a special award. Another possible slight is the all-star adaptation of August, Osage County, but we’ll see how that one plays with mainstream audiences. Right now, it’s too early to tell. On the other hand,  Spike Jonze’s idiosyncratic Her hasn’t gone wide yet, and it’s already being embraced by the guild and other organizations.

If I’m surprised by any of the PGA’s choices, they would likely be Blue Jasmine and Saving Mr. Banks. The former, while well-reviewed, especially regarding lead actress Cate Blanchett, hasn’t been a success on the level of director Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris from 2011; meanwhile, Saving Mr. Banks, despite raves for Emma Thompson (as Mary Poppins writer P.L. Travers) and Tom Hanks (as Walt Disney), has suffered backlash due to its questionable handling of factual material.

When the PGA began handing out awards however many years ago, it seemed the emphasis was often–though not exclusively–on more commercial fare, and why not? After all, producers like making money, which doesn’t mean that they don’t have other aspirations as well, but, sure, a well made movie that pleases audiences and makes lots and lots of money seems just about right.  At any rate, this race seems like an evenly matched batch of mainstream and alternative fare.


This year, the PGA will recognize Fruitvale Station with its Stanley Kramer award for socially conscious filmmaking. Remember that just a few short weeks ago Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg was inducted into the National Film Registry.

How will today’s announcement affect the Academy? That depends on whether the Academy opts for five nominees or as many as ten.  The difference could be that great since the Academy has backtracked on its previous resolution to open the race to 10 nominees in order to increase the odds of recognizing summer blockbusters and expanding its audience by attracting a younger fanbase; however, after two years, Oscar’s ruling board scuttled the plan when ratings did not meet expectations, and the Academy’s credibility was called into question.  Of course, it would have been too simple for the Academy to just go back to five Best Picture nominees, thereby maintaining the status quo, so now we never know how many Best Picture nominees there might be–only that there shall be no less than five and no more than ten. I guess that’s some means of maintaining suspense. Still, since five of those finalists are automatically factored-out of the Best Director race, what’s the point?

Here we go:

American Hustle (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Megan Ellison, Jon Gordon, Charles Roven, and Richard Suckle

Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum; Aronson is director Woody Allen’s sister though she’s not new to the biz

Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Scott Rudin

Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)
Producers: Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter

Gravity (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producers: Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman

Her (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producers: Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay

Nebraska (Paramount Pictures)
Producers: Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa

Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Producers: Ian Collie, Alison Owen, and Philip Steuer

12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt, and Dede Gardner

Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures)
Producers: Riza Aziz, Emma Koskoff and Joey McFarland

For a complete list of all the nominees, including Best Animated Film and all the TV categories, please use the following link.

Thanks for your consideration…

Official Producers Guild of America press release:


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