Coen brothers film wins Zanuck statue

The Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” continues to stake its kudos territory.

The nihilistic drama — produced by Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen — captured top honors at Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards at the Beverly Hilton, besting “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood.”

By nabbing the Darryl F. Zanuck trophy for best film, “No Country” seemingly affirmed its status as Oscar frontrunner as it moves into the final stretch of the awards season, even if the PGA nods have deviated from the Oscars more frequently of late. The Josh Brolin-Tommy Lee Jones starrer also garnered the top prizes from the DGA and SAG.

“The only reason I am standing here is because of these two men,” Rudin said during the trio’s acceptance speech. “They are completely remarkable artists.”

The film marks the first collaboration between the longtime producer and the filmmaker brothers.

Although the win bodes well for Miramax-Paramount Vantage’s “No Country,” the PGA awards have been anything but an Oscar bellwether in recent years.

The 4,000-member guild tapped “Little Miss Sunshine” for film kudos last year, while the Oscar went to “The Departed.” In 2006, the PGA recognized “Brokeback Mountain,” yet the Academy went with “Crash.” The two groups also differed in 2005, with the guild honoring “The Aviator” but the Oscar going to “Million Dollar Baby.” Still, the PGA’s pick has coincided with the Academy’s choice 11 times in 18 years.

The PGA also bestowed HBO’s “The Sopranos” (drama) and NBC’s “30 Rock” (comedy) with its top TV prizes during the annual kudocast, which clocked in this year at three hours and 37 minutes.

Awards weren’t the only topic of conversation. Word circulated during the pre-show cocktail party that the writers strike could finally be near an end.

“It looks to me like the strike is over,” said Dick Wolf, accepting the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. “Hopefully, it’s a matter of weeks. Please God, we will all be able to get back to work soon.”

Wolf also took home the longform TV trophy, along with Tom Thayer and Clara George, for HBO’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”

Michael Moore, whose health care expose “Sicko” nabbed the doc prize, joked about the toll of the strike.

“That’s great news from Dick Wolf that the writers strike is over,” said Moore, who accepted the PGA Award with fellow “Sicko” producer Meghan O’Hara. “I’m a member of the WGA and a producer, and I’m tired of negotiating with myself for the past three months. Two pennies, please.”

PGA president Marshall Herskovitz echoed the prevailing optimism about a possible WGA-AMPTP agreement.

“I’ve written an entire speech about the strike,” he said. “It’s now of no value at all.”

Also capturing trophies were Walt Disney Pictures-Pixar Animation’s “Ratatouille” (animated film), Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” (nonfiction TV) and Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” (live entertainment/competition).

In addition, the PGA bestowed its Stanley Kramer Award on “The Great Debaters” producers Kate Forte and Todd Black; the latter invoked the late Heath Ledger during his acceptance speech. Oprah Winfrey, who also produced the film, did not attend, as she was busy campaigning for Barack Obama.

The guild also honored Alan Horn with its Milestone Award, presented by Morgan Freeman. Harrison Ford presented Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures.

“American Idol’s” Simon Fuller took home the Visionary Award, and YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen received the Vanguard Award.

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