Hollywood producers love a story with a lot of plot twists. Sunday’s tie between “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” for the top Producers Guild award certainly provided a new wrinkle to the already-crazy/exciting awards season, confirming the fact that this is one of the most unpredictable and fun years on record.
In the past week, “12 Years a Slave” landed wins from the Golden Globes (drama film) and the Critics’ Choice Awards. “American Hustle” won the Globe (comedy film) and the SAG Ensemble prize.
So going into Sunday night, the two seemed neck and neck, but there was still plenty of room for suspense. “Gravity,” which had been hailed as an Oscar front-runner since September, had been widely honored (including 10 Oscar noms, tying with “Hustle”), but had not scored any high-profile top prizes until Sunday. The PGA win is a giant leap for the film.
So is it now a three-way race? At least that, maybe more. The Oscar noms on Thursday and the PGA win offer the tantalizing thought that there may be more surprises in store.
The PGA winner has later won Oscar in 17 of the last 24 years, including the past six consecutive ones (“No Country for Old Men” through “Argo”). The last time they split was 2006, when PGA honored “Little Miss Sunshine” while the Academy saluted “The Departed.”
In a year with so many credible contenders, anything can happen. But the PGA honor, dubbed the Darryl F. Zanuck award, is a clue to industry support. After the 2011 “The Artist” took home the PGA prize, a producer grumbled to me, “That film couldn’t have been so hard to produce,” citing other nominees that he assumed were more complex and thus more deserving, such as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo” and “War Horse.”
But measuring artistry isn’t like Olympic scoring, which factors in the degree of difficulty. The PGA voters presumably didn’t vote for “Artist” because it was an achievement at overcoming obstacles, but simply because they liked the movie. (And despite what my producer friend said, EVERY movie is hard to produce in the 21st century.)
So, a lot can happen in the next six weeks. In a variation of the half-full/half-empty debate, Sunday’s two winners can focus on that 17 out of 24. The other contenders can focus on the seven years when there was a discrepancy. And if any year is ripe for surprises, this is it.
As a reminder, PGA nominees were: Sony’s “American Hustle,” Sony Pictures Classics’ “Blue Jasmine,” Sony’s “Captain Phillips,” Focus Features’ “Dallas Buyers Club,” Warner Bros.’ “Gravity,” Warner Bros.’ “Her,” Paramount’s “Nebraska,” Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” and Paramount’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Oscar nominated eight of the 10, adding Weinstein Co.’s “Philomena” but bypassing “Jasmine” and “Mr. Banks.”
The Producers Guild has more than 5,900 members. Its 25th annual awards ceremony was held Jan. 19 at the Beverly Hilton.
When Oscar switched to 10 best-pic contenders for 2009 films, the PGA did the same. But when the Academy amended that to the variable five-to-10 in 2011, Producers Guild stuck with 10, meaning that for the past two years, some PGA contenders didn’t make the cut with Oscar (which ended up with nine contenders for each of the three years).