In a wide-open year, Hollywood folk are looking for Oscar omens, and today’s nominations from the Producers Guild of America offer double reason to celebrate: Aside from the honor of being recognized by the guild, these noms have been a good gauge of the Academy Awards, both in nominations and winners.
However, amid all the Oscar concerns, two contenders seem likely to get disproportionate attention, especially in Internet discussions: Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” and, in a category that rarely draws the spotlight, nonfiction TV: The PGA’s five contenders include A&E’s hot-button show “Duck Dynasty.”
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 each year). Bottom line: The PGA roster offers strong clues, but there will inevitably be a few surprises when Academy Award noms are unveiled Jan. 16.
The PGA accolades are: 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.”
There were no shocks, but mild surprises included “Blue Jasmine,” “Her” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” only because they hadn’t scored across-the-board attention in previous awards announcements. Omissions include CBS Films’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which has been a critics fave, and some of the Weinstein Co.’s big hopefuls: “August: Osage County,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Philomena.”
That quartet as well as other also-rans should not give up hope. This year is screwier than most; in addition, Oscar has a mind of its own and those four films seem right up the alley of those voters. There is also Oscar hope for such diverse films as Lionsgate-Roadside Attractions’ “All Is Lost,” Sony Pictures Classics’ “Before Midnight,” Searchlight’s “Enough Said,” Universal’s “Lone Survivor” and “Rush,” and Fox’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” TWC’s “Fruitvale Station” had been previously announced as the winner of the special Stanley Kramer award.
Last year, the Guild’s 10 noms included eight films that went on to Oscar bids: “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” The PGA also nommed “Skyfall” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” The Academy, with only nine slots, nixed those two but nominated Sony Classics’ “Amour.”
For the films of 2011, seven PGA contenders landed Oscar noms (out of nine slots).
The PGA winner has continued to take home Oscar in 17 out of the last 24 years, including the past six consecutive victors (“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.”
The Darryl F. Zanuck award for theatrical feature always dominates the PGA announcement, because of the Oscar connection. However, there are interesting developments in other categories. The feature animation race includes five films that seem to be becoming front-runners, while bypassing the Japanese-language “The Wind Rises.” The PGA cited “The Croods” (DreamWorks Animation), “Despicable Me 2″ (Universal), “Epic” (Fox), “Frozen” (Disney), and “Monsters University” (Pixar).
Most of the other nominees had been previously announced. That includes the roster of TV series consisting of the usual suspects: “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland” and “House of Cards,” plus “30 Rock,” “Arrested Development,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and “Veep.”
But at least one category has heated up considerably since the PGA TV noms were announced Dec. 3. Or, to be more specific, one contender in one category. In non-fiction television, recent media fave “Duck Dynasty” is competing with “30 for 30,” “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “Inside the Actors Studio” and “Shark Tank.” Those categories didn’t cause much stir, but two weeks later, news of GQ’s interview surfaced and since then, the Internet has been “Duck”-crazed. And yes, there is something irresistible about the mighty “Duck” team vying for PGA recognition against a group including James Lipton and Mark Burnett.
At the 25th annual awards, the Producers Guild will present special honors, previously announced, to James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson (David O. Selznick Achievement Award), Disney honcho Robert Iger (Milestone Award), Peter Jackson & Joe Letteri (Vanguard Award), Chuck Lorre (Norman Lear Achievement Award in TV), Chris Meledandri (Visionary Award) and “Fruitvale Station.”
The Producers Guild has more than 5,900 members. The ceremony will be held Jan. 19 at the Beverly Hilton.