HAMMOND: Will PGA Awards Pull Another Surprise?

PGA Awards Nominees Announced

For the past two years, the Producers Guild of America’s theatrical motion picture awards have had a major impact on awards season. Its 2009 winner The Hurt Locker and 2010 winner The King’s Speech really started their serious runs for the Best Picture Oscar by respectively surprising — and defeating — presumed PGA and then-Oscar favorites Avatar and The Social Network, respectively. In both cases I watched as top executives from 20th Century Fox and Sony seemed stunned and depressed. Will the PGA play king-maker for a third year in a row by going their own way and setting the table for the rest of the season?

As we have said many times, the PGA awards along with SAG, DGA and WGA hold more weight in determining Oscar sentiment as many of their members cross over with actual Academy voters. The PGA in fact participates in vetting producer nominees for the Academy, so today’s list of 10 nominees (the guild decided to stick to 10 even though this year the Academy has switched to a voting system that could produce anywhere from five to 10 contenders) should be taken very seriously. In that regard, Sony and producer Scott Rudin — who both felt the PGA’s cold shoulder last year by eventually dooming their early-season favorite The Social Network — should be ecstatic as both Moneyball and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo made the cut. Rudin was personally nominated for Dragon Tattoo (with Cean Chaffin) and is an executive producer on Moneyball (the PGA, like the Academy, does not officially nominate EPs). Count in George Clooney’s The Ides Of March, which until the Golden Globes and now the PGAs hasn’t had much luck this season, and you have a very good morning for the Culver City lot — even though their animated hopeful Arthur Christmas failed to make the list of five nominees for Animated Feature.

Cut to Burbank and the news was not nearly as good. Warner Bros’ pricey campaign to put the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, into the Oscar conversation took a major hit. The PGA, with its love of money- making movies and franchises, might have been the film’s best shot for key recognition (after all they did nominate the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for their top award in 2002), yet along with Warners’ other big award titles — J. Edgar and  Rudin’s third entry this year, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (the PGA giveth and taketh, Scott) — was completely ignored.

On a list that also includes predictable nominees like The Artist, Hugo, The Descendants, Midnight In Paris (another Sony product- from Sony Pictures Classics – giving that company overall four of the ten films on the list) and DreamWorks contenders The Help and War Horse, there weren’t many jaw-dropping surprises. The surging Bridesmaids might raise a couple of eyebrows but shouldn’t as this raunchy female comedy released in May has had some of the most consistent showings so far. Now, with major guild recognition by SAG and PGA, it has to be taken seriously as a potential Best Picture player at the Oscars.

Among critics favorites shut out, Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or Cannes winner and critics group darling The Tree Of Life is probably the most prominent missing name. Film District’s Drive, a Cannes winner for director Nicolas Winding Refn, also was AWOL, along with Focus Features’ indie Brit hit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is hoping to be rescued from its near-complete awards-season no-show by next week’s BAFTA nominations.

Steven Spielberg is gonna have a big night. He received nods for Motion Picture for War Horse, for Animated Motion Picture for The Adventures of Tintin and was previously announced to receive this year’s David O’Selnick  Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures.

Going into the finals on January 21, all eyes will again be on the PGA to see if their choice will portend an Oscar surprise for a third year in a row. At this point, if it’s anything but The Artist, which has emerged as a strong Best Picture frontrunner for The Weinstein Company, the producers could again prove a significant and highly intriguing indicator of industry sentiment. If The Artist wins, it will just confirm where the tide seems to be turning. But again, like last year’s PGA showdown, Scott and Harvey are both back in the game.

  1. Can someone, please, tell me why Hugo, Tree of Life and War Horse are getting so much traction? Each certainly has bright spots, but in total none of these are great films.

    1. I agree with Hugo & Tree of Life not being that good. But I thought war Horse was pretty good. Certainly better than a lot of things this year.It reminded me of David Lean’s movies.Plus Kaminski’s cinematography was stunning as was William’s score

      1. Not sure if any of the 2011 films will be deemed ‘great’.

        Of the films in contention this year, those I would put into the five truly contending for best picture (not the extra five to expand the category to ten) are: The Help, The Descendants, My Week with Marilyn, The Artist and several others fighting it out for the fifth nomination. It might be Potter just because the Academy has pretty much ignored this monster franchise.

        Again, 2011 was not a year for really ‘great’ films, but these films, in my opinion, are far better than Tree of Life, Hugo and War Horse. I said each of these have moments (some noted above), but none carry the load to be a real Best Picture winner much less nominee.

        Just one opinion of many. And, I agree the race this year is wide open in many major Oscar categories.

  2. The Artist is the strong Oscar favorite?
    Maybe, if I were forced to choose a favorite (I don’t think there is one yet), I’d sometimes go for it.
    But its grosses are not yet encouraging, in talking to Academy members and people similar to them, the usual reaction is good, not great, not as good as we expected.
    This race is wide open – seven films could still win BP.

  3. BRIDESMAIDS was not a “raunchy comedy.” Calling it that has more than a hint of sexism.

    BRIDESMAIDS had one — ONE SINGLE — raunchy scene. Yes, it was a big scene and it was certainly raunchy — it was still only one single scene in a 2 hour movie.

    BRIDESMAIDS was the runaway, unexpected blockbuster smash story of the year, and it’s odd how the writers on this site (though they’re far from the only culprits) have taken to declaring the film a total raunchfest based on a single scene, completely ignoring the fact that the film was a nuanced and layered and poignant portrayal of adult female relationships that you hardly EVER see in studio films these days. That’s what audiences responded to, that’s why people loved the film and spread the word and gave the film amazing legs week after week after week. It wasn’t because of one single bathroom humor scene.

  4. I saw ‘The Ides of March’ today. Not a great movie, by any stretch, but it is entertaining, well directed by Clooney, and full of nuanced, first-rate performances and sly turns. The screenplay is simultaneously underwhelming and a little too pleased with itself -it would have benefited from another draft, preferably by Aaron Sorkin – but the movie itself was impressive. Plus, Ryan Gosling is ridiculously beautiful (and I say that as a straight male).

  5. A list of the TEN in order would surely help this article – as from my second read you only list 9? I assume Descendants was the 10th?

    Man what a terrible year for movies… boring… boring…. boring…

  6. I tend to agree with the consensus here. There was no one ‘great’ movie this year. I’d say “The Artist” was damn close to flawless; and unlike “Hugo” which talked about enchantment without delivering it, “The Artist” had true enchantment. A delightful film, albeit not exactly riveting. For my money the best movie of the year is a low-budget underdog, MARGIN CALL. Brilliant cast; great, intelligent script; wonderful performances all around; made in 17 days on a shoestring with a first-time writer-director. It deserves some noms & some recognition! Go see it! It has my vote.

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