Producers Guild's Stunner Of A Split Decision; How Does It Alter The Oscar Race?

For six years in a row, the Producers Guild Awards have correctly forecast the eventual Oscar winner for Best Picture. So Sunday night we came to get some kind of clarity in this year’s ultra-competitive Oscar race. Instead we got chaos.pga67

When I entered the Beverly Hilton Hotel lobby for the PGA Awards, I ran smack into 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen and some Fox Searchlight publicists. “This should be an interesting night,” I told them. That turned out to be the understatement of all time. At the pre-reception, producer and moderator of the PGA’s nominee confab Saturday morning, Gary Luchessi, said, “I think there is going to be a big surprise tonight. I think it’s going to be either Gravity or Captain Phillips.” Well, he got half of it right and he was definitely on the money about the surprise part.

Related: PGA Awards: First-Ever Tie For Best Motion Picture — ‘Gravity’ And ‘12 Years A Slave’

25th Annual Producers Guild Awards Saturday night’s big SAG winner, American Hustle, could have built unbeatable momentum following it up with a PGA win — a one-two punch that influences the rest of the campaign and a knockout in awards-season terms. Instead, in an unprecedented result for either the PGA or the Oscars, there was a tie for Best Picture (or the Darryl F. Zanuck Award For Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, as the PGA puts it) and it was between Hustle’s two key rivals, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. That means each of Oscar’s presumed three frontrunners all could point to a key victory in this all-important weekend. Nothing was settled. The race goes on. In fact, put the whole thing on reset and start over. Hustle’s co-producer Chuck Roven looked a little shell-shocked when I ran into him moments after the show ended. “I guess this means it’s a horse race,” he said when I asked him his reaction to the night’s results. Earlier I had run into Hustle director David O. Russell who was clearly still on a high from the previous evening’s SAG victory for Outstanding Cast. No doubt the surprise outcome brought him down to Earth. You could feel the numbed reaction throughout the room when presenter Ben Affleck got to make the announcement of a tie. Once again, the PGA has upended the whole race.

“This is a real dogfight now,” Oscar-winning producer (and past Oscar show producer) Bruce Cohen told me as he exited the25th Annual Producers Guild Awards Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom. “It’s exciting.” Before the show he had told me he was torn between all three films. Apparently he isn’t alone. “Now the race really begins,” said another producer. Those without a horse in this race seemed energized, looking forward to a continuing wide-open contest in the next six weeks. But I spotted several studio publicists looking a bit ashen as they left the building. “I’m going home to try and figure this all out now,” one connected to American Hustle said. 12 Years A Slave co-stars Lupita Nyong’o and Sarah Paulson asked me if a tie had ever happened before for Best Picture. Uh, that would be no. As he hit the valet line, their co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor smiled and said, “A tie is what you wear around your neck.” One awards consultant who was at the show emailed immediately afterward to say, “No way there was there a statistical tie. No way on picture.” But it was indeed a mathematical, straight-on tie as PGA National Executive Director Vance Van Petten confirmed at the afterparty in the Hilton Penthouse.

At the same celebration, nominated Captain Phillips co-producer Michael De Luca (now moving back into a studio job at Sony) agreed that this result will possibly free Academy members to go 25th Annual Producers Guild Of America Awards - Showtheir own way without the usual influence of any kind of consensus from guild awards.  He should know. De Luca’s been through turning points at PGA awards before. His film, The Social Network, had won every critics award and the Golden Globe, but was blindsided by The King’s Speech at the 2010 PGAs.  “When that happened it was like the Bataan death march as we exited the ballroom,” he recalled during the Saturday morning nominees reception. By the way, De Luca and Lori McCreary did an outstanding job putting the PGA show together for the guild. The expertly crafted James Bond tribute reel for Selzinick Award recipients Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli is exactly what last year’s undercooked Bond tribute at the Oscars completely lacked. De Luca said the Bond team put it together themselves. And it was cool to have current Bond, Daniel Craig, present that award. And accepting the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television Award, Chuck Lorre hit it out of the park with a speech that was not only hilarious, it was surprisingly touching.

25th Annual Producers Guild Of America Awards - ShowBut back to consensus, clarity and surefire Oscar pool winners. Do you think we are really going to get any of that??? Here’s what is coming up: Next weekend the hugely important Directors Guild awards happen, but that honor is widely expected to go to Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron for what is looked at as a major, but very specific, directorial achievement. He can’t be denied. At least that’s the thinking. Chalk another one up for Gravity. But many pundits believe that despite that, there could be a rare split between the directing winner and Best Picture winner at the Oscars. And then the next weekend is the Writers Guild awards where Gravity failed to land an original screenplay nomination despite Warner Bros’ best efforts,  and 12 Years A Slave was ineligible because it didn’t meet the WGA’s strict union-supporting criteria. Does that mean another triumph for American Hustle to go with its SAG win? Or does another film like Her sneak in and steal everyone’s thunder? Two weeks later BAFTA gets its say and that could further cloud the picture. And don’t count out some of the other films we haven’t mentioned that could develop real heat including Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska and The Wolf Of Wall Street (which seems to have equally rabid fans and detractors). Bottom line: It looks like it is going to be tough to get any kind of consensus. This is where a renewed and innovative phase two campaign can mean all the difference. And judging from all the emails and phone calls I have been getting, it’s clear Sunday’s PGA verdict will have a genuine effect on those decisions

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    1. agreed. all this campaigning and strategizing is ridiculous. if it should be about anything, it should be about making sure it’s widely seen so that the Academy can vote (as so that the general public has an actual vested interest in the proceedings).

      it’s also one thing to have screenings of the movies that want a leg in the race, but sending out screeners is just ridiculous. why can’t the Academy go SEE the movies like the rest of us (age and physical capability notwithstanding)?

      1. There is a contradiction in this post. On one hand you say that the films should be widely seen and then state that sending ‘screeners’ is ridiculous. Diligent Academy members watch everything, especially films in their categories. It would be impossible to see all the eligible films in theaters and theatrical screenings. Sending screeners is an egalitarian approach and many quality films would not have been seen by many members, especially, the ‘specialty films’ that only play in specific theaters. All Academy members don’t live in Hollywood. I have a friend in a specific category and it’s all she can do to watch her screeners and still work. Active professionals work extremely long hours with fourteen hour days not being uncommon. Saturday (if they are on a five day week) are days to collapse and Sundays are for recovery. It is difficult to get into the Academy and most members are informed and prideful. There is a lot of nonsense going on about aged members, but age can bring wisdom and perception. An example would be the award for THE HURT LOCKER. a film that may not have been seen by most members without the help of screeners. Any serious critic would rate it more highly than the popular AVATAR that it defeated in those Academy Awards. So let’s not diminish the value of screeners and confuse that with politics.

    2. Agree. The reality of actually “making” a motion picture stands in stark contrast to the annual “awards” frenzy. Making a film (even one that doesn’t turn out well) is hard work. Watching empty blowhards jockey and politic is both laughable and very depressing. High school politics were better and more meaningful……

  1. Chaos? LOL God forbid Oscar night turn into anything less than a parade of preordained winners.

    1. Totally agree. The Best Picture race may actually be a nail-biter this year and isn’t that a good thing? Might even tweak ratings and make viewers stick around until the 4th hour.

  2. It’s lovely that awards season shines the spotlight on many under-the-radar films, but for publicists to act shell-shocked (in the PTSD sense of the word) and to compare a guild loss to the Bataan death march? In a year of pictures illuminating real trauma and tragedy — The Act of Killing, Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, to name only a few — and, indeed, an entire spectrum of global experiences, this sense of victimhood is quite frankly appalling.

    1. ^Thank you, Grace. Well said.

      I understand that this is a Hollywood site and this is their bread and butter. But it’s being reported like a natural disaster or a massacre.

      1. Oh, come off it, you two. People use metaphors. People use hyperbole. Grace — *you’re* the one who brought up PTSD; no one in the article above used the term “shell-shocked” except in the colloquial “really, really surprised” sense, which has been a perfectly legit use of the word for, literally, decades. There’s no “victimhood” on display here… except for two people pretending to be offended by the (irony alert!) horrible, horrible insensitivity of Hollywood.

  3. I know a lot of people that voted for the Sag awards and they were ll shocked that American Hustle won. Most people wanted 12 years to win .So the fact that these two tied is no shock at all. I think they’re the front runners

    1. Wait, aren’t all of the Oscar ballots in already? I thought the deadline to have your ballots in was two weeks ago.

      If the ballots are already in, what is this about ANY of these awards “influencing” any Oscar votes? They’re in already, right?

      1. Nevermind, just read on the Academy’s site:

        “Final ballots are mailed to voting members in late-January and are due back to PricewaterhouseCoopers the Tuesday prior to Oscar Sunday for final tabulation.”

        So, i guess this all does matter.

  4. Put all these “races” into context…they are peer favorites, peer votes…and only from those members who actually vote. And nobody makes film and television to win a race. We do it because it is what we do and what we love to do. Being recognized by your peers is a reward no one expects and is appreciated.
    And I doubt any of these “wins” influence others votes…it hopefully makes people want to see the films and vote responsibly….and free publicity for all the films which can only help our business. So while it all seems to be much ado about nothing, it might just be a bit more than that

  5. I find it interesting the amount of people with absolutely no vested interest on who gets an award and how many awards this picture got or that picture got get so worked up over this annual back-slapping fest. Most filmmakers are just happy to get the money to make a film yet they have to degrade the whole process by making it into a horse race. What does Best Picture or Best Director mean?? There is no such thing – each movie is its own vision. There is not best anything. Say what you will about Woody Allen, he keeps his integrity intact by bowing out of it all and just go about his business of making movies. The whole thing is about money & ego. That’s it!

  6. It’s funny how it’s only a tie when Blacks are involved. 12 Years A Slave Is a profound film and deserves the win.

  7. The 12 YEARS crew can only blame themselves when they lose the Oscar that was theirs. Not sending out screeners to WGA members will cost them the trophy. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

  8. The PGA doesn’t matter in any way what so ever. They have never “done” anything for Producers except have awards that are meaningless……..

  9. OH PLEASSSEEEEEEE

    Lori Mcreary on stage, craving the attention wanting respect …
    It”s nice to have a movie star in your purse

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