When I ran into Ben Affleck at the Golden Globes on Sunday he told me he thinks this wide open Oscar race won’t really come into focus until the Producers Guild names its choice for Best Picture on January 19th at the Beverly Hilton. Of course Affleck (with George Clooney and Grant Heslov) won at the PGA last year for Argo and it went on to take the Oscar for Best Picture as well. Now about to celebrate their 25th anniversary the PGA awards have become one of the most reliable bellwethers of eventual Oscar glory. In fact the last six films in a row that have taken the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures has gone on to win the Academy’s Best Picture prize too, a list that in addition to Argo includes The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country For Old Men. In fact it was the PGA that turned the race completely around for The Hurt Locker by unexpectedly choosing it over Avatar and picking King’s Speech over The Social Network, the favorite until that point. The PGA turned both races on a dime. In fact since handing out awards a quarter century ago the Guild has had a strong overall track record in matching Oscar’s sentiments. Perhaps one reason is they work very closely with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in vetting producers credits and determining which producers are eligible not only for the PGA award, but also the Oscar, although the final decision on the latter is up to the Academy’s producers branch.