Oscars Best Picture nominations

Oscar Shake-up: What the PGA Nominations Mean for Best Picture

Photo: Thunder Road Pictures, Universal Pictures, DNA Films

The Golden Globes are this Sunday, but when it comes to forecasting Oscar, they likely don’t mean as much as the nominations for the Producers Guild Awards, which were announced today. If you want to know what will be nominated for Best Picture, these voters (including many Academy members) have the inside track: Their Best Picture category, which boasts ten nominees, can be counted on to match up with most of the movies that Oscar voters will eventually pick. In recent years, at least seven of the PGA nominees each year were also nominated for Best Picture; and in 2010, the group picked nine out of the eventual ten Best Picture selections.

This year’s PGA nominees were as follows:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Straight Outta Compton

So what does that mean for Best Picture? Here are five takeaways.

Carol and Room got a rude awakening.
At a lunch for Steve Jobs this past weekend, I told a longtime awards-season staple that I thought Carol and Room were safe bets for Best Picture. “I don’t know about that, ” he said, shaking his head. “People just don’t want to watch them.” Now, I’ve definitely run up against that with Room, a movie that many people love but many more people resist seeing simply because they find the kidnap drama’s premise too distasteful. And truth be told, while critics went gaga for Carol, plenty of industry folks I've spoken to find it cold or have dragged their feet on watching it. Still, I didn’t expect both films to be blanked today, and I wonder what that might mean for their eventual Oscar fates. Will Room and Carol be snubbed for Best Picture? Can both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara be nominated for Carol if there’s not enough industry passion there? And is Room’s Brie Larson, who is thought by many to be the Best Actress front-runner, vulnerable to a challenger?

Sicario and Ex Machina were not forgotten.
A24 is one of the most exciting young studios around, but when it came to this year’s awards season, it put most of its eggs into Room’s basket at the expense of spring sleeper Ex Machina. Well, it was the latter and not the former that showed up on the PGA list today, and taken in concert with a surprising groundswell of year-end support for Alicia Vikander — who charmed critics groups with her Ex Machina performance, not her more Oscar-tipped role in The Danish Girl — I’m hoping this means that Ex Machina could nab multiple nods when the Oscar nominations are announced next week. (Can A24 throw me a bone and start seriously campaigning Oscar Isaac for Best Supporting Actor, please?) Ditto Sicario, which performed very well at the beginning of the fall season but felt forgotten when none of its actors, especially the heavily campaigned Benicio Del Toro, managed a SAG nod. The recognition from PGA proves that this drug-war thriller is still in the mix.

Star Wars and Creed aren’t sticking.
If anything, the PGA is more likely than the Academy to nominate a big populist hit for its highest honors: Movies like Star Trek, Bridesmaids, and Gone Girl all scored past nods from the PGA but didn’t make the Oscars’ cut for Best Picture. That must be worrying, then, for the teams behind Creed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, since both films were snubbed by the PGA today. It’s very rare that the Academy will slip in a giant hit that the producers skipped — the last example came in 2009, when The Blind Side managed a Best Picture nomination despite no love from the PGA. That film had a late-breaking awards arc led by one of the most likable stars in Hollywood, who won an Oscar that year for her performance. Neither Star Wars nor Creed has got that kind of backup plan, and their Best Picture hopes are hanging by a thread now.

Beasts of No Nation and Trumbo are wobbly.
The Screen Actors Guild can also be counted on as an Oscar bellwether, but two films that scored top cast nominations at SAG — Beasts of No Nation and Trumbo — were left off the PGA’s short list today. I think they’ll still score some acting nods with the Academy, but can they penetrate Best Picture? I’d give the edge to Trumbo, since older Oscar voters seem to love it, but it’s hard to tell where things will fall this year. Speaking of wobbly, Quentin Tarantino should be worried: Both Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained scored PGA nods in the past (the one for Django was an especially crucial guild nomination, since SAG had snubbed it as a late-December release), but Tarantino's new film The Hateful Eight got nothing.

Straight Outta Compton keeps on ticking.
I still worry that all 20 of the acting nominees could be white once again this year (Idris Elba is the likeliest nominee who could prevent this), but one black-led film is checking off all the right boxes on the way to Oscar, and that’s Straight Outta Compton. A big summer hit at the box office, it’s performed just as well with awards-season audiences, picking up a SAG nod for its cast and impressing Academy voters, too. Today’s PGA nomination suggests that it can make the Best Picture cut. We’ll see next Thursday, January 14, when the Oscar nominations are finally announced.

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