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PGA (Barely) Adds Mystery to Best Picture Race

Here's Glenn on the PGA Nominations

Just when you thought the Best Picture race was solidifying around eight or nine contenders, the Producer's Guild today went and threw a couple of curveballs. Don't get me wrong, their nominees are barely a surprise, but at this stage of the race (with still two months to go!) it's nice to have some mystery evolving in the fringes of the top category.

The nominees are:

  • American Hustle (Columbia Pictures)
    Producers: Megan Ellison, Jon Gordon, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
  • Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
  • Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures)
    Producers: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)
    Producers: Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter
  • Gravity (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Producers: Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman
  • Her (Warner Bros. Pictures)
    Producers: Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay
  • Nebraska (Paramount Pictures)
    Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
  • Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
    Producers: Ian Collie, Alison Owen, Philip Steuer
  • 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
    Producers:  Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner
  • Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures)
    Producers: Riza Aziz, Emma Koskoff, Joey McFarland

Several of these were rather obvious, and if we still lived in a world of only five Best Picture nominees I have no doubt those five would be American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Nebraska and 12 Years a Slave. Alas, we don't live in that world anymore, so here are nine thoughts I had in order of Oscar- relevance.

1. The Weinsteins are in big trouble. August: Osage County and Philomena weren't expected to show up today, but Fruitvale Station and Lee Daniels' The Butler seem like natural fits for the producers to ackowledge, what with one being a breakout film with real world political heft, and the other a surprise box office smash that took A LOT of producer wrangling to get financed and made. Did having 41 credited producers hurt it? The latter still has a chance what with those three SAG nominations, but I'd guess the other three are all but done as Best Picture contenders.

2. Time to start predicting Dallas Buyers Club. Jean-Marc Vallee's AIDS drama entered the season with force on the back of its two male actors, but with big gets at the BFCA and SAG and now the PGA, the only thing stopping it from a Big Picture nomination are those pesky no. 1 votes. Do people love the film enough to put it on top? Strong box office and a category frontrunner in Jared Leto (interview) won't hurt.

3. Her and The Wolf of Wall Street safe or not? Both are the types of film to get no. 1 votes - and potentially a lot of them - but I'm still not keen on Scorsese's film for a nomination. And not just because I don't care for it or because it's full throttle assault on political correctness will offend voters, but simply because even brilliant Scorsese films have missed in the past and surely they can't nominate everything he does for the rest of his career, right? I really must give Her another go since I worry festival fatigue made me grumpy towards its iffy sexual politics and constant melancholy-soundtracked montages (no, they will always be terrible).

4. Saving Mr Banks? Really? Gosh, the PGA don't ask much from their guild members, do they? I mean... if any film on this list had as easy a go at getting made it was the film about Disney being made by Disney. The Place Beyond the Pines or Enough Said or Prisoners or even The Great Gatsby, all of which likely had to deal with stronger conflict in order to get their inarguably more risky visions to the screen and find financial succes, seem far more deserving.

5. Blue Jasmine! Really! Now here's a bit of sweet relief from a reason that has already gotten stale from repetition. Woody Allen's repurposed Streetcar is a welcome surprise of a nomination that I doubt will be replicated come Oscar nomination morning, but it's nice to see support for his best film in years outside of the default Cate Blanchett. I expect Jasmine's guild run to continue through the new year with the WGA and the contemporary categories at the costume and art direction guilds. 

6. Llewyn Davis is Outside: Of course, with Blue Jasmine surprising something had to make room and the somewhat unlikely choice was the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis. Again, I would have thought Saving Mr Banks an easier title to drop than the Coens' prickly, moody character drama. As Nathaniel has been saying for months, the Coens can't be nominated for everything they make and I'm inclined to agree that Davis might just lack the steam necessary to get a best picture nomination.

7. Cross-over: The cross-over between the PGA's list and the BFCA list was 9/10. We just have to hope and pray that Academy members are as bored by all same ol' sameness of the precursors as we are and throw us some wildcards. Of course, with more nominees you need to dig deeper to find something truly surprising and harder to come by.

8. Animazzzion: For what it's worth (ie; nothing) the animation nominees were The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Epic, Frozen, and Monster's University. That category is just depressing me beyond words right now so let's no dwell on it.

9. Brad Pitt vs George Clooney: Advantage Pitt (Clooney's August isn't here, but he won for Argo so let's not feel sad).

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Reader Comments (45)

'if we still lived in a world of only five Best Picture nominees I have no doubt those five would be American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Nebraska and 12 Years a Slave.'

I don't buy it, I could see a number of films coming into that 'top 5' - Including WOWS, Her, Dallas Buyers Club...etc. I actually think this would be a very competitive top 5 this year, with numerous films fighting it out.

It cracks me up that everyone thinks like you do now. Ever since the change went up to 10, predictors have no doubt with what the top 5 WOULD have been lol.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

The thing about Saving Mr. Banks, though, is that it's (at least partially) ABOUT a producer. And how often do films like that come along? I was shocked when I saw it on this list, too, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I'm betting the PGA members saw a lot of themselves in that film, and that more than anything led to its inclusion.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Happy for the Blue Jasmine love. The film's really great and, if Midnight in Paris hadn't been so overpraised, it would be sitting pretty as a solid comeback. Alas...

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I said this on twitter and I'll say it here. Everyone bemoans lack of surprises in awards season? Why when it's good movies getting recognition? Crash beat Brokeback. There's a surprise for you. Happy now?

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

LOL at murtada's post!

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

murtada -- i co-sign this to some degree. i think people would be happier though if jmore discernment was shown between prizes. like the producers really selecting based on PRODUCING and actors on ACTING and so forth rather than 'these are the 10 pictures everyone likes!"

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

LOL at brookesboy LOL'ing at murtada's post!

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Glenn: Like denny said, I'm guessing Saving Mr. Banks is still, probably, out. The movie is about a writer who's comedically ungenerous to the entire process of making a movie, while the producer tries to get her on his side and comes across as, I'm guessing, mostly bright hearted and optimistic, so I'm entirely unsurprised that THIS GUILD singled out Mr. Banks. The writers and other creative talent, on the other hand, will probably feel quite a bit more for Inside Llewyn Davis, as icy as it is, so I'm betting it'll still continue to Best Picture.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

ILD is still getting in for BP. A Serious Man was shut-out from PGAs too.

Saving Mr. Banks and Dallas Buyer's Club should be taken more seriously, obviously. Clearly, my own personally antipathy to both should give their status more credence than a dismissal.

Anonny- If you think those other choices were threats at least 4/5 would need a director nomination, a screenplay nomination, or an editing nomination. DBC has no shot at either 3, while Wolf has a shot in all 3 (though dissipating with each passing moment), and Her has somewhat of a shot in screenplay but director still seems like an uphill battle. Meanwhile the Top 5 originally predicted how much stronger shots in those 3 categories. Occasionally there will be anomalies but it's clear what are the Top 5 with other categories.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I really hope Dallas Buyers Club does not get a Best Picture nomination. The rest I'm fine with.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Totes advantage Pitt over Clooney. Why? Because, at least when it comes to producing, Pitt (12 Years a Slave cameo aside) prefers great work over bombast/rhetoric when it comes to convincing the greater viewing public that he's about something other than his good looks. Sorry, Clooney.

The surprise factor is the one thing I like about the Academy's up-to-10 rule for best picture. The predictor awards all went to 10 nominees to match the oscars, so we get the same shortlists over and over. Now that the oscars likely won't nominate 10, there is an element of surprise that morning, even if it mostly pertains to movies being left off.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Nat: So, take 2012:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Mis
Life of Pi
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

I absolutely see why six of those (Argo, Les Mis, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty) are there. But why isn't The Avengers there? The entire REASON Marvel's The Avengers even EXISTS and is as GOOD as it is is probably 80-90% due to Kevin Feige's oversight, planning and understanding of what talent is actually interested in mainstream superhero movies. Yes, Joss helped push it over the top to an extent, but my point stands: THE PRODUCER was probably more instrumental here.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Although I found The Avengers in no way as deserving, it or Skyfall over Life of Pi for best picture if we wanted international, populist, effects, action-driven films.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Worth noting that the Academy's process for picking its best picture nominees has changed this year, leading some to predict fewer than 9 nominees for the first time since the 5-10 range was created. Not sure if you've already linked to this, but it's worth a read, for the numbers-crunchers among your readers:

Anyone know how the PGA selects their ten? What's the voting process?

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

CMG - well I'd tell you 'I told you so' on nomination morning but as they nominate more than 5 films now, I can't really do that. And be careful with those absolute statements.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

I don't get the love for AH. Its a great idea, horribly produced. Bad editing (not one shot of Adams from the front in the blue disco dress, or the scene where she drops the coat revealing the bikini, or,,, or,,,or,,,. If I hadn't seen the promo one sheets, I never would have known how terrific the costumes were.), bad cinematography (all one shots, closeups and poor framing--I'm not even sure Lawrence and Bale were in the same room for their first scene), poor script (No surprises and some major holes/mistakes) and the scenes read like first rehearsals, not even first takes and certainly not final takes. Except for Lawrence and Louis CK none of the performances read of fully realized characters. The trailer was so much better and most of that was cut from the film. fwiw, I really like the actors who were cast, just not their performances in this and I don't think its their fault.

Captain Phillips is underrated IMO. Fantastic action film with excellent character work all round (talk about rare). Only thing that jarred me were the shirtless muscle boys masquerading as seals (much too obvious). Hank's final scene was perfect and unexpected.

Banks makes perfect sense to me here. Its a film showing how hard it sometimes is to get something produced with the writer as the hard spot. Of course they loved it.

And I don't think the award should necessarily go to the film that had the most trouble getting should go to the best produced film whether it took blood, sweat and tears or just magically fell into place. The finances should is, after all, the money award, but it should be money well spent not just thrown at the screen. I felt ripped off by AH. I got my money's worth from Captain Phillips and Jasmine.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

CMG: I'm not talking as a winner, I'm talking as JUST a nominee. Moonrise Kingdom? Silver Linings Playbook? As achievements for their films producer, why are both of those two, especially, there over The Avengers, which was, based on a lot of reports, a culmination of passion for Kevin Feige? Beasts of the Southern Wild might be slightly over zealous as a cut (that one at least has the whole "risk on a new and weird talent" angle going) but the other two are neither a high budget culmination of producer desire nor particularly risky ventures. And Argo's build as a Pic winner over ZDT or Life of Pi started with it's PGA win.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I thought "Philomena," was ineligible for the PGA list. I thought only American films were considered. Can anyone clear this up for me? Regardless, I don't think it's exclusion or out of contention status hurts it's chances. I still say "Banks," is most vulnerable.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Given the way the Academy has been trending since The King's Speech, I'm kind of surprised that neither Philomena nor Saving Mr. Banks presented themselves as the obvious Best Picture frontrunner of 2013. I'm dead serious.

I really disliked Dallas Buyers Club - I am fairly discriminating about what I see, but I think it may be the worst 2013 release I have seen. The performances, though overrated, are fine, but it's so poorly edited and directed. The scene where Rayon sees his father, for instance, should be pivotal, in that we are finally getting some backstory on the character, but Vallee chooses to cut it off at an odd moment, as Rayon is asking his dad a question about his mother, and for what? The umpteenth scene of McConaughhey making a drug deal on the phone. There are countless examples of these missed moments and strange cutaways in the movie.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I'm saying this over and over this year: Why are Oscar bloggers so against the larger field of Best Picture nominees? They complain and complain and complain, yet never explain why. More movies getting acclaim? Why is that bad? When The Blind Side is nominated, no one has to be embarrassed, because there were so many, but when Seabiscuit was one of five, that's embarrassing. Last year had eight future classics and one good movie nominated for Best Picture. To me, that's awesome. Nominations for Best Picture and Best Picture only make people go see something they otherwise wouldn't. The more the merrier. It also makes it the only category with any potential for surprise, since all the "precursor" awards have destroyed the only entertainment value the Oscar program has ever had--wondering who is going to win what.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

vladdy -- i can only speak for myself but I have explained why it bothers me. It's for these reasons.

1. it makes the prestige of being a Best Picture nominee less

2. lack of symmetry and stabilitiy is a bad fit for institutions like Oscar. The decision made statistics and history almost meaningless because there is no way to compare from year to year because it's so uneven. and it also destroyed the sense of history because it's just abruptlly different (and keeps changing still -- in terms of voting procedures and what not)

3. it makes the awards season feel oddly less generous because with so many best picture nominees the other nominations are now even more hogged by "best picture nominees" which means it's even more apparent how few pictures are well liked each year.

4. it ruins all sorts of fascinating measures by which we view the oscars in retrospect like "most nominated without a best picture nomination" or "which best director didn't get a best picture nod" and so on... all of those peculiarities people have obsessed about for decades are basically gone or toothless now.

there are other reasons but those are the four big ones for me

January 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

DBC was not the worst movie I've seen this year, by a far margin, but... but. It wasn't good, either. I'm very much surprised at the love it's getting.

Re: directors, not sure Jonze is completely out of the picture yet. Dark horse nominee, sure, but it seems Her is also getting a lot more love than previously thought.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

I really wish Glenn would specify at the beginning that it is he who is writing the article, like the other guest contributors do. It's really confusing.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

Volvagia- Don't worry I got your point. But usually in nominations the Academy tends to not have films overlap with each other. I think Life of Pi had going for it was 'Getting adaptation off the ground' and 'It made a lot of money overseas'. I think that was the most populist pick. It wasn't objectionable, it was a movie for 'everybody' so it shut out those populist movies that could've been considered to nominate.

Anonny- It's not absolutes, it's trends and history. Dallas Buyer's Club as a Top 5 would've been surprising and not just because I find it to be a bottom-feeder of the contenders. I can see it making into this format as a filler. It's not really an achievement of anything beyond 2 performances (neither of which I would put in my Top 10 of their categories but precursors rule). My only absolute statement was DBC not being awarded for the strongest side-awards for a Picture nomination: Editing, Directing, and Screenplay. It can still get a picture nomination but it won't be much of a threat, if it has none of those. The directors branch can be unpredictable but Valle has not a lot going for him. He doesn't have a Weinstein, he doesn't have previous works seen by the Academy, he's not an international superstar arthouse auteur, and he is not a young newcomer.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Fair enough. I still think those things matter more to bloggers than normal people, though. I have been obsessed with the Oscars since I was a kid and love the kind of historical trivia you mention. On the other hand, they have changed the categories, voting rules, etc., hundreds of times, so it's not like there is one "real" way of doing it. It still means a lot to be nominated for Best Picture. Actual normal people (not bloggers or movie nuts like me) will consider watching something just because of the nomination. They don't care that it only had four instead of nine. Spread the love. Speaking of which, I love this website and wish I had found it years ago.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

If Megan Ellison keeps this up, her name and Annapurna Pictures will be a quality seal of approval very soon. She is building quite a filmography and putting Larry Ellison's money to good use.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

The Jack -- when Oscar season is over and I have more time to work on the little details we will figure out how to have bylines that are more noticeable because I also think it's confusing and it's awkward to be all "nathaniel here..." or whoever you are at the beginning.

January 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

vladdy -- well i agree that means more to movie people than normal people but i don't much care about the feelings of normal people when it comes to the cinema. They have abandoned it but for lame franchises so screw them ;) !

January 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I am not an Oscar blogger and I despise the increase in Best Picture nominations for ALL the reasons Nathaniel listed. And I'll also add this fifth reason: IT MAKES THE OSCARS LOOK DESPERATE. Because of course the only reason they did this (and the same reason they keep making bad decisions like separating the Honorary Oscars from the main show or handing over hosting duties to Seth McFarland/James Franco) is to chase the young male audience. My god, chasing that audience has already turned mainstream films into a sea of superhero pilots (yes, that's what they are) -- must they have the Oscars too??

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJase

Agreed- can't we go back to 5 nominated films for Best Picture???

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I'd much rather have 5 Best Pix nominees too.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Anybody know how the PGA does its voting? Their picks from the past few years make me think that consensus plays a higher role in their rules than they do for Oscar, which favors #1 votes.

If I'm correct on that assumption, I wouldn't worry about ILD's chances because it will get many #1s.

My only real takeaway from this: Dallas Buyers Club is seemingly in the top ten pictures most likely to get nominated.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

'My only absolute statement was DBC not being awarded for the strongest side-awards for a Picture nomination: Editing, Directing, and Screenplay. It can still get a picture nomination but it won't be much of a threat, if it has none of those.'

That's what I was referring to when I brought up absolute statements. Glen stated that the American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Nebraska and 12 Years a Slave will be the top 5.

I said, how the hell do you know that, WOWS, Her or DBC could very reasonably be in the top 5.

You then stated that DBC, Her & WOWS are not going to be in the top 5 because they have no chance, very little chance, and steadily declining chances, respectfully, in editing, directing, and screenplay categories and that those categories essentially decide best pic.

It's CIRCULAR! I could also easily see one or more of these films in those categories on Oscar morning.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

I don't mind the expanded best picture field. In a perfect world, the categories would all be a little more fluid dropping or gaining as the year warranted. But AMPAS is far from perfect so 5 it is for most awards and 10 for BP. I disagree with Nat about non film fanatics having given in to franchise hell and know a lot of people who have discovered films they might otherwise have missed because of the expanded field.

Plus, I remember all the bru-ha-ha about the expanded field being created so more populist fare could be nominated and then none were (not that I'm complaining). When I think of films like Winter's Bone that would have gone unnoticed, I think its worth it.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

anonny -- i get where you're coming from but I think the precursor nominations thus far support Glenn's theory. If it was like it was a few years ago before the 5-10 nominees, those would be the five... or at least the stastiically most likely five because they keep showing up everywhere whereas the other films are spottier.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

It's not circular. Precursors support the thoughts shared by Nahaniel, Glenn, myself and others. There may be filler surprises but those other films are not threats for a Top 5 showing. 12YAS, Gravity, Hustle, and Nebraska seem like the biggest locks. I only question Captain Phillips' position because Sony's whole history shows it can really have one top dog and it distributed Hustle. Phillips will mine the tech and perhaps get 2 acting spots but I am beginning to question the other categories. But I think those other 4 fill the directors slot, which makes them strong contenders.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Nat, I'm not expecting you to have to introduce yourself ;) That's the issue though - when I don't see an intro, I assume it's you. Not that it's a problem to find out that it's Glenn, it's just a bit confusing.

Sorry to pick up on something that's ultimately so trivial. Everyone's doing a great job! :)

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

The Jack -- no, i didn't take it that way. We've had some growing pains here but i know people like the team :) but it does help to know who is writing without reading the fine print, just for a point of view check.

January 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Apologies! I just sometimes forget to include my name at the start.

The silly thing about the number of nominees is that they claimed (or, some people claimed? I can't remember) that it was so more films that audiences had seen could be nominated, but looking at the five films most likely to have been nominated in each year since and they've have all been fairly widely seen. The first year had AVATAR, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, PRECIOUS, UP IN THE AIR for crying out loud. This year, rule of thumb suggests the five I said, three of which are or will soon be $100mil+ grossing.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Glenn -- that's so true. Oscar was premature and showed a distinct lack of confidence in their OMGWEHAVETOCHANGEEVERYTHING.... if all things are cyclical they were just in a period of being all about non-box-office-behemoths.

but since the Oscar freakout, the films that have led the nominations -- that probably would have been there with just five nominees anyway -- have almost all been rather big hits.

2009 I wonder what would have been in the top five that year because the six biggies all look like you can make a case for them,:AVATAR, THE HURT LOCKER, INGLOURIOUS, BASTERDS, UP IN THE AIR, PRECIOUS but one of them would have had to go...

2010 THE FIGHTER, KINGS SPEECH, SOCIAL NETWORK are i think inarguable as the woulda been there with 5 but i wonder among these four which 2 it woulds been: KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, INCEPTION, TRUE GRIT, BLACK SWAN... that woulda been such a fascinating year to see about director vs. picture... but we'll never know now.

2011 another year you could argue about forever... HUGO, THE ARTIST, THE DESCENDANTS were done deals but from this batch who is there if there are only five? MONEYBALL, THE HELP, WAR HORSE, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS... it's not as simple as "which directors were nominated" or "which had the most nominations" because history shows us that those things don't line up exactly.

which brings me back to the earlier point of why i hate 10 nominees so much.

January 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Any idea why Marty and Leo aren't listed by the PGA as producers for The Wolf of Wall Street?

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercoffeysr

coffeysr -- that's a really good question. i will have to do some research. maybe they have a numbers limit? Oscar definitely has one... but i'm not sure about the PGA but since they list 5 for 12 Years... that doesn't explain it even if they have one.

January 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I might be crazy but I still think Short Term 12 has a slim chance for a best picture nomination it was one of the best reviewed movies of the year the ensemble cast was amazing the only for thing that would kill its chances is its box office

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

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