The Producers Guild will be holding their virtual awards this Wednesday night. Each time a film wins it either confirms the trajectory of the frontrunner or it derails it.
The PGA uses a preferential ballot with ten slots and ten nominees. The way the preferential ballot usually works is that the film with the most number ones heading in usually stays in the lead. But if it has competition for the number one spot, and it’s a movie that is not likely to be a number 2 or a number 3 choice, then another film that came in close to the one that came in number 1 can sometimes catch up and win. But usually that only happens if the number 1 film is DIVISIVE.
The preferential ballot does not like divisive movies. It likes movies that people love but also movies that people push to the top of their ballots whether they love them or not. They might push them up there because they like what the film stands for, even if it isn’t their favorite.
Take La La Land and Moonlight, which is a great example of this phenom playing out. La La Land won the Globe, the PGA and the DGA but lost the Oscar for Best Picture. It was not nominated for the SAG ensemble. If La La Land had come in at enough of a landslide to nail the win in the first round of voting (The King’s Speech, Argo, etc) it would have won. But clearly it didn’t. Moonlight gave it a run for its money and because La La Land is likely a top choice or a choice that lands at the bottom of the ballot (a love it or hate it film) Moonlight had the advantage because it WAS a number 2 or 3 movie and was able to make up the difference in the recount and win.
The best way to tell if a film will win on the first round is simply that they take ALL of the guilds. Not all of the guilds plus the SAG ensemble but ALL of the guilds – PGA/DGA/SAG ensemble. When a movie like that heads into the Oscar race on a preferential ballot it can definitely win on the first round. Bet the house on it.
But if there is a weakness anywhere then it’s theoretically possible the recount situation will kick in and a film that has the 1, 2 and 3rd spot on most ballots have the advantage. So, films like The Revenant or Gravity tend to be more divisive.
Let’s quickly look at the PGA involved in the films since the ballot expanded in 2009:
2009-The Hurt Locker – Lost the Globe, but then won the PGA and the DGA (had SAG ensemble nomination) then Oscar for Picture and Director.
2010-The King’s Speech – Lost the Globe, won the PGA/DGA and SAG ensemble, then Oscar for Picture and Director.
2011-The Artist – won the Globe, the PGA, the DGA (nominated for, but did not win SAG ensemble) then Oscar for Picture and Director.
2012-Argo – won Globe, PGA/DGA/SAG ensemble, then won Picture (Ang Lee won Best Director for Life of Pi).
2013-12 Years a Slave won Globe for Picture while Gravity took Best Director, Then both TIED at the PGA, Gravity took DGA, 12 Years a Slave was nominated for but did not win SAG ensemble. 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture while Gravity won Best Director.
2014-Birdman lost the Globe then won PGA/DGA/SAG ensemble and Oscar for Picture and Director.
2015-Spotlight lost the Globe, The Big Short won the PGA, The Revenant won the DGA, Spotlight won the SAG and then the Oscar for Best Picture, its The Revenant winning Best Director.
2016-Moonlight won the Globe for Picture, La La Land won PGA/DGA, Moonlight had SAG ensemble nomination, La La Land did not, Moonlight took Oscar for Picture while La La Land won Best Director.
2017-The Shape of Water – won Globe for Best Director, where Three Billboards won Best Picture. Shape won PGA/DGA, Three Billboards won SAG. Shape of Water took Oscar for Picture and Director.
2018-Green Book won Globe for Picture, while Roma won Best Director. Green Book won PGA, while Roma won DGA. Neither had a SAG ensemble nomination. At the Oscars, Green Book took Best Picture, Roma took Best Director.
2019-Parasite won the Globe for Foreign Language Film, 1917 won the Globe, PGA and DGA. Parasite won the SAG ensemble then won Picture and Director at the Oscars.
There is a narrative that plays out every year. Either it carries through the whole of Oscar season or it doesn’t. Since 2009, and really since 2004 or 2005, the Oscar race has sped by in a flash. There isn’t really time for a different narrative to take shape although there has been one playing out in mini in the past few years. That’s because the presence of Trump (my theory) so disrupted the collective of everyone on the Left, Hollywood included, that the Oscar race was impacted by that. Anger was high, blame was everywhere and films had to meet a certain standard to win, or to be justified winners in such a volatile time.
It is not surprising, given that, the films that have won under Trump have been shaped by that sentiment, which is why, I think, Green Book’s win felt like the end of the world. That sentiment is starting to fade now that Trump is out of sight and mostly out of mind. But there is still a strong narrative that what wins Best Picture has to be deserving beyond just the best or most enjoyable movie. That means, there is going to be a strong narrative following through to the PGA and the DGA, SAG and the Oscars.
Most likely, Nomadland will simply win the PGA and DGA and then go on to win at BAFTA and then at the Oscars and we’ll finally put the longest awards race in history to bed. That will be that. History will be made with the first woman of color to win the top awards and that should give many in Hollywood what they’ve been demanding for the past few years.
But if there are films that might disrupt the narrative, how might that play out? Well, Minari was not present at the WGA because it was ineligible. It is also another edition of the power playing producing Team of Plan B and Dede Gardner. Minari can win the PGA and the SAG ensemble and then head into Oscar as a major threat. Or, Nomadland can win the PGA and then something else can win at SAG – only two films there have Best Picture nominations, Minari and Chicago 7 – and simply carry on through to the Oscar win.
Only The Birdcage, in the history of the SAG, won the Ensemble prize without also being nominated for Best Picture. History says only Minari or Chicago 7 can win ensemble. But a SAG win alone might not be enough for Minari to pull out a Best Picture win.
The PGA will put Nomadland against Minari, Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman on a large consensus ballot of roughly 9,000 people, on a preferential ballot. It might not tell us everything, of course, but it might make the race slightly more unpredictable.
Here is how the guild chart looks right now:
Nomadland – Sasha Stone, Clarence Moye, Mark Johnson
Minari – Marshall Flores, Ryan Adams
Soul – Sasha Stone, Clarence Moye, Mark Johnson, Marshall Flores
Wolfwalkers – Ryan Adams
My Octopus Teacher – Sasha Stone, Ryan Adams, Marshall Flores
Time – Clarence Moye, Mark Johnson