24 January, 2011

Producers Guild Prize Creates Oscar Upset

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
The Oscar race for Best Picture got interesting this weekend, as a drag-out fight between quintessentially American and British films is set for the Academy Awards' biggest prize. With THE SOCIAL NETWORK winning top prize at last week's Golden Globe Awards and THE KING'S SPEECH a probable big winner at the BAFTA Awards, the inevitability of the "Facebook film" seems far less assured. This past weekend's upset win for its closest challenger has now made the Oscar race less certain then it was even a few days ago.

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) is one of the most reliable guilds when it comes to predicting Oscar success. It is the only one that actually uses the same system to count votes that the Academy does to determine its Best Picture Oscar winner. Therefore, the PGA's choice on Saturday evening of the historical biopic THE KING'S SPEECH has fueled speculation that THE SOCIAL NETWORK's win come Oscar night is not a fait accompli.

The royal drama's British producers Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin were named winners of the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. When English actress Helen Mirren opened the envelope at the awards ceremony and delightedly announced the upset win, the entire audience gasped, realizing that this had now added a drama to the awards season that so far has been lacking. The PGA victory gives a huge boost to the film's American distribution, The Weinstein Company and its Oscar hopes for THE KING'S SPEECH, which came out of the Toronto Film Festival with an Audience Prize and has won awards for its lead actor Colin Firth, but not for the film as a whole.

Odds makers take note.....the last three Producers Guild winners (THE HURT LOCKER, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) went on to Oscar gold in the Best Picture competition. In fact, in the 21-year history of the PGA Awards, more than 75% of the films selected by this producers guild were also winners on Oscar night. Will THE KING'S SPEECH continue the trend or will it not be able to sidetrack the overwhelming momentum of THE SOCIAL NETWORK.....stay tuned.

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