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David Poland

By David Poland

PGA Offers An Actual Surprise In Award Season

The Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
Kathryn Bigelow
Mark Boal
Nicolas Chartier
Greg Shapiro
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
Jonas Rivera
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
Fisher Stevens
Paula DuPr

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43 Responses to “PGA Offers An Actual Surprise In Award Season”

  1. djiggs says:

    Go, Hurt Locker go. Come on DGA & WGA…honor Mark & Kathryn. Point the way to the biggest upset in Oscar history. Again, Dave, only my opinion (not fact).

  2. Roxane says:

    According to Sasha Stone at AD, The Hurt Locker had no chance to win the PGA. So much for her expert analysis. Congratulations to The Hurt Locker.

  3. lazarus says:

    djiggs, gonna be hard to call it an upset when the film won Picture and Director from the New York, Los Angeles, Boston, & Chicago critics groups, as well as the NSFC and BFCA and the Producer’s Guild. We’ll likely be adding the DGA to that tally as well.

  4. Tofu says:

    The race is on!

  5. jeffmcm says:

    Hooray! Fight the juggernaut!

  6. doug r says:

    There’s definitely a possibility Avatar sweeps its technical awards but “only” gets one of Best Picture and Best Director.

  7. David Poland says:

    To be fair to Sasha, Roxane, is seems like she was being a little hyperbolic. Truth is, this is the one situation in which this is really an upset.
    The lowest domestic grossing film in the history of PGA – until now – was The Crying Game’s $62 million.
    PGA doesn’t always pick the highest grosser, but $13 million domestic is about as close to “we’re not going there” as you can get. That said, PGA’s awards have been less and less about producing and more a traditional popularity contest.
    In past 10 years, PGA was 4-4, winners to losers, before going 2-2 in the last two years.

  8. Dave, Moulin Rouge! only made $52mil and won the PGA.
    Great news for The Hurt Locker. I know everyone was expecting Avatar to win, but I thought Inglourious Basterds could steal it due to it being a big summer box office hit in a difficult genre and with a bunch of subtitles. Nevertheless, The Hurt Locker is great so I’m happy for it.
    djiggs, it won’t be a surprise to anyone who actually follows the awards season since, as Laz points out, it’s won most of the major awards and is generally considered the best reviewed film of the year. This ain’t a Brokeback/Crash scenario.

  9. David Poland says:

    $57 million, but yes, good catch. I always think that movie got to $70m for some reason.
    Still, a long way from $13m.

  10. I’m not sure why some are treating the possibility of a split ticket as some kind of defeat for Avatar. Ego aside, I’m sure Cameron knows that he actually gets more positive PR if Bigelow wins Best Director and his film wins Best Picture than he would if he took both. And, come what may, I have a tough time believing that the Academy will pass up a chance to make history for the sake of giving the Best Director statue to a man who won for his last film and whose current picture will likely win the Best Picture trophy anyway. At this point, I would not be the least shocked if Avatar sweeps the technical awards, wins Best Picture and Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director, for which Cameron will be the first to rise for a standing ovation. Even if he’s not sincere about championing the acclaimed film of his ex-wife (and I believe he is), he’s gotta know that the two of them clasping statues together will make a better photo op than Cameron again clutching two statues once again.

  11. Dignan says:

    Interesting scenario to consider: If Bigelow wins the DGA award, which is probably a little better than a coin flip, and Avatar loses the WGA award (very likely) you’re talking about a “prohibitive favorite” that has not won a single major critics group or guild award. And at that point are we talking about the film as a prohibitive favorite for any other reason than it made lots (and lots and lots) of money? Obvious Bigelow needs to win the DGA first though.

  12. Gonzo Knight says:

    Dignan, the point you are making about the so-called precursor awards is legit but it’s wrong to think of Avatar’s gross as just the money it made. You’ve got to factor in the fact that the movie is popular and well liked. Not even the haters can deny that.
    From where I stand right now, I still don’t think Avatar will win best picture. I actually think it’s got a better chance with the director’s branch. I can’t shake the notion that Bigelow will get screwed especially since… well, I’ve seen Avatar.
    But while the matter of guilds and critics groups remains, the Oscars are Oscars so who knows?

  13. Tofu says:

    Something tells me that District 9 being nominated hurt Avatar big time. Ten nominees this year, you say? Uh oh.

  14. David Poland says:

    Well, Dignan… now you are digging down to the idea of precursors defining Oscar…

  15. Dignan says:

    Yes, but prior to Return of the King (which swept the Guild awards and came after the two previous Ring films were Best Picture nominees) no genre blockbuster had ever won best picture. Is it not possible that Avatar is in the same category as E.T., Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Sixth Sense as a hugely popular blockbuster which is deemed not important enough (or whatever the individual criteria may be) to actually win best picture? And might the fact that it theoretically scores a goose egg from the guilds (again, totally speculative at this point and just fun to consider) bear this out?

  16. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Honestly for Producing Moxie I would’ve given the award to New Moon. Taking a very niche product and turning it into a $700mil worldwide goliath while deliberately excluding huge swathes of audiences? On a $50mil budget while making the stars household names?
    I may not personally care for the product, but DAMN that’s a ballsy strategy and it paid off in spades.

  17. Cadavra says:

    Even if AVATAR loses both BP and BD, Cameron can still console himself with the Best Editing Oscar, which traditionally goes to the longest nominee (hence most in need of tightening). I’m still sticking with UITA for BP and Bigelow. for now, anyway.

  18. Gonzo Knight says:

    Dignan, again, you are talking to the guy who still thinks Avatar might not win.
    The way I see it, precursors – being history or precursor awards – are probability indicators. They are good to give some idea about what might happen but on the Oscar night, especially with this new voting system – who knows?
    Most of the pictures you’ve mentioned safe for the Sixth Sense, probably weren’t considered that non-important (they were among the five, after all). Let me clarify myself here: In my mind there is a difference between importance and, say,, lightness (but that’s semantics). But then E.T. did lose out to Ghandi so presumed importance does matter, I suppose.
    What Avatar has, is the international dominance. Where it has weak spots in it’s story and overall sense of weight it makes up for it in the stature it is given in the outside world. Is it enough? I don’t know. I think it’s a strong contender but I still think it’s a race.
    In any case, we have covered this ground many times before.

  19. Deathtongue_Groupie says:

    “$57 million, but yes, good catch. I always think that movie got to $70m for some reason.”
    Fans of that film always seem to have problems with reality. I remember another poster on your blog at the time claiming that the very same screening I had attended at Westwood’s Avco had prompted a “standing ovation.”
    Yes – all 20 of them. Not exactly the entire theater.

  20. Guy Lodge says:

    “PGA’s awards have been less and less about producing and more a traditional popularity contest.”
    Wasn’t “The Hurt Locker” a pretty impressive feat of producing, though? Bringing in a muscular, technically adept action pic on a budget of $11m deserves credit, whatever it ended up grossing.

  21. David Poland says:

    Yes, Hurt Locker is very well produced. Yes, it was a real challenge. And it deserves all the credit in the world.
    But “technically adept” and “muscular” are really Kathryn’s credits, along with Boal as screenwriter.
    The question of how hard it is to make a great low-budget film vs a groundbreaking hi-tech, big budget will forever be debated. Money can make a lot of things easier… and a lot of things harder. The same is true of lower budget filmmaking. Both can be overly embraced or discounted.
    My point about PGA is really about how all the guilds and most of the critics groups have become part of the Precursor Parade and lost the flavor of individuality that they all still claim and rarely show. Ironically, people get angry at me in here for not prizing each event more highly… but if they behave like precursors and not showing a voice of their own, there is no other perspective I consider reasonable.
    That said, Hurt Locker winning is hardly a fluke. It is a great movie and I have been on the train since the first day I saw it in Toronto 16 months ago. It has won plenty of awards. It deserves them all.
    But did it win because it was the best produced film of the year? No. Clearly not. It won because it was, as a film, more well loved amongst voting producers than others. And that’s fine.
    In terms of the potential Oscar win, it would be historic. It would go in directly the opposite direction that Academy insiders keep trying to figure out how to go… as in, “We missed The Dark Knight… now we have an even bigger film that breaks real ground for the industry and filmgoers… how can we make the show about a movie that virtually no one has seen… again?”
    As much as some wish to box me in as Mr Avatar, I was Mr Hurt Locker long before that. I have no preferred dog in that 2 film race. I like, increasingly over time, Inglourious Basterds, but do I think it really belongs with the other 2 films? No. So in that way, I do have a preference. But between the two films that I have been supportive of since the day I saw them? No personal preference.
    Annie Hall did beat Star Wars.

  22. Sam says:

    “It would go in directly the opposite direction that Academy insiders keep trying to figure out how to go… as in, “We missed The Dark Knight… now we have an even bigger film that breaks real ground for the industry and filmgoers… how can we make the show about a movie that virtually no one has seen… again?”
    When you say “Academy insiders” here, do you mean the various people responsible for the awards show and chasing high ratings and stuff, or do you mean the Academy as a whole?
    Seems to me like the answer to that could make a big difference this year. I realize that the producers want high-profile movies amongst the winners/nominees, and I agree that that’s what the move to 10 BP nominees was about.
    But they can’t seal the deal for Avatar if the rest of the Academy doesn’t want to go there.
    So I’m curious, for the sake of my prediction scores, if how widespread you perceive this desire to appeal to the public to be.

  23. Sam says:

    Also, is it just me or does it seem really early to be so confident about how narrow the scope of winners is this year? We’re talking about things like Avatar vs. Hurt Locker, Streep vs. Bullock, etc, and the nominations aren’t even in yet. Sure, you always know a few clear winners months in advance, but it feels different this time around. It feels like February 2 will be redundant.

  24. Ace Roberts says:

    How much weight does The Hurt Locker winning the PGA carry when this same body picked The Aviator, Brokeback Mountain, and Little Miss Sunshine as their best films? Is the spin of this surprise win really a barometer of a close race, or just plain and simple spin? I must admit – as an amateur Oscar predictor – I am lost in choosing a front-runner. But – I’m leaning toward an Inglorious Crash-like upset.

  25. David Poland says:

    PGA has no actual influence… it’s just a reflection of one portion of what will be The Academy. We don’t know how much Hurt Locker won by, who came in second, etc.
    The thing about Crash is that it was a comforting alternative to Brokeback, a film that had a lot of backlash inside The Academy when people felt they were being told they HAD to vote that way.
    Avatar clearly could cross that line. I don’t suspect Fox will.
    That said, this year seems closer to me to the Gladiator and Departed years. No clear winner on form and success. The difference this year is that you have this juggernaut suddenly landing… a juggernaut that is also a big step forward for the technical possibilities of the industry.
    What people forget is that Academy members rarely end up giving Oscar to their personal favorite film. They tend to get caught up in the significance of the choice. If the “favorite” thing was THE thing, Avatar would not win with a mostly over-50 crowd. Either would Rings or Gladiator.

  26. Gonzo Knight says:

    Ace, I don’t think you are looking at this from the right angle: If Avatar is not exactly this year’s The Aviator, Brokeback Mountain or Little Miss Sunshine than The Hurt Locker is about as far away from those as you can get. This is why everyone’s suprised.
    And as for the weight, you seem to have ignored Gladiator, Chicago, LOTR 3, No Country for Old Men and Slmucrap Millionair.

  27. David Poland says:

    Wrong again, Gonzo.

  28. sashastone says:

    Thank you, David Poland.

  29. Gonzo Knight says:

    Try me, DP. I dare you.

  30. Gonzo Knight says:

    By the way, (as used in the question) weight is not the same as influence.
    I actually happen to totally agree with what you said above.
    I just have a totally different interpretation of the question.

  31. Ace Roberts says:

    I just found it interesting that some sites were placing the significance on the PGA win like it was a ground changing barometer of the Oscar. I just pointed out a few historical cases to (possibly) prove otherwise. To me, it has been a three-way race between Avatar, Inglorious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker for months now. I personally found Cameron’s film breathtaking and my favorite, but I just wonder if the split in votes may actually work out in QT’s favor.

  32. David Poland says:

    Everyone wants a race. It means more money. Anne Thompson lost her job last year because Phase 2 was seen as uncompetitive and Variety couldn’t sell enough ads to make keeping her on work financially.
    Beyond that, if the season is already locked in, there is nothing much to write about.
    It’s been a good Phase I for everyone. But if Avatar is seen as a prohibitive favorite to win at this point, Phase II will drop off extremely, even with 10 nominees.
    So that is the honorable media’s interest in making a lot out of the PGA vote, much as we oversell The Globes and other “precursors.”
    That said, it is a true surprise.

  33. movielocke says:

    “Slmucrap Millionair.”
    you know what’s truly saddening, idiots deciding to hate a film because other people found it, and liked it.
    Just because the crowd discovered a movie they never should have even seen (in most scenarios Slumdog Millionaire goes about as widely seen as The Visitor) does not automatically make that film bad, nor does it make it worthy of hate.
    I genuinely feel sorry for people who don’t allow themselves to make up their own opinions on films, but feel the need to define their likes and dislikes based on liking what is not popular and disliking what is popular.
    A broad an unfair generalization of Gonzo, so not intended to insult him so much as to make a broader observation about a particularly small minded and relatively stupid tendency in film snobs.

  34. movielocke says:

    And I meant to add: a lot of the cineaste love this year for Hurt Locker is because the film was so low grossing. Had it been screened and advertised in red states and given a real release and embraced in red states I think we’d see a lot more Hurt Locker dissent than the virtually non-existent Hurt Locker dissent this year. (Actually the lack of dissent for Hurt Locker is reminescent of the lack of dissent for Brokeback Mountain–in December).
    And it’s also interesting that Crash didn’t become a movie that people hated until Brokeback lost. Another interesting instance of certain film-lovers defining their opinions based on what the authority (or majority) position is. Once Brokeback lost, Crash became, on the internet, one of the 3 worst films to ever win best picture. that’s quite a remarkable feat, considering a few days before Brokeback lost, Crash was a pretty highly regarded film.

  35. jeffmcm says:

    I was ahead of the curve. I hated Crash the instant I saw it, then I forgot about it because I was sure it was doomed to the scrapheap of history, then I hated it again when it received so much puzzling end-of-year attention.
    On the other hand, I saw Slumdog fairly late in its run when it was already the anointed frontrunner so who knows. But I still have valid reasons for disliking it.

  36. Eric says:

    Like Jeff, I hated Crash as soon as I saw it, well before it won the awards. “It won Best Picture” and “it’s popular” would be reasons 99 and 100 on the Top 100 Reasons to Despise Crash list, if they were on the list at all.

  37. Gonzo Knight says:

    Unfair or not, you were wrong to make that generalization.
    My feelings toward Slumdog Millionaire are entirely my own and have nothing to do with neither awards it won nor with how other’s view it. I, too, have seen it fairly early and before the hype machine truly started. As jeffmcm has said, I have valid reasons for my disliking it. The reason I felt justtified taking a shot at it was because I’ve extensevely commented on my feelings toward the film on here, so I my mind I was just taking a shortcut.
    (I’m sure that this won’t help my case on this board much but I actually really liked Crash.)
    Still, I’m not suprised I got called on it as I was wrong. I dislike when people take cheap shots at films like in this manner and for that I appologize.

  38. David Poland says:

    Movielocke – Agree in principle on Slumdog. I’m not sure that it’s true that all the negativity on that film is coming from there. I can see how some people genuinely don’t like the style and take real offense at the slickness connected to a film with poverty at its core. But from my experience, that would be 10% or less of people I have ever heard from. Some people hate The Sound of Music too.
    Crash is a bit different. Many of us hated it from Day One on principle. As well acted as it was, I found it way too facile… irritating. And my Day One was at Toronto, 8 months before it was released and 18 months before it won. There were and are many Crash haters. But that was balanced out by many, many people who LOVE the film in a very real way. And those people are not idiots or homophobic… they are just people who are happy with certain elements of that film that make my skin crawl.
    There is a huge amount of “I want to be the one to tear down what others are excited about” in the world. I have also been on the other side of it, when I like a movie like Dark Knight a lot, but am not as rabid about it as others seem to need me to be in order to not be a “hater.”
    The thing for me is, when I fall hard, love or hste, it is always in that first screening. Some percentage of first instinct on films changes in second screenings. But I went from “prove it” on Slumdog to sold when I saw it in Toronto… moments after getting off the phone with a journalist thinking they were crazy to be talking about Oscar prospects. I called him back afterward.
    That first screening of Avatar for the press was a special event, in that there was a ton of negativity… and after the screening, 90% of the critics in that room, coming in with knives drawn, converted not only to positive, but to fans. (I still maintain that the first impression of “story not so great” came from how overwhelming the visuals are and the way we in the media now flash-freeze ideas… that and the dozen clunky dialogue bits. It is absolutely genre, but it is much more complex and cleverly written than it is given credit for.)
    In any case, it is informative that a lot of the harsh negativity in here seems to be coming from our family members with right-leaning ideologies. That bit sneaks out now and again, but is mostly covered in a gravy of “it’s not really a phenomenon” or “count the tickets… it’s not that big” or “the blowback is coming.”
    Of course, what is dumb about it all is that any of us are trying to define Avatar’s place in history 39 days into the movie’s run. What we say today will not define the terms.
    Still, for me, I feel the need to speak to media repetition of things that are designed just to come up with an alternative story. “Another week, another record” does get boring.
    The ticket counters and adjusted grossers can all claim otherwise, but besides the core problem that these estimates are in danger of being seriously inaccurate (as because they are so random, they could also be dead-on now and again, wholly by luck), this stuff only ever comes out when the user wishes to use it against a movie… never for a movie.
    But I digress…
    The process of a backlash being socialized is fascinating and almost always seems random. You never know how these things get defined. NYT has backed away from $500m and yet, it still gets being reported that Avatar is the most expensive film ever… which it is not. But then again, Batman & Robin was the first $200m film released and that is still put on Titanic. Go figure.

  39. leahnz says:

    re: avatar’s production budget, i heard the enzed govt’s large budget screen production grant to 880 productions came to about $45 mil, making avatar production costs around $260 mil or so

  40. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Technically speaking, the tax offset only applies to expenditure in New Zealand so that probably means the production costs were “at least $260mil”…

  41. leahnz says:

    not exactly; i’ve heard total production costs of about 310 mil give or take, including the mo-capping sequences shot in CA, live action and post achieved here, so the grant brings actual production costs down to about $260 (give or take; these are the figs i’ve heard inside the giant bug anyway, and i think DP may have quoted a similar fig of $310 awhile back from some source but i can’t remember when or where that was, unhelpfully)

  42. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Oh I see, I was doing it the other way around – the grant is 15% of the qualifying NZ expenditure (which loosely covers all NZ goods and services, plus all cast and crew costs while in NZ), so if the grant is $40-45mil then the qualifying NZ expenditure is $260-300mil. Then you have all the Hawai’i and Cali costs that didn’t qualify…

  43. leahnz says:

    yeah, i see now my original comment was a bit vague
    (the hawaii thing was negligible, just a glorified nature hike for the cast to get familiar with moving thru rain forest/jungle terrain, which they did here as well, so they’d have a point of reference for their imaginations during the mo-capped perfs, nothing was actually shot there)
    when i said ‘CA’ above i meant california, in case that was obtuse

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

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