Awards prognosticators are, for the most part not, the audience voting for the Oscars. But the consensus upon the announcement of the 2024 PGA Awards nominations is that the Producers Guild of America’s picks for the prestigious Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures hit the nail on the head in terms of the direction the Best Picture race has been trending toward. In other words, it sure seemed like we just got an advance notice of the 10 films that will fill up nomination slots for the Academy’s highest honor come January 23.
For context, the PGA Awards are one of the most accurate bellwethers for Best Picture, with 15 of its last 20 guild winners (including “Everything Everywhere All at Once” last year) going on to win the Oscar. Other honors like the Critics Choice Awards and the AFI Awards have a similar reputation for accuracy, but the former has a voting body with almost no overlap with the Academy, and the latter focuses on productions that were on a certain level based in the United States.
Coincidentally, the PGA Awards nominations actually were announced the same day as the star-studded luncheon celebrating the AFI Awards’ 2023 honorees. When that list was announced, there was a similar sentiment around how it seemed to speak almost exactly what the Best Picture frontrunners were. It featured massive productions like “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” and “Killers of the Flower Moon;” smaller critical darlings like “American Fiction,” “Past Lives,” and “Poor Things;” and more traditional prestige fare like “Maestro” and “The Holdovers.” The only difference between the AFI list and the newly released PGA nominees list? While the American Film Institute went for “May December” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the guild gravitated toward international productions “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest,” the 2023 Cannes Film Festival Palm d’Or and Grand Prix winners, respectively.
For the past few years, the push to diversify and expand the Academy has resulted in a powerful bloc of international voters, mostly based in Europe, creating upsets in the director and screenplay categories (think “Cold War” helmer Pawel Pawlikowski, or “The Worst Person in the World” filmmaker Joachim Trier.) Though AFI often does like to throw an honor to an international production like “The Banshees of Inisherin” last year, they refrained from awarding both “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest.” Maybe they had just as much trouble picking between the two as the Cannes jury did. But by now, nearly four years after Korean film “Parasite” won Best Picture, the Oscar category is bound to have one or two films made outside the United States making the cut on nominations morning.
As far as the guild’s TV nominations go, nothing was too surprising outside of a snub for “Abbott Elementary” in the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television – Comedy category. Ignoring the nominations from the 2022-2023 TV season, which crossover with Emmys on Monday, January 15, the new shows nominated that have become awards contenders are mostly limited series “All the Light We Cannot See,” “Lessons in Chemistry,” and Season 5 of FX anthology series “Fargo.”
The PGA Awards nominations for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Picture were actually announced prior to when the Academy shortlists were released, so the update would be that “20 Days in Mariupol,” “American Symphony,” and “Beyond Utopia” are the frontrunners simply based on the fact that those are the only PGA nominees the Academy recognized. Last year, the PGA winner “Navalny” ultimately won the Academy Award, so this specific voting body does have sway in that Oscar race.