Will Producers Guild Awards change direction of Oscars race?

The Producers Guild of America Awards could signify a sea change in this year’s Oscars race. In 2010, this award was our first indication that “The King’s Speech” would beat “The Social Network” for Best Picture at the Oscars. (Read report on import of PGA voting method here.)

Up until the PGA, “The Social Network” had not only won every critics prize but had prevailed at the BFCA and the Golden Globes as well. After winning over the Producers Guild, there was no stopping “The King’s Speech” from taking first the Directors Guild award, then SAG ensemble and, finally, the top Oscar.

This year, the roster of 10 PGA nominees for Best Picture includes eight of the nine Oscar contenders: “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” The PGA slate is rounded out by “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Skyfall.” The PGA snubbed “Amour,” which was shut out of the other guild awards as well but found favor with the academy.

The PGA ranks as one of Oscar’s most reliable crystal balls. Since 1989, 16 of their picks for Best Picture have repeated at the Academy Awards: “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), “Dances with Wolves” (1990), “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “The English Patient” (1996), “Titanic” (1997), “American Beauty” (1999), “Gladiator” (2000), “Chicago” (2002), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), “No Country for Old Men” (2007), “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), “The Hurt Locker” (2009), “The King’s Speech” (2010), and “The Artist” (2011).

So who will win this Saturday?

-ADDPREDICTION:88:550:What will win Best Picture at PGA?:ADDPREDICTION-

You can count out “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Skyfall” since they were both left off the Best Picture ballot at the Oscars. “Les Miserables” has taken a critical beating, thus hurting its chances despite a Golden Globe win for Best Picture (Musical/Comedy). Ditto “Zero Dark Thirty,” which swept the critics prizes but may have been seriously damaged by the controversy surrounding its depiction of torture.

The snub of Ben Affleck in the director race at the Oscars could generate enough goodwill for PGA voters to choose “Argo.” After winning at both the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes, it is the film to beat. Indeed, eight of our 12 experts predict it to prevail and it has leading odds of 14/5. 

But those wins with the BFCA and HFPA may not help its chances anymore than they did “The Social Network.” Looking forward to the Oscars, only three films have won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director: “Wings” (1927), “Grand Hotel” (1932), “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989). PGA voters may take that as a sign of weakness for the film.

Our other four experts foresee victory for “Lincoln.” Kathleen Kennedy, one of the most respected producers in Hollywood, has yet to win an Oscar, despite seven previous bids: “E.T.” (1982), “The Color Purple” (1985), “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Seabiscuit” (2003), “Munich” (2005), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), and “War Horse” (2011). She also lost her four PGA bids for “Seabiscuit,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2008), “Benjamin Button” and “War Horse.” This overdue factor could work in Kennedy’s favor.

Harvey Weinstein is pushing hard for “Silver Linings Playbook.” He’s taken the prize two years in a row, and is hoping for a three-peat. With four acting Oscar nominations (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver), the film stands a better chance at taking the SAG Ensemble prize, which is also a good indication of the Best Picture winner. 

As for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” and “Life of Pi,” passionate support may get them close without a win.

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