‘Selma, ‘Unbroken,’ ‘Interstellar,’ can rebound at Oscars after PGA snubs

Yes, the Producers Guild of America award for Best Picture is a great bellwether for the Oscars, with the guild getting it right in 18 of the past 25 years. But that means it also got it wrong seven times. And it is not foolproof when it comes to forecasting the nominees for Best Picture either. Since the Oscars expanded the category five years ago, 47 films have been nominated for Best Picture and the PGA forecasted 40 of them. That’s 85%. (And, as detailed below, it had a 75% success rate when there was just five Best Picture nominees). 

Sure, those are impressive overlaps, but it’s to be expected considering the PGA uses a preferential ballot, just like the Oscars to decide the winner, and the two groups share many members.

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

But there are other factors at play, too, which can explain the differences. Oscar nominees will be decided by the 6,124 members of all branches, not just the 485 voters who are producers. Oscar voting goes until Thursday (Jan. 8) while PGA balloting closed on Jan. 2. And, most importantly, the Oscar nominees will be determined by a complicated system of counting that rewards passionate support by a core group.  

While Paramount sent academy voters a screener of “Selma” on Dec. 18 and “Interstellar” on Dec. 29, they did not do the same for PGA voters. Not surprisingly, neither one popped up on the PGA list.  A rep for Universal says DVDs were sent to PGA members on Dec. 12. Our own sources say academy members received their screeners around Christmas.

Award pundits were more surprised by the PGA snub of “Selma” than “Interstellar” or “Unbroken” but the latter two are bewildering considering that the voters are producers. They tend to show more respect for commercial films than Oscar voters and have nominated the likes of “Star Trek,” “Bridesmaids” and “Skyfall” for Best Picture. And the guild loves Christopher Nolan films. It nominated “The Dark Knight” (it did not make the cut with the academy in the last year of only five nominees for Best Picture) and “Inception.”

When the Oscars expanded to 10 nominees in 2009, in part due to the blowback for snubbing “The Dark Knight” the year before, the PGA followed suit. But when the academy shifted to a sliding scale in 2011 that has resulted in nine nominees each year since, the PGA stuck with 10 contenders. Even so, the guild has never forecast all nine of the films that made the cut with the academy each year.

Oscars 101:
Best Picture nominations ballots counted differently than rest

Below, the differences between the two ballots in each of the past five years. 

PGA: “Invictus, “Star Trek”
Oscars: “The Blind Side,” “A Serious Man” were ninth and tenth nominees.

PGA: “The Town”
Oscars: “Winter’s Bone” was the tenth nominee.

PGA: “Bridesmaids,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” “The Ides of March
Oscars: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” “The Tree of Life” were eighth and ninth nominees. 

PGA:”Moonrise Kingdom,” “Skyfall
Oscars: “Amour” was the ninth nominee.

PGA: “Blue Jasmine,” “Saving Mr. Banks”
Oscars: “Philomena” was the ninth nominee. 

In the first two years of the PGA prize, only a winner was announced: “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) and “Dances with Wolves” (1990). 

See latest Oscar rankings when the Experts’ predictions are combined

From 1991 until the academy doubled the Best Picture field in 2009, the PGA usually had five nominees (though there were six in 1991, 2002, 2003 and seven in 1995). In the 18 years from 1991 to 2009, there were 90 nominees for Best Picture at the Oscars and the PGA previewed 68 of these (75%). It only went five for five in 1992, 1993 and 1994. And it followed that winning streak by snubbing the 1995 Oscar champ “Braveheart” even though there were seven nominees that year; the PGA pick was “Apollo 13.” 

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