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Heading into today's Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards announcement, it was "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" that appeared to have the momentum. The former had landed some major media prizes in the form of Golden Globe and Critics' Choice wins, while the latter added a Screen Actors Guild ensemble award to its own Golden Globe prize last night. But, well, Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" had a little something to say about all of that. And the season itself had something to say about calling this thing just yet, as the final award of the night ended up split down the middle in a tie between Cuarón's opus and Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave."
The PGA Awards are key in this brave new awards season world as they use the same preferential balloting scenario that the Academy uses. As such, ever since the Academy went to its expanded Best Picture slate four years ago and the producers followed suit, the PGA winner and the Oscar winner have matched up. That's why tonight's winner was going to matter probably more than any other precursor honor this season. But no answers are coming from a tie.
"Gravity" has been my bet for the Oscar for a long while. Yeah, you can call me biased. I think the film is amazing, far and away the year's best, but it always struck me as the undeniable landmark, and crucially, one free of the kind of baggage that would make such a film fall short. It's the sort of movie that is sure to show up toward the top of ballots, getting plenty of number one votes, but a lot of twos and threes as well. That's the kind of thing that carries the day with a preferential ballot.
But then, "12 Years a Slave" showed some more muscle this evening. And it needed to. If it was going to show itself to be formidable in the Oscar race, after months and months of "it's the one to beat" talk (that began far too early thanks to jump-the-gun journalists), it needed to take down a major guild prize. And now it has. Albeit half of one. But this is a huge, huge boost from within the industry.
In the guild's 24 years of dishing out awards, the PGA winner has gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar 17 times. And again, most importantly, it has a perfect track record over the last four years, the years where the preferential ballot has been used for both. Not that that stat means much of anything at the moment as this is officially the most heated Oscar race I've ever covered.
Next week the DGA will speak up and, in all likelihood, opt for Cuarón. How can they not? Then again, maybe Steve McQueen ekes it out. Maybe David O. Russell harnesses the power of 15,000 votes. But it feels like Cuarón's year for that prize. I don't know. Flip some coins. Let's see what happens. This is awesome.
Elsewhere, "Frozen" predictably won the animated award while the documentary prize (which featured none of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar nominees) went to "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks." "Breaking Bad," "Modern Family" and "Behind the Candelabra" won TV prizes. Previously announced, Disney chairman Bob Iger received the Milestone Award, TV producer Chuck Lorre accepted the Norman Lear Achievement Award and the film "Fruitvale Station" was given the Stanley Kramer Award, among other peripheral honors.
Check out the full list of PGA Award winners below, and as ever, keep track of all the ups and downs of the 2013-2014 film awards season at The Circuit.
The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
"Gravity" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producers: Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman
"12 Years a Slave" (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
"Frozen" (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
"We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" (Focus Features)
Producers: Alexis Bloom, Alex Gibney, Marc Shmuger
The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television
"Behind the Candelabra" (HBO)
Producers: Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Polaire, Jerry Weintraub
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama
"Breaking Bad" (AMC)
Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett
The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy
"Modern Family" (Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker)
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television
"Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" (CNN)
Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television
"The Voice" (NBC)
Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Nicolle Yaron, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television
"The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central)
Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart
The Award for Outstanding Sports Program
The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program
"Sesame Street" (Sprout)
The Award for Outstanding Digital Series
"Wired: What’s Inside" (http://video.wired.com/series/what-s-inside)
The Davie O. Selznick Achievement Award
Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
The Norman Lear Achievement Award
The Stanley Kramer Award
Peter Jackson, Joe Letteri and Weta Digital
Everything: Academy Awards
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