‘1917’ wins the PGA; is the Oscar next?

"1917" wins the PGA Award
Dean-Charles Chapman, left, and George MacKay in Sam Mendes’ “1917,” which won the PGA Award for best-produced motion picture.
(Columbia Pictures)

With its win at the Producers Guild of America Awards on Saturday night, Sam Mendes’ World War I movie “1917” may be entrenched as the best-picture favorite at the upcoming Oscars.

Mendes, flanked by several of his producing partners, took a moment to thank producers who’d had an impact on his career and artistic development, including David Zanuck, James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, and “one I’ve known since I was 14 years old, Pippa Harris,” he said, fondly gesturing to his longtime producing partner with him on the stage.

A relatively late entry in this truncated awards season (the Oscars have crept up two weeks from last year and nearly a month from their March 4 date two years ago), Mendes’ lean, propulsive tale of two British soldiers on a desperate quest during World War I has gained significant momentum in its month-plus in release. It has picked up Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards for its cinematography and direction, as well as the Globe for best motion picture - drama.

The Universal Pictures film recently collected an Oscar nomination for its screenplay, considered an important qualification, as no film has won best picture without a writing nomination since 1997’s “Titanic.”

Coming into the evening, some betting lines had “1917" a mild underdog to Sony’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” for the best-picture Oscar. Those lines may move following the PGA World War win.


Though the PGA Award is widely considered a predictor of the best picture Oscar, the two have only corresponded 68% of the time over its 30-year history. The PGAs and Oscars have only matched two of the last four times, agreeing on “The Shape of Water” and “Green Book” in the last two years. The only PGA nominee not also honored by the academy this year is “Knives Out.”

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During a breezy evening with few upsets, comedian presenters had the best lines of the night.

Presenting Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos with an award, comedian Jimmy Kimmel said, “It was an honor to be asked at 9:45 last night to fill in for Ellen [DeGeneres] and present this award to Ted Sarandos.” Noting he doesn’t have a show on the streaming service, Kimmel listed Netflix stars who could have presented instead, finishing with, “Where the ... are the Two Popes tonight?”

Nick Kroll, presenting the Talk/Live Entertainment Television Award (to an absent John Oliver), said, “To produce; to produce milk; to lactate; to feed a helpless baby that can’t fend for itself, AKA the talent.”

The award for producing an animated feature went, unsurprisingly, to Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” the heavy favorite to win the Oscar. The billion-grossing sequel had won the Critics’ Choice Award and received six Annie nominations. Still, it was not a lock, considering “Frozen 2" had become the highest-grossing animated feature ever but was snubbed for an Oscar nomination. Also, “Missing Link,” from the respected stop-motion studio Laika, had taken the Golden Globe.

As with the top PGA Award and the best-picture Oscar, the PGA prize for animated feature is a shaky predictor. Over its 15 years, it has matched the Oscar winner only 67% of the time (though it has lined up with the last four Oscar winners).

For episodic drama, the win went to HBO’s “Succession,” continuing “Game of Thrones’” walk of shame through awards season following an underwhelming final season.

In presenting the award for television comedy as the hour crept past 10, Billy Eichner said, “I’m gay; my night’s just starting.” He noted the nominees were all white, and said, “The five white devils nominated are ...” and then heavy favorite “Fleabag” continued its awards-season rampage with the trophy.

HBO’s “Chernobyl” followed wins at the Emmys and Golden Globes with a PGA triumph for limited series television. “Apollo: Missions to the Moon” surprisingly won for TV movie, a lone documentary among fiction films. “Leaving Neverland” took TV documentary, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” live entertainment and talk television, and game and competition was won by “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The feature documentary prize went to Neon’s “Apollo 11.”

Among the night’s special honorees were Netflix’s Sarandos (Milestone Award); Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B (David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures); Marta Kauffman (Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television); Octavia Spencer (Visionary Award); and the Lionsgate film “Bombshell” (the Stanley Kramer Award).

In accepting the award for his production company, Plan B, Pitt said, “Spielberg, Grazer, Zanuck Kennedy. These are some of the names I cheapen tonight by accepting this award.”

He added, “I have no regrets except sharing our name with an emergency contraceptive. Didn’t see that one coming.”