Producers Guild of America members broke bread (mostly Danish, to be precise) Saturday morning at a breakfast honoring the teams behind the 10 movies nominated this year for the guild’s best picture award.
At a panel discussion immediately afterward, PGA national executive director Vance Van Petten touted the group’s diversity, noting the presence of four women (all blonds though ... where are the brunets?), one Mexican-born producer (“Birdman’s” Alejandro G. Iñarritu) and “one from the AARP.”
That would be Clint Eastwood, the senior member of the producers panel that convened onstage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Eastwood (“American Sniper”), Iñarritu and “Boyhood” filmmaker Richard Linklater told the best stories from the stage, with Iñarritu revealing that he had once pestered Eastwood over dinner about the latter’s ability to quickly shoot movies. (“Actors come to work warm and ready,” was the reply. “You don’t need to wait for a seventh take for them to get it right.”)
Eastwood also held forth on “Sniper” star Bradley Cooper’s 8,000-calorie daily training diet (“I saw him on Broadway for ‘The Elephant Man,’ and I said, ‘Are you sick or something? You’re wasting away’ ”), while Linklater jokingly compared the selection of “Boyhood” star Ellar Coltrane to “finding the new Dalai Lama.”
Saturday night the PGA will hand out its awards at a ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel. The guild presents honors to documentary and animated features as well as television shows in five categories.
But the prize everyone pays attention to is the best picture award. That’s because when the Academy Awards expanded their best picture category and moved to a preferential balloting system in 2009, the PGA followed suit. And every year since that shift, the PGA winner has gone on to take the best picture Oscar.
For those keeping score, that roll call includes “The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist” and “Argo.” Last year, the PGA ended in a freakish tie between “Gravity” and eventual Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” meaning that exactly the same number of the PGA’s more than 6,500 members preferred “Gravity” over “Slave” and “Slave” over “Gravity.” (Couldn’t they call Joe Biden to break the tie?)
But the rule stands: If you win the PGA, you win the Oscar. That means this year’s best picture front-runner, “Boyhood,” is the consensus favorite to emerge victorious Satuday night. If that happens, turn out the lights, the party’s over.
“Boyhood” has already won best picture prizes from groups that love to tout their ability to predict the Oscars (the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Broadcast Film Critics) and those who simply love film (the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle). The PGA would seal the deal.
However, if another film wins (and there are those picking “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), the best picture race will immediately become more interesting. There are still doubters who question whether a low-key, indie-to-its-bones movie like “Boyhood” feels like the kind of movie the academy would honor. And many respect and/or fear the ability of Harvey Weinstein to bend the academy to his will.
If PGA voters go for the “The Imitation Game,” a period drama possessing many elements — British accents, World War II, a social consciousness — that fill many academy members’ checklists, then we will wake up to a new world Sunday morning, one where this guy is jumping for joy.