They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don’t They?

The PGAs and WGAs and Their Impact on Oscar Nominations

By J. Don Birnam

January 6, 2016

If only Victor Garber had a tactileneck like Emily Blunt's.

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After the usual two-week winter hiatus, the Oscar season hast returned into the hectic final days of phase two. Members of the Academy have had their ballots since December 30th and are in the process of casting nominating votes. They will have until Friday afternoon to fill those out, and on Tuesday they heard from the very influential Producers Guild of America and what that large guild thinks are the best produced movies of 2015. Check out my Twitter account for updates on the fast-moving last few days before Oscar nominations, as well as some analysis on Instagram.

We have also updated our power rankings for all categories, as you can see here.

Producers Guild Nominees

Surprising no one, Spotlight received a nod from the PGA to go along with its SAG and Golden Globe nods. A Best Picture nomination is a mortal lock at this point. But there were two other movies that scored PGA nods as well as SAG and GG, so, like Spotlight, they must be considered near sure things for a Best Picture nomination: The Big Short, produced in part by the influential Brad Pitt, and Straight Outta Compton, produced in part by the popular Ice Cube. Both look to become Oscar nominees next Thursday.

Meanwhile, although fans of The Force Awakens continue to hold out hope that the latest Star Wars installment will take a blockbuster spot at the Oscars, it was the much-lauded Mad Max and The Martian that continue to bring up the fantasy rear, each with a PGA nod, and now also a likely Best Picture nomination.

Next, we have The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, and Brooklyn. The former looks like the most formidable candidate, with strong tech support and the Alejandro González Iñárritu/Birdman honeymoon to pull it through. I was definitely happy to see Brooklyn get the shot in the arm it needed, as its smaller-movie status made it seem uncertain. Also, Steven Spielberg should not yet be counted out.

It definitely has to be the producers of Sicario and Ex Machina, both nominated for the PGA, who must be the happiest. Both movies have been considered Oscar long-shots - they still are, but the PGA nod certainly may help in the last few days of voting.


Interesting stats: since their inception over 20 years ago, the PGA nominees have always included the eventual Best Picture winner. Thus, the obvious snubs here of Carol and Room do not bode well for those two’s chances of dethroning Spotlight. I still expect Carol to get a Best Picture nomination, but the miss here could prove fatal down the road. Moreover, the PGA has a better than 80% prediction rate for the Best Picture lineup, particularly since the expansion in 2009. However, given that the PGA has stayed at 10 nominees while the Academy has gone to the shifting amount, the PGA invariably ends up nominating movies that the Academy does not. Last year, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, and Gone Girl saw PGA love, but none from the Academy, while two late breakers (American Sniper and Selma) made it in with AMPAS. Neither Carol nor Room, of course, are late breakers, making their omission even more confusing.

Still, it is a wacky year with a lot of credible nominees. Some are going to miss out by definition.

PGA Winners: Brooklyn, Straight Outta Compton, Sicario
PGA Losers: Carol, Room, Star Wars

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