Within the past week or so the Best Picture Oscar narrative has changed from “it’s probably going to be won by Spotlight, not out of unbridled passion but out of respect and a kind of default attitude” to “The Big Short is coming on strong and nipping at Spotlight‘s heels.” This morning’s Producers Guild of America motion picture nominations, generally considered an Oscar nomination bellwether, have more or less fortified the second narrative along with a little Mad Max injection.
But what everyone is mainly talking about this morning are two eyebrow-raisers — a film that wasn’t expected to be PGA-nominated and one that some handicappers were sorta kinda thinking would be…maybe. But finally wasn’t.
The PGA has nominated Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina, and in so doing has thrust this admired sci-fi drama into the Best Picture narrative, although more as a last-minute oddity than anything else. Up until this morning Ex Machina has been almost universally regarded as a critically respected also-ran that opened last spring and which launched Alicia Vikander. Now it can be honestly handicapped as “definitely in the game” to some extent.
The PGA has also declined to nominate Lenny Abrahamson‘s Room, and that, as Robert Blake used to say, is the name of that tune. Room hadn’t been seriously regarded as a Best Picture nominee by anyone in weeks, and now the situation is down to what everyone has presumed it would be all along, which is that likely Best Actress nominee Brie Larson will be the standard-bearer and not Abrahamson.
The PGA’s film nominations: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton.
What about Todd Haynes‘ Carol (fully HE-supported) and Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight? Not a good day for the Weinstein Co. Sorry, guys.
I wasn’t that surprised that Denis Villenueve‘s Sicario and F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton being on the list. They’ve had plenty of supporters all along, and both have benefitted from well-run campaigns.
The PGA awards will be handed out on 1.23 — three days into Sundance ’16. Academy Award nominations will be announced nine days hence, or on Thursday, 1.14.