It is believed that Academy members (a) don’t watch many award-season movies in theatres, (b) skip chapters or fall asleep when they watch them at home on DVD screeners, and (c) prefer to allow the winners of the guild awards (PGA, SAG, DGA, etc.) to “influence” their vote rather than listen to their own criteria or instincts. Yes, Virginia — Academy members are sheep. And therefore last night’s tie for the Producers Guild Daryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture, shared by 12 Years A Slave and Gravity, is something of a big deal.

Until last night it was presumed that the sheep could and would probably give the Best Picture Oscar to American Hustle if that David O. Russell film had won the top PGA trophy on the heels of winning the SAG Best Ensemble Award two nights ago (i.e., Saturday, 1.18). Now the woolies are lost and wandering around the labrynthian forest without a shepherd to guide them…baaah! They’re going to have to decide among the top three contenders on their own…baaah!

Do we vote for 12 Years A Slave, which we know deep down is one of the year’s two finest films, the other being The Wolf of Wall Street? The only roadblock is that a lot of us didn’t “like” watching Steve McQueen‘s film because we don’t find depictions of sustained systemic cruelty to be especially comforting or life-affirming. We want movies to do for us, you see. We want them to tell the truth, yes, but mainly we want them to make us feel good about ourselves, our faith, our children, our families, our careers.

Do we vote for Gravity, which we all enjoyed and admired but which we all realize is primarily a dazzling technical achievement that lacks a strong thematic or metaphorical current? Then again Sandra Bullock shouting “aahh!” many, many times as she tumbled through space moved us to the core of our souls. Alfonso Cuaron‘s film appeals to our soft-minded popcorn eater mentality, and to our aversion to films with any kind of scrappy socio-political current (Slave, Wolf, Hustle). We are the softies!

Or do we vote for American Hustle, Russell’s third knockout film in a row following The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook? Truth be told some feel it’s not quite as stirring as Playbook or Fighter, but at least it gives those of us who feel Gravity doesn’t fully deserve a Best Picture Oscar and those who didn’t like watching 12 years A SlaveAmerican Hustle is a film that somewhat more thoughtful types can vote for.

Deadline’s Pete Hammond reported that “you could feel the numbed reaction throughout the [PGA] room when presenter Ben Affleck got to make the announcement of a tie” and that “those without a horse in this race seemed energized, looking forward to a continuing wide open contest in the next six weeks.” An American Hustle p.r. consultant told Hammond that “I’m going home to try and figure this all out now.” Hustle co-producer Chuck Roven “looked a little shell-shocked” as he said “I guess this means it’s a horse race.” But it was Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor who delivered the best quote: “A tie is what you wear around your neck.”