The Producers Guild of America is one of the very best, if not the best, bellwether for what our eventual Best Picture Oscar nominees will look like. Although they’ve split considerably when it comes to winners since the introduction of the preferential ballot that the Academy uses, they’re still a great predictor for nominations.
While the PGA uses a straight 10 nominees now (vs the 5-10 sliding scale AMPAS uses until next year), it’s usually pretty easy to spot the PGA pick(s) that won’t end up in Best Picture but might find a spot somewhere else. Look at last year: PGA went 9/9 with Oscar with just Knives Out as their outlier. It was a big hit (these are producers, after all) and while Knives Out missed out on Best Picture, it was nominated for Original Screenplay. Could Palm Springs be the Knives Out of this season?
Speaking of big hits, that’s what’s going to be missing from this year’s PGA nominees. Looking at 2020’s box office rankings, I don’t think anyone’s thinking we’ll see Bad Boys for Life on here. But, there is a version of the PGA nominees that includes something like The Invisible Man (a bonafide hit) or Tenet (not a domestic hit but the film that tried to save movie theaters). While those are possible, I expect the list to look similar to the AFI list, with a little bit of NBR and a touch of Spirit Awards. Three films (sort of) managed all three of those: Minari, Nomadland and Sound of Metal (which is in First Feature but I’m counting it).
Then there’s lots of crossover with Da 5 Bloods, Judas and the Black Messiah and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – three films the Golden Globes snubbed from their top category. As a late-breaking film, Judas hasn’t benefited as much as other have but it’s been coming on strong at exactly the right time. Daniel Kaluuya has been the biggest benefactor of that but is it surging enough to make the cut here when it couldn’t at SAG or BAFTA? If so, that keeps the door open for Da 5 Bloods, which made both plus AFI and NBR but the film’s awards trajectory has been all over the place. For me, the last spot is between Da 5 Bloods and Sound of Metal and it could go either way.
I know a lot of people are tempted to have Disney/Pixar’s Soul in the main PGA category but there hasn’t been an animated film to hit both the main and animated category since 2010’s Toy Story 3 and 2009’s Up. Incidentally, those were the first two years of the expansion of the PGA lineup from 5-10 nominees to match up with the Oscars doing the same.
Producers Guild of America nominations will be announced on March 8, two days before Oscar nomination voting ends. Here are my predictions in Motion Pictures and Animated Motion Picture.
PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA (PGA)
Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
- Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros) – Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, Shaka King
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) – Todd Black, Denzel Washington, Dany Wolf
- Mank (Netflix) – Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, Douglas Urbanski
- Minari (A24) – Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh
- News of the World (Universal Pictures) – Gary Goetzman, Gregory Goodman, Gail Mutrux
- Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) – Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao
- One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios) – Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein
- Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) – Ben Browning, Emerald Fennell, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Josey McNamara, Ashley Fox
- Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) – Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Bill Benz, Kathy Benz
- The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) – Stuart M. Besser, Matt Jackson, Marc Platt, Tyler Thompson
Watch out for: Da 5 Bloods (Netflix) – Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin, Lloyd Levin
Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
- The Croods: A New Age (DreamWorks Animation) – Mark Swift
- Onward (Pixar) – Kori Rae
- Over the Moon (Netflix) – Peilin Chou, Gennie Rim
- Soul (Pixar) – Dana Murray
- Wolfwalkers (Apple TV+/GKIDS) – Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants, Nora Twomey, Paul Young
Watch out for: Trolls World Tour (Dreamworks/Universal Pictures) – Gina Shay
DIRECTORS GUILD OF AMERICA (DGA)
Box office and tentpole films be damned, this has been a banner year for directors and namely, women directors. Radha Blank (The Forty-Year Old Version), Garrett Bradley (Time), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Kitty Green (The Assistant), Regina King (One Night in Miami), Channing Godfrey Peoples (Miss Juneteenth), Kelly Reichardt (First Cow) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) are just some of the women filmmakers that shined in 2020 (and early 2021) and have claimed a place on top 10 lists, with director nominations and wins. I expect the DGA First-Time Director category to be dominated by women this year and with likely crossover into the main category.
Speaking of that category, it’s only five years old and to date there’s never been more than one nominee from there to also get into the main DGA category in a single year. Three directors, all men, have been nominated in both DGA categories: Garth Davis for Lion, Jordan Peele for Get Out and Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born. Davis and Peele won DGA First-Time Director and translated that into Best Director Oscar nominations. Cooper lost (to Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade) and was ultimately snubbed at the Oscars. Last year’s nominees found no support from the directing branch of the Academy.
Directors Guild of America nominations will be announced on March 9, one day before Oscar nomination voting ends. Here are my predictions in Motion Picture, First-Time Feature Director and Documentary.
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
- David Fincher, Mank (Netflix)
- Chloé Zhao, Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)
- Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
- Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)
- Paul Greengrass, News of the World (Universal Pictures)
Watch out for: Lee Isaac Chung, Minari (A24)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director
- Florian Zeller, The Father (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix)
- Regina King, One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)
- Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)
- Darius Marder, Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)
Watch out for: Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries
- Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)
- Alexander Nanau, Collective (Magnolia Pictures)
- Kirsten Johnson, Dick Johnson Is Dead (Netflix)
- Garrett Bradley, Time (Amazon Studios)
- David France, Welcome to Chechnya (HBO)
Watch out for: Weixi Chen and Hao Wu, 76 Days (MTV Documentary Films)