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"Yeah, you won," presenter Michael B. Jordan said seconds after announcing that The Big Short, the semi-comic retelling of the 2008 fiscal crisis, had won the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures at the 27th annual PGA Awards, held Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.
The award — the guild's equivalent of a best film prize — went to Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who were present to accept, and their Plan B producing partner Brad Pitt. Kleiner, as he accepted the award, admitted there was some momentary confusion: They weren't sure that Jordan wasn't running through the list of nominees in alphabetical order, Gardner offered a shout-out to the film's director Adam McKay. And then, alluding to the issue of the moment, diversity, which she had addressed earlier in the day at the PGA Nominees Breakfast, she addressed her fellow producers, saying, "Yes, we have a real problem, we do. We have privilege in our hands, we are storytellers. So we need to tell stories that reflect our world and our country."
In what so far has been an unpredictable and topsy-turvy awards season, The Big Short, a Paramount release, now becomes the front-runner — or at least the front-runner of the moment — in the race for the best picture Oscar, since the previous eight PGA winners all claimed Oscar glory. Pitt, Gardner and Kleiner themselves won the PGA Award, and an Oscar, just two years ago for their 12 Years a Slave (which tied with Gravity for the PGA prize).
While the PGA hailed Amy, the documentary about the late singer Amy Winehouse, as outstanding theatrical documentary, the evening also focused its spotlight on The Hunting Ground, the documentary about sexual assault on American campuses. Clips from the film were shown by way of introducing Lady Gaga, who performed the Oscar-nominated song from the film, "Til It Happens to You," which she wrote with Diane Warren. And America Ferrera then presented the PGA's Stanley Kramer Award, named after the socially-conscious filmmaker, to The Hunting Ground. Producer Amy Ziering delivered an impassioned acceptance, paying tribute to Kramer, before going on to give her biggest thanks to "the women and men who shared their stories with us. We accept this award on their behalf. Their tremendous courage has made our world a little better."
Shonda Rhimes got a big round of applause as she began her acceptance of the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television by saying, "I'm going to be totally honest with you. I completely deserve this." She explained that Lear produced shows that included good roles for strong women and people of color forty years ago, but in the intervening years, no one had asked to do more of the same. Rhimes said she asked, "so they are simply giving me an award for being me, in which case I totally deserve it." As for her own reputation as a trailblazer, she added, "It's not trailblazing to write the world as it actually is."
Gary Oldman presented the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures to David Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter movies and Gravity. The Martian director Ridley Scott was on hand to honor Fox chief Jim Gianopulos, recipient of the PGA's Milestone Award. And Star Wars: The Force Awakens director presented the Visionary Award to VFX house Industrial Light & Magic, with which he collaborated on Star Wars.
Kicking off the evening, Michael De Luca, who chaired the awards along with Jennifer Todd, offered "a big shout-out to Cheryl Boone Isaacs," president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who has been front and center in the diversity debate this week. "We are lucky to have you here," he said. PGA presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary cited piracy and the lack of diversity has the two biggest issues facing the guild. Said McCreary, "Tonight, we are asking all of you to pledge to make a conscious decision to challenge the status quo."
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