PGA Awards: How the 'Green Book' Win Shakes Up the Oscar Race

Green Book Still 2 - Publicity - H 2018
Patti Perret/Universal Studios

If there is one lesson to take away from the 30th annual Producers Guild of America Awards — this awards season's first ceremony reflecting what people who actually make movies think about this year's crop of contenders — it is that large segments of Hollywood do not give a damn what "Film Twitter" has to say.

Ever since the dramedy aboout an inter-racial friendship won the audience award at September's Toronto International Film Festival — right through the National Board of Review naming it the best film of the year in November, and its recent big night at the Golden Globes, when it won more awards than any other film, including best picture (musical or comedy) — many pundits have relentlessly targeted the pic. Some have charged that it's too old-fashioned; others have argued that a film written and directed by white people should not be the most celebrated movie about race in a year filled with other films about race made by people of color; and still others have said it deserves to be punished because of past actions for which director Peter Farrelly and writer Nick Vallelonga have had to apologize.

But these concerns have either not reached or been accepted as legitimate by the PGA, which awarded the film its top prize, the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, over all of the other presumptive top-tier awards contenders — recent best picture Critics' Choice Award winner Roma (which would have been the first film primarily in a language other than English to win), A Star Is Born (which would have been the first remake to win), Black Panther (which would have been the first comic book adaptation to win) and Bohemian Rhapsody (which would have been the first film that had its director fired mid-production to win), plus BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians, The Favourite, A Quiet Place and Vice.

Film Twitter, which may or may not be an echo chamber, had an apoplectic reaction to the result — but it might have to get used to Green Book winning. In 20 of the 29 prior years in which the PGA Awards and Academy Awards were both presented, the winner of the top PGA Award — or at least a winner of the top PGA Award, since there was a tie one year — went on to win the top Oscar, best picture. And there are other reasons for Oscar-watchers to pay close attention to the PGA's choice: The voting rolls of the PGA and the Academy are almost exactly the same size — roughly 8,000 people determine the top prize at both the PGA Awards and the Academy Awards — and the PGA Awards is the only major awards ceremony that employs the same sort of "preferential ballot" that the Academy Awards does (one which requires voters to rank nominees and then, in a convoluted way, rewards the film that most people at least like — even if it isn't many people's top choice).

That doesn't mean you should bet the farm on the PGA and the Academy picking the same winner — they did so last year with The Shape of Water, but not in either of the two previous years, when the PGA went with The Big Short and La La Land, but the Academy went with Spotlight and Moonlight, respectively. Discrepancies like these can probably be chalked up to the fact that the PGA is comprised solely of producers, whereas the Academy is comprised of people from all aspects of the filmmaking process (more than 93 percent of its members are not producers); the PGA gives out its awards before the Academy even announces its nominees, and tides can change quickly in an awards race; and the PGA is comprised almost entirely of Americans and therefore reflects their tastes, whereas the Academy is increasingly an international organization.

In any event, the next big stop on the awards circuit will be the SAG Awards on Jan. 27. The nominees for its top prize, best performance by a cast, do not include Green Book — or rival Roma. That award will likely go to A Star Is Born, or perhaps Black Panther or Bohemian Rhapsody. Before then, though, on Tuesday, the Academy will reveal its Oscar nominations. So the game, as they say, is far from over.