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Can We Look to PGA for Our Best Picture Winner?

Tomorrow evening, the Producers Guild of America will put their fingers on the scale of the Oscar race. Once the 2021 PGA Awards wrap up, we may well know what our Best Picture winner is at the Academy Awards. That’s not hyperbole, either, as the Producers Guild looms as the single most important precursor. Not only do they tend to be reliable indicators of what the Academy will do (more on that below), they vote in the same manner. That allows them to cast a big shadow over this portion of the awards season. By Thursday, the Oscars will almost certainly have a true frontrunner for Best Picture, or at the very least, a wild wrinkle in the race.

PGA predicts Academy Award nominees for Best Picture at about a 90% clip, so in Phase One, they’re almost entirely on the money. Historically, Phase Two is when the differences can sometimes arrive. Since 2010, when the Producers followed Oscar and moved to ten nominees, they’ve accurately predicting the winner seven times. That’s still pretty damn accurate, with two of the three misses being considered upsets (1917 losing to Parasite and La La Land losing to Moonlight). So, this puts us in the position of weighing this particular guild more highly than others. Are they infallible? No. Will the winner here seem like the odds-on favorite with the Academy? Probably.


If any of the second tier contenders win, it will completely upend the race. That would be specifically Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, and Minari. Then, there’s the Best Picture also-rans, who would be the shocks upon shocks. I’m looking at you, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (not nominated by the Academy in Picture), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (ditto), One Night in Miami… (rounding out the Oscar snubs), and Sound of Metal. So, that leaves this prize realistically between Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Right now, Nomadland seems like the safer pick with Academy. With PGA, however, it could be a slightly different story. Chloe Zhao‘s movie has been scoring wins left and right, not just with critics groups, but the Golden Globes as well. That’s an impressive string of victories, to be sure. The guilds are chiming in now, however, so this is where it truly counts. A win here and the race may well be over. A loss, however, and things definitely get more interesting.

Simply put, The Trial of the Chicago 7 needs this. If Aaron Sorkin‘s film can win with the Producers Guild, then take the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the combination of PGA and SAG is enough to potentially be the frontrunner again. It would be a close call, but in that scenario, The Trial of the Chicago 7 would at least be on an equal footing with Nomadland.

What about Promising Young Woman? There’s the potential X factor. With a Writers Guild win for Emerald Fennell, a potential SAG win coming for Carey Mulligan, and a sense that this flick has captured a surprising amount of Academy support, an upset could be brewing. Now, without PGA, it does seem hard, but there is a possibility. A win here would throw the race for a true loop. It doesn’t seem like the Producers Guild will be that cool, but if they take a leap of faith…watch out.

Searchlight Pictures

As for my pick…it’s basically a coin-flip between Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7. The latter feels like what PGA usually goes for, but the momentum for the former is hard to deny. Anything else would be a major surprise, give or take Promising Young Woman‘s upset. We’ll know a day from now, so sit tight…


Will Win: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Could Win: Nomadland

Should Win: Promising Young Woman

Carey Mulligan stars as “Cassie” in director Emerald Fennell’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit : Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features

Stay tuned to see what happens tomorrow night!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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