While receiving a nomination from the Producers Guild of America is a very good sign for a film hoping to land in one of the five Best Picture slots at the Academy Awards, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of the nominees announced yesterday should get too comfortable. The last time the PGA nailed the Best Picture category, five for five, was all the way back in 1994; since then, they have about an 80% hit rate. So even though on the surface it looks like they’ve accomplished that very feat for the first time in fifteen years by choosing Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Dark Knight, expect someone to be left home come Oscar night.
We know already that someone won’t be Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Milk. All three films have been locked into a Best Picture nomination for quite some time. Conventional wisdom seems to be that The Dark Knight will be the odd film out, but we think it’s just as much of a lock as the other three. In addition to being the highest grossing film of the year–don’t pretend that doesn’t matter–The Dark Knight has done extremely well during the awards season. Its snub at the Golden Globes notwithstanding, Christopher Nolan’s epic was the runner-up for the Los Angeles Film Critics (behind Wall-E), a National Board of Review nominee, a Critics Choice nominee and in a compilation of over 220 critics top ten lists, it ranks number two overall… behind Wall-E, again. If, as expected, Mr. Nolan gets a Directors Guild of America nomination on Thursday, it will only further cement the film’s bonafides for a Best Picture selection.
Unfortunately the same thing can’t be said about Frost/Nixon. Despite racking up nominations all over the place, no one seems to really love this movie, do they? Even if the ever likeable Ron Howard draws a nomination from the Directors Guild (likely to happen), we don’t think it’ll be enough to save Tricky Dick’s Best Picture aspirations. Frost/Nixon feels incredibly vulnerable.
So what will replace it in the fifth and final slot? Wall-E would have been the clear choice, but since the PGA left it off their list and director Andrew Stanton was disqualified from being nominated by the Directors Guild because the film is animated, the outlook is bleak. You can also go ahead and toe-tag Revolutionary Road, The Reader, The Wrestler and Rachel Getting Married. That leaves just two contenders: Doubt and Gran Torino. The story goes that actors make up the largest voting block in the Academy and they love bestowing praise onto actor-heavy films. Doubt, well on its way to scoring four acting nominations, certainly fits that bill. But we’ll go out on a limb and say that Gran Torino is the final pick based on a groundswell of support for Clint Eastwood from the entire voting constituency. When you get right down to it, the Oscars are just a big popularity contest and everyone loves Clint… even when he’s playing a racist with a heart of gold.