Sunday, January 25, 2015

'Birdman' Shocks as PGA Winner

I was hoping I'd be wrong about The Imitation Game coasting to a Producers Guild Award, and subsequently the Oscar, on the preferential ballot system.
I knew there was at least a decent chance of it not having quite enough support to edge out other Best Picture heavyweights like Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Any of those three seemed like plausible victors with the guild, given how they had all the requisite Oscar nominations needed to win the big prize.

But this, I did not see coming.
Inarritu rockin' the blazer and the hoodie... and the PGA Award for Best Picture.

Birdman flew down from the theatre rafters and snatched up the PGA Award for Best Picture in its sharp, satirical talons. We knew the film was popular, what with its field-leading nine Oscar nominations and all, but I didn't realize it was this popular. More to the point, I apparently was underestimating its capacity to succeed with a preferential ballot, which often rewards the least hated nominee as opposed to the most beloved. It would seem that Inarritu's audacious single-take camera stunt is less divisive than I assumed it would be.

But does this automatically make Birdman the defacto Best Picture frontrunner now? There are legit points you could bring up for either side of that argument.

On the one hand, Birdman -- while certainly respected by AMPAS -- is missing that key Best Film Editing nomination. It was cited by the ACE, indicating that it probably missed the correlative Oscar nod by the hair of its feathers. Still, no film has taken the ultimate category without an editing nomination since Ordinary People. A 33-year streak is on the line here!

On the other hand, the PGA has never failed to anticipate the Oscar winner in the preferential ballot era, and for most, that should be convincing enough. On top of that, Birdman is not simply a movie about actors, but about acting. Actors comprise nearly a third of the Academy, and if the producers liked it enough to place it high up on their ballots, think of how all those actors will respond.

Going into tonight's SAG Awards, most believe that Birdman is the odds-on favourite to win the Ensemble prize (most felt this way before the PGA win).
If that comes to pass, then I believe its newly minted frontrunner status will be confirmed, although it's still far from a sure thing.

For the second straight year, the PGA has given us cause to be in suspense about who will win Best Picture, and that is always a good thing.

Meanwhile, the guild didn't merely go its own way in the top category, but in Best Documentary and Animated Feature as well, bestowing their honours on Oscar snubbees Life Itself and The LEGO Movie. I'm sure it's little consolation to the filmmakers knowing that they would have been primed to actually win an Oscar had they been nominated, but I suppose it's better than nothing.
And good on the PGA for being comfortable enough to think for themselves instead of reacting to the Academy's opinion.

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