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Surprise! Producers guild picks 'Hurt Locker' over 'Avatar' as best picture

January 24, 2010 |  8:59 pm

If ever a movie appeared destined to win the best picture award bestowed by the Producers Guild of America, it was "Avatar," but — surprise — the PGA chose "The Hurt Locker" instead.

Producers guild of america pga award the hurt locker news 2

Aren't producers supposed to care chiefly about profit? "Avatar" is just a day or two away from becoming the top-grossing film of all time, surpassing "Titanic," directed by "Avatar" helmer James Cameron, while "The Hurt Locker" merely grossed $16 million worldwide. Back in 1997, PGA and the Oscars both picked "Titantic" as best picture.

What's especially significant about "The Hurt Locker's" victory at PGA is that the guild expanded the best picture race to 10 nominees this year, just like the upcoming Oscars, and it employed a preferential form of balloting similar to the peculiar method used by the Academy Awards since the 1930s. Does this mean that we now know what film will win the top Oscar?

Over the past 20 years, PGA has correctly forecast best picture at the Academy Awards 13 times. However, most of that agreement was in earlier years. The Oscars and PGA Awards agreed on the last two choices, "Slumdog Millionaire" and "No Country for Old Men," but they disagreed the previous three years.

Some kudos watchers believed that the guild would automatically pick "The Dark Knight" as best picture last year because producers care a lot about their films' succeeding financially. "The Dark Knight" was not only the top-earning movie of 2008 ($531 million in the U.S., $997 million worldwide) but the second-biggest-grossing pic of all time, surpassed only by "Titanic" ($1.8 billion worldwide in 1997).

But "Slumdog Millionaire" was a fantastic financial success in other ways. Produced for only $14 million, it went on to gross $377 million worldwide. Not so "The Hurt Locker," which was produced for $11 million and sold only $16-million worth of tickets at the box office.

"The Hurt Locker" has racked up other impressive best-picture wins, including laurels from the four top critics' groups: New York, Los Angeles, national society and broadcast journalists.

Photo: "The Hurt Locker" (Summit Entertainment) 

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The Hurt Locker would be a good choice and Avatar would be too obvious a choice for Best it wouldn't surprise me if there's an upset here...It's well known that Avatar will away with a load of Oscars for the technical categories but the Academy may want to spread the gold around to other films...which is why a non-top 5 front-runner might come up the winner...Inglorious Basterds will get Supporting Actor and maybe Original Screenplay...Up In the Air will get a writer's award or editing or come up empty after all..Precious will get the Supporting Actress award and maybe a writer's award...Hurt Locker will get Best Director and maybe Best Pic but again maybe it would be no surprise to me if "Up", "An Education", or "A Serious Man" or maybe even "District 9" grabs the grand prize...what a shocker that will be!!

Avatar failed in one key area: It didn't challenge the viewer in any way. All it did was throw up on the screen a bunch of shiny, pretty things for people to ooh and aah over and help them forget the entirely cliched storyline and abhorrent dialogue.

And Ron, you're seriously going to dismiss out of hand a movie you haven't even seen? Imagine all the amazing films you've missed out on with that attitude; all the chances to be moved, inspired, angered, thrilled, etc., etc. It's all very limiting.

Why is everyone equating producing with making money.

Some producers want to make a quality film.

At the Oscars, it is the producers who receive the Oscar for Best Picture, and that isn't based on gross receipts.

Thank god, some justice is served!

I was focusing more on the DGAs as the next big thing; you'd think the PGA was the biggest cinch for "Avatar", but that proved to be wrong. Clearly broadens the Best Picture race; may even put Jeremy Renner back in the Best Actor race, especially for those of us who still aren't quite ready to give it to Jeff Bridges. Now, if Quentin Tarantino wins the DGA...

Oh Please the Hurt Locker another movie about Iraq which only grossed around 15 million anyways. Not to take anything away from the director, but seriously just like Sandra Bullocks nomination for her film how original can you get! Seen it a million times over and over again with these kinds of movies guess thats why people go see those movies all the time right WRONG! At least with Avatar the story may have been told somewhere before, but at least its being told in a different way and yes there is acting in this moive. You couldn't use thumbscrews or hot coals to get me to go see the hurt locker or its complicated LOL! These movies are so damn boring nothing about them stands out. All these awards ceromonies are too inflated and overated along with some of these actors who are as old as Moses! I mean Meryl Streep are you kidding me LOL!

Didn't see THE HURT LOCKER until Sunday, on DVD, but it's great.

The PGA just lost any respect people had for it - you are right! Comparing Avatar's production values & earnings to Hurt Locker and then giving them the award is shameful. IMO I disliked the Hurt Locker (boring film) however to ignore the biggest moneymaker since Titanic (today it will become the number movie of all time worldwide) is a slap in the face to the movie industry! Maybe all the great sci-fi pics - Star Trek and District 9 took votes away from Avatar (the same could happen at the Oscars with 10 Best Picture nominations) but when all is said and done people will ask why didn't Avatar win!!?

It is not a surprise. Avatar has perfect visuals and 3d effects. Its story line is very weak.

Why is Avatar automatically a harder picture to produce?

Yes, it took years and all sorts of technology, and then you have to find people who are blue.

The Hurt Locker was made in less than a month with four cameras in Jordan for $11 mil. That's producing.

I am not a film snob and I saw it. And was mesmerized by it-- though I couldn't decide if I really liked it until hours see, I had to think about it. Isn't that what quality Productions are supposed to do?

And what does "mainstream America" have to do with the Producers Guild or its awards? Or the Oscars for that matter. These organizations will realize their mistakes in "broadening" the scope of their nominations this year when fan-boy squawking hounds them for not giving everything to their choices! Oh-- and I LOVED "Avatar"-- even if I do realize that it's a technical triumph with a totally unoriginal story! One of the most stunning and entertaining achievements in the history of film!

But I'm not surprised at the Producers Guild's choice at all.

No one saw the Hurt Locker?!?!?

It's the #1 DVD rental in the country right now.

Hurt Locker is touchy subject matter that adults would check out on DVD. Adults strapped for cash have to spend their money on what their kids want to see: no-brainers like Avatar, Tranformers and the Chipmunk Squeakquel!

The Hurt Locker is infinitely more profound and WAY more difficult to produce/finance than some franchise mainstream film.

James Cameron can do anything he wants for as much as he wants...who's gonna say no? Avatar is a no-brainer compared to The Hurt Locker!

Rock on Hurt Locker!!!!

I think "America" is starting to get very interested in this film. I saw it and I'm not a film snob.

Tom, are you sure the PGA used the preferential ballot? Did they tabulate votes the same way the Oscars are going to? I am very curious about this. I don't think this is how they voted in the past, right? If The Hurt Locker just won with the preferential ballot, then that is incredibly interesting.

I imagine they voted on quality, in which case the vote would be much more up for grabs. If the only criteria was profit, there'd be little suspense or purpose for the awards. It'd be a mathematical exercise, and having nominees would be pointless. Therefore "production" has to be, more or less, the equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture.

I'm surprised at this as well. As far as production, how the hell does Hurt Locker win over Avatar? That one just confounds me. Maybe District 9 and Star Trek stole some votes from it, who knows? We're not talking about directing or best picture here, but production. Not to mention, all the gold trophies for The Hurt Locker doesn't really change the fact that no one saw the movie outside film snob circles, and most of mainstream America has no idea what Hurt Locker is even about. Alas, congrats to Bigelow, I suppose....



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