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Category: PGA

Oscars guided by guild awards in nominations

February 2, 2010 | 10:01 am

Oscars New Members movie news 1357986 This year, 19 of the 20 SAG acting nominees are contending at the Academy Awards. The only one not to make the cut was SAG supporting actress contender Diane Kruger ("Inglourious Basterds"), who was replaced on the Oscars ballot by Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart").

Last year, 18 of the 19 SAG acting nominees repeated at the Academy Awards. As double SAG nominee Kate Winslet was bumped up by the Oscars from supporting to lead for "The Reader," she was denied a lead nod for "Revolutionary Road." However, that film's Michael Shannon managed to knock SAG nominee Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire" out of the supporting race.

Two years ago, 15 of the 20 SAG nominees went on to compete at the Oscars. Three years ago, it was also 19 of the 20 with the one variation coming from the same film -- "The Departed" -- as SAG nominee Leonardo DiCaprio was replaced at Oscar time by Mark Wahlberg.

Four of the five SAG-nominated ensembles appear in Oscar-nominated best pictures with only "Nine" not making it into the top 10. Last year, four of the five SAG-nominated ensembles also did so, with SAG contender "Doubt" replaced by "The Reader." "Slumdog Millionaire" won both awards. Two years ago, only one SAG ensemble nominee -- "No Country for Old Men" -- made it into the best picture race, although that film won both prizes as well. Three years ago, it was three of five, with "Little Miss Sunshine" taking the SAG prize but losing the top Oscar to "The Departed."

Last year, all five of the lead actress nominees also competed for both awards. Two years ago, it was four of five as the only SAG nominee not needing a babysitter come Oscar night was Angelina Jolie ("A Mighty Heart"), whose spot went to "The Savages" star Laura Linney.

As with this year, last year's supporting actress race matched up only four to five as the promotion of Winslet for "The Reader" left room at the Oscars for the addition of Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler"). Two years ago, this race was also four for five with SAG nominee Catherine Keener ("Into the Wild") replaced by Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement").

Last year, lead actor also matched up perfectly. Two years ago, it went three for five with the SAG nominees as relative newcomers Emile Hirsch ("Into the Wild") and Ryan Gosling ("Lars and the Real Girl") were replaced at the Oscars by Hollywood vets Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd") and Tommy Lee Jones ("In the Valley of Elah").

Last year's supporting actor race was four for five with Shannon replacing Patel. Two years ago, SAG nominee Tommy Lee Jones ("No Country for Old Men") was replaced by Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Charlie Wilson's War").

This year, the DGA lineup is repeated at the Oscars. Last year's DGA picks for best director matched up with four of the five academy choices as DGA nominee Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight") was edged out at the Oscars by Stephen Daldry ("The Reader"). Two years ago, DGA nominee Sean Penn ("Into the Wild") lost his Oscar slot to Jason Reitman, who helmed best pic nominee "Juno."

Of this year's 10 PGA nominees for best picture, eight of them earned Oscar nods. The exceptions: One box office champ -- "Star Trek" -- was replaced by another -- "The Blind Side" -- and one set of Oscar favorites -- Clint Eastwood and "Invictus" -- was replaced by another -- the Coen brothers and "A Serious Man."

Last year, the PGA went four for five with the Oscar contenders as "The Dark Knight" was bumped by "The Reader." Two years ago, it was also four for five with PGA nominee "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" replaced by "Atonement."

This year, only two of the five WGA nominees for original screenplay -- "The Hurt Locker" and "A Serious Man" -- are contending at the Oscars. Last year, just one of the five WGA nominees for original screenplay made it into the Oscar race -- eventual winner Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"). Two years ago, the WGA picks lined up with the Oscar nominees except for "Knocked Up," which was knocked out of the competition by the team that whipped up "Ratatouille."

The adapted screenplay Oscar race only includes two of the WGA nominees as well -- "Precious" and "Up in the Air." Last year, the Oscars went four for five with only the WGA nominees for "The Dark Knight" bumped by David Hare, who adapted "The Reader." Two years ago, Sean Penn, who wowed the WGA with his adaptation of "Into the Wild," was snubbed at the Oscars as was the scripter for "Zodiac." They were replaced by "Atonement" adapter Christopher Hampton and first time writer-director Sarah Polley.

The Oscar nominees for best cinematography line up with the American Society of Cinematographers choices with the exception of "Nine" lenser Dion Beebe, who was replaced by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" shooter Bruno Delbonnel. Last year, ASC nominee Roger Deakins ("Revolutionary Road") was replaced at the Oscars by Tom Stern for "Changeling." Two years ago, the ASC went five for five.

This year, the Oscar nominees for editing include just three of the American Cinema Editors' picks as the cutters for "Inglourious Basterds" and "Precious" replace those for "Star Trek" and "Up in the Air." Last year, the nominees lined up, and two years ago, ACE nominee "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was replaced by "Michael Clayton."

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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).

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PGA Awards nominate 'Star Trek' and 'Avatar' for best picture

January 5, 2010 |  8:01 am

PGA Awards Star Trek Avatar entertainment news


The Producers Guild of America just announced best picture nominees, which follow the Oscars by expanding its contenders' list to 10. Included are obvious front-runners "Avatar," "Up in the Air" and "Inglourious Basterds," but curious omissions include a few films with high Oscar hopes like serious artsy fare "A Serious Man" and "The Messenger" and comedies "The Hangover," "It's Complicated" and "Julie & Julia." The latter PGA snubs aren't too surprising. Most award groups, sad to say, laugh off comedies, although PGA did nominate "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when it was spurned by Academy members.

But the PGA Awards usually skunk sci-fi fare, so the big jaw-droppers on its current list are "District 9" and "Star Trek."

PGA Awards Producers Guild of America Avatar news

In past years, four of the five PGA rivals usually aligned with the Oscar list. Only a few times (1992, 1993) did they line up exactly. When nominees differed in the past, the producers, being shrewd business folk, usually preferred blockbusters like "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Dark Knight" and animated fare like "Shrek" and "The Incredibles." (Only once has an animated film ever been nominated for best picture at the Oscars: "Beauty and the Beast.")

Never before has PGA made an exception for sci-fi, though, so Oscarologists now must wonder: Can these repeat at the Academy Awards or are they exceptions here following the PGA's longtime preference for box-office hits?

In their 20-year history, the PGA Awards have foreseen 13 of Oscar's eventual best-picture winners, including recent champs "Slumdog Millionaire" and "No Country for Old Men." However, the previous three PGA winners failed to prevail at the Oscars. In 2006, the PGA picked "Little Miss Sunshine" over "The Departed." In 2005, the guild backed "Brokeback Mountain" rather than "Crash," and in 2004 "The Aviator" soared ahead of "Million Dollar Baby."

The only year that the producers guild nominees did not include the eventual Oscar winner was back in 1995 when "Braveheart" failed to make the cut and "Apollo 13" took home the Golden Laurel.

The next Golden Laurel will be bestowed with other PGA Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on Jan. 24.

Note: Star date given in the photo caption above is today's date written in Trekkie code.

BEST PICTURE
"Avatar"
"District 9"
"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Invictus"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
"Star Trek"
"Up"
"Up in the Air"

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
"9"
"Coraline"
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
"Up"

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Producers Guild of America expands best picture list to 10 nominees (and admits it's an Oscar warm-up act)

September 21, 2009 |  1:02 pm

News that the Producers Guild of America is expanding its list of best picture nominees to 10 removes all doubt about the reason for the award's purpose. It doesn't exist chiefly because it's important to know what producers think is the best film of the year. No, no — its priority is to influence the Oscars' outcome. Of course, we've always known that, secretly, deep down, but now PGA just confirmed what's always gone unspoken.

Slumdog millionaire pga awards

A few years ago, PGA virtually admitted this same point when the Oscars switched its ceremony date from late March-early April to late February-early March and all of the other guild awards (including SAG and WGA) moved up too, to stay out in front and retain their influence. 

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

"The PGA board approved the expansion of our best produced picture category nominations to support our colleagues at the academy, but also because we feel it better represents the unprecedented diversity of films being produced today," said PGA President Marshall Herskovitz.

"We're excited to involve even more industry members in this year's event, as having 10 best produced picture nominees allows us to recognize even more extraordinary films," said David Friendly and Laurence Mark, co-chairs of the PGA Awards.

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Quiz: Which movie is a grand-slam guild awards champ?

January 25, 2009 |  2:35 pm

Last year, "No Country for Old Men" won best picture at the Oscars after it became only the second movie ever to win the top prizes from all four leading showbiz guilds: producers, directors, writers and actors (ensemble award). Which of the four films below is the only one that pulled off that accomplishment earlier? See the answer here!

Grand_slam

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Producers Guild of America hails 'Slumdog Millionaire' as best picture

January 24, 2009 | 10:16 pm

Slumdog_dance_500

"Slumdog Millionaire" just leapt ahead on the derby track toward a likey big win at the Oscars by being voted best picture by the Producers Guild of America.

Over the past 19 years, PGA has correctly forecast best picture at the Academy Awards 12 times. However, most of that agreement was in earlier years. The Oscars and PGA Awards agreed last year on "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 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 "Titantic" ($1.8 billion worldwide in 1997).

But "Slumdog Millionaire" is a fantastic financial success in other ways. Produced for only $14 million, it's already grossed $48 million in the U.S. and will probably exceed $80 million in toto. Overseas, it's likely to match that performance. As a business venture, "Slumdog Millionaire" is providing an extraordinary return on investment.

Futhermore, "Slumdog Millionaire" is a financial fairy tale that's irresistable in Hollywood as a real story of the triumph of a true underdog. Just last year the film was slated to go straight to DVD after the demise of Warner Independent, but it was miraculously rescued by Fox Searchlight, the most successful indie branch of Hollwood's big studios.

Producers may often be considered cold-hearted biz cats, but they've shown glimpses of warm hearts and romantic spirits when deciding past awards. In 2001, voters made the surprising choice of "Moulin Rouge!" over "A Beautiful Mind." In 1992, they picked "The Crying Game" over "Unforgiven." 

Here's how our pundits fared predicting what film would win tonight at the Hollywood Palladium gala.

Below is a comparison between the PGA and Oscars' choices of best picture on a year-by-year basis.

BEST PICTURE WINNERS: OSCARS VS. PGA AWARDS

2007
"No Country for Old Men" - PGA, Oscar

2006
"Little Miss Sunshine" - PGA
"The Departed" - Oscar

2005
"Brokeback Mountain" - PGA
"Crash" - Oscar

2004
"The Aviator" - PGA
"Million Dollar Baby" - Oscar

2003
"Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" - PGA, Oscar

2002
"Chicago" - PGA,  Oscar

2001
"Moulin Rouge!" - PGA
"A Beautiful Mind" - Oscar

2000
"Gladiator" - PGA, Oscar

1999
"American Beauty" - PGA, Oscar

1998
"Saving Private Ryan" - PGA
"Shakespeare in Love" - Oscar

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Experts predict the best-picture winner at the Producers Guild of America Awards

January 23, 2009 |  8:34 pm

Saturday night we'll get the first award results from the movie industry itself — that is, one of the guilds comprised of the same voters who pick the Oscars' champs. Up until now we've heard from film critics and members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., but the Producers Guild of America will give us the first real hunch of what moviemakers think. Then, on Sunday night, envelopes will be opened at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Next Saturday, Jan. 31, voters at the Directors Guild of America will pipe in.

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The PGA has predicted the Academy Awards' best-picture victor 12 times over 19 years. Last year the guild matched up with the Oscars' choice of "No Country for Old Men," but the two kudos went their separate ways the previous three years. PGA opted for "Little Miss Sunshine" over "The Departed," "Brokeback Mountain" rather than "Crash," and "The Aviator" instead of "Million Dollar Baby."

To predict award results, we've pooled the views of a peerless gang of pundits: Brad Brevet (RopeOfSilicon.com), Edward Douglas (Comingsoon.net), Greg Ellwood (HitFix.com), Scott Feinberg (Feinberg Files, The Envelope), Marshall Fine (Star magazine, HollywoodAndFine.com), Pete Hammond (Notes on a Season, The Envelope), Elena Howe (The Envelope), Peter Howell (Toronto Star), Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly), Kevin Lewin (World Entertainment News Network), Michael Musto (Village Voice), Bob Tourtellotte (Reuters), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), T.L. Stanley (Gold Rush, Hollywood Reporter), Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere.com), Susan Wloszczyna (USA Today) and me.

Check out who our kudos seers forecast will be the big winners at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA AWARDS: PREDICTIONS
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" — Ellwood, Feinberg, Hammond, Howe, Howell, Stanley
"The Dark Knight"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk"
"Slumdog Millionaire" — Brevet, Douglas, Fine, Howell, Karger, Lewin, Musto, O'Neil, Tourtellotte, Travers, Wells, Wloszczyna

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Producers Guild of America nominations = Oscars' front-runners

January 5, 2009 | 12:18 pm

Pga_nominees1

There were no jaw-droppers among the nominees for best picture by the Producers Guild of America: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Dark Knight," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire." A winner will be announced on Jan. 24.

Most of the Producers Guild of America nominees tend to line up with the Oscar high five, but sometimes the guild is known to toss in surprises like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002) and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001).

Pga_logo_edited1

Some pundits believed that "Wall-E" might sneak in, considering that the producers guild nominated animated blockbusters in the past such as "The Incredibles" in 2004 and "Shrek" in 2001. Also snubbed were these other films considered to be front-runners: "Doubt," "Gran Torino," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road" and "The Wrestler."

In their 19-year history, the Producers Guild of America awards have foreseen 12 of Oscar's eventual best-picture winners, including last year's champ "No Country for Old Men." However, the previous three PGA winners failed to prevail at the Oscars. In 2006, the PGA picked "Little Miss Sunshine" over "The Departed," in 2005, it backed "Brokeback Mountain" rather than "Crash," and in 2004 "The Aviator" soared ahead of "Million Dollar Baby."

While the PGA has only predicted 63% of the eventual Oscars winners, they have gotten a solid 76% of the best picture contenders correct. Indeed, 72 of their choices were among the 95 in contention for the top Oscar over the last 19 years. Last year, they scored four out of five with "Juno," "Michael Clayton" and "There Will Be Blood" also among their picks. While the PGA had "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" as the fifth nominee, the academy voters went with "Atonement."

The only year that the producers guild nominees did not include the eventual Oscar winner was back in 1995 when "Braveheart" failed to make the cut and "Apollo 13" took home the Golden Laurel.

Photos: Warner Bros., Paramount, Focus Features, Universal, Fox Searchlight


Producers Guild of America names 'No Country' best picture

February 2, 2008 | 10:06 pm

"No Country for Old Men" continued its recent kudos spree, bumping off all rivals to win best picture from the Producers Guild of America just a week after doing same at the Directors Guild. That's a great omen for winning best picture at the Oscars next, considering that 11 of the PGA's choices over 18 years have done so.

However, the PGA and academy have strayed often recently. For the last three years the PGA has gone its own way, choosing "Little Miss Sunshine" over Oscar champ "The Departed" last year for best pic of 2006, "Brokeback Mountain" for 2005 over academy choice "Crash," and "The Aviator" for 2004 over "Million Dollar Baby."

And just because the producers agree with the directors this year doesn't mean too much. Three films in 18 years have won both laurels but lost the big Oscar Scott_rudinrace: "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) and "Apollo 13" (1995).

The choice of "No Country" is a surprise in one respect. Producers didn't opt for the nominee that's most producer-friendly -- that is, having the biggest box-office return -- as they're often accused of doing. That was the case last year when their choice turned out to be the one with the largest return on investment: "Little Miss Sunshine," which earned $60 million against its cost of $8 million to produce. Profit is also cited as the reason little, quirky indie "The Crying Game" probably won for 1992, earning $62 million against a cost of $4 million.

But that certainly wasn't the case three years ago when PGA voters chose money-loser "The Aviator" ($102-million gross against a $110-million budget) over "Million Dollar Baby" (reaping $100 million against a $30-million budget).

This year's producer's dream jackpot was hit by "Juno," which cost merely $7.5 million but just crossed the $100-million mark at the b.o.

"No Country" has grossed $53 million to date. Miramax projects that its final take will be $70 million. Initial budget was $25 million plus $15 million for its Oscar campaign, according to Variety.

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Oscars' best-picture derby: Down to 6 ponies?

January 16, 2008 |  8:38 am

It's starting to look as if Oscar's best picture race has whittled down to six films. The five flicks nominated yesterday by the Producers Guild of America also happen to be the ones that have the most guild bids over all, as Kris Tapley points out at his updated Pga_dga_pq_3 roundup at his Red Carpet blog at Variety.com: "No Country for Old Men" (8), "There Will Be Blood" (7), "Michael Clayton" (6), "Diving Bell and the Butterly" (5) and "Juno" (4).

"Juno" wasn't nominated by the most trusty indicator, the directors guild, which has correctly forecasted the best-pic lineup 24 times out of its past 25 nominations. Its fifth honoree this year was "Into the Wild," which was shunned by PGA. All other four films reaped bids from both guilds.

Last year "Dreamgirls" got nommed by both DGA and PGA, but got bumped by "Letters from Iwo Jima" at the Oscars. In 2005, DGA lined up with Oscar's best-pic nominees, but PGA opted for "Walk the Line" over "Munich." Sometimes PGA takes sharp left turns like "The Incredibles" and "The Last Samurai" in recent years, and, in addition to "Dreamgirls," there's at least one more case in recent years where both guilds opted for one film that got snubbed by Oscar voters. That's what happened to "Almost Famous" in 2000. Instead, academy voters had a taste for "Chocolat," which was snubbed by both DGA and PGA. At least "Chocolat" got a WGA bid. Best-pic nominees "Letters from Iwo Jima" (2006), "In the Bedroom" (2001) and "Elizabeth" (1998) were shut out by all three guilds.

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But now it looks like the odds heavily favor the above-named 6 for the top 5 Oscar slots and responsible Oscarologists must acknowledge that.

Later today, when The Envelope's new Buzzmeter predix are posted, you will not spot "Sweeney Todd" in any of my top five notches for best pic. Just in acting for Johnny Depp.

R.I.P, dear Sweeney. Put your razor away. You reaped your revenge on screen and history will hail Tim Burton's genius in future years, as many film critics ("Something close to a masterpiece," decreed the New York Times) and filmgoers appreciate it now ($41 million so far — $2 million more than "Michael Clayton"). Who knew that the cutthroat Hollywood crowd would turn away so squeamishly from a little cartoonish blood when they spill so much more of the real stuff down studio halls every day? You will have ultimate revenge again, my friend.

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PGA sets 2008 date

March 28, 2007 |  8:31 am

The Producers Guild of America will be handing out its awards next February 2 at the Beverly Hilton, longtime home to the Golden Globes. While the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has not set a date for its awardscast, expect them to be in mid January. After AMPAS announced Sunday, February 24 for the 80th annual Oscars, SAG set Sunday, January 27 for its kudos, with the DGAs due the night before, and the BAFTAS to come on February 10.


Wait! Oscar game back on! Best picture = cloudy picture

February 1, 2007 | 10:24 am

There hasn't been this much Oscar suspense surrounding best picture since . . . well, last year. But at this point in the derby 12 months ago, many Oscarologists thought the top race was already finished since "Brokeback Mountain" appeared to be so far out in front after sweeping most precursor awards. Now we can see what a mess the race is — tea leaves scattered all over the derby track.

If "The Departed" wins at the Directors Guild of America this weekend as expected, it may appear to be out front. Over the past 20 years, the movie that won this guild prize went on to win best picture 15 times. Please note: I'm not talking about the DGA-winning director claiming the director's award at the Oscars next. Yes, the two usually line up, but that overlap can get a bit screwy and I'm too lazy to do the math.

Bestpicmystery

"The Departed" has a lot of other things going for it — things that usually matter in the selection of a best pic: it's packed with an A-List cast (and what A-Listers! Leo! Jack! Matt!) and has topped $100 million at the box office. But it's not about anything. It has no Message or Great Meaning. That's usually an important, even key, element ("Crash" = expose of racism; "Schindler's List" = expose of anti-Semitism). But not always essential. Some pure entertainments like "The Sting" and "Chicago" have triumphed.

So let's look to the Golden Globes for guidance instead.

The Globes dispense separate kudos for drama and comedy/musical pictures, which makes comparisons to the Oscars difficult, but in the past 62 years, the Academy Awards have validated one of the Globe's top pics 42 times. So that means odds are pretty good that "Dreamgirls" will win the best-pic Oscar . . . oops, I mean "Babel," if you just gauge prophesy by percentages. "Babel" just won best drama picture and it has the Message and Great Meaning, especially pertinent worldwide right now (expose of hysteria over terrorism), but it doesn't have huge box office success. Does that matter? As of this week, Entertainment Weekly and Time magazine say it doesn't. Both predict it will claim the big golden boy, though I have a hunch they'll change their minds after Marty Scorsese wins DGA this weekend.

"Letters from Iwo Jima" can't be written off. As we've learned again and again, Clint Eastwood pix should never be discounted. Three have been nommed for best pic in the past and two have won ("Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby"). One of those ("M$B"), ambushed the Oscar race two years ago, getting a sudden, late-breaking release at the end of the year just like "Iwo Jima." And it has a political pertinence to today, too — like "Babel," it has an Iraq thing going on, though more subliminal. "Iwo Jima" forces us to look back at a war we won and reconsider ourselves as the bad guys. It was declared to be 2006's best picture from the L.A. Film Critics Association. Granted, only 7 times in 31 years has LAFCA's choice repeated at the Oscars, but it successfully launched underdogs like "Rocky" and Eastwood's "Unforgiven." However, "Iwo Jima" showcases no big western stars and hasn't proven itself at the box office yet.

What about "The Queen"? Robert Osborne, author of the official Oscar book and official host of the academy's red carpet, thinks it can win, but it has few other boosters.

Lastly, there's "Little Miss Sunshine" — what looks like a fascinating possibility for upset spoiler. It's the one burst of emotional sunshine in an otherwise dreary lineup of contenders. Many people just don't love it, they love it. Recently, it won best picture from the Producers Guild of America, which has a pretty good track record forecasting the top Oscar; 11 of its 17 past choices have repeated. Last Sunday it won the ensemble award at the Screen Actors Guild. Although only 5 of the past 11 SAG champs went on to win the Oscar, 3 of those did so in the past 4 years. Twice ("Shakespeare in Love," "Crash") its choice signaled upsets to come on Oscar night. But it doesn't have a nomination for best director and only one film in modern times has managed to pull off a top Oscar victory without that ("Driving Miss Daisy"). It's also not nommed for film editing. Often that's a telling tea leaf. No film since 1932 has won best picture without having either nomination.

So . . . the Oscar winner for best picture will be . . . ? Whatcha think? Click the "Comments" link below and tell us!

(Photos: Miramax, Warner Bros., Paramount Vantage, Fox Searchlight)


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