The annual awards for the Producers Guild of America were held last night, and for the three winners, it could be a boon or a curse, depending on how you look at it, as well as Academy history. Oscar nominations are just two days away, and it’s very possible we have some front-runners here, as the three winning films would also have the producers nominated by the Academy. You can view the full results here, which includes TV awards and special recognitions, but as always, we’re only concerned with the film side at this blog.
Darryl F. Zanuck Award (Best Picture) – Green Book – This is the second major win for the crowd-pleasing buddy travel film, as it picked up the Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy a couple of weeks ago. At this point you have to consider it a front-runner for Best Picture, which I wouldn’t necessarily mind, but it is painting an odd picture for this year’s field. Between this, Bohemian Rhapsody, and the inexplicable love for A Star is Born, it seems the awards outlets are going out of their way to award films enjoyed by the masses over critical brass.
Take a look at the Tomatometer vs. Audience scores for the nominees on Rotten Tomatoes:
Black Panther – Critics 97%, Audience 79%
BlacKkKlansman – Critics 95%, Audience 82%
Bohemian Rhapsody – Critics 62%, Audience 89%
Crazy Rich Asians – Critics 91%, Audience 78%
The Favourite – Critics 93%, Audience 62%
Green Book – Critics 82%, Audience 94%
A Quiet Place – Critics 95%, Audience 83%
Roma – Critics 96%, Audience 83%
A Star is Born – Critics 90%, Audience 81%
Vice – Critics 64%, Audience 54%
Of these 10 nominees, there are only two films where the audience score is higher than the critical score. Those two movies ended up winning the two Best Picture prizes at the Golden Globes, and with this second win, Green Book has to be the morning line favorite when the Oscar nominations come out on Tuesday.
It would seem that the prevailing trend this year will be to award the films that audiences most loved, and to an extent, it makes sense. No one wants the Academy to add that stupid, “Popular Movie” category, and it’s certainly been a while since a bona fide audience blockbuster won Best Picture. You could make a case for Argo, but that was six years ago, and a lot of the popularity stemmed from audience backlash because Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director (side note, Affleck’s character, the real CIA agent Tony Mendez, passed away this weekend. RIP to a true American hero). But aside from that, you have to go back to Lord of the Rings or even Titanic as true audience favorites (if you discount LOTR because it was basically an award for the entire trilogy). Just like so many other Oscars that have been handed out over the years, it may just be popular movies’ turn to win. The other two winners from the PGA may follow suit.
Animated Feature – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – While there were five nominees here, and there likely will be on Tuesday, this has always been a three-horse race, but let’s take a look at those scores as well, see if the thinking stacks up.
The Grinch – Critics 58%, Audience 54%
Incredibles 2 – Critics 94%, Audience 86%
Isle of Dogs – Critics 89%, Audience 88%
Ralph Breaks the Internet – Critics 88%, Audience 67%
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Critics 97%, Audience 94%
This doesn’t immediately track with the Best Picture list, as all five nominees did better with critics than the audience, though Isle of Dogs is very close to being even. However, the audience score for Spider-Verse is considerably ahead of the other four, and that does track with the other category, as Green Book is the only nominee to get an audience score above 90%, with Bohemian Rhapsody just a smidge off at 89%. No one else crosses 85%.
Documentary Feature – Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Now this is the tricky one, as it’s to be expected that the Mr. Rogers documentary would have an insanely high audience score, but this time it might not be a good sign.
The Dawn Wall – Critics 100%, Audience 98%
Free Solo – Critics 98%, Audience 95%
Hal – Critics 91%, Audience 80%
Into the Okavango – No Score
RBG – Critics 95%, Audience 78%
Three Identical Strangers – Critics 96%, Audience 89%
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Critics 98%, Audience 95%
Again, this doesn’t appear to correlate with Best Picture at first glance, because all the nominees did better with critics than with audiences, with the notable exception of Okavango, which only has six ratings between both parties. Also, this is the only category where the winner doesn’t have the highest audience score. However, the result is skewed by the sample size. The Dawn Wall got 98% based on 170 audience ratings and 100% from 15 critics. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, on the other hand gets its 98% from critics based on 217 ratings (only four of them negative) and the 95% from audiences from a whopping 3,606. The next closest is Three Identical Strangers with 2,555 audience ratings, and Free Solo and RBG are the only others to crack 1,000. So by a more weighted grade, it’s clear that Mr. Rogers resonated with audiences the most out of these nominees. If this carries to the Academy, you can essentially call the major categories based on which one the movie-going audience liked best.
However, this could be a detriment for this one film. The Academy has a notorious streak of snubbing popular documentaries. So far this century, I’d argue that the only popular winners were Bowling for Columbine, March of the Penguins, and An Inconvenient Truth. Also, over the last 11 years (the amount of time the PGA category existed), only five winners have gone on to win the Oscar, with one other winner (Michael Moore’s Sicko) getting nominated. The other two categories are good predictors of nominees and winners, but we’re basically only batting .500 with the docs. If it gets nominated, it looks like the Academy voters at-large will give it the award, but it hast to clear the specifically hoity-toity hurdle of the Documentary wing. Here’s hoping that at least in this respect, they really are looking for crowd-pleasers.
Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you psyched for the Oscar nominations? Should the audience opinion have greater weight during Awards Season? Shouldn’t Mel Brooks host this every year? Let me know!