The uplifting coming-of-age story “CODA” won the Producers Guild of America’s top honor Saturday night, throwing the race for this year’s best picture Oscar into chaos.
The win for Sian Heder’s lovely, often heartbreaking story of a child of deaf adults (the acronym in the title) continues “CODA’s” late-breaking awards season momentum. The Apple TV+ movie didn’t show up on the radar of many voters until it won the Screen Actors Guild’s ensemble award three weeks ago.
Now, with Oscar voting underway and ending Tuesday, there may be no stopping the feel-good “CODA” from winning best picture at next Sunday’s 94th Academy Awards. (Get your handkerchiefs ready.)
The PGA film prize has often been a strong precursor to an Oscar best picture win. After both the academy and the PGA expanded their best picture slates and adopted a preferential or ranked-choice ballot system to determine the victor, the two groups matched six years running. That includes the strange 2014 PGA ceremony that produced a tie between “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity.”
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But as the academy expanded its membership in recent years, the groups have diverged as often as matched. The Oscars favored “Spotlight” over the PGA winner, “The Big Short.” The next year, “Moonlight” prevailed over “La La Land,” the PGA’s choice. A couple of years ago, academy voters chose “Parasite” rather than the PGA-favored “1917.”
The PGA and academy mirrored each other in the other years with “The Shape of Water,” “Green Book” and, most recently, “Nomadland.”
Before “CODA’s” PGA Awards win, it looked like “The Power of the Dog” might be taking a victory lap at the Oscars. Last weekend, Jane Campion’s western took top honors with the British Academy Film Awards and Campion prevailed at the Directors Guild Awards.
But rival studios have maintained throughout the awards season that the ranked-choice voting system that the academy uses to determine best picture — in which voters list the 10 nominated movies in order of preference — would derail “The Power of the Dog.” The thinking, offered by competitors, is that Campion’s movie is more admired than loved (or even liked). Sure, it would garner plenty of No. 1 votes from some academy members. But it would also be at the bottom of many voters’ ballots.
According to this school of thought, movies thought to be generally liked such as “CODA” (or perhaps “Belfast” and “King Richard”) would be favorites because they’d be fixtures near the top of most people’s ballots.
The PGA victory for “CODA” validates the idea that, even with a leading 12 Oscar nominations, “The Power of the Dog” might be on shaky ground in its attempt to win Netflix its first best picture prize. And “CODA,” with just three nominations (it also earned nods for adapted screenplay and Troy Kotsur’s supporting actor turn), could improbably prevail. In fact, it might win all three of those Oscars.
Among the other awards handed out at the PGA ceremony: Questlove’s “Summer of Soul,” a chronicle of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, won for documentary, a victory it’s expected to repeat at the Oscars. Likewise, Oscar favorite “Encanto” took the animated feature prize.
On the television side, “Ted Lasso” won for comedy series, while “Succession” prevailed for drama. “Mare of Easttown” won limited series. (All three programs won series Emmys last year.) “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” another Emmys perennial, took the live entertainment, variety, sketch, standup & talk prize. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won for game & competition series. “The Beatles: Get Back” won for nonfiction television.
The guild also honored several individuals, including Greg Berlanti with the Norman Lear Award; Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas with the Milestone Award; Rita Moreno with the Stanley Kramer Award; Mary Parent with the David O. Selznick Award and Issa Rae with the Visionary Award.
Rae gave a moving and funny speech, lamenting that producing doesn’t get any easier, even with the five seasons she logged on the acclaimed HBO series “Insecure.”
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“This is the Visionary Award, which means you all see something in me and that means so much to me especially now because I just finished producing the first season of my second TV show for HBO Max and I was like, ‘Damn. I hope they still see the visionary in me after this s—,’” she said, referring to the recently renewed “Sweet Life: Los Angeles.” Rae joked that she was going to keep a tight hold on the trophy.
The 90-year-old Moreno, the last of the honorary winners to take the stage, spoke for everyone who had endured the night’s lengthy ceremony.
“I was really getting tired,” she said, after dancing her way to the stage. “My buttocks are sore.”
If that’s too cheeky a way to end the night, let’s add that Moreno also spoke eloquently about the place of movies in her life.
“I am not a person of religious faith, but for me film has often been a sacred text that has spurred me to follow what [Abraham] Lincoln called ‘the better angels,’” she said.