The release today of the Producer’s Guild of America Nominations seems intended to send a clear signal in the wake of the Harvalanche of sex scandals. Of the 11 nominees for the PGA’s top honor, the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, seven feature a top-billed woman, two more are about minorities and another is about two gay guys. To put it another way, only one of the 11 nominees is about (presumably) straight white men.
To say the least, it does not appear that that film, Dunkirk, is likely to sweep the Oscars this year. It would certainly be wise of its director, Christopher Nolan, who has never received an Oscar nomination for Best Director, to find a way to reframe that film as somehow marching to the beat of Hollywood’s current fixations. Good luck with that. Another film about Britain in World War II, Darkest Hour, wasn’t nominated.
Hollywood is notoriously run by old white guys. As of 2012, the group that votes on the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which is a selective, invitation-only club that grants lifetime membership, was 94 percent white and 77 percent male. Only 14 percent of the group was below age 50. In response to criticism, AMPAS has been frantically practicing affirmative action, inviting every film professional in sight who isn’t white or male, even if the new invitees’ credentials in the motion picture business often look sparse compared to members of previous generations who were led to believe an invitation to join was a mark of having reached the pinnacle of the motion picture business. (Recently welcomed members Daphne Zuniga and America Ferrera are not exactly big names at the movies). After a few years of this AMPAS was still 76 percent male and 91 percent white, as of 2016.
As I noted in my Golden Globes piece, the strategy of the old white guys in Hollywood this year is to change the subject from rampant sexual abuse to diversity. The message is: If we nominate lots of women and minorities, will you shut up about all of the sexual abuse? It’s a slightly subtler version of Harvey Weinstein’s famous call to put his own misdeeds behind him and change the subject to Trump and the NRA.
Now on to the choices. The PGA nominees for its equivalent of Best Picture are:
The Big Sick
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This slate isn’t surprising and there will be a lot of overlap between this list and the Oscar list of Best Picture nominees (which I don’t think will include I, Tonya, Wonder Woman, or Molly’s Game). The Shape of Water is a terrible movie, but it tickles so many liberal pleasure centers that it’s obvious Oscar bait. The Big Sick, which is about a Pakistani immigrant, and Get Out, a satiric horror movie about race, have their merits but seem obviously to benefit from the focus on diversity. Wonder Woman was on my top ten list as well, but is it better than another summer blockbuster, War for the Planet of the Apes? I don’t think so. Is I, Tonya, deserving? No. Still, I’m glad to see my favorite film of the year, Lady Bird, and the underrated Molly’s Game on the list, and if Call Me By Your Name and The Post aren’t great movies, they are certainly Oscar-y movies, so I don’t really quibble with either choice. Though I didn’t much like Three Billboards, it at least feels relevant.