Eyes are always on the Producers Guild Awards, because their choice of top motion picture, the David O. Selznick Award, voted on by members as the best-produced movie of the year, often proceeds to win the Best Picture Oscar. The producers are more likely to laud a movie with ambitious scale and scope. So Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” (Lionsgate) was favored to win, and sure enough, producers Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt accepted the prize.
“La La Land” was introduced by John Legend, who debated coming to the event but made a contribution to the ACLU and echoed many political statements made during the course of the night when he said: “We are the voice, we are the face of America; it is big and free and open to the dreamers of all races and countries and religions.”
“Damien Chazelle has made a story about the sacrifices artists make,” said producer Platt. “We celebrate all the fools who struggle but passionately try to achieve our artistic dreams.” He praised “the power of cinema fueled by free artistic expression that cannot be denied and has no borders and will never be banned from our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Now we must believe that love can change our lives as it has changed the world.”
Last year PGA-winner “The Big Short” did not line up with the Oscar, as small-scale “Spotlight” took that win, but the year before that “Birdman” won both, and before that “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” tied, with Alfonso Cuaron winning the Best Director Oscar while “12 Years a Slave” nabbed Best Picture.
Also favored to win both the PGA and Oscar was Disney’s animated feature “Zootopia,” which took home the PGA Award. And winning best documentary was Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow’s “O.J.: Made in America” (ESPN), which is expected to repeat on Oscar night. “One of the goals of the film was to put back some of the historical context in the telling of this story,” said Waterlow. Edelman thanked ESPN for getting the independence and freedom to make the film: “We are threatening to build walls and close borders, and I am standing here as a direct descendant of the ‘Loving v. Virginia’ decision,” he said, also citing “Moonlight” and “Arrival” as films of inclusion. “Please keep telling stories about humanity, about our country, about a world we want to live in.”
The fictional FX series “The People v. O.J. Simpson” also took home the David L. Wolper long-form television award. The Norman Felton Award for Episodic Television Drama went to Series 1 of “Stranger Things,” which beat favorite “Game of Thrones.” PGA-nominated “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy accepted the award, thanking his “ninja ace” Dan Cohen for discovering the Duffer brothers.
The Danny Thomas Award for Episodic Television Comedy went to Season 1 of “Atlanta,” which also won at the Golden Globes. The Non-Fiction Television Award went to producers Laura Ricciardi and Noira Demos for Netflix’s “Making A Murderer,” who thanked Lisa Nishimura for helping them to get the series made after 10 years. “If there’s a story you think needs to be told, stick with it,” said Laura Ricciardi.
“The Voice” took home the Competition Television award, accepted by Mark Burnett. Live Entertainment and Talk went to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
Full list of awards here.
Working the Beverly Hilton ballroom at the PGA Awards were Oscar nominees Damien Chazelle, Matt Damon, Denis Villeneuve, Pharrell Williams, Barry Jenkins, Mahershala Ali, Justin Timberlake, Jeff Bridges, and Nicole Kidman as well as future Emmy contenders Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Corden, Taraji P. Henson, Ryan Murphy, Rami Malek, Sarah Paulson, Thandie Newton, and Kerry Washington.
During the awards show, the Producers Guild also awarded James L. Brooks with the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television. Brooks made a persuasive argument for how television rewards bravery. Producer Megan Ellison (“Her,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) accepted the Visionary Award from Kathryn Bigelow, committing to tell more strong stories going forward.
Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Rothman accepted the Milestone Award, presented by Hugh Jackman, who praised him for telling him to “step up” on the set of “X-Men,” as well as his two pink-hat wearing daughters. “Let’s fight for originality,” said Rothman. “Integrity is what counts.” His clip reel reminds what great risks Rothman took at Fox on such films as “Master and Commander” and “Romeo + Juliet.” Let’s hope he finds his stride at Sony and steps up.
Producer Irwin Winkler won the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, presented by genial collaborators Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, who made five pictures with him. Jeff Nichols’ biracial romance “Loving” won the Stanley Kramer Award.