‘Green Book,’ a feel-good movie about two men — one white, one black — discovering their common humanity during a road trip through the Jim Crow South, won the Producers Guild of America’s top honour on Saturday night at the PGA Awards, cementing its place as one of the front-runners of this year’s wide-open Oscar best picture race.
The win represented another high point in ‘Green Book’s’ roller-coaster ride through awards season. The movie has taken top prizes at the Golden Globes and Toronto International Film Festival, but has also been dogged by controversy along the way, including the resurfacing of a controversial 2015 tweet from co-writer Nick Vallelonga that supported Donald Trump’s false claim that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the destruction of the World Trade Center.
“When you make ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ you don’t ever expect to get an award,” said producer Peter Farelly, who also directed and co-wrote the movie. In a lengthy speech, Farrelly went on to compare his victory to “Warren Buffett winning the lottery.”
“I don’t need awards,” he added.
The evening featured several moving speeches from special award honourees, with legendary television producer and writer Norman Lear being the focus of several of them. After presenter Regina Hall said she thought Lear was “very cute,” she added, “I wanna add some years to that life.” The line got a roar of approval in the packed Beverly Hilton ballroom.
With Lear, 96, seated in her line of vision, Amy Sherman-Palladino (‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’) accepted the honour named after him, enthusing, “Dinner and a prize, a Jewish girl’s favourite Saturday night.”
Lear took a turn at the podium later, giving the Visionary award to ‘black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris.
“This is my friend... not kind of my friend,” Barris said. “This is my boy,” going on to thank Lear for making a “kid from the hood feel seen.”
Barris devoted much of his speech to the importance of representation — “seeing yourself” — and spoke admiringly of PGA nominee ‘Black Panther.’
“You always hear the notion that black movies don’t travel,” Barris said. ‘Black Panther’ “is the third biggest movie of all time. What that said to me was that humanity translates. Telling good stories to people anywhere from your heart translates.”
Robert Downey Jr presented Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige with the David O Selznick award, calling him “a good human in a position of power... which is occasionally lacking in our society.”
“I don’t spend a lot of time looking backwards,” Feige said. “Making movies is all I ever wanted to do.”
Jane Fonda and Warner Bros chairman Toby Emmerich were also honoured, with Fonda devoting much of her time onstage to championing women.
Noting with approval that the Producers Guild has a near 50-50 gender split, she said: “It’s not that we’re better. It’s just that we don’t have our masculinity to prove.”
In other film honours, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ won animated feature. The Fred Rogers doc ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ took the documentary award.
On the television side, Prime Video’s ‘The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’ repeated for comedy series, CNN’s ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’ won nonfiction series, VH1’s ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ took the reality competition award and HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ won TV movie.
FX claimed two prizes, for limited series ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story’ and drama series ‘The Americans,’ which won for its sixth and final season.
The PGA film award 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 ballot to determine the victor, the two groups matched six years running. (That includes the strange 2014 PGA ceremony that somehow produced a tie between ‘12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Gravity.’)
But three years ago, the academy favoured ‘Spotlight’ over the PGA winner, ‘The Big Short.’ The next year, ‘Moonlight’ prevailed over ‘La La Land,’ the PGA’s choice. ‘The Shape of Water’ taking both the PGA prize and the Oscar last year restored some semblance of order, reaffirming the notion that because both groups use the preferential voting system, which favours consensus choices, the PGA is the season’s prime precursor.
You won’t hear much argument from the ‘Green Book’ team on that front — for now, at least. Oscar nominations may reframe the conversation when they are announced Tuesday morning.