‘1917’ Becomes Oscar Front-runner After P.G.A. Victory

‘1917’ Becomes Oscar Front-runner After P.G.A. Victory

War may be hell, but “1917” is having a heavenly Oscar season.

The late-breaking World War I film won the top prize at the Producers Guild of America awards Saturday night in Los Angeles, adding to an awards haul that also included best-drama and best-director wins at the Golden Globes earlier this month.

The film’s director, Sam Mendes, dedicated the award to his grandfather, a World War I veteran whose stories helped inspire the film, while the producer Pippa Harris drew a line directly from “1917” to the current climate of global tension: “In these times of division and conflict around the world, I really hope that it’s just a reminder to never take for granted the peace that we all inherited,” she said.

For Oscar watchers, the P.G.A. trophy is considered a significant bellwether, and “Green Book” took the top prize last year weeks before it won the Academy Award for best picture. Since 2009, when the P.G.A. and Oscars both expanded the number of their best-film nominees, the two groups have differed only twice in their ultimate selection: In 2015, the P.G.A. victor “The Big Short” went on to lose to “Spotlight” in an extremely close best-picture race, while the following year, the P.G.A. picked “La La Land” over the eventual Oscar winner “Moonlight.”

Though this awards season initially seemed like it could come down to Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” the P.G.A. loss is a blow to both movies’ best-picture chances: If these big-budget, widely seen films couldn’t score with the P.G.A., an organization that contains a significant number of Oscar voters and uses the same sort of preferential ballot, they may be bypassed by the academy as well.

Can anything topple “1917,” the new best-picture front-runner? I suspect this formerly wide-open race is now a contest between the World War I film and Bong Joon Ho’s contemporary thriller “Parasite,” which is vying to become the first foreign-language film to win the best-picture Oscar. “Parasite” pulled off a different guild victory this weekend by taking the top drama prize from the American Cinema Editors on Friday, another first for a foreign film, and it is also eligible for a big win Sunday night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where “Parasite” earned a best-cast nomination that eluded “1917.”

Though it would have been a major coup for “Parasite” to win the P.G.A. award, the recent example of “Moonlight” toppling “La La Land” provides the template for a smaller, contemporary film like “Parasite” to still prevail at the Oscars. Or, to put it in the parlance of “1917”: While the P.G.A. award is a significant battle won, this war’s not over yet.

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