U.S. Military in Iraq, Dolphin Slaughter: Producers Guild (PGA) Awards

The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow
The Cove by Louie Psihoyos

After James Cameron's best director upset at the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild of America one-upped the Hollywood Foreign Press Association by choosing not the blockbuster Avatar, but Kathryn Bigelow's independently made Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker (above, top photo) as the best film (or best producers) of the year. Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal, Nicholas Chartier, and Greg Shapiro are the film's credited producers. Expect Bigelow to win the 2010 Directors Guild Award next Saturday as well.

Louie Psihoyos' The Cove (above, lower photo) and Pete Docter's Up won in, respectively, the best documentary and best animated feature categories. The Cove, which exposes the slaughter of dolphins at a cove near the fishing town of Taiji, Japan, has already won most Best Documentary awards this season.

Up received excellent reviews upon its release, and now that the Oscars have 10 Best Picture slots it may end up as the second animated feature ever to get an Oscar nomination in that category. (Disney's Beauty and the Beast was the first, back in 1991 – or early 1992, when the nominations were announced.) Up was also one of 2009's biggest blockbusters and was in the running for the Producers Guild's Best Picture award.

Grey Gardens won the longform television award. Directed by Michael Sucsy, the drama stars Jessica Lange and Golden Globe and SAG Award winner Drew Barrymore.

The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)

Their film's Producers Guild win was great news for the Hurt Locker team. Just yesterday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Jeremy Renner lost the best actor award to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart – admittedly, no big surprise – but much more damning, the film's cast lost SAG's ensemble award to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

In fact, things began looking more than a little grim for The Hurt Locker after its double loss to Avatar at the Golden Globes last week. Although it's true that Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters and Academy Award voters are two very distinct groups, all the hoopla surrounding Avatar's surprise wins – best picture (drama), best director for James Cameron – surely caught the attention of Academy members.

The Hurt Locker's PGA victory is particularly surprising because the producers tend to like bigger and/or more popular fare, e.g., Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Little Miss Sunshine, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. When they go for “art” films, they pick those that found lots of critical favor and solid box office returns as well, e.g., Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, Brokeback Mountain.

The Hurt Locker earned about $12 million at the domestic box office, or just a million or so more than its reported production costs.

Next Saturday, the Directors Guild will select its winners. The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow is the clear favorite unless the DGA decides to give us another awards season upset.

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